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LIBARNA Piemonte, Italy.

An important way station in the valley of the river Scrivia, at the confluence of the mountain stream Borbera between the present Serravalle and Arquata Scrivia. Today it is in Piemonte, but in Roman antiquity in Regio IX, Liguria, about halfway between Genua and Dertona, on the Via Postumia. It is mentioned by Pliny (HN 3.7.3), by Ptolemy (Geog. 3.1.45), in the Antonine Itinerary (ed. Wesseling, p. 294; ed. Cuntz, I, p. 44), in the Peutinger Table (ed. Miller, segm. 3, n. 5), by Sotiomenos (Hist. Eccl. 9.12), by Anonymous of Ravenna (De Geographia 4.33) and by many mediaeval documents. The site is perhaps pre-Roman, at least according to its trading habits (tombs of the first period of the Iron Age in nearby Arquata; Gallic materials from Libarna itself, as well as fragments of bucchero ware from Chiusi). Beginning in the 2d c. B.C., Libarna gained great commercial and military importance (even before the Via Postumia had been built in 148 B.C.) as a crossroad. This topographic importance, owing essentially to its natural position on the only clear road between the mountains, in a gorge of the river Scrivia, has remained fixed from mediaeval times to the present. Definite traces of a Republican settlement are available from coins of the 2d c. and 1st c. B.C. Following the struggles of the Romans against the Ligurians, Libarna was taken over by the Romans.

It became a municipium according to the Lex de Gallia Cisalpina of 45 B.C. and subsequently was enrolled as part of the Mecia tribe in two enrollments beginning at the end of the 1st c. B.C. (CIL v, 7425, 7430). It became a colony in the 1st c. A.D., between 75 and 96-98. It gained great importance between the 1st c. and 4th c. A.D. as a center with ample territorial limits. Libarna fell and was abandoned between the 5th c. and the 7th c. Intermittent excavations between 1820 and 1921, undertaken because of work on the highways and railroads, brought to light significant segments of the settlement. Systematic excavations in 1937, and from 1950-52 on, have identified the decumanus maximus (at whose S end was certainly a city gate if not a triumphal arch), along with the decumanus minor and the forum and some cardines minores, if not the cardo maximus. The theater and the amphitheater were uncovered along with remains of bath buildings. Notable remains of private dwellings have been discovered with mosaics (2d c.) and fresco decorations, as well as the remains of aqueducts, even on the outskirts of the city, and of necropoleis, probably of the late Imperial period.

The best-preserved monument is the theater. The theater cavea has been identified as well as the parodoi (there are three instead of two, one in the center and the other two on the sides), the orchestra, and the postscenium. Beyond the inner ring of the amphitheater, a notable section of the arena foundations and of the cavea has been preserved. In the city, inscriptions, coins dating from the Republican era to the reign of Valentinian III (425-455), small bronzes, and marble sculptures, and amber figurines have been found. The greater part of the movable finds are kept in the National Museum of Antiquities in Turin and in the Civic Museum in Genova Pegli, as well as in Pavia, Noviligure, Stazzano, and Alessandria.


CIL V, 6425, 7424-41; A. Bottazzi, Osserv. storico-critiche sui ruderi di Libarna (1815); G. Moretti, NSc (1914) 113-32; P. Barocelli, NSc (1922) 362-68; RE XXV (1926) 13; G. Monaco, Forma Italiae, Libarna (1936); C. Carducci, NSc (1938) 317ff; (1941) 29ff; (1950) 221ff; id., Dioniso (1938) 302ff; M. Guasco, NSc (1952) 211-13; A. Neppi Modona, Il teatro greco-romano (1960) 116-17; G. Forni, Encic. dello Spettacolo, I (1960) 589, and 9 (1962) 748; G. Schmiedt, Atlante aereo-fotografico delle sedi umane in Italia, II (1971).


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    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.7
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