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SURRENTUM (Sorrento) Campania, Italy.

A Greek colony, as attested by an inscription in Doric dialect and dated by the epigraphic characters to the 4th c. B.C. This indicates that the city remained at least culturally Greek, even after an Etruscan domination, probably brief, at the beginning of the 5th c. B.C., and after a stable Oscan occupation from 420 B.C. on. Surrentum was probably part of the Nucerian League, together with Stabiae, Pompeii, and Herculaneum. Nothing is known of its political relations with Rome, but it appears almost certain that the city did not join Hannibal after the battle of Cannae. During the social war Surrentum accommodated the insurgents and as a consequence had a settlement of Sullan colonists, followed by the stationing of some of Augustus' veterans there. Later, but before the time of Hadrian, the population had Roman citizenship as a municipium. Surrentum became a vacation spot for rich Romans, particularly in the 1st c. B.C. and A.D.

The few vestiges of Greek and Oscan Surrentum consist almost exclusively of meager remnants of statues from the 4th c. B.C., and of a necropolis in use from the end of the 7th to the middle of the 3d c. B.C. (with a gap in the 5th). The necropolis was discovered at Vico Equense, a settlement which was certainly part of Surrentum. The only visible remains of the pre-Roman city is the remnant of a gate, and it is uncertain whether this dates to the late 5th–early 4th c. B.C. when the city was still Greek and had to defend itself from Etruscan and Oscan expansion, or whether it is from the beginning of the 1st c. B.C. when the social war was imminent. In any case, even if the more recent date is correct, there is no doubt that the gate, together with a second gate and a section of the W screening wall, occupied about the same position as the primitive Greek city walls. The same may be said of the paved road, now Punta della Campanella, which led to the famous Temple of Athena. Nothing remains of the temple. Only a few votive objects confirm that it stood where the unanimous testimony of the historians and the Peutinger Table place it. Apparently the city, which suffered neither devastating fire nor sack in ancient times, has preserved in general the plan of the Greek city, with streets intersecting at right angles. Even the modern market corresponds to the Greek agora.

There are abundant remains of the Roman city, however, particularly from the Early Imperial period. They include: the villa of Agrippa Postumus, which seems to have existed on the site of the modern Albergo delle Sirene and the adjacent area; the villa of Punta di Sorrento, the so-called Bagno della Regina Giovanna; the villa of Punta di Massa, separated from the Puolo beach by the Villa di Pollius, of which almost nothing remains; the villa near Punta della Campanella, probably a pied-à-terre for those, including originally the Emperor, in transit for Capri; and other minor villas scattered on the coast of the Gulf of Naples and on one of the Sirenusan Islands. Together these villas are notable for their beauty and architectural individuality, especially the installations on the sea, which are fairly well preserved and of great variety.


P. Mingazzini & F. Pfister, Forma Italiae di Surrentum (1946)IP (il testo illustra ogni notizie anteriore); Athenaeum (1947) 108-12 (recensione di Fraccaro con osservazioni di carattere storico e topografico); Sartori, Problemi di costituzione italiota (1953) 75-77 (questioni storiche); FA (1963-64) n. 7508 (tomba a camera di età claudia); FA (1966) n. 2342 (necropoli di Vico Equense); Archeologia 6 (1967) 418-22.


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