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CANU´SIUM (Κανύσιον, Pol.; Strab.; Steph. B. sub voce Κανούσιον, Ptol.; Eth.Κανυσῖνος or Eth. Κανυσίτης, Eth. Canusinus: Canosa), one of the most ancient and important, cities of Apulia, situated near the right bank of the Aufidus, about 15 miles from its mouth. It was on the line of the high road from Beneventum to Brundusium, and was distant 26 miles from Herdonia, and 23 from Rubi. (Itin. Ant. p. 116.) The foundation of Canusium, as well as that of the neighbouring city of Arpi, was generally ascribed to Diomed (Strab. vi. p.284; Hor. Sat. 1.5. 92), though the legends relating to that hero seem to have been in general more intimately connected with the latter city. It is probable that they were both of them of Pelasgian origin, and were the two most powerful cities of the Daunian or Pelasgian Apulians; but there is no historical account of either of them having received a Greek colony, and there seem good reasons for believing that the strong infusion of Hellenic civilisation which we find prevailing at Canusium was introduced at a comparatively late period. The first historical mention of Canusium is during the wars of the Romans with the Samnites, in which the Canusians took part with the latter, until the repeated devastations of their territory by the Romans induced them to submit to the consul L. Plautius in B.C. 318. (Liv. 9.20.) From this time they appear to have continued steadfast in their attachment to Rome, and gave the strongest proofs of fidelity during the Second Punic War. After the great disaster of Cannae, the. shattered remnants of the Roman army took refuge in Canusium, where they were received with the utmost hospitality and kindness; nor did Hannibal at any time succeed in making himself master of the city. (Liv. 22.52-54, 56; Appian, Annib. 26; Sil. Ital. 10.389.) But in the Social War Canusium joined the other cities of Apulia in their defection from Rome; and during the second campaign of the war (B.C. 89) it was besieged without success by the Roman praetor Cosconius, who was obliged to content himself with ravaging its territory. (Appian, App. BC 1.42, 52.) A few years afterwards (B.C. 83) it was the scene of an important battle between Sulla and C. Norbanus, in which the latter was defeated with great loss, and compelled to evacuate the whole of Apulia, and fall back upon Capua. (Id. 1.84.) It probably suffered severely from these wars; and Strabo speaks of it as in his day much fallen from its former greatness. But its name is more than once mentioned during the Civil Wars, and always as a place of some consequence: we learn from other sources that it not only continued to maintain its municipal existence, but appears to have been almost the only city of Apulia, besides the two Roman colonies of Luceria and Venusia, which retained any degree of importance under the Roman empire. (Hor. l.c.; Caes. B.C. 1.24; Cic. Att. 8.1. 1; Appian, B.C.5.57; Capit. M. Ant. 8; Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Ptol. 3.1.72; Mela, 2.4.) It appears to have received a Roman colony for the first time under M. Aurelius, whence we find it bearing in an inscription the titles of “Colonia Aurelia Augusta Pia.” Its deficiency of water, alluded to by Horace, was supplied by the munificence of Heroes Atticus, who constructed a splendid aqueduct, some remains of which are still visible. (Lib. Colon. p. 260; Philostr. Vit. Sophist. 2.1.6; Orelli, Inscr. 2630; Zumpt, de Coloniis, p. 427.) Canusium is mentioned both by Procopius and P. Diaconus as one of the principal cities of Apulia (Procop. B. G. 3.18; P. Diac. Hist. 2.22), and appears to have preserved its importance until a late period of the middle ages, but suffered severely from the ravages of the Lombards and Saracens. The modern city of Canosa, which contains about 5000 inhabitants, is situated on a slight eminence that probably formed the citadel of the ancient city, which appears to have extended itself in the plain beneath. Strabo speaks of the great extent of the walls as attesting in his day the former greatness and prosperity of Canusium; and the still existing remains fully confirm his impression. Many of these, however, as the aqueduct, amphitheatre, &c., are of Roman date, as well as an ancient gateway, which has been erroneously described as a triumphal arch. (Romanelli, vol. ii. pp. 262--267; Swinburne, Travels, vol. i. p. 401.) Great numbers of inscriptions of Imperial date have also been discovered; one of which is curious, as containing a complete list of the municipal senate, or Decurions of the colony, with their several gradations of rank. It has been published with an elaborate commentary by Damadeno. (Aes Redivivum Canusinum, fol. Lugd. Bat.) But the most interesting relics of the ancient city are the objects which have been found in the numerous tombs in the neighbourhood, especially the painted vases, which have been discovered here in quantities scarcely inferior to those of Nola or Volci. They are, however, for the most part of a later and somewhat inferior style of art, but are all clearly of Greek origin, and, as well as the coins of Canusium, prove how deeply the city was imbued with Hellenic influences. It is even probable that, previous to the Roman conquest, Greek was the prevailing language of Canusium, and perhaps of some other cities of Apulia. The expression of Horace, “Canusini bilinguis” (Sat. 1.10. 30), seems to be rightly explained by the scholiast to refer to their speaking Greek and Latin. (Mommsen, U. I. Dialekte, p. 88.)

The extensive and fertile plain in which Canusium was situated, and which was the scene of the memorable battle of Cannae, is called by some writers CAMPUS DIOMEDIS (Liv. 25.12; Sil. Ital. viii, 242), though this is evidently rather a poetical designation than a proper name. The whole plain S. of the Aufidus, and probably for some distance on the left bank also, appears to have belonged to the Canusians, and we learn from Strabo (p. 283) that they had a port or emporium on the river at a distance of 90 stadia from its mouth. The territory of Canusium was adapted to the growth of vines as well as corn, but was especially celebrated for its wool, which appears to have been manufactured on the spot into a particular kind of cloth, much prized for its durability. (Varr. R. R. 1.8; Plin. Nat. 8.48. s. 73; Martial, 9.22. 9, 14.127 ; Suet. Nero 30.) The stony or gritty quality of the bread at Canusium, noticed by Horace, has been observed also by modern travellers (Swinburne, p. 166): it doubtless results from the defective quality of the millstones employed.


hide References (12 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 8.1.1
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.5.42
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.6.52
    • Suetonius, Nero, 30
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.11
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 8.48
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 52
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 56
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 54
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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