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LATIUM ( Λατίνη: Eth. and Adj. Latinus), was the name given by the Romans to a district or region of Central Italy, situated on the Tyrrhenian sea, between Etruria and Campania.


There can be little doubt that Latium meant originally the land of the LATINI, and that in this, as in almost all other cases in ancient history, the name of the people preceded, instead of being derived from, that of the country. But the ancient Roman writers, with their usual infelicity in all matters of etymology, derived the name of the Latini from a king of the name of Latinus, while they sought for another origin for the name of Latium. The common etymology (to which they were obviously led by the quantity of the first syllable) was that which derived it from “lăteo;” and the usual explanation was, that it was so called because Saturn had there lain hid from the pursuit of Jupiter. (Verg. A. 8.322; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 1.238.) The more learned derivations proposed by Saufeius and Varro, from the inhabitants having lived hidden in caves (Saufeius, ap. Serv. ad Aen. 1.6), or because Latium itself was as it were hidden by the Apennines (Varr. ap. Serv. ad Aen. 8.322), are certainly not more satisfactory. The form of the name of Latium would at first lead to the supposition that the ethnic Latini was derived from it; but the same remark applies to the case of Samnium and the Samnites, where we know that the people, being a race of foreign settlers, must have given their name to the country, and not the converse. Probably Latini is only a lengthened form of the name, which was originally Latii or Latvi; for the connection which has been generally recognised between Latini and Lavinium, Latinus and Lavinus, seems to point to the existence of an old form, Latvinus. (Donaldson, Varronianus, p. 6; Niebuhr, V. u. L. Kunde, p. 352.) Varro himself seems to regard the name of Latium as derived from that of Latinus (LL. 5.32) ; and that it was generally regarded as equivalent to “the land of the Latins” is sufficiently proved by the fact that the Greeks always rendered it by Λατίνη, or Λατίνων γῆ. The name of Λάτιον is found only in Greek writers of a late period, who borrowed it directly from the Romans. (Appian, App. BC 2.26; Herodian, 1.16.) From the same cause it must have proceeded that when the Latini ceased to [p. 2.132]have any national existence, the name of Latium is still not unfrequently used, as equivalent to “nomen Latinum,” to designate the whole body of those who possessed the rights of Latins, and were therefore still called Latini, though no longer in a national sense.

The suggestion of a modern writer (Abeken, Mittel Italien, p. 42) that Latium is derived from “latus,” broad, and means the broad plain or expanse of the Campagna (like Campania from “Campus” ), appears to be untenable, on account of the difference in the quantity of the first syllable, notwithstanding the analogy of πλατὺς, which has the first syllable short.


The name of Latium was applied at different periods in a very different extent and signification. Originally, as already pointed out, it meant the land of the Latini; and as long as that people retained their independent national existence, the name of Latium could only be applied to the territory possessed by them, exclusive of that of the Hernici, Aequians, Volscians, &c., who were at that period independent and often hostile nations. It was not till these separate nationalities had been merged into the common condition of subjects and citizens of Rome that the name of Latium came to be extended to all the territory which they had previously occupied; and was thus applied, first in common parlance, and afterwards in official usage, to the whole region from the borders of Etruria to those of Campania, or from the Tiber to the Liris. Hence we must carefully distinguish between Latium in the original sense of the name, in which alone it occurs throughout the early Roman history, and Latium in this later or geographical sense; and it will be necessary here to treat of the two quite separately. The period at which the latter usage of the name came into vogue we have no means of determining: we know only that it was fully established before the time of Augustus, and is recognised by all the geographers. (Strab. v. pp. 228, 231; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Ptol. 3.1. § § 5, 6.) Pliny designates the original Latium, or Latium properly so called, as Latium Antiquum, to which he opposes the newly added portions, as Latium Adjectum. It may, however, be doubted whether these appellations were ever adopted in common use, though convenient as geographical distinctions.


