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ALALIA later ALERIA Corsica, France.

Half way down the E coast of Corsica, opposite the W shores of Etruria, it was first a Greek, then a Roman colony. According to Herodotos (1.162-67), a group of settlers from Phokaia established themselves on the site about twenty years before the campaigns conducted by the Persian king Cyrus against the Greek cities of Ionia, in other words about 565-560. They were joined around 545-540 by part of the population of the besieged Phokaia. By practicing piracy in Etruscan territory and among the Carthaginian possessions in Sardinia, the Greeks of Alalia provoked a punitive expedition by the Punic and Etruscan fleets. The battle of Alalia (about 535) was a costly Pyrrhic victory for the Phokaians. Contrary to Herodotos' assertions, it does not appear that the whole population then left Alalia, first for Rhegion, then Velia (Elea). Certainly Etruscans, and possibly Carthaginians, came to join the Greek and native elements. They made Alalia a very active, cosmopolitan port. After a short period of Carthaginian control, Rome took the town ca. 259 B.C. (the epitaph of L. Cornelius Scipio: HEC CEPIT CORSICA(M) ALERIA(M)QUE URBEM: CIL 1.32). In 81 Aleria, which had resisted Sulla, became a military colony. First Caesar, then Augustus made new settlements and the town took the name of Colonia Veneria Julia Pacensis Restituta Tertianorum Aleria. Augustus established a detachment of the Misenum fleet there. The development of the port of Ostia led little by little to the economic decline of Aleria, but it remained the political and administrative capital of Corsica under the Empire.

The town and its vicinity have been systematically explored since 1955. The first phase of occupation of the site by the Phokaians has left no remains except for a stratigraphic level found in deep test pits made under the Roman town. It corresponds to the 6th c. B.C. and is characterized by sherds of Ionian, Phokaian, Rhodian, and Attic black-figure ware. Neither the dwellings nor the tombs of this period have been brought to light as yet. However, the excavation of the necropolis of Casabianda, whose access road has been cleared, has permitted the discovery of tombs cut into the rock. They include a dromos, an antechamber (sometimes double), and a chamber furnished with benches. Low brick walls blocked the entrances. Some of these tombs retain traces of pictorial decoration. The oldest goes back to the end of the archaic or the beginning of the Classical period. The grave goods include works of the very first rank: jewels, weapons, metal artifacts, bronze and ceramic plates and dishes—in particular, Attic cups, rhytons, kraters with little columns, etc. They are decorated by artists such as the painters of Pan, Alkimakos, Kalliope, Myson, and many others. They are all exceptional works which are not found in such abundance except on the largest Etruscan sites, and can be seen in the Aleria Museum.

In addition to the Casabianda necropolis, others prove the continuity of occupation. No break appears in the material from the 5th c. B.C. until the 3d or 4th c. A.D. Even more, the enormous quantity and high value of the grave goods show that before the Roman conquest Alalia was a center of importance. Further excavations should permit the extrication of the sites and architecture of the Greek and Hellenistic town. At the same time, they should provide an answer to a difficult problem: what importance should be assigned to an Etruscan presence, attested until now only by a very small proportion of the finds and by graffiti still under study. The Roman town (no doubt like the earlier settlements) grew up on a plateau ca. 3 km long. At its foot the river Tavignano describes a large curve, and the commercial port was established inside this elbow. In relation to the port a mansio was created, the baths of which have been discovered (the so-called Baths of Santa Laurina). The war fleet anchored in the pool of Diana.

The Roman colony is still only incompletely excavated. A part of the ramparts is visible to the W, on both sides of the Praetorian Gate which passed over the decumanus. This last has been followed until it crosses the cardo just outside the forum on its S side. The forum has the shape of a slightly irregular trapezoid 92 m long, orientated E-W. After its founding by Sulla, it underwent numerous rearrangements.

The E side is occupied by a temple, whose podium in opus incertum has survived. Probably it was a Temple to Augustus and Rome (an inscription to a flamen of Caracalla), and raised in the time of Hadrian. The N and S sides of the square are adorned with porticos with brick columns. The W ends of the porticos stand against two monuments of uncertain nature (a small temple to the N and an office of the aediles to the S ?). Near them are two arches: a S arch marking the beginning of the cardo and a second one, to the N and orientated to the W, which gives access to the praetorium. This edifice occupies all of the W part of the forum, to a depth of about 50 m. There are three porticos surrounding a vast central court with a complex system of basins, cisterns, and nymphaea. The NW corner contained chambers possibly used as strong rooms. The W portico was altered at a late date in order to permit the construction of a new tribunal.

Several buildings have been excavated outside the forum. The most important of these is located N of the praetorium and stands 5 m higher than it. It includes two large cisterns, chambers adorned with mosaics, tabernae, and bath pools with hypocausts. Tradition places the apartments of the governor there; it is certain that this bath could not have been public. Perhaps it was the theater of the events reported by Tacitus (Hist. 2.16), the assassination in the baths of the procurator Decimus Pacarius. To the W was an establishment which included many basins and contained an enormous quantity of shells; it must have been a preserving and salting factory. North of the Temple of Augustus and Rome, the so-called House of the Dolium has been excavated. Its oldest level has pavings of opus signinum decorated with white lapilli and goes back to the period of Sulla. A second level dates to the 1st c. A.D. and contains the outline of a house with a peristyle. South of the temple another house (the House of the Impluvium) has been only partly excavated. Also noteworthy are the foundations of a small Early Christian chapel with an apse, on top of the remains of the N portico and virtually touching the temple. Other monuments have been identified but not cleared. Notable examples are the amphitheater, near the S gate of the ramparts, and a mausoleum situated outside the W sector of the fortifications.

In the modern village the fort of Matra contains the museum, where the rich collections from the necropoleis and the products of the excavations in the town are on exhibit.


J. Jehasse, Aleria grecque et romaine, Hist. et visite des fouilles; id., “Les fouilles d'Aleria: le plateau et ses problèmes,” Gallia 21 (1963); “Chroniques arch.,” Gallia, since 1958; J. & J. Jehasse “La nécropole préromaine d'Aleria,” Gallia, Suppl. 25 (1973).


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    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.162
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