, Pol., Strab.: Eth. Πικεντῖνοι
, Strab.; Πικηνοί
, Ptol.; Picentes, Cic., Varr., Plin., &c., but sometimes also Picentini and Piceni), a province or region of Central Italy, extending along the coast of the Adriatic from the mouth of the Aesis to that of the Matrinus, and inland as far as the central ridge of the Apennines.
It was thus bounded on the W. by the Umbrians and Sabines, on the S. by the Vestini, and on the N. by [p. 2.627]
the territory occupied by the Galli Senones, which was afterwards incorporated into the province of Umbria.
The latter district seems to have been at one time regarded as rather belonging to Picenum. Thus Polybius includes the “Gallicus Ager” in Picenum; and Livy even describes the colony of Ariminum as founded “in Piceno.” (Pol. 2.21; Liv. Epit.
But the boundaries of Picenum were definitely established, as above stated, in the time of Augustus, according to whose division it constituted the Fifth Region of Italy. (Plin. Nat. 3.13. s. 18
; Strab. v. p.240
The district thus bounded forms a tract of about 80 geographical miles (800 stadia, Strab. v. p.241
) in length, with an average breadth of from 30 to 40 miles.
The southern part of the territory thus limited was inhabited by a tribe called the PRAETUTII
who appear to have been to some extent a different people from the Picentes: hence Pliny gives to this district the name of Regio Praetutiana; and Livy more than once notices the Praetutianus Ager, as if it were distinct from the Picenus Ager. (Plin. l.c.
; Liv. 22.9
The narrow strip between the rivers Vomanus and Matrinus, called the Ager Hadrianus, seems to have also been regarded as in some degree a separate district (Plin. l.c.
; Liv. 22.9
); but both these tracts were generally comprised by geographers as mere subdivisions of Picenum in the more extensive sense.
Very little is known of the history of the Picentes; but ancient writers seem to have generally agreed in assigning them a Sabine origin; tradition reported that they were a colony sent out from the parent country in consequence of a vow, or what was called a sacred spring; and that their name was derived from a Woodpecker (picus), the bird sacred to Mars, which was said to have guided the emigrants on their march. (Strab. v. p.240
; Plin. Nat. 3.13. s. 18
; Fest. v. Picena,
p. 212.) Silius Italicus, on the other hand, derives it from the name of Picus, the Italian divinity, whom he represents as the founder of Asculum (Sil. Ital. 8.439
); but this is in substance only another form of the same legend.
That writer represents the region as previously possessed by the Pelasgians; no mention of these is found in any other author, but Pliny speaks of Siculians and Liburnians as having had settlements on this coast, especially in the Praetutian district, where Truentum was said still to preserve traces of a Liburnian colony (Plin. l.c.
), while the foundation of Numana and Ancona, further to the N., was ascribed to the Siculi. (lb.
) We have no means of estimating the value of these statements; but it seems not improbable that in the last instance there was a confusion with the colony of Sicilian Greeks
which was established at a much later period at Ancona. [ANCONA
] This settlement, which was founded about 380 B.C., by a body of Syracusan exiles who had fled from the tyranny of Dionysius (Strab. v. p.241
), was the only Greek colony in this part of Italy; and its foundation is the only fact transmitted to us concerning the history of Picenum previous to the time when it was brought into contact with the power of Rome. The Picentes appear to have stood aloof from the long protracted contests of the Romans with their Samnite neighbours; but their proximity to the Gauls caused the Romans to court their alliance; and a treaty concluded between the two nations in B.C. 299 seems to have been faithfully observed until after the Senones had ceased to be formidable. (Liv. 10.10
.) The Picentes reaped the advantages of this long peace in the prosperity of their country, which became one of the most populous districts in Italy, so that according to Pliny it contained a population of 360,000 citizens at the time of the Roman conquest. (Plin. l.c.
) Nevertheless they seem to have offered but little resistance to the Roman arms, and were reduced by the consuls Sempronius Sophus and Appius Claudius in a single campaign, B.C. 268. (Flor. 1.19
; Liv. Epit.
xv; Oros. 4.4
; Eutrop. 2.16
The causes which led to the war are unknown; but the fact that the Picentes and Sallentines were at this time the only two nations of Italy that remained unsubdued is quite sufficient to explain it.
From this time the Picentes lapsed into the ordinary condition of the subject allies of Rome; and though their territory is repeatedly mentioned as suffering from the ravages of the Second Punic War (Pol. 3.86; Liv. 22.9
), the name of the people does not again occur in history till the great outbreak of the nations of Italy in the Social War, B.C. 90.
In that memorable contest the Picentes bore a prominent part.
