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BENEVENTUM (Βενεβεντός, Steph. B. sub voce App.; Βενεουεντόν, Strab. Ptol.: Eth. Beneventanus: Benevento), one of the chief cities of Samnium, and at a later period one of the most important cities of Southern Italy, was situated on the Via Appia at a distance of 32 miles E. from Capua; and on the banks of the river Calor. There is some discrepancy as to the people to which it belonged: Pliny expressly assigns it to the Hirpini; but Livy certainly seems to consider it as belonging to Samnium Proper, as distinguished from the Hirpini; and Ptolemy adopts the same view. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Liv. 22.13; Ptol. 3.1.67.) All writers concur in representing it as a very ancient city; Solinus and Stephanus of Byzantium ascribe its foundation to Dïomedes; a legend which appears to have been adopted by the inhabitants, who, in the time of Procopius, pretended to exhibit the tusks of the Calydonian boar in proof of their descent. (Solin. 2.10; Steph. B. sub voce Procop. B. G. 1.15.) Festus, on the contrary (s. v. Ausoniam), related that it was founded by Auson, a son of Ulysses and Circe; a tradition which indicates that it was an ancient Ausonian city, previous to its conquest by the Samnites. But it first appears in history as a Samnite city (Liv. 9.27); and must have already been a place of strength, so that the Romans did not venture to attack it during their first two wars with that people. It appears, however, to have fallen into their hands during the Third Samnite War, though the exact occasion is unknown. It was certainly in the power of the Romans in B.C. 274, when Pyrrhus was defeated in a great battle, fought in its immediate neighbourhood, by the consul M‘. C urius. (Plut. Pyrrh. 25; Frontin. Strat. 4.1.14.) Six years later (B.C. 268) they sought farther to secure its possession by establishing there a Roman colony with Latin rights. (Liv. Epit. xv.; Vell. 1.14.) It was at this time that it first assumed the name of Beneventum, having previously been called Maleventum (Μαλόεντον, or Μαλεβεντός), a name which the Romans regarded as of evil augury, and changed into one of a more fortunate signification. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Liv. 9.27; Fest. s. v. Beneventurn, p. 34; Steph. B. sub voce Procop. B. G. 1.15.) It is probable that the Oscan or Samnite name was Maloeis, or Malieis, from whence the form Maleventum would be derived, like Agrigentum from Acragas, Selinuntium from Selinus, &c. (Millingen, Numnism. de l'Italie, p. 223.)

As a Roman colony Beneventum seems to have quickly become a flourishing place; and in the Second Punic War was repeatedly occupied by Roman generals as a post of importance, on account of its proximity to Campania, and its strength as a fortress. In its immediate neighbourhood were fought two of the most decisive actions of the war: the one in B.C. 214, in which the Carthaginian general Hanno was defeated by Ti. Gracchus; the other in B.C. 212, when the camp of Hanno, in which he had accumulated a vast quantity of corn and other stores, was stormed and taken by the Roman consul Q. Fulvius. (Liv. 22.13, 24.14, 16, 25.13, 14, 15, 17; Appian, Annib. 36, 37.) And though its territory was more than once laid waste by the Carthaginians, it was still one of the eighteen Latin colonies which in B.C. 209 were at once able and willing to furnish the required quota of men and money for continuing the war. (Liv. 27.10.) It is singular that no mention of it occurs during the Social War; but it seems to have escaped from the calamities which at that time befel so many cities of Samnium, and towards the close of the Republic is spoken of as one of the most opulent and flourishing cities of Italy. (Appian, App. BC 4.3; Strab. v. p.250; Cic. in Verr. 1.15) Under the Second Triumvirate its territory was portioned out by the Triumvirs to their veterans, and subsequently a fresh colony was established there by Augustus, who greatly enlarged its domain by the addition of the territory of Caudium. A third colony was settled there by Nero, at which time it assumed the title of Concordia; hence we find it bearing, in inscriptions of the reign of Septimius Severus, the titles “Colonia Julia Augusta Concordia Felix Beneventum.” (Appian. l.c.; Lib. Colon. pp. 231, 232; Inscr. ap. Romanelli, vol. ii. pp. 382, 384; Orell. Inscr. 128, 590.) Its importance and flourishing condition under the Roman Empire is sufficiently attested by existing remains and inscriptions; it was at that period unquestionably the chief city of the Hirpini, and probably, next to Capua, the most populous and considerable of Southern Italy. For this prosperity it was doubtless indebted in part to its position on the Via Appia, just at the junction of the two principal arms or branches of that great road, the one called afterwards the Via Trajana, leading from thence by Equus Tuticus into Apulia; the other by Aeculanum to Venusia and Tarentum. (Strab. vi. p.283.) [VIA APPIA] The notice of it by Horace on his journey from Rome to Brundusium (Sat. 1.5, 71) is familiar to all readers. It was indebted to the same circumstance for the honour of repeated visits from the emperors of Rome, among which those of Nero, Trajan, and Sept. Severus, are particularly recorded. (Tac. Ann. 15.34.) It was probably for the same reason that the noble triumphal arch, which still forms one of its chief ornaments, was erected there in honour of Trajan by the senate and people of Rome. Successive emperors seem to have bestowed on the city accessions of territory, and erected, or at least given name to, various public buildings. For administrative purposes it was first included, together with the rest of the Hirpini, in the 2nd region of Augustus, but was afterwards annexed to Campania and placed under the control of the consular of that province. Its inhabitants were included in the Stellatine tribe. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Mommsen, Topogr. degli Irpini, p. 167, in Bull. dell' Ianst. Arch. 1847.) Beneventum retained its importance down to the close of the Empire, and though during the Gothic wars it was taken by Totila, and its walls rased to the ground, they were restored, as well as its public buildings, shortly after; and P. Diaconus speaks of it as a very wealthy city, and the capital of all the surrounding provinces. (Procop. B. G. 3.6; P. Diac. 2.20; De Vita, Antiq. Benev. pp. 271, 286.) Under the Lombards it became the capital of a duchy which included all their conquests in Southern Italy, and continued to maintain itself as an independent state long after the fall of the Lombard kingdom in the north. [p. 1.391]