Latium antiquum>, or Latium in the original and historical sense, was a country of small extent, bounded by the Tiber on the N., by the Apennines on the E., and by the Tyrrhenian sea on the W.; while on the S. its limits were not defined by any natural boundaries, and appear to have fluctuated considerably at different periods. Pliny defines it as extending from the mouth of the Tiber to the Circeian promontory, a statement confirmed by Strabo (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Strab. v. p.231); and we have other authority also for the fact that at an early period all the tract of marshy plain, known as the Pontine Marshes or “Pomptinus Ager,” extending from Velitrae and Antium to Circeii, was inhabited by Latins, and regarded as a part of Latium. (Cato, ap. Priscian. v. p. 668.) Even of the adjoining mountain tract, subsequently occupied by the Volscians, a part at least must have been originally Latin, for Cora, Norba, and Setia were all of them Latin cities (Dionys. A. R. 5.61),--though, at a somewhat later period, not only had these towns, as well as the plain beneath, fallen into the hands of the Volscians, but that people had made themselves masters of Antium and Velitrae, which are in consequence repeatedly called Volscian cities. The manner in which the early Roman history has been distorted by poetical legends and the exaggerations of national vanity renders it very difficult to trace the course of these changes, and the alterations in the frontiers consequent upon the alternate progress of the Volscian and the Roman arms. But there seems no reason to doubt the fact that such changes repeatedly took place, and that we may thus explain the apparent inconsistency of ancient historians in calling the same places at one time Volscian, at another Latin, cities. We may also clearly discern two different periods, during the first of which the Volscian arms were gradually gaining upon those of the Latins, and extending their dominion over cities of Latin origin; while, in the second, the Volscians were in their turn giving way before the preponderating power of Rome. The Gaulish invasion (B.C. 390) may be taken, approximately at least, as the turning point between the two periods.

The case appears to have been somewhat similar, though to a less degree, on the northern frontier, where the Latins adjoined the Sabines. Here, also, we find the same places at different times, and by different authors, termed sometimes Latin and sometimes Sabine, cities; and though in some of these cases the discrepancy may have arisen from mere inadvertence or error, it is probable that in some instances both statements are equally correct, but refer to different periods. The circumstance that the Anio was fixed by Augustus as the boundary of the First Region seems to have soon led to the notion that it was the northern limit of Latium also; and hence all the towns beyond it were regarded as Sabine, though several of them were, according to the general tradition of earlier times, originally Latin cities. Such was the confusion resulting from this cause that Piny in one passage enumerates Nomentum, Fidenae, and even Tibur among the Sabine towns, while he elsewhere mentions the two former as Latin cities,--and the Latin origin of Tibur is too well established to admit of a doubt. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9, 12. s. 17.)

