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ATELLA (Ἀτελλα: Eth. Ἀτελλανός, Eth. Atellanus), a city of Campania, situated on the road from Capua to Neapolis, at the distance of 9 miles from each of those two cities. (Steph. B. sub voce s.v.; Tab. Peut.) Its name is not found in history during the wars of the Romans with the Campanians, nor on occasion of the settlement of Campania in B.C. 336: it probably followed the fortunes of its powerful neighbour Capua, though its independence is attested by its coins. In the second Punic war the Atellani were among the first to declare for the Carthaginians after the battle of Cannae (Liv. 22.61; Sil. Ital. 11.14). hence, when they fell into the power of the Romans, after mouth the reduction of Capua, B.C. 211, they were very severely treated: the chief citizens and authors of the revolt were executed on the spot, while of the rest of the inhabitants the greater part were sold as slaves, and others removed to distant settlements. The next year (210) the few remaining inhabitants were compelled to migrate to Calatia, and the citizens of Nuceria, whose own city had been destroyed by Hannibal, were settled at Atella in their stead. (Liv. 26.16, 33, 34, 27.3.) After this it appears to have quickly revived, and Cicero speaks of it as, in his time, a flourishing and important municipal town. It was under the especial patronage and protection of the great orator himself, but we do not know what was the origin of this peculiar connection between them. (Cic. de Leg. Agr. 2.3. 1, ad Fam. 13.7, ad Q. Fr. 2.14.) Under Augustus it received a colony of military settlers; but continued to be a place only of municipal rank, and is classed by Strabo among the smaller towns of Campania. Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Strab. v. p.249; Ptol. 3.1.68; Orell. Inscr. 130.) It continued to exist as an episcopal see till the ninth century, but was then much decayed; and in A.D. 1030 the inhabitants were removed to the neighbouring town of Aversa, then lately founded by the Norman Count Rainulphus. Some remains of its walls and other ruins are still visible at a spot; about 2 miles E. of Aversa near the villages of S. Aspino and S. Elpidio; and an old church on the site is still called Sta Maria di Atella. Numerous inscriptions, terracottas, and other minor antiquities, have been found there. (Holsten. Not in Cluv. p.260; Romanelli, vol. iii. . 592.)

The name of Atella is best known in connection with the peculiar class of dramatic representations which derived from thence the appellation of “Fabulae Atellanae,” and which were borrowed from them by the Romans, among whom they enjoyed for a time especial favour, so as to be exempt from the penalties and disqualifications which attached to the actors of other dramatic performances. At a later period, however, they degenerated into so licentious a character, that in the reign of Tiberius they were altogether prohibited, and the actors banished from Italy. These plays were originally written in the Oscan dialect, which they appear to have mainly contributed to preserve in its purity. (Liv. 7.2; Strab. v. p.233; Tac. Ann. 4.14. For further particulars concerning the Fabulae Atellanae see Bernhardy, Römische Literatur. p. 379, &c.) The early importance of Atella is further attested by its coins, which resemble in their types those of Capua, but bear the legend, in Oscan characters, “Aderl,” --evidently the native form of the name. (Millingen, Numism. de l'Italie, p. 190; Friedländer, Oskische Münzen, p. 15.)


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