between the rivers Calore and Sabato, ca. 65 km E-NE
of Naples and was once the chief center of a Samnite
tribe, almost certainly the Hirpini, who called it Malventum or something similar. The Romans fought their last
battle against king Pyrrhus nearby (275 B.C.) and then
made the place a Latin colony with the more auspicious
name of Beneventum (268). Beneventum remained
staunchly loyal in the second Punic (218-201) and Social
(91-87) wars. About 90 it became a municipium and in
42 B.C. a Colonia. In the Gothic wars of the Late Empire it changed hands more than once. In 571 A.D.
dissident Lombards made it a duchy and later a
principality that lasted 500 years.
A key communications center, Beneventum has always
been a large town. Roman roads radiated from it in all
directions: N, via Bovianum to Aesernia (the Via
Minucia?); S, via Abellinum to Salernum; E, via Venusia
to Brundisium, and W, via Capua to Rome (the Via
Appia). The emperor Trajan (98-117) built another
road to Brundisium by way of Aequum Tuticum, and
this Via Traiana replaced the Appia as the main highway
to the E.
Repeated devastation by war, earthquake, and flood
and repeated rebuilding have effaced all traces of the
original town plan. The Roman successor to the Samnite
settlement expanded E beyond Palazzo Pacca to the
lower slope of La Guardia hill: Corso Garibaldi may
correspond to its decumanus maximus. The Lombard
town stretched still farther E to the Castello. The modern
city has spread also N and S, across both rivers.
The poorly preserved town walls are mostly Lombard
(e.g. at Porta Arsa in the SW), but some Roman masonry
survives in the NE near the Torre di Simone.
The principal monument is the Porta Aurea, Trajans
well-preserved and magnificent triumphal arch (15.6 m
high), at the point where the Via Traiana left the city.
Its designer, who may have been Apollodorus, modeled
it on the Arch of Titus. According to the inscription on
each face it was dedicated in A.D. 114 presumably after
Trajan passed through it en route to the Parthian war;
but the reliefs in Parian marble that adorn it, depicting
on the W face and in the single passageway Trajan's
achievements in Italy and on the E face his activities
in the provinces, probably belong to the early years of
Hadrian. Other notable monuments include the Santi
Quaranta, a Roman wall and cryptoporticus (part of the
forum?) near S. Maria delle Grazie; the heavily restored
theater SW of the Duomo (Hadrianic, but repaired by
Severus); the ruins of a large building (baths?) near
the Ponte Vanvitelli; a statue of Apis (in Piazza S.
Lorenzo) and an obelisk erected in A.D. 88 by Lucilius
Rufus (in Piazza Papiniano), both Egyptian from a
Temple of Isis; the much damaged Arco del Sacramento
in an archaeological zone near the Duomo. The bridge
(Ponticello), by which the Via Traiana crossed a tributary
of the Calore just beyond Trajans arch still stands
(Trajanic, but much repaired). There is also Roman
work in the bridge (Ponte Leproso) which carried the
Via Appia across the Sabato into Beneventum.
Since 1929 the cloister of S. Sofia has housed the
Museo del Sannio, a remarkable collection started by
Talleyrand and systematized by Mommsen.
There is an impressive array of Roman milestones
from the Via Traiana in the courtyard of the Castello
(Rocca dei Rettori).
A. Meomartini, Benevento
(in the “Italia
Artistica” series) (1909)MPI
; F. A. Lepper in JRS
(1969) 250-61, discussing Hassel's Der Trajansbogen in
; I. A. Richmond, Roman Archaeology and Art
(1969), pp. 229-38.
E. T. SALMON