previous next

LUPIAE (Lecce) Apulia, Italy.

An ancient city of Salento on the Via Traiana ca. 40 km S of Brindisi. Strabo (6.282) places it, along with Rudiae, among the cities of the interior as does Pliny (HN 3.101), but Ptolemy (3.1.12) considers it a coastal town, even though it was ca. 12 km from the sea. In a passage (6.19.9) which has posed not a few perplexing questions, Pausanias says that the city was originally called Sybaris, perhaps confounding Lupia or Lopia with the Roman colony of Copia in Lucania. However, it appears certain that the city now covered by modern Lecce was originally a native center whose founding has been attributed by the ancients to the king of the Salentini, Malennius, the son of Dasumnus (Iul. Cap. M. Ant. 1). The Romans probably founded Lupiae after the capture of Brindisi in 267 B.C. Octavian spent some time there on his return to Italy after the death of Caesar (App. BCiv. 3.10). The city was enrolled in the tribus Camilia, was raised to the status of a municipium at an unknown date, and under the Antonines it had the title of a colony. According to Pausanias (6.19.9), the harbor was most likely constructed by Hadrian and must have been along the beach at San Cataldo where the remains of a pier are visible.

Precise evidence for the first settlement comes especially from tombs which date from the 5th c. to the 3d c. B.C. An Attic black-figure kylix (late 6th c. or early 5th c.) found at Lecce is, at the present stage of investigations, the most ancient document of the commercial contacts of the city with the archaic Greek world. Beginning in the second half of the 5th c. B.C. and particularly in the 4th c., the city came under Tarentine influence, as attested by the relief frieze of the well-known Palmieri hypogeum and by the frequency of the proto-Italic and Apulian pottery finds of Tarentine workmanship. However, the language remained Messapic, to judge from the numerous inscriptions gathered from the necropolis.

Imposing monuments of the Roman city have been preserved, such as the amphitheater, the theater, and scattered remains of public and private buildings from which have come marble statues, inscriptions, and mosaics. The amphitheater, constructed between the 1st and 2d c. A.D., measured 102 by 83 m, with an arena of 53 by 34 m. It had a seating capacity of ca. 25,000. Partially set into the tufa and partially raised on arches in opus quadratum, it was of impressive proportions. It had a double order of maeniana, largely restored today only on the lower order, which was separated from the arena by a high wall with a parapet decorated in relief (mostly preserved) with lively scenes of combat between men and animals. Among the marbles which come from this monument, a copy of the Athena of Alkamenes is noteworthy. It is kept in the Museo Castromediano. The theater is perhaps of the Hadrianic period and not very large, measuring 40 m in diameter outside the cavea. It is well preserved and had a seating capacity of 5,000. Also well-preserved are the orchestra, paved with large, regular stone slabs, and one of the parodoi. The stage, 7.7 m deep and 0.7 m above the orchestra floor, must have been richly decorated. Some fragmentary marble sculptures have been found, generally copies of Greek originals, such as the torso of an Amazon of the Berlin type, another torso of the Borghese Ares, a likeness of Athena-Roma with a shield, and other works collected in the Museo Provinciale.


C. De Giorgi, Lecce sotterranea (1907); K. Miller, Itineraria Romana (1916) 222; RE 13.2 (1927) 1842; M. Bernardini, Il Museo Provinciale di Lecce (1958); id. Lupiae (1959); O. Parlangeli, Studi messapici (1960) 134; EAA 4 (1961) 522 (M. Bernardini); G. Susini, Fonti per la storia greca e romana del Salento (1962) 138; P. Zancani Montuoro, RendLinc 28 (1973) 1ff.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.19.9
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.11
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: