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LUNA (Luni) La Spezia province, Liguria, Italy.

A Roman colony founded in 177 B.C. W of the Magra river and subsequently part of the Augustan Regio VII. Because of its position at the border between Liguria and Etruria, the city is variously cited by the sources. Portus Lunae has been placed in the gulf of La Spezia by some scholars and by others at the mouth of the Magra river. Passages from ancient sources (particularly Strab. 5.2.5) may be variously interpreted. There is no extant archaeological proof of an Etruscan Luna, even though Etruscan elements in the Ligurian border territory are naturally not excluded. In La Spezia, there is no archaeological evidence of a pre-Roman or Roman center prior to Luni where, on the contrary, in addition to the existence of the ancient city, the presence of a harbor pier, which has since disappeared because of coastal bradyseism, has been verified. Aerial photography has revealed the ancient coastline about 2 km inland from the modern shore. The founding of the colony assured the Romans of possession of the Ligurian coastal zone and guaranteed a base for military expeditions. The oldest epigraphic document from Luna is a dedicatory inscription to M. Acilius Glabrio, the conqueror of Antiochos at Thermopylai. A later dedicatory inscription appears on a statue base at Luni (CIL XI, 1339) to M. Claudius Marcellus, consul for the second time and conqueror of the Ligurians in 155 B.C. The city was part of the tribus Galeria and is always mentioned as a colonia. Augustus was responsible for a second settling of the colony (CIL XI, 1330).

The major source of the city's wealth came from the nearby marble quarries. The marble was loaded at Luni and exported widely throughout the Roman world. The quarries were originally a part of the colony of Luna, but by A.D. 27 they had become imperial property. Strabo notes that the Magra river transported to the city large trees that were excellent as construction beams. Luna shipped out the large Luna cheeses, mentioned by Pliny and by Martial, and the renowned Luna wine was considered by Pliny the best in Etruria. Numerous inscriptions give ample testimony to civil and religious offices, boards, and Roman and oriental cults throughout the Imperial period.

Activity did not cease with the fall of the W Roman Empire since the city remained outside the great invasion routes. Luna was the center (even more important than Genoa) of Italia Maritima, held by the Byzantines, and was the seat of Aldius the magister militum, and of a bishop who had administrative and political power in addition to religious authority. The city was to participate during the 7th and 8th c. in important councils (such as the one at Milan in 649) and represented, under Longobard sovereignty, the rights of the city, coined its own money, although of base alloy. With the Norman and Saracen invasions, with the gradual silting of the harbor, and above all with the spread of malaria, Luna fell and was abandoned.

Archaeological excavations were initiated during the reign of Carlo Alberto in 1837, but only in the last few years has large-scale scientific exploration been undertaken.

The city plan is square, irregular only on the E side toward the sea. The surrounding walls vary in structure: large masses of rock are followed by brickwork, belonging to different phases, but today covered over. The E gate has been partially excavated. The Via Aurelia, formerly the Aemilia Scauri, according to Strabo built by the censor Aemilius Scaurus in 109 B.C., probably over an already existing road, crosses the city and constitutes the decumanus maior. The cardo maximus, totally excavated, a major artery of communication with the harbor, stops in the central sector near a large square paved with large marble slabs. A public building in the square looks toward the forum, which is skirted by the Via Aurelia. In that area, near the ruins of the so-called Temple of Diana and the remains of a deposit of dolia defossa, a large hall has been discovered along with an area of fountains with rich architectural decorations and a monument with fragments of a large dedicatory inscription and a splendid marble portrait in relief of Au gustus wearing the crown of the city. A fine villa is being excavated here. The ruins of two large temples are visible. From the one near the N walls the recovery in 1842 of terracotta facade groupings and architectural decorations dating to the 2d c. B.C., suggested at the time that the building was the Capitolium. These terracottas are no longer considered Etruscan but neo-Attic, produced in the Roman milieu. The second temple is in the center between a portico which opens on the Via Aurelia and a short side of the forum along the axis of the cardo. The polygonal substructures of this temple remain; a few terracottas and bronzes buried with the inscription “Fulgur conditum” give evidence that the temple was struck by lightning. This building is now believed to be the Capitolium. It is set in a large, unified plan including the porticoed forum and the adjacent areas. The best documented artistic periods are the Augustan and the Julio-Claudian represented by the regular urban plan itself, by portraiture, by statuary, and by architectural decorations. Evidence from pottery and coins is quite ample during the whole period of the Empire.

The theater has been discovered in the NE corner. It is of modest dimensions and badly preserved. Beyond the walls is the large amphitheater. In the city, a house with mosaics has been uncovered and the remains of a basilica were partially excavated in the last century. From the basilica comes a series of bases with inscriptions of magistrates and emperors of the 3d c. and 4th c. A.D.

The archaeological finds are, for the most part, preserved in the Civic Museum at La Spezia, in the Archaeological Museum in Florence, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, and in the National Museum at Luni. However, much material has been scattered throughout Italy and other countries.


C. Promis, Dell'antica città di Luni e del suo stato presente (2d ed., 1857); G. Sforza, “Bibliografia storica della città di Luni e suoi dintorni,” Memorie Acc. Scienze 60 (1910); L. Banti, Luni (1937); R. U. Inglieri, NSc (1952) 20ff; M. Lopez Pegna, Luni, il golfo di Selene, la via Emilia di Scauro (1964); P. M. Conti, Luni nell'alto medioevo (1967); G. Schmiedt, Atlante degli insediamenti umani in Italia, II (1971) tav. 123; A. Frova, ed., Scavi di Luni (1973)MPI.


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