previous next

NUCERIA ALFATERNA (Nocera Superiore) Italy.

An ancient city on the inland highway, subsequently the Via Popilia, from Etruria to Poseidonia. It stood near the headwaters of the Sarnus (Sarno) and commanded the important pass behind Mons Lactarius leading to Salernum (Salerno) and its gulf. Owing to its proximity to Vesuvius, its territory was fertile. The name is apparently Oscan and appears on coins as Nuvkrinum Alafaternum; the name Nuceria, known elsewhere in Samnite Italy, has been thought to mean “new city”; Alfaterna would then identify its population (cf. Plin. HN 3.63). There is some evidence that in an early period Nuceria had established a hegemony over the other cities in the Sarnus valley (Polyb. 3.91; Livy 9.38.2-3); at all events it was the only one of these to coin money. But by the time of the second Samnite war the members of this league appear to have been on equal terms. It played an important part in the Samnite wars, standing against Rome in 316 B.C., and it did not fall until 308. Thereafter Nuceria was faithful to Rome, though independent and with rights of asylum and coinage. It was destroyed by Hannibal in 216 (Livy 23.15.1-6).

In the social war, when the Samnite general Papius Mutilus was unable to win it to his side, he burnt the suburbs (App. BCiv. 1.42), in compensation for which at the end of the war it seems to have received part of the territories of Stabiae, which had been destroyed. Spartacus' men destroyed it again in 73 (Florus 2.8.5). In Sulla's time it must have received a veteran colony and was inscribed in the tribus Menenia. At the time of Philippi it appears as colonia Nuceria Constantia (Lib. Colon. 235); in A.D. 57 it received a new draft of colonists (Tac. Ann. 13.31). In 59 it appears in history for the disastrous riot in the amphitheater of Pompeii in which many of its citizens perished. In 62 it was shaken by the earthquake that knocked down much of Pompeii (Sen. QNat. 6.1.2), and in 79 it had to endure the great eruption of Vesuvius. According to Suetonius (Vit. 2.2) it was the home of the emperor Vitellius. Because of its strategic situation it never perished; as often as it was destroyed it rose again, and its history continues through the Middle Ages into modern times.

The ancient city seems to have lain between the two divisions of the modern town, Nocera Superiore and Nocera Inferiore. Unfortunately almost nothing is known of its topography. The 5th c. church of S. Maria Maggiore at Nocera Superiore, still in use, is the only building of interest; it is of round plan, related to S. Costanza in Rome. One can discover the names of the gods held in special esteem here: the river Sarnus, Juno Sarrana (Plin. HN 16.132; Sil. Pun. 6.468), the Dioskouroi, possibly Apollo, but their sanctuaries have never been located. Except for occasional fragments of tile and pottery, the site is bare. On the other hand the necropolis has been systematically explored, and tombs from the 6th c. B.C. to the 3d have yielded much fine material. This material is housed in the local museum. There are also some remains of villas of the Imperial period in the vicinity.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

J. Beloch, Campanien (1890) 239-47; V. Panebianco, BdA 49 (1964) 362.

L. RICHARDSON JR.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 38
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: