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ALTINUM (Altino) Veneto, Italy.

A city in the territory of the Veneti (Ptol. 3.1.30) near the Sile river, along the coast NE of the Laguna di Venezia. At first, a center of the Veneti, the city became a Roman municipium enrolled in the tribus Scaptia and reached its period of greatest prosperity during the first centuries of the Empire. In A.D. 452, it was destroyed by Attila and finally, in the late Roman period, was abandoned by its inhabitants, who sought refuge at Torcello and on other islands in the group where later Venice was to rise.

Altino is mentioned by Velleius Paterculus (2.76.2) in his description of the civil war in 42 B.C. and then by Vitruvius (1.4.11), Strabo (5.214), Pliny (3.126), Tacitus (Hist. 3.6), and Martial (4.25.1), who extols the beauty of its coastline and the richness of its villas. The ancient sources do not furnish specific dates for a clear understanding of this city, one of the most famous in N Italy and strategic as a highway junction and as a center of commerce.

Sporadic investigations were carried out right up until the end of the 19th c., but only in the last few years have regular excavations been undertaken. Recent discoveries of Attic and ancient Venetic vases, dating to the 5th c. B.C., and of Venetic funerary inscriptions indicate that Altino was an inhabited center and perhaps an important port of call in the pre-Roman era. The importance of the city increased with the Romanization of Veneto and with the building of the Via Annia (131 B.C.), which, coming from Adria, connected Altino with Aquileia. The construction of the Via Claudia Augusta (begun by Drusus and completed by his son, the emperor Claudius), which began at Altino, put the city in contact with the Roman territories across the Alps. The Via Annia as well as the Via Claudia Augusta had high embankments which kept them safe from possible flooding from the Sile and from the Laguna. The exact boundary of the city is not known. It had no walls, but must have been surrounded by canals and by low-lying, swampy ground. In the area of the city to the E, there is evidence of a road, more than 5 m wide and flanked by sidewalks and the foundations of houses containing mosaic pavements. A huge cornice, dating to the 1st c. A.D. and surely belonging to a public building, comes from the higher area where the center of the city was situated with its temples, porticos, gardens, and baths, as mentioned in an inscription discovered in the cathedral of Grado and in another inscription honoring Tiberius (CIL V, 2149). A large structure in stone blocks, perhaps the pier of a harbor canal, and the remains of a portico are at the S boundary of the city; to the N is a large brick shed and homes nearby with mosaics of the 1st c. B.C. With the systematic exploration of ca. 2 km of the NE necropolis along the Via Annia, many funerary enclosures have been found, with portraits, statues, and inscriptions. Nearly 1,000 cremation tombs and numerous stone tomb markers of various types have been found: niched stele with busts, clipeus portraits; large octagonal and round altars richly decorated, urns—some covered by half-round stones, others decorated with acanthus leaves or with flames of funeral pyres; and to avert evil, animal likenesses, such as dogs, sphinxes, and lions. Nearly all the finds are preserved in the museum at Altino.


E. Ghislanzoni, NSc (1930); G. Brusin, “Il problema archeologico di A.,” Atti dell'Istituto Veneto 105 (1946-47); id., “Che cosa sappiamo dell'antica A.,” ibid. 109 (1950-51); id. et al., Atti del Convegno per il retroterra veneziano (1956); G. Sena Chiesa, “Le stele funerarie a ritratti di A.,” Memorie Istituto Veneto 33 (1960); B. M. Scarfì. “Altino (Venezia). Le iscrizioni funerarie romane provenienti dagli scavi 1965-1969,” Atti Istituto Veneto 128 (1969-70); id., “Documentazione archeologica preromana e romana,” Mostra storica della Laguna Veneta (1970).


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    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.18
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