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ASISIUM (Assisi) Umbria, Italy.

On a W foothill of the Appenines, it is best known for its mediaeval son St. Francis but was probably also the birthplace of the Roman poet Propertius. It belonged in Roman times to the Tribus Sergia and was a municipium. From epigraphic evidence it is known that its chief magistrates retained the old Umbrian title of Marones. The town enjoyed modest prosperity under the Empire, when its public buildings multiplied. Totila destroyed most of it in A.D. 545.

The Roman town, built over a previous Umbrian settlement, was surrounded by a substantial wall of rectangular blocks of local limestone. Ruins of one of the gates survive. Houses and civic buildings on the acropolis hill were supported by a series of terraces with strong substructures of travertine.

The forum had porticos except to the N where a temple faced it from a somewhat higher level. Remnants of the forum's limestone-block pavement have been found, and the foundations of its tribunal and of a small temple-like shrine to the Dioscuri.

The temple, traditionally ascribed to Minerva, had six Corinthian monolithic columns across the front, with its approach stairs built between their bases, and a molding around the pediment above. These extant elements of the facade, and some of the interior, are now incorporated into the Church of Santa Maria, which stands on the site of the temple. Greek influence on the style is manifest. The temple probably dates to the late 1st c. A.D.

Considerably to the E are the remains of a theater, its cavea facing E. Nearby is a large Roman cistern, under the campanile of the present Church of San Rufino, built of large travertine blocks and with a barrel vault. An inscription in place ascribes its construction and that of some other buildings to the Marones, seemingly in the 2d c. A.D.

To the NE, outside the city wall, was the small amphitheater, built of brick with a veneer of local stone. Not much of it survives.

Some houses have been traced within the limits of the modern town, especially near the Bishop's palace. One of these has yielded some good frescos, including a charming scene of birds among leafy branches. Some of the paintings carry epigrams in Greek.

Excavations since 1956 promise further data on this rather neglected site.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Strab. 5.2.10 (calling the town “Aision”); Plin. NH 3.113; Ptol. Geogr. 3.1.53.

E. Zocca, Assisi and its Environs (1950); G. Antolini, Il Tempio di Minerva in Assisi (1828); guidebook: Assisi e Dintorni (1954); EAA 1 (1958) 741 (C. Pietrangeli)P.

R. V. SCHODER

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