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BENEVENTUM (Benevento) Italy.

It lies 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 59 (1969) 250-61, discussing Hassel's Der Trajansbogen in Benevent; I. A. Richmond, Roman Archaeology and Art (1969), pp. 229-38.


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