It was at Asculum, which seems to have been always regarded as their capital, that open hostilities first broke out; the massacre of the proconsul Q. Servilius and his legate Fonteius in that city having, as it were, given the signal of the general insurrection. (Appian, App. BC 1.38
; Liv. Epit.
lxxii; Vell. 2.15
; Diod. 37.2
The first attempt of Cn. Pompeius Strabo to reduce Asculum was repulsed with loss; and it was with difficulty that that general could maintain his footing in Picenum while the other Roman armies were occupied in hostilities with the Marsi, Peligni, and other nations nearer Rome.
It was not till the second year of the war that, having obtained a decisive victory over the allies, he was enabled to resume the offensive. Even then the Picentine general Judacilius maintained a long struggle against Pompeius, which was at length terminated by the surrender of Asculum, and this seems to have been followed by the submission of the rest of the Picentes, B.C. 89. (Appian, App. BC 1.47
; Liv. Epit.
lxxiv., lxxvi; Oros. 5.18
; Flor. 3.18
There can be no doubt that they were at this time admitted, like the rest of the Italian allies, to the Roman franchise.
Picenum was occupied almost without opposition by Caesar at the commencement of the Civil War, B.C. 49 (Caes. B.C.
1.11--15), the inhabitants having universally declared in his favour, and thus compelled the officers of Pompey to withdraw from Auximum and Asculum, which they had occupied with strong garrisons.
In the civil war between Vitellius and Vespasian A.D. 69, it was occupied in like manner without resistance by the forces of the latter. (Tac. Hist. 3.42
.) Picenum appears to have continued to be a flourishing province of Italy throughout the period of the Roman Empire; and though Pliny speaks of it as having much fallen off in population compared to earlier times ( “quondam
uberrimae multitudinis,” Plin. Nat. 3.13. s. 18
), it still contained a large number of towns, and many of these preserved their consideration down to a late period.
It is probable that its proximity to Ravenna contributed to its prosperity during the latter ages of the Empire, after that city had become the habitual residence of the emperors of the West. Under Augustus, Picenum became the Fifth Region of Italy (Plin. L. c.
), but at a later period we find it combined for administrative purposes with the district [p. 2.628]
called Flaminia, and the two together constituted a province which comprised all the strip of Umbria along the coast of the Adriatic, as well as the territory of the Sabines, Vestini, Peligni, and Marsi. Hence we find the Liber Coloniarum including the whole of this extensive district under the name of Picenum, and enumerating not only Alba and Nursia, but even Nomentum, Fidenae, and Tibur, among the “civitates Piceni.” (Lib. Colon.
But this arrangement did not last long. Flaminia and Valeria were again separated from Picenum, and that province was subdivided into two: the one called “Picenum suburbicarium,” or simply Picenum, which was the original district of that name, corresponding to the Fifth Region of Augustus; while the name of “Picenum Annonarium” was given to the tract from the Aesis to the Rubicon, which had been originally known as the “Gallicus Ager,” and in the days of Augustus was comprised under the name of Umbria. (Lib. Colon.
pp. 225--227; Mommsen, Die Lib. Col.
pp. 208--214; Notit. Dign.
ii. pp. 64, 65; Böcking, ad Not.
pp. 432, 443; P. Diac. 2.19.)
In the wars between the Goths and the generals of Justinian, Picenum repeatedly became the immediate theatre of hostilities. Auximum in particular, which was at this time the chief city or capital of the province, was regarded as one of the most important fortresses in Italy, and withstood for a long time the arms of Belisarius. (Procop. B. G.
After the expulsion of the Goths, Picenum became one of the provinces of the exarchate of Ravenna, and as such continued subject to the Greek emperors until the final downfal of the exarchs.
It was at this period that arose the geographical designation of the Pentapolis, for a province which comprised the greater part of Picenum, together with the maritime district of Umbria as far as Ariminum.
The province of this name was one of those bestowed on the see of Rome by king Pepin after the defeat of the Lombard king Astolphus (A.D. 754), and has ever since continued to form part of the States of the Church.
Picenum is a district of great fertility and beauty. Extending in a broad band of nearly uniform width from the central ranges of the Apennines, which form its boundary on the W., and which here attain their greatest elevation in the Monte Corno
and Monti della Sibilla,
it slopes gradually from thence to the sea ; the greater part of this space being occupied by great hills, the underfalls of the more lofty Apennines, which in their more elevated regions are clothed with extensive forests, while the lower slopes produce abundance of fruit-trees and olives, as well as good wine and corn. (Strab. v. p.240
; Liv. 22.9
.) Both Horace and Juvenal extol the excellence of its apples, and Pliny tells us its olives were among the choicest in Italy. (Hor. Sat.
2.3. 272, 4. 70; Juv 11.72; Plin. Nat. 15.3. s. 4
The whole district is furrowed by numerous streams, which, descending with great rapidity from the lofty ranges of the Apennines, partake much of a torrent-like character, but nevertheless serve to irrigate the whole country, which is thus rendered one of the pleasantest in Italy.
