(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
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
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
60 (1910); L. Banti, Luni
(1937); R. U.
(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