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Eth. GA´BII (Γάβιοι: Eth. Γάβιος, Eth. Gabinus: Castiglione), an ancient city of Latium, situated between 12 and 13 miles from Rome on the road to Praeneste, and close to a small volcanic lake now called the Lago di Castiglione. All accounts represent it as a Latin city, and both Virgil and Dionysius expressly term it one of the colonies of Alba. (Verg. A. 6.773; Serv. ad loc.; Dionys. A. R. 4.53.) Solinus alone ascribes to it a still earlier origin, and says it was founded by two Siculian brothers, Galatus and Bins, from whose combined names that of the city was derived. (Solin. 2.10.) In the early history of Rome it figures as one of the most considerable of the Latin cities, and Dionysius expressly tells us (l.c.) that it was one of the largest and most populous of them all. According to a tradition preserved both by him and Plutarch, it was at Gabii that Romulus and Remus received their education, a proof that it was believed to have been a flourishing city at that early period. (Dionys. A. R. 1.84; Plut. Rom. 6.) Yet no subsequent mention occurs of it in history during the regal period of Rome till the reign of Tarquinius Superbus. At that time Gabii appears as wholly independent of Rome, and incurred the hostility of Tarquinius by affording shelter to fugitives and exiles from Rome and other cities of Latium. But it was able successfully to withstand the arms of Tarquin, who only succeeded in making himself master of the city by stratagem and by the treachery of his son Sextus, who contrived to be received at Gabii as a fugitive, and then made use of the influence he obtained there to betray the city into the hands of his father. (Liv. 1.53, 54; Dionys. A. R. 4.53-58; V. Max. 7.4.2; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 2.690--710.) The treaty concluded on this occasion between Rome and Gabii was among the most ancient monuments preserved in the former city: it is evidently one of those alluded to by Horace as the “foedera regum Cum Gabiis aut cum rigidis aequata Sabinis,”

and was preserved on a wooden shield in the temple of Jupiter Fidius at Rome. (Her. Ep. 2.1. 25; Dionys. A. R. 4.58.) Its memory is also recorded by a remarkable coin of the Antistia Gens, a family which appears to have derived its origin from Gabii. (Eckhel, vol. v. p. 137.) Whatever were the relations thus established between the two states, they did not long subsist: Sextus Tarquinius took refuge at Gabii after his expulsion from Rome, and, though according to Livy (1.60) he was soon after murdered by his enemies there, we find the name of the Gabians among the Latin cities which combined against the Romans before the battle of Regillus. (Dionys. A. R. 5.61.) We may hence conclude that they at this time really formed part of the Latin League, and were doubtless included in the treaty concluded by that body with Sp. Cassius in B.C. 493. (Niebuhr, vol. ii. p. 17.)

From this time their name is but rarely mentioned; and, whenever they appear in history, it is as allies or dependents of Rome. Thus in B.C. 462 we are told that their territory was ravaged by the Volscians (Liv. 3.8) in a predatory incursion against Rome; and in B.C. 381 they suffered in like manner from the incursions of their neighbours the Praenestines, who were at that time on hostile terms with the Republic (Id. 6.21). Even in the last great struggle of the Latins for independence, no mention occurs of Gabii, nor have we any account of the terms or conditions on which it was admitted to the position in which we subsequently find it, of a Roman municipium. In B.C. 211 it is again mentioned on occasion of Hannibal's march against Rome (Liv. 26.9); and an incidental notice of it occurs in B.C. 176 (Id. 41.16): but, with these exceptions, we hear little more of it in history. In B.C. 41, however, we find it selected for a conference between [p. 1.921]Octavian and L. Antonius, probably on accounti of its position midway between Rome and Praeneste. (Appian, App. BC 5.23.) But long before this period it had ceased to be a place of importance and appears to have fallen into complete decay. We learn, indeed, that the dictator Sulla restored its walls, and divided its territory among his veterans (Lib. Colon. p. 234); but this measure, if it did not accelerate its decline, at least did nothing to arrest it: and in B.C. 54 we find Cicero speaking of Gabii among the towns of Latium which were so poor and decayed that they could hardly take their accustomed part in the sacrifices on the Alban Mount. (Cic. pro Planc. 9) Dionysius also attests its decayed condition at a somewhat later period, and tells us that in his time the greater part of the space enclosed within the ancient walls was no longer inhabited, though the traffic along the high road (the Via Praenestina) preserved the adjacent parts of the town from depopulation (4.53). This distinct statement explains, at the same time that it confirms, the expressions of poets of the Augustan age, which would otherwise give an exaggerated idea of its state of desolation. Thus Horace calls it a “deserted village,” and Propertius speaks as if it were almost devoid of inhabitants. (Hor. Ep. i. 11. 7; Propert. 5.1. 34.) The still stronger expressions of Lucan (7.392) are scarcely meant to be historical. Juvenal also repeatedly alludes to it as a poor country town, retaining much of rustic simplicity, and in imitation of Horace couples its name with that of Fidenae. (Juv. 3.189, 6.56, 10.100.) But we know from other sources, that it had been considerably revived at this period; it is not improbable that its cold sulphureous waters, which are already noticed by Horace (Hor. Ep. 1.15. 9), had become a source of attraction, but the monuments and inscriptions which have been recently discovered on the site, prove that it not only continued to exist as a municipal town, but recovered to a considerable extent from its previous decay. This revival, which appears to have commenced as early as the reign of Tiberius, was greatly accelerated by Hadrian, and continued. under his immediate successors down to the commencement of the third century. From this time all trace of the town disappears; though it is probable that the bishops of Gabii, mentioned in early ecclesiastical documents down to the 7th century, belong to this city, rather than to a Sabine Gabii, of which nothing else is known. (Visconti, Monum. Gabini, pp. 7--14; Nibby, Dintorni, vol. ii. pp. 76--78.)

