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AQUILEIA Udine, Veneto, Italy.

At the extreme E end of the plain of Veneto, a few km from the sea. It was founded by the Romans in 181 B.C. under the triumvirs P. Scipio Nasica, C. Flaminius, and L. Manlius Acidinus (Livy 39.55.5-6; 40.34.2). The city was established essentially for military reasons at the moment when, after the conquest of the entire peninsula, Roman power extended all the way to the Po valley. Aquilein was the base of operations against the Carnici, whose advances were brought under control in 115 B.C. (CIL I2, p. 177). The city was also the staging point for the wars against the Istri in 178-177 B.C. (Livy 41.1-5, 9-11; Flor. 1.26) and for the victorious campaigns of the consul C. Sempronius Tuditanus, which permitted the Romans to triumph over the Taurisci, Iapides, and the Liburni in 129 B.C. (Per. Liv. 59; Plin. HN 3.129; App. Ill. 10.30, 1.1, 13.1 pp. 82-83 n. 32; CIL I2, 652). The Taurisci and the lapides attacked Aquileia again in 52 B.C. (Strab. 4.6.10; App. Ill. 18.1). From the Augustan age onward, a long and prosperous period of peace was interrupted by two sieges, one by the Quadi and Marcomanni in A.D. 169 (Amm. Marc. 29.6:1; Lucian Alex. 48) and the other by Maximinus of Thrace in A.D. 238 (Herodian 7.2-3; Jul. Capitol. Maxim. duo 21-23; id. Epitome 25; Eutrop. 9.1; Oros. 7.19.2; Zonar. 12.16). From the middle of the 3d c. until the end of the Roman Empire, Aquileia was a participant in the struggles among the emperors. At the end of the 3d c. the barbarian invasions commenced, and Aquileia was the first to suffer from them because of its geographic position. Afterwards, the city slowly recovered and only in the 9th c., under the Patriarchs, did it regain any real importance.

Although the founding of Aquileia was dictated by military considerations, it was also intended to create peaceful agricultural and commercial conditions. Beginning in 181 B.C., the territory was divided into centuries. At the start, 3000 colonists were settled there, each with an allotment of 50 ha. of land. Another 1500 colonists were settled there in 169 B.C. and still another probably in the Augustan period. Commerce was the reason for the great prosperity of Aquileia. In the Republican period, it was a customs station where the portorium was collected (Cic. Pro Font. 1.2) and where two stationes of the 3d c. A.D. are attested (Ann. édpigr. 1934, n. 234). In times of prosperity, the city had 70,000-100,000 inhabitants to judge from the extent of its urban structures. It must also have been quite populous in late antiquity, as is evidenced by the size and number of its Early Christian basilicas. Commerce profited from a good highway network and from a large harbor at the mouth of the river, which allowed the transport of merchandise manufactured on site.

The roads comprising the network were: the Via Postumia (CIL V, 8313); the Via Annia (CIL V, 7992) constructed in 131 B.C. the so-called Via Julia Augusta, which ran N and passed through Tricesimum and Julium Carnicum (It. Ant., ed. Cuntz, 279-80); the road which passed over the valley of Natisone and through Forum Iuli and thence to Virunum; the road which crossed the valleys of Isonzo and Vipacco in the direction of Emona; and the road toward Tergeste, which is probably to be identified with the Via Gemina (CIL V, 7989). The harbor developed along a river which at the time was quite wide, 48 m from one bank to the other.

Originally a colonia under Roman law, Aquileia in 90 B.C. became a municipium (CIL V, 968). It became a part of Italy in 48 B.C. when Julius Caesar extended the borders of Italy as far as Formio (the Risano river). The citizens of Aquileia were enrolled in the tribus Velina, so called from the homonymous lake in Sabine territory, near Rieti. Inscriptions attest the existence of a senatus (CIL V, 961, 875, 8288, 8313), of duoviri (CIL V, 971), of quattuorviri, decuriones, and aediles (CIL V, 1015), of praetores and praefecti iure dicundo (CIL V, 949, 953, 961, 8291), of praefecti aedilicia potestate (CIL V, 749), and of quaestores (CIL V, 8293, 8298) and patroni. Other offices were priestly, among which were: pontifices (CIL V, 1015), augures (CIL V, 1016), haruspices (S.I., 197), sacerdotes (CIL V, 786, 8218; S.I., 210), flamines (CIL V, 8293), and seviri augustales, who were grouped into collegia, occasionally with their patronus (CIL V, 1012).

The vast archaeological zone of Aquileia has undergone much suffering in the course of its history. From the outset of its intense life, which spanned more than seven centuries, there was a series of reconstructions and modifications. Later, as a result of the numerous sieges, the citizens were obliged more than once to demolish monuments in order to erect fortifications. Finally, as a result of earthquakes and the long centuries of being abandoned, the city became a quarry for construction materials. The archaeological excavations undertaken since the last century have permitted the identification of the essential elements of the ancient city. Yet, little more than the foundations have been preserved.

