The city was
part of the territory of the Pentri Samnites, who withstood a memorable siege, in 293 B.C., mounted by Roman troops under the command of C. Papirius Cursor.
The Samnite city, situated on the NW slopes of Mt.
Mutria in the area of Torrevecchia, was destroyed. Its
inhabitants went down into the low lying plain of the
Tammaro river (fl. Timmarus) and there established
their settlement anew. At the outset, it had the aspect
typical of a Roman town dependent upon the cattle track
that crossed the plain and became the decumanus within
Roman Saepinum had a municipal constitution and
was enrolled in the Voltinia tribe. Essentially a farming
and cattle raising center, it does not seem to have had
great influence upon the region; however, from one of
its families, the Neratii, Rome gained one of its greatest
legal experts, Neratius Priscus.
During the early Middle Ages, the Roman settlement
was abandoned, perhaps because of the flooding of the
Tammaro, and the place came to be called Altilia. Conversely, the old name was inherited by the district
formed at the base of Mt. Mutria, but in a place other
than Samnite Saepinum. It has been possible to trace
large stretches of the polygonal circuit wall of Samnite
Saepinum. Two gates have been recognized in the wall;
within, a late mediaeval settlement has been ascertained.
The Roman city, still to be explored for the most
part, preserves a series of monuments constructed almost without exception of local stone. Only the principal monuments are here described. The walls have a perimeter of about 1250 m and are quadrilateral in plan.
Covered in opus reticulatum, they are interrupted by
round towers—two octagonal ones have been noticed—and in these towers four gates mark the terminations of
the cardo and the decumanus. A smaller gate opens directly into the theater. The gates—Terravecchia, Boiano,
Tammaro, and Benevento—are named for the places
toward which they open and are similar in their architectural organization.
The Porta di Boiano, the only one so far restored,
has a single archway with a vault on the inside; it is
flanked by a pair of round towers. There are statues of
barbarians on high pedestals on the sides of the arch,
which displays the head of a divinity at the center of
the vault. On the arch, an inscription—identical on all
the gates—commemorates Tiberius and Drusus through
whose efforts the circuit wall was completed. The inscription dates to A.D. 4.
A trapezoidal forum at the crossing of the cardo and
the decumanus—it has been entirely uncovered—is completely paved in huge rectangular blocks on which a
fragmentary inscription commemorates C. Papius Faber,
the magistrate who had the forum paved. Numerous
public buildings have been brought to light on the S
side, the only area of the forum so far excavated.
The basilica which flanks the NW side and along
which the cardo runs resembles a peristyle constructed
of 20 Ionic columns. The building is perhaps to be assigned to the 4th c. A.D.; however, materials used in its
construction come from an older building. Between the
basilica and the Porta di Boiano, along the decumanus,
are the remains of public buildings and private dwellings.
The theater is in the N sector of the urban area. Only
its circular corridor beneath the upper cavea has been
completely excavated. This corridor leads to the outer
city and ends in two grand tetrapyla.
Outside the city, along the cattle track, are the remains of numerous mausolea. Outside the Porta di Benevento the mausoleum of C. Herennius Marsus has been partially reconstructed. It is of the so-called tumulus
type, on a square base. Outside the Porta di Boiano, it
has been possible to reconstruct in toto the grandiose
mausoleum of P. Numisius Ligus, of the so-called ad ara
V. Cianfarani, Guida della antichità di
(1958); id., “Vecchie e nuove iscrizioni sepinati,”
Atti III Congr. Inter. Epigrafia Greca e Latina
371-80; id., EAA
7 (1966) 201-2; G. Ambrosetti, “Testimonianze preaugustee da Sepino-Altilia,” ArchCl
14-20; A. Maiuri, “Ritorno a Saepinum,” Dall' Egeo al
(1962) 271-75; G. Colonna, “Saepinum—Ricerche di topografia Sannitica e medioevale,” ArchCl