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FORMIAE (Formia) Latium, Italy.

A coastal town ca. 4 km N-NE of Gaeta, exceptionally beautiful in situation and benign in climate. It faces S over the bay of Gaeta. It is uncertain whether its origin was Ausonian or Volscian; it appears first in history in 338 B.C. when it remained neutral in the Latin war and was rewarded by Rome with citizenship sine suffragio (Liv 8.14.10). Suffrage came in 188 B.C. when it was inscribed in the tribus Aemilia (Livy 38.36.9). Under Hadrian it received a colony and was designated Colonia Aelia Hadriana Augusta. It seems to have flourished until it was destroyed by the Saracens in 859. It owed its prosperity to its situation on the Via Appia, its abundant water, and the excellence of its agriculture, especially its fruit, and its attractions as a resort. It was among the earliest of the sites preferred by rich Romans for seaside villas, and it continued to draw them at least as late as the time of Symmachus. Its most famous frequenters were Pompey and Cicero, who was assassinated at his villa there while attempting to flee from the proscription of the triumvirs in 43 B.C. (Plut. Vit. Cic. 47-48). It may also have been the home of Vitruvius, the architect.

The town plan is hard to discern. Some walls in massive trapezoidal blocks and others in Roman concrete appear at various points. These must include remains of its fortifications and perhaps terrace walls of private villas. One circuit seems to have enclosed the arx of the city (Castellone); another, more fragmentary, can be completed as a larger triangle. An amphitheater and theater can be recognized inland and uphill from the waterfront. But Formiae's great glory is its ring of villa remains stretching from the Peschiera Romana in the Nuovo Porto, to the Porto di Caposele on the confines between Formiae and Gaeta. From Formiae to Gaeta the line of villas is, in effect, unbroken.

The most conspicuous of the remains are those in Villa Rubino, attributed without basis to the villa of Cicero, including an important nymphaeum and remains of substructions decorated with painting and stuccos, Villa Irlanda (a cryptoporticus with stuccos), and Villa Caracciolo (a great court surrounded by rooms and other constructions). From them have been removed a great many marbles, the majority of which are in the Museo Nazionale in Naples; the most famous are a fine pair of Nereids mounted on sea monsters. There are collections of antiquities gathered largely or entirely locally in Villa Rubino, the park of Piazza della Vittoria, and the antiquarium of the municipio.

In the vicinity of Formiae along the Via Appia are ruins of a number of monumental tombs of interesting architecture. The most imposing of these, 24 m high, is given the name Tomba di Cicerone.


S. Aurigemma & A. De Santis, Gaeta-Formia Minturno (1955) 21-35, 80-88MPI.


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    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 38, 36
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