These streams pursue nearly parallel courses, the direct distance from their sources to the sea in no case much exceeding 40 miles. They are, proceeding from S. to N., as follows: (1) The MATRINUS
now called La Piomba,
a small stream which formed the southern limit of Picenum, separating it from the territory of the Vestini; (2) the VOMANUS
still called the Vomano,
which separated the district of Adria from that of the Praetutii; (3) the BATINUS
now called the Tordino,
but sometimes also the Trontino,
which flows by Teramo
(Interamna); (4)the TRUENTUS
), the most considerable of all these streams, which flows under the walls of Ascoli
(Asculum); (5) the TINNA, still called the Tenna
; (6) the FLUSOR, now the Chienti
; (7) the POTENTIA
still called the Potenza
; (8) the MISIO or MISIUS, now known as the Musone.
These last names are known only from the Tabula: on the other hand Pliny mentions a stream called ALBULA, to which are added in some MSS. the names of Suinus and Helvinus. All these are placed apparently between the river Truentus and the town of Cupra Maritima; but besides the uncertainty of the reading, the whole description of this region in Pliny is so confused that it is very unsafe to rely upon his order of enumeration. The Albula cannot be identified with any certainty, but may perhaps be the stream now called the Salinello,
and the other two names are probably mere corruptions. 9. The AESIS
), a much more considerable stream, flowing into the sea between Ancona and Sena Gallica, formed the boundary which separated Picenum from Umbria.
The towns of Picenum are numerous, and, from the accounts of the populousness of the country in early times, were probably many of them once considerable, but few have any historical celebrity.
Those on the sea-coast (proceeding as before from S. to N.) were: (1) MATRINUM, at the mouth of the river of the same name, serving as the port of Adria (Strab. v. p.241
); (2) CASTRUM NOVUM
at the mouth of the Batinus, near Giulia Nuova
; (3) CASTRUM TRUENTINUM
at the mouth of the river of the same name ; (4) CUPRA MARITIMA, at Le Grotte a Mare,
about 3 miles N. of S. Benedetto
; (5) CASTRUM FIRMANUM, now Porto di Fermo,
at the mouth of the little river Leta
; (6) POTENTIA
(Sta Maria a Potenza
), at the mouth of the river of the same name; (7) NUMANA
still called Umana,
at the southern extremity of the mountain headland called Monte Comero
; and (8) ANCONA
at the northern end of the same promontory.
This last was by far the most important of the maritime towns of Picenum, and the only one that possessed a port worthy of the name: with this exception all the most important cities of the region were situated inland, on hills of considerable elevation, and thus enjoyed the advantage of strong positions as fortresses.
The most important of these were AUXIMUM
), about 12 miles S. of Ancona; CINGULUM
), in a very lofty situation, between the valleys of the Aesis and Potentia; FIRMUM
), on a hill about 6 miles from the sea; ASCULUM
), the ancient capital of Picenum, in a very strong situation on the river Truentus, about 22 miles from its mouth ; INTERAMNA
), the chief city of the Praetutii; and ADRIA
), almost close to the southern frontier of Picenum.
The minor towns in the interior were BEREGRA
which may perhaps be placed at Civitella di Tronto,
not far from Ascoli
; CUPRA MONTANA, so called to distinguish it from the maritime city of the same name, supposed to have occupied the site of Ripatransone
at S. Elpidio a Mare,
about 4 miles from the sea, and a little to the N. of Fermo; NOVANA
probably at Monte di Nove,
near Montalto; FALERIA
), in the upper valley of the Tinna; URBS SALVIA
) and TOLENTINUM [p. 2.629]
), on opposite sides of the valley of the Flusor (Chienti
) ; SEPTEMPEDA
), in the upper valley of the Potenza
on the left bank of the same stream, near the modern town of Treja
; and RICINA
on its right bank, not far from Macerata.
The site of PAUSULAE
(Pausulani, Plin.) is fixed by Holstenius at Monte dell' Olmo,
and that of POLLENTIA
(Pollentini, Id.) at Monte Melone,
all in the same neighbourhood; but these last identifications are merely conjectural.
Picenum was traversed by a line of highroad, which followed the line of the coast from Ancona to Aternum, where it united with the Via Valeria ; while its more direct communications with Rome were secured by the Via Salaria, which crossed the Apennines direct from Interocrea by Falacrinum to Asculum, and thence to the Adriatic. Further to the north, also, a branch of the Via Flaminia, quitting the main line of that great road at Nuceria, crossed the central ridge of the Apennines by Prolaqueum to Septempeda in the valley of the Potentia, and thence proceeded by Treia and Auximum to Ancona. Besides these more important lines of road, the Tabula notices two cross lines : the one leading from Auximum by Ricina and Urbs Salvia to Asculum; the other from Asculum to Firmum, and its port Castellum Firmanum.
The extremely hilly and broken character of the country renders the determination of distances along these lines of road very uncertain; and the whole district is given in the Tabula in so confused a manner that little reliance can be placed on its authority.