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CENTUMCELLAE (Civitavecchia) Italy.

A city on the Via Aurelia 4 miles N of Cape Linaro, the first real promontory on the Tyrrhenian shore N of the Tiber. It was founded to support a port Trajan built there ca. A.D. 106 and has owed its continuing prosperity to the excellence of its harbor. When Rutilius Namatianus sailed up the coast in A.D. 416, it was the only city of the Antonine Itinerary still flourishing; and it continued to flourish for four centuries. It was taken by the Saracens in 828 and the inhabitants were expelled, but 60 years later they returned. The city's name was then changed to Civitas Vetula, which became Civitavecchia; it is still the port of Rome.

The younger Pliny (Epist. 6.31) is the first author to mention Centumcellae. He was summoned to the emperor's council in the “beautiful villa overlooking the sea and surrounded by the greenest of fields” where Trajan lived during the harbor's construction. The site of this is supposed to be the Belvedere, 1 km E of the present city. The foundations of the two moles of the harbor and the artificial island that lay between them, which Pliny saw under construction, form part of the substructures of the present harbor; and until the bombardments of 1943-44, one of the Roman towers at the harbor mouth was still standing. A gateway to Tmjan's inner harbor, the Vecchia Darsena, with a paved road leading through it, can still be seen, as well as stretches of fine reticulate walls of the Roman warehouses built into later constructions behind the present docks. The grid of modern streets behind the harbor is based on that of Trajan's time.

A detachment of the imperial fleet was based at Centumcellae through the 2d and 3d c. The gravestones recovered regularly record the deceased's name, age, years of service, ship, and fleet (the Ravennas or the Misenensis), and often his birthplace. The Ravenna sailors were largely Dalmatians and Pannonians; the Misenense were Egyptians and Thracians. The ships were mostly triremes, but quadriremes and biremes also appear.

Little clusters of hut foundations going back to the Bronze Age have been found scattered over the territory of Centumcellae. The metal in the Tolfa mountains, of which Cape Linaro is a spur, must have been a prime reason for this early habitation, as well as the superior fishing off its rocky coast; a string of hot springs paralleling the coast a few kilometers inland may also have been an attraction. Under the Empire these supplied bathing establishments, the best preserved of which, the Terme Taurine or Baths of Trajan, lie ca. 3 km NE of Civitavecchia. The imperial buildings, dated by brick-stamps to the time of Hadrian, incorporate the circular laconicum and calidarium of an earlier bath, perhaps of Sullan date. The great imperial calidarium, into which the hot spring still flows, and its adjacent rooms are in opus reticulatum and brickwork; the vaulted ceilings were constructed with ribs of brick, possibly the earliest example of such construction; walls and floors were covered with marble, and ceilings with stucchi. Adjacent to the baths are a library and a series of small rooms of uniform size arranged around a courtyard. These baths were long famous; Rutilius visited and admired them (De reditu 249-76).

The Museo Nazionale at Civitavecchia displays excellent plans of Trajan's harbor and the Terme Taurine, as well as epigraphical material and marbles from the neighborhood.


S. Bastianelli, Centumcellae, Italia Romana: Municipi e Colonie I 14 (1954) 7-92; G. Lugli, La Tecnica Edilizia Romana (1957) 625.


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