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VIA PRAENESTINA ( Πραινεστινή ὁδός, Strab.), was the name of one of the highroads that issued from the Porta Esquilina at Rome, and led (as its name implies) direct to Praeneste. The period of its construction is unknown; but it is evident that there must have been from a very early period a highway, or line of communication from Rome to Praeneste, long before there was a regular paved road, such as the Via Praenestina ultimately became. The first part of it indeed, as far as the city of Gabii, 13 miles from Rome, was originally known as the VIA GABINA, a name which is used by Livy in the history of the early ages of the Republic (Liv. 2.11), but would seem to have afterwards fallen into disuse, so that both Strabo and the Itineraries give the name of Via Praenestina to the whole line. (Strab. v. p.238; Itin. Ant. p. 302.) In the latter period of the Republic, indeed, Gabii had fallen very much into decay, while Praeneste was still an important and flourishing town, which will sufficiently [p. 2.1304]account for the one appellation having become merged in the other. A continuation of the same road, which was also included under the name of the Via Praenestina, was carried from the foot of the hill at Praeneste, through the subjacent plain, till it fell into the Via Latina, just below Anagnia.

The stations on it mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary (p. 302) are:--

From Rome to Gabii xii. M. P.
  Praeneste xi.  
  Sub Anagnia xxiv.  

The Tabula gives the same distances as far as Praeneste, which are very nearly correct. Strabo reckons it 100 stadia (12 1/2 miles) from Rome to Gabii, and the same distance thence to Praeneste. The continuation from Praeneste to Sub Anagnia is given only in the Antonine Itinerary, but the distance is overstated; it does not really exceed 18 miles.

The Via Praenestina issued from the Porta Esquilina at Rome, together with the Via Labicana (Strab. v. p.237): it passed through the Porta Praenestina in the later circuit of the walls, now called Porta Maggiore; and separated from the Via Labicana immediately afterwards, striking off in a nearly direct line towards Gabii. About 3 miles from Rome it passed the imperial villa of the Gordians, the magnificence of which is extolled by Julius Capitolinus (Gordian. 32), and is still in some degree attested by the imposing and picturesque ruins at a spot called Torre dei Schiavi. (Nibby, Dintorni, vol. iii. pp. 707--710.) Nine miles from Rome the road is carried over the valley of a small stream by a viaduct of the most massive construction, still known as the Ponte di Nona: and 3 miles farther it passes the still existing ruins of the city of Gabii. Thence to Praeneste the line of the road was not so direct: this part of the Campagna being intersected by deep gullies and ravines, which necessitated some deviations from the straight line. The road is however clearly marked, and in many places retains its ancient pavement of basaltic lava. It is carried nearly straight as far as a point about 5 miles beyond Gabii, where it passes through a deep cutting in the tufo rock, which has given to the spot the name of Cavamonte: shortly afterwards it turns abruptly to the right, leaving the village of Gallicano (the probable site of PEDUM) on the left, and thence follows the line of a long narrow ridge between two ravines, till it approaches the city of Praeneste. The highroad doubtless passed only through the lower part of that city. Portions of the ancient pavement may be seen shortly after quitting the southern gate (Porta del Sole), and show that the old road followed the same direction as the modern one, which leads through Cavi and Paliano, to an inn on the highroad below Anagni, apparently on the very same site as the station Sub Anagnia (or Compitum Anagninum, as it is called in another route) of the Itinerary.

(Westphal, Röm. Kamp. pp. 97--107; Nibby, Dintorni di Roma, pp. 625--630.)


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    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 11
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