In the absence of natural boundaries it is only by means of the names of the towns that we can trace the extent of Latium; and here fortunately the lists that have been transmitted to us by Dionysius and Pliny, as well as those of the colonies of Alba, afford us material assistance. The latter, indeed, cannot be regarded as of historical value, but they were unquestionably meant to represent the fact, with which their authors were probably well acquainted, that the places there enumerated were properly Latin cities, and not of Sabine or Volscian origin. Taking these authorities for our guides, we may trace the limits of ancient Latium as follows:--1. From the mouth of the Tiber to the confluence of the Anio, the former river constituted the boundary between Latium and Etruria. The Romans, indeed, from an early period, extended their territory beyond the Tiber, and held the Janiculum and Campus Vaticanus on its right bank, as well as the so-called Septem Pagi, which they wrested from the Veientes; and it is probable that the Etruscans, on the other hand, had at one period extended their power over a part of the district on the left bank of the Tiber, but that river nevertheless constituted the generally recognised geographical limit between Etruria and Latium. 2. North of the Anio the Latin territory [p. 2.133]comprised Fidenae, Crustumerium, and Nomentum, all of which are clearly established as Latin towns, while Eretum, only 3 miles from Nomentum, is equally well made out to be of Sabine origin. This line of demarcation is confirmed by Strabo, who speaks of the Sabines as extending from the Tiber and Nomentum to the Vestini. (Strab. v. p.228.) From Nomentum to Tibur the frontier cannot be traced with accuracy, from our uncertainty as to the position of several of the towns in this part of Latiumn--Corniculum, Medullia, Cameria, and Ameriola; but we may feel assured that it comprised the outlying group of the Montes Corniculani (Mte. S. Angelo and Monticelli), and from thence stretched across to the foot of Monte Gennaro (Mons Lucretilis), around the lower slopes of which are the ruins or sites of more than one ancient city. Probably the whole of this face of the mountains, fronting the plain of the Campagna, was always regarded as belonging to Latium, though the inner valleys and reverse of the same range were inhabited by the Sabines. Tibur itself was unquestionably Latin, though how far its territory extended into the interior of the mountains is difficult to determine. But if Empulum and Sassula (two of its dependent towns) be correctly placed at Ampiglione and near Siciliano, it must have comprised a considerable tract of the mountain country on the left bank of the Anio. Varia, on the other hand, and the valley of the Digentia, were unquestionably Sabine. 3. Returning to the Anio at Tibur, the whole of the W. front of the range of the Apennines from thence to Praeneste (Palestrina) was certainly Latin ; but the limits which separated the Latins from the Aequians are very difficult to determine. We know that Bola, Pedum, Tolerium, and Vitellia, all of which were situated in this neighbourhood, were Latin cities; though, from their proximity to the frontier, several of them fell at one time or other into the hands of the Aequians ; in like manner we cannot doubt that the whole group of the Alban Hills, including the range of Mount Algidus, was included in the original Latium, though the Aequians at one time were able to occupy the heights of Algidus at the opening of almost every campaign. Valmontone, whether it represent Tolerium or Vitellia, must have been about the most advanced point of the Latin frontier on this side. 4. The Volscian frontier, as already observed, appears to have undergone much fluctuation. On the one hand, we find, in the list of the cities forming the Latin League, as given by Dionysius (5.61), not only Velitrae, which at a later period is called a Volscian city, but Cora, Norba, and Setia, all of which were situated on the western front of the range of mountains which formed in later times the stronghold of the Volscian nation; but looking on the Pontine Marshes. Even as late as the outbreak of the great Latin War, B.C. 340, we find L. Annius of Setia, and L. Numicius of Circeii, holding the chief magistracy among the Latins, from whom at the same time Livy expressly distinguishes the Volscians (Liv. 8.3). These statements, combined with those of Pliny and Strabo already cited, seem to leave no doubt that Latium was properly regarded as extending as far as Circeii and the promontory of the same name, and comprising the whole plain of the Pontine Marshes, as well as the towns of Cora, Norba, and Setia, on the E. side of that plain. On the other hand, Tarracina (or Anxur) and Privernum were certainly Volscian cities; and there can be no doubt that during the period of the Volscian power they had wrested a great part of the tract just described from the dominion of the Latins. Antium, which for some reason or other did not form a member of the Latin League, was from an early period a Volscian city, and became one of the chief strongholds of that people during the fifth century B.C.

The extent of Latium Antiquum, as thus limited, was far from considerable; the coast-line, from the mouth of the Tiber to the Circeian promontory, does not exceed 52 geographical or 65 Roman miles (Pliny erroneously calls it only 50 Roman miles); while the greatest length, from the Circeian promontory to the Sabine frontier, near Eretum, is little more than 70 Roman miles; and its breadth, from the mouth of the Tiber to the Sabine frontier, is just about 30 Roman miles, or 240 stadia, as correctly stated by Dionysius on the authority of Cato. (Dionys. A. R. 2.49.)


The boundaries of Latium in the enlarged or geographical sense of the name are much more easily determined. The term, as thus employed, comprehended, besides the original territory of the Latins, that of the Aequians, the Hernicans, the Volscians, and the Auruncans or Ausonians. Its northern frontiers thus remained unchanged, while on the E. and S. it was extended so as to border on the Marsi, the Samnites, and Campania. Some confusion is nevertheless created by the new line of demarcation established by Augustus, who, while he constituted the first division of Italy out of Latium in this wider sense together with Campania, excluded from it the part of the old Latin territory N. of the Anio, adjoining the Sabines, as well as a part of that of the Aequians or Aequiculani, including Carseoli and the valley of the Turano. The upper valley of the Anio about Subiaco, on the other hand, together with the mountainous district extending from thence to the valley of the Sacco, constituting the chief abode of the Aequi during their wars with Rome, was wholly comprised in the newly extended Latium. To this was added the mountain district of the Hernici, extending nearly to the valley of the Liris, as well as that of the Volsci, who occupied the country for a considerable extent on both sides of the Liris, including the mountain district around Arpinum and Atina, where they bordered on the territory of the Samnites. The limits of Latium towards the S., where its frontiers adjoined those of Campania, are clearly marked by Strabo, who tells us that Casinum was the last Latin city on the line of the Via Latina,--Teanum being already in Campania; while on the line of the Via Appia, near the sea-coast, Sinuessa was the frontier town of Latium. (Strab. v. pp. 231, 233, 237; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9.) Pliny, in one passage, appears to speak of the Liris as constituting the boundary of this enlarged Latium (Ib. § 56), while shortly after ( § 59) he terms Sinuessa “oppidum extremum in adjecto Latio,” whence it has been supposed that the boundary of Latium was at first extended only to the Liris, and subsequently carried a step further so as to include Sinuessa and its territory. (Cramer's Italy, vol. ii. p. 11.) But we have no evidence of any such successive stages. Pliny in all probability uses the term “adjectum Latium” only as contradistinguished from “Latium antiquum;” and the expression in the previous passage, “unde nomen Latii processit ad Lirim amnem,” need not be construed too strictly. It is certain, at least, that, in the days of Strabo, as well as those of Pliny, Sinuessa [p. 2.134]was already regarded as included in Latium; and the former author nowhere alludes to the Liris as the boundary.


