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LAVINIUM (Pratica di Mare) Latium, Italy.

A city 28 km S of Rome. It was founded by Aeneas, fugitive from Troy, and named for his wife Lavinia, daughter of Latinus, king of the Aborigeni. So goes the legend in the liberal poetic version of Virgil, in Livy (11.4ff), Dionysius Halicarnassensis (159.1ff), Dio Cassius (1. Fragm. 1.3ff), Origo gentis Romanae (10.5ff) and in other sources. The earliest testimony of the legend is in Timaeus, ca. 300 B.C., who speaks of the Penates of Troy preserved in Lavinium. The people of Lavinium are mentioned in the first treaty between Rome and Carthage (Polyb. 3.22). The city was the center of the Laurens ager, from which the inhabitants of the city are also called Laurentes; and thus the city itself is sometimes called Laurentum or Laurolavinium. Lavinium was part of the Latin League (Cato, in Prisc. Inst. 4) and was the seat of the League's sanctuary. At the conclusion of the Latin war in 338 B.C., Lavinium probably became a federated municipium. Strabo (5.3.5; 100.232) connected the city's decline with the Samnite ravages, that is, with the actions of Marius' force in 82 B.C. Nevertheless, a particular religious significance preserved Lavinium's importance throughout the ancient period. It was the seat of the cult of the Penates, from which the Romans borrowed the official cult (Macrob. 3.4.11, etc.) of the beginning of the Roman peoples called Latins (CIL x, 797). It is in consideration of this cult and in the acceptance of the legend of their Trojan origins that Varro (Ling. 5.144) could write: “Oppidum quod primum conditum in Latio stirpis Romanae, Lavinium: nam ibi dii penates nostri.” Other cults of Lavinium mentioned in the sources include Vesta, closely connected as at Rome, with the Penates; Indiges (also called Jupiter Indiges or Aeneas Indiges), Venus Frutis, Iuturna, Anna Perenna, Liber, etc. From epigraphic evidence it is known that Castor and Pollux were venerated at Lavinium ca. 500 B.C. and Ceres during the 3d c. B.C.

The city was linked to Rome by the Via Laurentina, on lightly rolling hills in sight of the sea, from which it is 4 km distant as the crow flies. On the coast near the mouth of the Numicus (now called the Fosso di Pratica) was Troia with a Sanctuary of Jupiter Indiges. In this spot legend places the embarcation of Aeneas. The limits of the city are clearly determinable. Above the hillside where today stands the village of Pratica di Mare is the nucleus of the earliest settlement, indicated by the Iron Age tombs found around it. In the 6th c. the city grew to the S and the W, while the older nucleus must have assumed the functions of an acropolis. Various stretches of city wall have been found, the earliest datable to the 6th c. Inside the city are preserved various remains from archaic, Republican, and Imperial times, among them the bases of statues of Lavinia and of Silvius Aeneas, honorific inscriptions, a bath building renovated by Constantine, etc.

Outside the city, toward the E, a temple from the 5th c. has been found; and to the S near the little church of Santa Maria delle Vigne, which is of Early Christian origin, elements of a large sanctuary have been discovered. The latter contains a particularly interesting series of 13 large altars, all aligned, the earliest from the 6th c. B.C. and the most recent perhaps from the 2d c. B.C. Besides many votive terracottas the excavation has brought to light local and imported ceramics from the 6th and 5th c., small bronzes of kouroi similar to those of the Niger Lapis (about 500 B.C.), a very fine bronze statuette of Kore in the Greek oriental style, and the aforementioned Latin inscription of Castor and Pollux datable to ca. 500 B.C. These discoveries are interesting for the testimony they provide of direct contact with the Greek world, probably through maritime trade; and they also contribute new evidence concerning the function that Lavinium may have had in transmitting Greek influence to Rome, particularly in religious matters. Another important discovery made in the same area, about 100 m N of the others, is that of a tomb of the 7th c. B.C., covered by a tumulus. It was transformed in the 4th c. into a Heroon and can be identified as the Heroon in the form of a tumulus seen by Dionysius Halicarnassensis (1.64.5) near Lavinium, not far from Numicus; and believed to be the tomb of Aeneas.


R. H. Klausen, Aeneas und die Penaten I-II (1839-40); A. Nibby, Analisi . . . della Carta de' dintorni di Roma (2d ed., 1848) II, 206ff; J. Carcopino, Virgile et les origines d'Ostie (1919); G. B. Trovalusci, Lavinium. Pratica di Mare (1928); G. Bendz, “Sur la Question de la ville de Laurentum,” Acta Instituti Romani Regni Sueciae 4 (1935); B. Tilly, Vergil's Latium (1947); A. Alföldi, Early Rome and the Latins (1965); G. K. Galinsky, Aeneas, Sicily, and Rome (1969); F. Castagnoli, Lavinium I (1972).

On recent excavations: F. Castagnoli, “Dedica arcaica lavinate a Castore e Polluce,” in Studi e Materiali Storia e Religioni 30 (1959) 109ff; id., “Sulla tipologia degli altari di Lavinio,” Bullettino Commissione Archeologica del Comune di Roma 77 (1959-60) 3ff; id., I luoghi connessi con l'arrivo de Enea nel Lazio, ArchCl 19 (1967) 1ff; P. Sommella, “Lavinium. Rinvenimenti preistorici e protostorici,” ibid. 21 (1969) 18ff; id., “Heroon di Ena a Lavinium: il contributo dei recenti scavi a Pratica di Mare,” RendPontAcc 44 (1971-72) 47-74.


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