, Strab., Ptol., but Φιδήνη
in Dionysius, and the singular form FIDENA is used by Virgil, Aen.
6.773, and by Tacitus, Tac. Ann. 4.62
: Eth. Fiden
, Dionys.: Castel Giubileo
), an ancient city of Latium, situated on the left bank of the Tiber, and on the Via Salaria, five miles from Rome.
There appears no doubt that it was originally and properly a Latin city. Virgil mentions it among the colonies found by the kings of Alba; and in accordance with the same view, Dionysius relates that Fidenae, Crustumerium, and Nomentum were founded by colonists from Alba led by three brothers, the eldest of whom was the founder of Fidenae. (Verg. A. 6.773
; Dionys. ii, 53; Steph. B. sub voce
Still more decisive is it that its name is found in Pliny in the list of the towns that were accustomed to share in the sacrifices on the Alban Mount. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9
. § 69.) On the other hand, Livy expressly tells us it was of Etruscan origin ( “Nam Fidenates quoque Etrusci fuerunt,” 1.15); and not only gives this as a reason for the close connection between the Veientes and Fidenates, but even notices that the people of Fidenae had only learnt the Latin language from their intercourse with the Roman colonists (1.27).
The last statement is evidently a mere touch added by the historian himself, and only serves to prove his conviction of their Etruscan descent, No other writer alludes to this extension of the Tuscan power; and though Fidenae frequently appears in alliance with Veii (for which their relative position will sufficiently account), we find no trace of its holding any relations with the other Etruscan cities.
The close proximity of Fidenae to Rome would naturally bring it early into collision with the rising city: and accordingly we find that hardly any other city plays so important a part in the earliest history of Rome. All authors agree in representing it as engaged in war with Romulus: according to Plutarch (Plut. Rom. 17
) it took part with Caenina and Antemnae in the war which arose out of the rape of the women; but neither Livy nor Dionysius mentions it on that occasion, and both refer the first hostilities to the period after the death of Tatius.
According to their obviously fabulous account the city itself was taken by Romulus, who occupied it with a garrison or colony of 300 men; a number exaggerated by Plutarch to the absurd amount of 2500 colonists, of whom he represents 2000 as shortly after cut off by the Etruscans. (Liv. 1.14
; Dionys. A. R. 2.53
; Plut. Rom. 23
As usually happens in the early history of Rome, all trace of this Romulian colony subsequently disappears. Fidenae is noticed during the reign of Numa as an independent city, maintaining friendly relations with the peaceful king, while under his successor Tullus Hostilius it again united with the neighbouring Veii against the growing power of Rome. (Dionys. A. R. 2.72
; Liv. 1.27
.) Their combined forces were defeated under the walls of Fidenae, and according to Dionysius the city itself was soon after besieged by Tullus, and compelled to surrender. Yet after this we find Fidenae again engaging in successive wars with Ancus Marcius and Tarquinius Priscus, and, if we may believe the Roman historians, successively captured by both monarchs, the latter of whom is even represented as having again established there a Roman colony. (Dionys. A. R. 3.39
It is evident that no reliance can be placed upon these facts as historical; but the inference that Fidenae was really (as described by the Roman historians) a large and powerful city, almost on a par with Veii, may fairly be admitted.
It is remarkable also that it appears to have held a very independent position, and appears sometimes in league with the Latins, at others with the Sabines, but most frequently with the Veientes.
After the expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome, Fidenae is represented as taking an active part in attempting their restoration, and for this purpose entered into a league first with the Sabines, and afterwards with the Latins; but both attempts proved abortive, and in B.C. 496 the Fidenates, abandoned by their allies, were compelled to surrender to the Roman arms. (54.2.19; Dionys. A. R. 5.40
.) Hence the name of Fidenae does not appear in the list given by Dionysius immediately afterwards of the confederate cities of Latium, and it is probable that it did not at this time form part of the Latin League. From this time the Fidenates appear to have continued tranquil for a considerable period, till in B.C. 438 they were again induced to unite with their old allies the Veientes, and by the murder of the Roman ambassadors produced an irremediable breach with the republic. Their combined forces were, however, again defeated by Cornelius Cossus under the very walls of Fidenae (Liv. 4.17
), and a few years after Fidenae itself was again taken (Id. 22). Yet in B.C. 426 we find both the Veientes and Fidenates once more in arms, and the latter city was once more captured by the dictator Quinctius Pennus. (Id. 4.31--34.) On this occasion we are told that it was plundered, and the inhabitants sold as slaves; and though it does not appear that the city itself was destroyed,--the expression of Florus, “Cremati suo igne Fidenates” (1.12.4), being evidently a mere rhetorical flourish derived from Livy's language,--its humiliation must have been complete, for, with the exception of an obscure notice in Varro (L.L.
