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Eth. CIRCEII (Κιρκαία, Dionys.: Eth. Κιρκαῖοι, Id., Κιρκαΐται, Pol., Circeienses), a town of Latium, situated at the foot of the Mons Circeius (Monte Circello), on its northern side, and at a short distance from the sea. No mention is found of a town of the name previous to the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, who established a colony there, at the same time with that of Signia. (Liv. 1.56; Dionys. A. R. 4.63.) But it is probable, from analogy, though we have no express testimony on the subject, that there previously existed an ancient settlement on the spot, either of the Volscians, or more probably of the Tyrrhenian Pelasgians. The advantageous situation of the city for commerce, as well as its position as a bulwark against the Volscians, are mentioned by Dionysius as the motives that induced Tarquin to settle a colony there: and accordingly, we find Circeii mentioned among the maritime and. commercial towns of Latium in the treaty concluded between the Romans and Carthaginians immediately after the expulsion of Tarquin. (Pol. 3.22.) It is afterwards mentioned among the conquests ascribed to Coriolanus, who is said to have expelled the Roman colonists, and given it up to the Volscians [p. 1.626]Liv. 2.39; Dionys. A. R. 8.14): it probably really fell into the hands of the Volscians about this period, but was reconquered by the Romans, who sent a fresh colony there three years before the Gaulish War. (Diod. 14.102.) Not long after that event, however, the Circeians, as well as the citizens of Velitrae, also a Roman colony, revolted, and joined their arms with those of the Volscians. (Liv. 6.12, 13, 21.) They must at this time have succeeded in establishing their independence, as at the outbreak of the great Latin War in B.C. 340, Circeii appears as one of the cities of the Latin League, and L. Numicius, a Circeian citizen, was one of the two praetors at the head of the whole nation. (Liv. 8.3; Niebuhr, vol. iii. p. 92.) The fate of Circeii after the war is not mentioned, but it seems certain that it must have been recolonized, because we find it appear again in the Second Punic War among the thirty Latin colonies: it was one of the twelve which professed their inability to furnish their quota of supplies to the army. (Liv.27.9, 29.15.) It is again mentioned in B.C. 198, on occasion of the attempt of the Carthaginian hostages to excite a revolt of the slaves in this part of Italy (Id. 32.26), but this is the last time its name is noticed in history. It appears to have declined, and sunk gradually into an insignificant place: Strabo terms it a small town (πολίχνιον), and the disadvantages of its position, cut off to a great extent from all communication with the interior, must have prevented it from rising to any consideration. It appears, however, to have been in some degree resorted to as an agreeable place of retirement by wealthy Romans under the later Republic and the Empire, and we learn that the emperors Tiberius and Domitian had villas there. (Cic. Att. 15.1. 0; Suet. Tib. 72; Mart. 11.7.4; Stat. Silv. 1.3. 85.) It possessed a peculiar source of attraction in the abundance and excellence of its oysters, which were among the most celebrated of any known to the Romans. (Hor. Sat. 2.4. 33; Juv. 4.140; Plin. Nat. 32.6. s. 21.) Its insulated position also caused it to be occasionally selected as a place of exile,--and the triumvir Lepidus was banished hither by Octavian after his deposition. (Suet. Aug. 16.) The town of Circeii is mentioned for the last time in the Tabula, which places it 19 M. P. from Astura along the coast, and 15 from Tarracina. (Tab. Peut.) The former distance falls short of the truth, while the latter considerably exceeds the direct distance. Considerable ruins of the ancient city of Circeii are still extant on a hill called the Monte della Cittadella, on the N. side of the mountain, and about two miles from the sea. The remains of the ancient walls and gateway are constructed of polygonal blocks, in a very massive style of architecture, closely resembling that of Signia, which is said to have been fortified and erected into a colony at the same period. Some remains of a later Roman style are also visible on the hill now occupied by the village of S. Felice, nearer the sea on the S. side, but the port of Circeii is considered to have been on the W., where there is still a place of anchorage called Porto di Paola. (Holsten. Not. in Cluv. p. 208; Abeken, Mittel Italien, pp. 141,148,160; Brocchi, Viaggio al Capo Circeo, p. 269, in the Bibl. Ital. vol. vii.)


hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.102
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 39
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 16
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 72
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 32.6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 21
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 56
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 3
    • Statius, Silvae, 1.3
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