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PICENTIA (Pontecagnano) Campania, Italy.

According to Pliny (HN 3.70) the Ager Picentinus on the Tyrrhenian coast NW of the Sele was once Etruscan territory. It got its Roman name in 268 B.C. when Rome transplanted Picenes here (Strab. 5.4.13). The exact site of the ancient town is unknown; the modern town is on the left bank of the river Picentino ca. 9 km E-SE of Salerno and a few km from the sea. It is above extensive tomb fields that date from the Early Iron Age to the Roman period, with a gap from the 6th c. to the 4th.

The river Picentino is a major highway to the interior, the only important one between Salerno and the Sele, and the great land route from Etruria to the S must have crossed the river at the city. It was a Villanovan site; the earliest burials are like those of the first Villanovan period at Tarquinia, but whether it was a colony of Tarquinia is disputed. Its Villanovan-Etruscan connections were unbroken through the orientalizing period; impasto cups of Faliscan type, Caeretan bucchero sottile and painted pottery like that of Cumae and Tarquinia appear. Though far less wealthy than the cities in Etruria in the 7th c., Pontecagnano has produced a silver-gilt Phoenician bowl, faïence scarabs, and pottery from Aegean Greece. It is believed that the city's decline after the 7th c. B.C. was due to the aggressive growth of Paestum; the scanty graves of the 4th c. show strong dependence on Samnite Paestum.

Material from the early tombs is in the Museo Provinciale at Salerno; more is stored in an unfinished museum at Pontecagnano. The Phoenician bowl is in the Dutuit Collection in the Petit Palais, Paris. Excavations are currently in progress (1972).


B. d'Agostino in Mostra della Preistoria e della Protostoria nel Salernitano (1962) 105-61; M. Napoli, “Pontecagnano, problemi topografici e storici,” StEtr 33 (1965) 661-70; B. d'Agostino, NSc (1968) 75-196; G. d'Henry, NSc (1968) 197-204.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Strabo, Geography, 5.4.13
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
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