a town or fortress on [p. 1.564]
the coast of Calabria, between Hydruntum and the Iapygian Promontory.
It derived its name from an ancient temple of Minerva, of which Strabo speaks (vi. p. 281) as having been formerly very wealthy.
This is evidently the same which Virgil mentions as meeting the eyes of Aeneas on his first approach to Italy; he describes the temple itself as standing on a hill, with a secure port immediately below it. (Aen.
3.531, foll., and Serv. ad loc.
) Dionysius gives the same account; (1.51 ) he calls the spot τὸ καλούμενον Ἀθηναῖον,
and says that it was a promontory with a port adjacent to it, to which Aeneas gave the name of the Port of Venus (λιμὴν Ἀθροδίτης
but he adds that it was only fit for summer anchorage (Φερινὸς ὅρμος
), so that it is evident we must not take Virgil's description too literally. No mention is found either in Strabo or Dionysius of a town
on the spot; but Varro (as cited by Probus, ad Virg. Ecl.
6.31) distinctly speaks of Castrum Minervae as a town (oppidum) founded by Idomeneus at the same time with Uria and other cities of the Sallentines.
It seems to have been but an inconsiderable place under the Romans; but the Tabula marks the “Castra Minervae” at the distance of 8 M. P. south of Hydruntum; and there is every probability that the modern town of Castro,
which stands on a rocky eminence near the sea-shore, about 10 Roman miles S. of Otranto,
occupies the site in question.
There is a little cove or bay immediately below it, which answers to the expressions of Dionysius: though the little port now called Porto Badisco,
more than 5 miles further north, would correspond better with the description of Virgil.
The spot is called by the geographer of Ravenna “Minervium,” and hence some modern writers (Mannert, Forbiger) have been led to regard this as the colony of Minervium, established by the Romans in B.C. 123. (Vell. 1.15
But it is now well established that that name was only a new designation for the previously existing city of Scylacium. [SCYLACIUM