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CENTUMCELLAE (Κεντουμκέλλαι, Procop.: Civita Vecchia), a town on the sea-coast of Etruria, between Pyrgi and Graviscae, and distant 47 miles from Rome. It appears to have owed its origin entirely to the construction of its magnificent port by Trajan, and there is no trace of the previous existence of a town upon the spot. The younger Pliny has left us an account of the construction of this port: and at a later period Rutilius gives a poetical but accurate description of it, which entirely coincides with its present appearance. It appears to have been almost wholly of artificial construction, and was formed by a breakwater or artificial island, with a mole running out towards each extremity of this, and leaving only a narrow entrance on each side of it: the basin within being of nearly circular form, so as to constitute what Rutilius calls a marine amphitheatre. At each end of the breakwater was, a tower, serving for a lighthouse as well as for defence. (Plin. Ep. 6.31; Rutil. Itin. 1.237--248.) It appears from Pliny that Trajan had a villa here, the existence of which is again mentioned in the time of M. Aurelius (Lamprid. Commod. 1): and by degrees a town grew up around the port, the importance of which continually increased, as that constructed by Trajan at the mouth of the Tiber became so choked with sand as to be rendered useless, In the time of Procopius Centumcellae was a large and populous city, and a place of strength as a fortress (Procop. B. G. 2.7): on which account its possession was warmly contested between the Goths and Byzantine generals: it was captured by Belisarius, afterwards besieged and taken by Totila, but soon after recovered by Narses. (Id. Ib. 3.36, 37, 39, 4.34.) It continued to flourish till the year 812, when it was utterly destroyed by the Saracens: the remaining inhabitants withdrew into the interior where they founded a new settlement, and the ancient city obtained on this occasion the name of Civita Vecchia, which it has retained ever since. It soon became again inhabited, and is now one of the principal ports of the Roman States, with a population of about 8,000 inhabitants. The walls that surround the port are based throughout on those erected by Trajan: there exist, besides, the remains of an aqueduct, and numerous fragments of other Roman buildings. (Dennis's Etruria, vol. ii. p. 1--4.)

The Itineraries vary considerably in regard to the distance from Rome to Centumcellae, as well as the intermediate stations: the true distance by the line of the Via Aurelia was 47 miles: it was 5 miles from Castrum Novum, erroneously marked as viii. in the Itin. Ant. (D'Anville, Anal. Géogr. de l'Italie, p. 123 ; Dennis, l.c. p. 6.)


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    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 6.31
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