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MONOECI PORTUS (Μονοίκου λιμήν, Strab. Ptol.), or more correctly PORTUS HERCULIS MONOECI (Plin. Nat. 3.5.7; Tac. Hist. 3.42), sometimes also PORTUS HERCULIS alone (V. Max. 1.6.7: Monaco), a port and town on the coast of Liguria, at the foot of the Maritime Alps, distant rather more than 200 stadia from Antipolis. (Strab. iv. p.202.) Its name was obviously derived from the existence there of a temple of Hercules; and the Greek form of the epithet by which it was characterised, at once shows that it must have owed its foundation to the Greeks of Massilia. But Strabo, who derives the same inference from the name, had evidently no account of its origin or foundation, which were naturally connected by later writers with the fables concerning the passage of Hercules, so that Ammianus ascribes the foundation of “the citadel and port” of Monoecus to Hercules himself. (Amm. Marc. 15.10.9.) The port is well described by Strabo (l.c.) as of small size, so as not to admit many vessels, but well sheltered. Lucan, however, who gives a somewhat detailed notice of it, says it was exposed to the wind called by the Gauls Circius (the Vent de Bise) which rendered it at times an unsafe station for ships (Lucan 1.405-408); and Silius Italicus dwells strongly on the manner in which the whole of this part of the coast of Liguria was swept by the same wind, which he designates under the more general name of Boreas. (Sil. Ital. 1.586-593.) The port was formed by a projecting rocky point or headland, on which stands the modern town of Monaco, and which was doubtless occupied in like manner in ancient times, at first by the temple of Hercules, afterwards by the town or castle of Monoecus (arx Monoeci, Ammian. l.c.) The town, however, does not seem to have ever been a place of much importance; the advantage of its port for commercial purposes being greatly neutralised by the want of communication with the interior. It was, however, frequently resorted to by the Roman fleets and ships, on their way along the coast of Liguria into Spain; and hence was a point of importance in a naval. point of view. (V. Max. 1.6.7; Tac. Hist. 3.42.) The headland of Monaco itself is of comparatively small height, and lies immediately under a great mountain promontory, formed by one of the spurs or projecting ridges of the Maritime Alps; and which was regarded by many writers as the natural termination of the great chain of the Alps. [ALPES p. 107.]1 The passage of this mountain must always have been one of the principal difficulties in the way of constructing a high road along the coast of Liguria; this was achieved for the first time by Augustus, and on the highest point of the passage (called in the Itineraries “in Alpe summa” and “in Alpe maritima,” Itin. Ant. p. 296; Tab. Peut.), he erected a trophy or monument to commemorate the complete subjugation of the different nations inhabiting the Alps. The inscription of this monument has been preserved to us by Pliny (3.20. s. 24), and is one of our chief authorities for the geography of the Alpine tribes. The ruins of the monument itself, which was of a very massive character, still remain, and rise like a great tower above the village of Turbia, the name of which is evidently a mere corruption of TROPAEA AUGUSTI (Τρόπαια Σεβαστοῦ, Ptol. 3.1.2), or TROPAEA ALPIUM, as it is termed by Pliny (l.c.).

The line of the Roman road, cut in the face of the mountain, may be traced for some distance on each side of Turbia, and several ancient milestones have been found, which commemorate the construction of the road by Augustus, and its reparation by Hadrian. (Millin. Voy. en Piémont, vol. ii. pp. 135, 138; Durante, Chorographie duo Comté de Nice, pp. 23--30.)

The port of Monoecus seems to have been the extreme limit towards the E. of the settlements of Massilia, and hence both Pliny and Ptolemy regard it as the point from whence the Ligurian coast, in the more strict sense of the term, began. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 7; Ptol. 3.1. § § 2, 3.) Ptolemy has made a strange mistake in separating the Portus Herculis and Portus Monoeci, as if they were two distinct places.


1 Hence Virgil uses the expression “descendens arce Monoeci” (Aen. 6.830) by a poetical figure for the Maritime Alps in general.

hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 3.42
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.405
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.408
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.20
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 15.10.9
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 1.6.7
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