An ancient city
of the Latins, founded, according to one tradition (Verg.
), by Alba Longa, on the E shores of Lago
di Castiglione, a small, shallow crater lake, probably
drained in antiquity as it is today. It lay on the Via
Praenestina at the twelfth mile, about halfway from
Rome to Praeneste. Gabii is said to have had close ties
with Rome from the time of the Tarquins and it stood
in peculiar relation to Rome, ager gabinus being neither
romanus nor peregrinus but having auspices of its own
. 5.33), the cinctus gabinus was a special way
of draping the toga that left both arms free (cf. Livy
); the terms of the treaty of alliance between Rome
and Gabii were inscribed on a wooden shield covered
with the hide of the sacrificial ox and kept in the Temple
of Semo Sancus (DionHal. 4.58.4; Festus 48L s.v. clipeum). From its flourishing state in the early period,
Gabii declined in the course of time, and Cicero and the
Augustan poets use it as the example of a city whose
glory is only a memory. But it survived as a municipium
as late as Elagabalus, as excavations have shown.
The site was ransacked in 1792 by Gavin Hamilton,
who explored the forum and the area around the great
temple, the ruins of which are still a landmark. The
forum survives only in a plan by Visconti, which shows
a rectangular space opening off the Via Praenestina, surrounded on the three remaining sides by colonnades connected by a low pluteus. Off this open various chambers,
of which only those at the far end were completely explored; these seem to include the curia of the city and an
Augusteum. The inscriptions show that Hadrian was regarded as a special benefactor of Gabii and built or restored its aqueduct.
Between the forum and the Lago di Castiglione, facing
toward the forum, the so-called Temple of Juno stood in
the middle of a large, artificially leveled platform. Along
the rear half of its sides and along the back, were Doric
colonnades, behind which on the sides were lines of shoplike rooms, partly rock-cut. In front descended a great
hemicyclical stair of 11-13 steps, which may have served
as a theater in some way. Behind, Visconti shows three
doors opening to a street running behind the temple. Cut
in the rock of the open area around the temple are many
square pits of fair size, some of which make patterns,
possibly the scrobes of a planation of trees.
The temple itself (17.83 x 23.93 m exclusive of the
stair) was of lapis gabinus (sperone) and rose on a podium trimmed at base and crown with nearly identical
cyma moldings. It was a single-cella temple with alae,
the back wall being continuous, with colonnades of six
columns each across the front and down the flanks.
The remaining fragments of column bases show that the
order was Ionic or Corinthian. The walls still rise in 13
courses of blocks of constant height but irregular length.
The temple can hardly be earlier than the 2d c. B.C., and
the architectural terracottas Delbrueck recovered are
more likely 1st c. Though the arx of Gabii at Torre di
Castiglione may be identifiable, owing to its height, it is
impossible to make out any more of the city plan.
Around the site of Gabii are extensive quarries of
lapis gabinus, the handsome gray tufa of the Tabularium
and Forum of Augustus in Rome, prized in antiquity for
its resistance to fire. To prove Gabii's high antiquity as
a habitation center, a tree-trunk burial of the 8th c. B.C.
came to light in the neighborhood in 1889; the material
from this grave is now in the Museo della Villa Giulia.
The harvest of sculptures and inscriptions recovered by
Hamilton is now divided between the Villa Borghese and
B. Q. Visconti, Monumenti gabini della
(Società Tipografica de' Classici Italiani,
Milan 1835); T. Ashby, PBSR
1 (1902) 180-97; G.
31 (1903) 321-64; R. Delbrueck, Hellenistische Bauten in Latium
2 (1912) 5-10, pls. 4-6.
L. RICHARDSON, JR.