The land of the Latins, or Latium in its original sense, formed the southern part of the great basin through which the Tiber flows to the sea, and which is bounded by the Ciminian Hills, and other ranges of volcanic hills connected with them,towards the N., by the Apennines on the E., and by the Alban Hills on the S. The latter, however, do not form a continuous barrier, being in fact an isolated group of volcanic origin, separated by a considerable gap from the Apennines on the one side, while on the other they leave a broad strip of low plain between their lowest slopes and the sea, which is continued on in the broad expanse of level and marshy ground, commonly known as the Pontine Marshes, extending in a broad band between the Volscian mountains and the sea, until it is suddenly and abruptly terminated by the isolated mass of the Circeian promontory.

The great basin-like tract thus bounded is divided into two portions by the Tiber, of which the one on the N. of that river belongs to Southern Etruria, and is not comprised in our present subject. [ETRURIA] The southern part, now known as the Campagna di Roma, may be regarded as a broad expanse of undulatory plain, extending from the seacoast to the foot of the Apennines, which rise from it abruptly like a gigantic wall to a height of from 3000 to 4000 feet, their highest summits even exceeding the latter elevation. The Monte Gennaro, (4285 English feet in height) is one of the loftiest summits of this range, and, from the boldness with which it rises from the subjacent plain, and its advanced position, appears, when viewed from the Campagna, the most elevated of all; but, according to Sir W. Gell, it is exceeded in actual height both by the Monte Pennecchio, a little to the NE. of it, and by the Monte di Guadagnolo, the central peak of the group of mountains which rise immediately above Praeneste or Palestrina. The citadel of Praeneste itself occupies a very elevated position, forming a kind of outwork or advanced post of the chain of Apennines, which here trends away suddenly to the eastward, sweeping round by Genazzano, Olevano, and Rojate, till it resumes its general SE. direction, and is continued on by the lofty ranges of the Hernican mountains, which bound the valley of the Sacco on the E. and continue unbroken to the valley of the Liris.

Opposite to Praeneste, and separated from it by a breadth of nearly 5 miles of intervening plain, rises the isolated group of the Alban mountains, the form of which at once proves its volcanic origin. [ALBANUS MONS] It is a nearly circular mass, of about 40 miles in circumference; and may be conceived as forming a great crater, the outer ridge of which has been broken up into numerous more or less detached summits, several of which were crowned in ancient times by towns or fortresses, such as Tusculum, Corbio, &c.; while at a lower level it throws out detached offshoots, or outlying ridges, affording advantageous sites for towns, and which were accordingly occupied by those of Velitrae, Lanuvium, Alba Longa, &c. The group of the Alban mountains is wholly detached on all sides: on the S. a strip of plain, of much the same breadth as that which separated it from the Apennines of Praeneste, divides it from the subordinate, but very lofty mass of mountains, commonly known as the Monti. Lepini, or Volscian mountains. This group, which forms an outlying mass of the Apennines, separated from the main chain of those mountains by the broad valley of the Trerus or Sacco, rises in a bold and imposing mass from the level of the Pontine Marshes, which it borders throughout their whole extent, until it reaches the sea at Tarracina, and from that place to the mouth of the Liris sends down a succession of mountain headlands to the sea, constituting a great natural barrier between the plains of Latium and those of Campania. The highest summits of this group, which consists, like the more central Apennines, wholly of limestone, attain an elevation of nearly 5000 feet above the sea: the whole mass fills up almost the entire space between the valley of the Trerus and the Pontine Marshes, a breadth of from 12 to 16 miles; with a length of near 40 miles from Monte Fortino at its N. extremity to the sea at Terracina: but the whole distance, from Monte Fortino to the end of the mountain chain near the mouth of the Liris, exceeds 60 miles. The greater part of this rugged mountain tract belonged from a very early period to the Volscians, but the Latins, as already mentioned, possessed several towns, as Signia, Cora, Norba, &c., which were built on projecting points or underfalls of the main chain.