The direction of the Republican walls has been determined. At the beginning, they were nearly square, but as time went on they were enlarged toward the N to connect with the harbor. They were of fine Roman brick and in some sections had a bossed foundation. Two gates have been brought to light, one with an inner court and the other of the Augustan type with round towers. The late walls are composed of two larger, exterior circuits. Walls of the patriarchal period indicate a settlement in that period roughly half the size of the preceding one.

The excavations have isolated elements of the most ancient phase of the harbor as described by Strabo (5.1.8). The section which is today visible is probably datable to the Claudian period and is composed of a pier more than 300 m long, with a double loading platform and accompanying moorings. Large storehouses are connected to the harbor by ramps. This complex is on the right bank of the river; the left bank, although dammed, was not equally equipped. The bridges and the entire inner highway network have been discovered. The highway system is composed of paved roads, many stretches of which were provided with porticos. The roads separated insulae of various sizes where dwellings, decorated with splendid mosaics, have been brought to light. Some of the mosaics are in the local museum and some have been preserved in situ.

The partially excavated forum, at the center of the city, is decorated with large columns and fine capitals and sculptures. However, there is a plan from the end of the 2d c. A.D. on the basis of which it is supposed that the forum of the Republican period should be sought elsewhere. The structures, such as temples, which can be definitely identified are mysteriously few; inscriptions, however, attest to the worship of more than 30 divinities, including those common to the entire Roman world and those which were characteristically of local origin, such as Belenus, Timavus, Liber, etc. In the course of the excavations, large horrea have been discovered in the SE section of the city, three bath complexes, some kilns, the amphitheater, and the circus. The theater has not yet been found. Even the imperial palace, which certainly existed, given the frequent visits of emperors to Aquileia, is no more than a subject for conjecture.

The rich necropolis set off along the sides of the roads outside the city was many kilometers in length. There are areas of tombs, marked off by stones which indicate the owner and the measurements, along with ostentatious relief monuments and inscriptions. One burial area may be seen in situ; the monuments of the other areas have been transferred to the local museum. Cinerary urns and sarcophagi have supplied fine objects of glass, amber, ivory, gold, and bronze, as well as jewels and lamps of countless types.

The Early Christian and patriarchal periods have left important traces of monuments as well as of funerary objects. In the patriarchal basilica, part of which dates from the period after Attila, there is preserved the largest figured mosaic pavement from antiquity. In the Cripta degli Scavi, next to the basilica, mosaics on three levels and from different periods are visible. The lowest levels belong to a Roman house of the Augustan period. In the district of Monastero di Aquileia there is another large Early Christian church. Its mosaic pavement is now in the Museo Paleocristiano.

Archaeological materials from Aquileia may also be found in the museums at Trieste, Udine, and Vienna; however, the Museo Archeologico at Aquileia contains the majority. In 1961, the materials of late antiquity were transferred to the Museo Paleocristiano.


G. B. Brusin, Aquileia, Guida storico artistica (1929); id., Gli scavi di Aquileia (1934); id., Nuovi Monumenti sepocrali di Aquileia (1941)PI id., “Le epigrafi di Aquileia,” RendLinc 21, 3-4 (1966) 27-35I; A. Caldarini, Aquileia romana (1930); V. Scrinari, Capitelli romani di Aquileia (1952)I; S. Panciera, La vita economica di Aquileia in età romana (1957); L. Ruaro Loseri, Il foro imperiale di Aquileia (1961)PI; A. Degrassi, “Quando Aquileia divenne Municipio romano,” RendLinc (1963) 139-43; L. Bertacchi, “Un cippo gromatico aquileiese di recente rinvenimento,” Atti I Congr. Intern. di Arch. dell' It. Sett. (1963) 111-16I; id., “Ritrovamenti archeologici in fondo ex Moro e in fondo ex Cassis,” BdA (1964) 253-66I; id., “Le più antiche fasi urbanistiche di Aquileia,” NSc (1965 suppl.) 1-11PI; M. Mirabella Roberti, “Il porto romano di Aquileia,” Atti del Convegno Intern. di Studi sulle Antichità di Classe (1968).

G. Sena Chiesa, Gemme del Museo Naz. di Aquileia (1966)I; M. C. Calvi, Vetri del Museo di Aquileia (1968)I; V. Santamaria Scrinari, Museo Arch. di Aquileia—Catalogo delle sculture romane (1972)I.

In preparation: G. B. Brusin, “Aquileia,” Inscriptiones Italiae (2 vols.)PMI; E. Buchi, Le lucerne di Aquileia, I, Le “Firmalampen”I; L. Bertacchi, La pianta archeologica di AquileiaP.


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Strabo, Geography, 4.6.10
    • Strabo, Geography, 5.1.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 55
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