The modern city of Benevento is still a considerable place with about 13,000 inhabitants, and contains numerous vestiges of its ancient grandeur. The most conspicuous of these is a triumphal arch erected in honour of the emperor Trajan in A.D. 114, which forms one of the gates of the modern city, now called Porta Aurea. It is adorned with bas-reliefs representing the exploits of the Emperor, and is generally admitted to be the finest monument of its class existing in Italy; both from the original merit of its architecture and sculpture, and from its excellent state of preservation. Besides this there exist the remains of an amphitheatre, portions of the Roman walls, and an ancient bridge over the Calor; while numerous bas-reliefs and fragments of sculpture (some of them of a very high order of merit), as well as Latin inscriptions in great numbers are found in almost all parts of the city. Some of these inscriptions notice the public buildings existing in the city, among which was one called the “Caesareum,” probably a kind of Curia or place for the assemblies of the local senate; a Basilica, splendid porticoes, and Thermae, which appear to have been erected by the Emperor Commodus. Others contain much curious information concerning the various “Collegia,” or corporations that existed in the city, and which appear to have been intended not only for religious or commercial objects, but in some instances for literary purposes. (De Vita, Antiq. Benev. pp. 159--174, 253--289; Inscr. Benev. p. 1--37; Orell. Inser. 3164, 3763, 4124--4132, &c.) Beneventum indeed seems to have been a place of much literary cultivation; it was the birth-place of Orbilius the grammarian, who long continued to teach in his native city before he removed to Rome, and was honoured with a statue by his fellow-townsmen; while existing inscriptions record similar honours paid to another grammarian, Rutilius Aelianus, as well as to orators and poets, apparently only of local celebrity. (Suet. Gram. 9; De Vita, l.c. pp. 204--220; Orell. Inscr. 1178, 1185.)

The territory of Beneventum under the Roman empire was of very considerable extent. Towards the W., as already mentioned, it included that of Caudium, with the exception of the town itself; to the N. it extended as far as tile Tamarus (Tammaro), including the village of Pago, which, as we learn from an inscription, was anciently called Pagus Veianus; on the NE. it comprised the town of Equus Tuticus (S. Eleuterio, near Castel Franco), and on the E. and S. bordered on the territories of Aeculanum and Abellinum. An inscription has preserved to us the names of several of the pagi or villages dependent upon Beneventum, but their sites cannot be identified. (Henzen, Tab. Aliment. Baebian, p. 93--108; Mommsen, Topogr. degli Irpini, p. 168--171.)

The ARUSINI CAMPI mentioned by several writers as the actual scene of the engagement between Pyrrhus and the Romans (Flor. 1.18; Frontin. Strat. 4.1.14; Ores, 4.2), were probably the tract of plain country S. of the river Calor, called on Zannoni's map Le Colonne, which commences within 2 miles of Beneventum itself, and was traversed by the Via Appia. They are erroneously placed both by Florus and Orosius in Lucania; but all the best authorities place the scene of the action near Beneventum. Some writers would read “Taurasini,” for Arusini in the passages cited, but there is no authority for this alteration.

The annexed coin, with the legend BENVENTOD (an old Latin form for Beneventor-um), must have been struck after it became a Latin colony. Other coins with the legend “Malies,” or “Maliesa,” have been supposed to belong to the Samnite Maleventum. (Millingen, Numismatique de l'Anc. Italie, p. 223; Friedländer, Osk. Münz. p. 67.)



hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.1.3
    • Tacitus, Annales, 15.34
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 16
    • Plutarch, Pyrrhus, 25
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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