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DIGE´NTIA (Licenza), a small river in the country of the Sabines, falling into the Anio about 9 miles above Tibur, and a mile beyond Varia (Vico Varo). Its name is not mentioned by any of the geographers, and is known to us only from Horace (Hor. Ep. 1.18. 104), whose Sabine farm was on its banks. This circumstance gives it an unusual degree of interest, and it will be convenient to bring together here all the notices found in the poet of the valley of the Digentia and its neighbourhood. The modern localities were first investigated with care and accuracy by the Abbe Chaupy in his Découverte de la Maison d'Horace, vol. iii. Rome, 1769, but Holstenius had previously pointed out the identity of the Digentia with the Licesza, and that this must therefore have been the site of Horace's Sabine villa, which had been erroneously placed by Cluverius and other earlier topographers on the slope of the mountains towards the Tiber. (Cluver. Ital. p. 671; Holsten. Adnot. p. 106.)


The Digentia, according to Horace, was a stream of very cold and clear water (gelidus Digentia rivus, l.c.), deriving its principal supply of water from a fine fountain in the immediate neighbourhood of the poet's villa. It flowed by a village called MANDELA in a very bleak situation (rugosus frigore pagus, ib. 105), the inhabitants of which were supplied with water from its stream. The Licenza joins the Anio immediately below a projecting rocky hill, now crowned by the convent of S. Cosimato; but on its left bank, about a mile from its confluence, stands the village of Bardella, the name of which is an obvious corruption of Mandela. But in addition to this, Chaupy discovered in the church of S. Cosimato an inscription of late Roman date. in which occur the words “in prediis suis masse Mandelane.” (Chaupy, p. 249; Orell. Inscr. 104.)


The villa of Horace, with the hamlet or group of five houses attached to it, was itself in the territory of, and dependent upon, the town of Varia (habitatum quinque focis et Quinque bonos solitum Variam dimittere patres, Ep. 1.14. 3): the position of this at Vicovaro on the Valerian Way, 8 miles from Tivoli, is established beyond doubt. [VARIA]


In one of his Epistles, evidently written from his villa, the poet concludes (1.10. 49):
Haec tibi dictabam post fanum putre Vacunae,
and his commentator Acron tells us, on the authority of Varro, that this Vacuna was a Sabine goddess, equivalent to the Roman Victoria. It is a curious confirmation of this, that an inscription preserved at the village of Rocca Giovane, on the S. bank of the Licenza, 3 miles from Vicovaro, records the restoration of a temple of Victory, which had fallen into ruin from its antiquity, by the emperor Vespasian, whose Sabine origin would naturally lead him to pay attention to the objects of Sabine worship. (Imp. Caesar Vespasianus Aug. P. M. Trib. Pot. Cens. Aedem Victoriae vetustate dilapsam sua impensa restituit, Chaupy, p. 170; Orell. Inscr. 1868.) The identity of this Aedes Victoriae with the “fanum putre Vacunae” of Horace can scarcely admit of a doubt. The exact site of the temple, according to Chaupy, was about a mile beyond Rocca Giovane, at a considerable elevation above the valley; here there still remain some fragments of Roman masonry, which may have formed part of the building, and it was here that the inscription above given was actually discovered. (Chaupy, p. 169.)


All these circumstances combine to fix the site of Horace's farm between the modern village of Rocca Giovane and that of Licenza, which rises on a hill, a little further up the valley; and the remains of a villa, consisting of a mosaic pavement and some portions of brick walls, have actually been discovered in a vineyard a short distance above the mill which now exists on the river Licenza. There seems every reason to believe that these are in reality the vestiges of the poet's villa, which appears, from various indications in his works, to have been on the S. side of the valley.


The fountain alluded to by Horace as in the neighbourhood of his villa (Ep. 1.16) is readily recognised in the source now called Fonte Bello, from which the Licenza derives a considerable part of its supply. It has been commonly supposed that this was identical with the Fons Bandusiae, celebrated by Horace in a well-known ode (Carm. 3.13), or at least that that fountain was also situated in the same neighbourhood; but there is no authority for this, and Chaupy has given proofs which may be considered conclusive that the real Bandusia was in the neighbourhood of Venusia, and not of the Sabine farm. [BANDUSIAE FONS] [p. 1.775]

The general aspect of the valley of the Licenza corresponds perfectly with the description of it given by Horace (Hor. Ep. 1.16. 1-14), and all travellers who have visited it concur in praising its beauty and pleasantness. Until very lately it was a secluded spot, rarely visited by strangers, though within an easy ride of Tivoli, and the simple manners and rustic virtues of its inhabitants are said still to resemble those of the ancient Sabines.

Two other names remain to be mentioned, which there is reason to connect with the Sabine farm of Horace: the Mons Lucretilis, whose pleasant shades could allure Faunus from Lycaeus (Carm. 1.17), may be safely identified with the lofty Monte Gennaro, which forms the head of the valley of Licenza, and separates it from the Roman Campagna. [LUCRETILIS MONS] The sloping Ustica (Ustica cubans, ib.), on the other hand, cannot be fixed with accuracy: it was probably one of the lower slopes or underfalls of the same mountain mass, in the immediate neighbourhood of the valley.

The modern localities of the valley of the Licenza have been described in great detail by Chaupy (Maison d'Horace, vol. iii. pp. 150--362), and more recently by Dennis in Milman's Life of Horace, pp. 97--110, and Nibby (Dintorni di Roma, vol. ii. p. 245, vol. iii. pp. 713--721). [E.H.B]

  • A. Lucretilis Mons (Monte Gennaro).
  • B. River Digentia (Licenza).
  • C. River Anio (Teverone).
  • D. Via Valeria.
  • 1. Modern Village of Licenza.
  • 2. Modern Village of Civitella.
  • 3. Remains of the Villa of Horace.
  • 4. Fonte Bello.
  • 5. Village of Rocca Giovane.
  • 6. Site of the Temple of Vacuna.
  • 7. Varia (Vicovaro).
  • 8. Village of Bardella (Mandela).

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