(Formia) Latium, Italy.
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
L. RICHARDSON, JR.