The site of Gabii is clearly fixed by the statements of Dionysius and Strabo, that it was distant 100 stadia from Rome, on the Via Praenestina, with which the Itineraries, that place it 12 M. P. from the city, closely accord. (Dionys. A. R. 4.53; Strab. v. p.238; Itin. Ant. p. 302; Tab. Peut.) Strabo correctly adds that it was just about equidistant from Rome and Praeneste; and as the ruins of an ancient temple have always remained to mark the spot, it is strange that its site should have been mistaken by the earlier Italian topographers, who (before Cluverius) transferred it to Gallicano or La Colonna. The temple just mentioned stands in a commanding position on a gentle eminence, a short distance on the left of the ancient road, the line of which is clearly marked by its still existing pavement: and the site of the ancient city may be readily traced, occupying the whole ridge of hill from thence to an eminence on the N. of the lake, which probably formed the ancient citadel, and is crowned by the ruins of a mediaeval fortress, now known as Castiglione. Some remains of the walls may be still observed near this castle: their extent, to which Dionysius appeals as proof of the former greatness of Gabii, is considerable, the circuit being about three miles, but the ridge nowhere exceeds half a mile in breadth. The only ancient edifice now visible is the temple already noticed, which has been supposed, with much probability, to be that of Juno, who, as we learn from Virgil and his constant imitator Silius Italicus, was the tutelary deity of Gabii. (Verg. A. 7.682; Sil. Ital. 12.537.) Livy, however, notices also a temple of Apollo in the ancient city (41.16), and the point is by no means clear. The existing edifice is of a simple style of construction, built wholly of Gabian stone, and with but little ornament. It much resembles the one still remaining at Aricia; and is probably, like that, a work of Roman times [ARICIA], though it has been often ascribed to a much earlier date. Nothing else now remains above ground; but excavations made in the year 1792 brought to light the seats of a theatre (or rather, perhaps, ranges of semicircular seats adapted to supply the place of one) just below the temple, facing the Via Praenestina,--and a short distance from it, immediately adjoining the high road, were found the remains of the Forum, the plan of which might be distinctly traced: it was evidently a work of Imperial times, surrounded with porticoes on three sides, and adorned with statues. The inscriptions discovered in the same excavations were of considerable interest, as illustrating the municipal condition of Gabii under the Roman Empire; and numerous works of art, statues, busts, &c., many of them of great merit, proved that Gabii must have risen, for a time at least, to a position of considerable splendour. Both the inscriptions and sculptures, which are now in the Museum of the Louvre, are fully described and illustrated by Visconti. (Monumenti Gabini, Roma, 1797, and Milan, 1835.)

Gabii was noted in ancient times for its stone, known as the “lapis Gabinus,” a hard and compact variety of the volcanic tufo or peperino common throughout the Roman Campagna: it closely resembles the “lapis Albanus,” but is of superior quality, and appears to have been extensively employed by the Romans as a building-stone from the earliest ages down to that of Augustus and Nero. (Strab. v. p.238; Tac. Ann. 15.43; Nibby, Roma Antica, vol. i. p. 240.) It is singular that no allusion is found in any ancient writer to the lake of Gabii: this is a circular. basin of small extent, which must at one time have formed the crater of an extinct volcano; it immediately, adjoins the ridge occupied by the ancient city, which in fact forms part of the outer rim of the crater. Pliny, however, alludes to the volcanic character of the soil of Gabii, which caused it to sound hollow as one rode over it. (Plin. Nat. 2.94.)

A strong confirmation of the ancient importance of Gabii is found in the fact that the Romans borrowed from thence the mode of dress called the Cinctus Gabinus, which was usual at sacrifices and on certain other solemn occasions. (Verg. A. 7.612; Serv. ad loc.; Liv. 5.46, &c.) Still more remarkable is it that, according to the rules of the Augurs, the “Ager Gabinus” was set apart as something distinct both from the Ager Romanus and Ager Peregrinus. (Varr. L. L. 5.33.) The road leading from Rome to Gabii was originally called the VIA GABINA, a name which occurs twice in the earlier books of Livy (3.6, 5.49), but appears to [p. 1.922]have been subsequently merged in that of the Via Praenestina, of which it formed a part.


hide References (19 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (19):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 5.3.23
    • Cicero, For Plancius, 9
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.612
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6.773
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.682
    • Tacitus, Annales, 15.43
    • Lucan, Civil War, 7.392
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 2.94
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 53
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 54
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 46
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 49
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 60
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 9
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 6
    • Ovid, Fasti, 2
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 7.4.2
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