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SPOLETIUM (Spoleto) Umbria, Italy.

A town set on a height at the SE end of the Clitumnus valley, on the E branch of the Via Flaminia from Narnia. Though there is proof of habitation in the zone from the Early Iron Age, Spoletium appears in history only with the deduction of a Latin colony there in 241 B.C. (Livy, Per. 20). The Romans had had trouble with the Umbrians for 70 years, and the colony was to be a watchdog over the Clitumnus valley. The site was likely chosen for advantage and was not an existing town; the oldest parts of the walls, the city plan, and street grid seem to date from the foundation of the colony. In the Hannibalic war Spoletium remained faithful to Rome, and according to Livy (22.9) in the aftermath of the Battle of Trasimene threw back an assault on its walls with such losses to the Carthaginians that they were discouraged from marching on Rome. Its record in this war won Spoletium high esteem in Rome, and it flourished, becoming a municipium inscribed in the tribus Horatia in 90 B.C. In 82 B.C., in the struggle between Marius and Sulla, it had the misfortune to give asylum to Carinas after his defeat by Pompey and Crassus and, apparently in reprisal, was simply sold at auction (Florus 2.9.27). A repair of the fortifications, probably made necessary by an earthquake of 63 B.C. (Obsequens 61), is recorded in an inscription (CIL XI, 4809). Under the Early Empire, it prospered. In the time of Constantine it entered on a period of new brilliance; it figures in the letters of Symmachus and Theodoric and the campaigns of Belisarius and Totila. Around 570, with the creation of the duchy of Spoleto, it passed into a new era.

The walls of Spoletium can be followed around their whole circuit of 2 km, with good stretches along the Via dei Cecili, S of the Rocca, and in the Piperno garden on Via Benedetto Egio. The base is in polygonal blocks of limestone of medium size, sometimes irregular in shape, sometimes tending to trapezoidal. Above this is masonry in squared blocks, the faces and joints carefully worked, probably of the same build as the base, though this carries the inscription recording a Late Republican restoration. Above work of the second sort in places is yet a third type of masonry in long thin blocks. The curtains run mostly in short straight sections joined at obtuse angles with gates overlapped or in reentrant angles. There were no towers; small gates had lintels, while major gates were probably arched. The city plan is orthogonal with insulae along the main slope of the site, which is terraced to regularize the terrain. The long rectangular forum lay near the middle of the slope, close to the Porta Romana. At its SW end was a small temple on a high podium (Tempio di S. Ansano), prostyle tetrastyle, probably Corinthian. Beside this an arch spanned the approach to the forum, dedicated in A.D. 23, as an inscription on the forum side informs us, to the dead Drusus and Germanicus. At the opposite end of the forum rose a large Corinthian temple, probably the Capitolium, and beside this was a complex building with a handsome stone arcade. Lower in the city, breaching the S wall, was a theater (diam. 72 m) of late Augustan date. Outside the walls in the river plain was the amphitheater (115 x 85 m), well preserved because Totila converted it into a fortress but stripped it of its stone facing, which went to build the papal castle of Spoleto.

A good part of a house with atrium and peristyle and fine mosaic pavements has been excavated under the Palazzo Comunale, and many other lesser remains are known. Two aqueducts have been traced, and there are substantial ancient parts of the Ponte Sanguinario over the Tessino. Graves of the 7th c. B.C. have been found near Campello, but so far not in Spoletium itself. Here the tombs are numerous, but all are Roman.

Antiquities from the region are kept in the Museo Civico. Perhaps the most interesting items are two Leges Spoletinae, early inscriptions respecting a sacred grove (CIL XI, 4766-67).


C. Pietrangeli, Spoletium (Spoleto), Istituto di Studi Romani (1939)MPI; B. Toscano, Spoleto in pietre, Azienda del Turismo, Spoleto (1963)I.


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  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 9
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