6.18) of a sudden outbreak of the people of Fidenae, Ficulea, and the neighbouring towns just after the capture of Rome by the Gauls, we hear no more of Fidenae as an independent city. (For the history of these wars, see Niebuhr, vol. ii., and Bormann, Alt.-Latinische Chorographie,
Though we have no account of the destruction of Fidenae, which according to Varro was certainly in existence after the Gaulish War, B.C. 389, it seems to have rapidly sunk into a state of complete decay, and before the close of the republic had dwindled into an insignificant village. Cicero speaks of it as a very poor and decayed place; and Strabo terms it (like Collatia and Anltemnae) a mere village, the exclusive property of one individual. Horace also refers to Fidenae and Gabii as almost proverbial instances of deserted villages ( “Gabiis desertion atque Fidenis vicus,” Heor. Ep.
1.11. 7); and Juvenal more than once refers to the same places as poor and rustic country towns (Cic. de Leg. Agr. 2.3. 5
; Strab. v., p. 230; Juv. 6.57
). Yet it is evident that Fidenae never lost its municipal rank: Cicero, in the passage already cited, mentions it among the “oppida” of the neighbourhood of Rome, which he contrasts with the flourishing cities of Campania; and Juvenal notices it as retaining its local magistrates ( “Fidenarum--potestas,” 10.100), which are mentioned also in inscriptions.
It is therefore a complete error on the part of Pliny to reckon Fidenae among the “populi” of Latium, which had become utterly extinct (3.5. s. 9); and, by a singular inadvertency, he himself afterwards mentions the Fidenates among the Sabines in the fourth region of Augustus (3.12. s. 17). The Anio being taken as the limit of that region, Fidenae, as well as [p. 1.900]
Nomentum, came to be considered as belonging to the Sabine territory, though originally included in Latium.
In the reign of Tiberius Fidenae was the scene of a fearful catastrophe, arising from the fall of a temporary wooden amphitheatre during a show of gladiators, that had drawn together vast crowds from Rome and the neighbouring towns.
By this accident not less than 50,000 persons, according to Tacitus, were killed or seriously hurt. (Tac. Ann. 4.62
; Suet. Tib. 40
.) From this time we hear no more of Fidenae; but its name is still found in the Tabula as the first station on the Salarian Way, and its continued existence may be traced by inscriptions and ecclesiastical records down to the seventh century of the Christian era, when all trace of it disappears. (Ptol. 3.1.62
; Tab. Peut.;
p. 316, no. 4; Nibby, Dintorni,
vol. ii. p. 57.)
Though no ruins exist on the site of Fidenae, its position may be identified with unusual certainty. Ancient authors concur in placing it at the distance of 5 miles or 40 stadia from Rome, on the Via Salaria; and we gather from the accounts in Livy and Dionysius that it was situated on a hill with steep or precipitous banks, and immediately above the Tiber. All these conditions are fully answered by the site at Castel Giubileo,
which is well adapted for that of an ancient city.
The hill next the Tiber, on which stand the ruins of the castle, was probably the ancient arx or citadel; while the more extensive plateau
on the E. of the Via Salaria was occupied by the city itself.
The sides of the hill appear to have been in many places cut down or scarped artificially, and these perpendicular faces contain hollows which were probably in their origin sepulchral. Other excavations indicate quarries; and we know from Vitruvius that the tufo of Fidenae was one of those extensively worked ill ancient times. (Vitr. 2.7.1
The hill of Castel Giubileo
is a conspicuous object in the view of the Campagna
from the hills above Rome; hence we find Martial noticing “the ancient Fidenae,” in describing the same view. (Mart. 4.64. 15
A plan, as well as description of the site, is given by Gell (Top. of Rome,
pp. 250--253; Nibby, Dintorni,
vol. ii. pp. 51--61; Dennis, Etruria,
vol. i. pp. 68--72; Bormann, Alt.-Latinische Chorographie,