: Eth. Formianus
: Mola di Gaëta
), a city of Latium on. the coast of the Sinus Caiëtanus, and situated on the Via Appia, between Fundi and Minturnae, 13 miles from the former and 9 from the latter city. (Itin. Ant.
p. 121.) Though included in Latium, in the later and more extended sense of the term, it certainly was not originally a Latin city; but whether this and the neighbouring Fundi were Volscian, or, as is perhaps more probable, Ausonian, cities we have no information: indeed, no mention occurs of either in history until they entered into municipal relations with Rome.
But a legend [p. 1.905]
adopted by late writers ascribed the foundation of. Formiae to a Greek colony, which was derived from Lacedaemon, and connected with the origin of the neighbouring Amyclae.
In accordance with this tradition, its name was said to have been originally Hormiae, and was derived from the excellent anchorage or roadstead for shipping (ὅρμος
) which its bay afforded (Strab. v. p.233
; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9
; Fest. s. v. Formiae; Serv. ad Aen. 10.564
.) Another legend, still more generally received both by Greek and Roman writers, selected Formiae as the site of the fable of the Laestrygones in the Odyssey; and the Roman family of the Lamiae, in the days of Augustus, even asserted their direct descent from Lamus, the king of the Laestrygones. (Cic. Att. 2.1. 3
; Hor. Carm. 3.17
; Plin. l.c.; Sil. Ital. 7.410
; Solin. 2.23
The first historical mention of Formiae occurs immediately after the great Latin War, in B.C. 338.
It appears that on that occasion the two cities of Fundi and Formiae had taken no part in the war, and had thus kept the passes through their territory (of the highest importance in a military point of view) always open to the Roman armies. For this service they were rewarded with the gift of the Roman citizenship, but at first without the right of suffrage, which was not granted them till B.C. 190: they were then included in the Aemilian tribe. (Liv. 8.14
; Vell. 1.14
; Cic. Att. 2.1. 4
) From henceforth Formiae appears to have been a flourishing Roman municipal town, to which its situation on the Appian Way doubtless contributed; but it was probably still more indebted to the extreme beauty of. its situation, which rendered it a favourite place of resort with the wealthy Roman nobles in the latter days of the Republic, as well as under the Empire.
The charm of its beautiful climate and tranquil bay, the “Temperatae dulce Formiae litus” is celebrated by Martial in one of his most elegant epigrams; and all modern travellers concur in extolling Mola di Gaëta
as one of the most lovely spots in all Italy. Among the villas with which Formiae thus became adorned, by far the most celebrated is that of Cicero, which appears to have become a favourite residence of the great orator, from whence many of his letters to Atticus are dated, and which afforded him a welcome retirement during the most disturbed periods of the civil wars.
It was here also that, on his flight from Rome, he landed for the last time, and spent the night in his Formian villa, from whence he was attempting to escape when he was overtaken by the murderers and put to death, B.C. 43. (Cic. Att. 2.1. 3
, &c., ad Fam.
16.10, 12, &c.; Plut. Cic. 47
; Appian, App. BC 4.19
; V. Max. 1.4.5
; Vict. de Vir. Illustr.
81.) Several ancient writers, including Plutarch, represent Caiëta as the scene of this catastrophe; but this evidently arises from a mere confusion of the two: Caiëta, indeed, at this time, appears to have been in a municipal sense a mere dependency of Formiae, of which it served as the port; and it is certainly not necessary to suppose, as Middleton has done, that Cicero had a villa at Caiëta itself as well as at Formiae. (See this point fully discussed by Chaupy, Maison d'Horace,
vol. i. pp. 232--236.) Several other Romans had villas at Formiae in the days of the great orator, as well as in those of Horace; but the wealthy family of Mamurra, who was himself a native of Formiae, had at the latter period engrossed so great a part of the locality, that Horace calls it the “city of the Mamurrae.” (Hor. Sat.
1.5. 37, and Schol. ad loc.; Plin. Nat. 36.6. s. 7
.) Martial bears testimony that, at a later period, the charms of Baiae and the other places on the Bay of Naples
had not caused Formiae to be neglected. (Mart. 10.30
The hills at the back of it, and which bound the Sinus Caiëtanus, are also celebrated by Horace for the excellence of their wine. (Hor. Carm. 1.20
. 12, 3.16. 34.) We learn that Formiae received a colony under the Second Triumvirate, and it bears the title of a colonia in several inscriptions of imperial date. (Lib. Colon.
p. 234; Orell. Inscr.
It appears to have continued a tolerably flourishing place till the close of the Roman Empire, and retained its episcopal see till the 9th century, when it was taken and destroyed by the Saracens, in 856.
The remaining inhabitants took refuge at Gaëta,
which succeeded to the episcopal dignity; and the modern town of Mola,
which has grown up on the ruins of Formiae,
is, as its appellation of Mola di Gaëta
implies, a sort of dependency of the neighbouring city.
The remains of antiquity still visible at Formiae are extensive; they appear to have all belonged to different Roman villas, of which there remain extensive substructions, with the ruins of terraces, vaulted passages, baths, grottoes, &c., lining the whole coast from Mola di Gaëta
to the neighbouring village of Castellone.
These ruins may be traced to have formed part of three ancient villas, of which the one next to Mola
is commonly known as that of Cicero; but the Abbé Chaupy would assign to the great orator the more important remains in the garden of the modern Villa Marsana,
the furthest of the three from Mola.
The point is scarcely susceptible of precise determination; but a monument on the hill above is regarded as that of Cicero, and the discovery near it of an inscription bearing the names of some freedmen of the Tullian family, certainly affords some countenance to the attribution. Several other ancient inscriptions have been discovered at Formiae, and numerous sepulchres and ruins of ancient edifices are scattered along the coast for some miles eastward of Mola
along the Appian Way. Among these the names of the Torre di Scauri,
and a spot called Mamurano,
evidently indicate the site of villas of Aemilius Scaurus, and of the wealthy Mamurra. (Chaupy, Maison d'Horace,
vol. i. pp. 181--231; Romanelli, vol. iii. pp. 422, 423; Hoare, Class. Tour,
vol. i. pp. 118--129.)