(Eth. οἱ Ὄκρικλοι
, Strab.; Eth. Ὀκρίκολα
, Steph. B. sub voce Ὀκρίκολον
, Ptol.: Eth. Ocriculanus
and Ocricolanus: Otricoli
), a considerable town of Umbria, situated on the Via Flaminia, near the left bank of the Tiber.
It was the southernmost town of Umbria, and distant only 44 miles from Rome. (Itin. Hier.
p. 613; Westphal, Röm. Kamp.
p. 145.) We learn from Livy that Ocriculum was a native Umbrian city, and in B.C. 308 it appears to have separated from the other cities of the confederacy, and concluded an alliance with Rome. (Liv. 9.41
This is the only notice that we find of it prior to the conquest of Umbria by the Romans; but after that period it figures repeatedly in history as a municipal town of some importance.
It was here that in B.C. 217 Fabius Maximus took the command of the army of Servilius, after the battle of the lake Trasimenus. (Id. 22.11.)
In the Social War Ocriculum suffered severely ; and, according to Florus, was laid waste with fire and sword (Flor. 3.18.11
); but it seems to have quickly recovered, and in Strabo's time was a considerable and flourishing town.
It is mentioned in Tacitus as the place where the army of Vespasian halted after the surrender of the Vitellian legions at Narnia (Tac. [Hist.
3.78). From its position on the Flaminian Way it is repeatedly mentioned incidentally under the Roman Empire (Plin. Ep. 6.25
; Amm. Marc. 16.10.4
); and it is evident that it was indebted to the same circumstance for its continued prosperity.
The name is found in Pliny and Ptolemy, as well as in the Itineraries; and its municipal importance down to a late period is attested also by inscriptions, in some of which it bears the title of “splendidissima civitas Ocricolana.” From these combined, with the still extant remains, it is evident that it was a more considerable town than we could have inferred from the accounts of ancient writers (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9
. s. 19; Ptol. 3.1.54
; Itin. Ant.
pp. 125, 311 ; Gruter, Inscr.
p. 422. 8, 9; Orell. Inscr.
3852, 3857; Marini, Atti dei Fratelli Arvali,
vol. ii. p. 582).
The site of the ancient city is distant about 2 miles from the modern village of Otricoli,
in the plain nearer the Tiber.
The ruins of ancient edifices are, in their present state, of but little interest; but excavations which were carried on upon the spot in 1780 brought to light the remains of several public buildings on a splendid scale, the plan and arrangement of which could be traced with little difficulty; among these were a Basilica, a theatre, an amphitheatre, Thermae, and several temples, besides other buildings, of which the purpose could not be determined.
The beauty of many of the architectural decorations and works of art discovered on this occasion (especially the celebrated mosaic floor now in the Vatican, and the colossal head of Jupiter in the same museum) prove that Ocriculum must have been a municipal town of no ordinary splendour. (Westphal, Römische Kampagne,
p. 144; Guattani, Monumenti Inediti,
1784, where the results of the excavation are described in detail and accompanied with a plan of the ancient remains.) Its proximity to Rome probably caused it to be resorted to by wealthy nobles from the city; and as early as the time of Cicero we learn that Milo had a villa there. (Cic. pro Mil. 24
) The period of the destruction of the ancient city is uncertain. In A.D. 413 it witnessed a great defeat of Heraclianus, Count of Africa, by the armies of Honorius (Idat. Chron.
ad ann.), and it is mentioned as an episcopal see after the fall of the Western Empire.
But the circumstances that led the inhabitants to migrate to the modern village of Otricoli,
on a hill overlooking the Tiber, are not recorded.
The corruption of the name appears to have commenced at an early date, as it is written Utriculum
in the Itineraries and in many MSS. of the classical authors.