But though the plains of Latium are thus strongly characterised, when compared with the groups of mountains just described, it must not be supposed that they constitute an unbroken plain, still less a level alluvial tract like those of Northern Italy. The Campagna of Rome, as it is called at the present day, is a country of wholly different character from the ancient Campania. It is a broad undulating tract, never rising into considerable elevations, but presenting much more variety of ground than would be suspected from the general uniformity of its appearance, and irregularly intersected in all directions by numerous streams, which have cut for themselves deep channels or ravines through the soft volcanic tufo of which the soil is composed, leaving on each side steep and often precipitous banks. The height of these, and the depth of the valleys or ravines which are bounded by them, vary greatly in different parts of the Campagna; but besides these local and irregular fluctuations, there is a general rise (though so gradual as to be imperceptible to the eye) in the level of the plain towards the E. and SE.; so that, as it approaches Praeneste, it really attains to a considerable elevation, and the river courses which intersect the plain in nearly parallel lines between that city and the Anio become deep and narrow ravines of the most formidable description. Even in the lower and more level parts of the Campagna the sites of ancient cities will be generally found to occupy spaces bounded to a considerable extent--frequently on three sides out of four--by steep banks of tufo rock, affording natural means of defence, which could be easily strengthened by the simple expedient of cutting away the face of the rocky bank, so as to render it altogether inaccessible. The peculiar configuration of the Campagna resulting from these causes. is well represented on Sir W. Gell's map, the only one which gives at all a faithful idea of the physical geography of Latium.

The volcanic origin of the greater part of Latium has a material influence upon its physical character and condition. The Alban mountains, as already mentioned, are unquestionably a great volcanic mass [p. 2.135]which must at a distant period have been the centre of volcanic outbursts on a great scale. Besides the central or principal crater of this group, there are several minor craters, or crater-shaped hollows, at a much lower level around its ridges, which were in all probability at different periods centres of eruption. Some of these have been filled with water, and thus constitute the beautiful basin-shaped lakes of Albano and Nemi, while others have been drained at periods more or less remote. Such is the case with the Vallis Aricina, which appears to have at one time constituted a lake [ARICIA], as well as with the now dry basin of Cornufelle, below Tusculum, supposed, with good reason, to be the ancient Lake Regillus, and with the somewhat more considerable Lago di Castiglione, adjoining the ancient Gabii, which has been of late years either wholly or partially drained. Besides these distinct foci of volcanic action, there remain in several parts of the Campagna spots where sulphureous and other vapours are still evolved in considerable quantities, so as to constitute deposits of sulphur available for economic purposes. Such are the Lago di Solfatara near Tivoli (the Aquae Albulae of the Romans), and the Solfatara on the road to Ardea, supposed to be the site of the ancient Oracle of Faunus. Numerous allusions to these sulphureous and mephitic exhalations are found in the ancient writers, and there is reason to suppose that they were in ancient times more numerous than at present. But the evidences of volcanic action are not confined to these local phenomena; the whole plain of the Campagna itself, as well as the portion of Southern Etruria which adjoins it, is a deposit of volcanic origin, consisting of the peculiar substance called by Italian geologists tufo,--an aggregate of volcanic materials, sand, small stones, and scoriae or cinders, together with pumice, varying in consistency from an almost incoherent sand to a stone sufficiently hard to be well adapted for building purposes. The hardest varieties are those now called peperino, to which belong the Lapis Gabinus and Lapis Albanus of the ancients. But even the common tufo was in many cases quarried for building purposes, as at the Lapidicinae Rubrae, a few miles from the city near the bank of the Tiber, and many other spots in the immediate neighbourhood of Rome. (Vitr. 2.7.) Beds of true lava are rare, but by no means wanting: the most considerable are two streams which have flowed from the foot of the Alban Mount; the one in the direction of Ardea, the other on the line of the Appian Way (which runs along the ridge of it for many miles) extending as far as a spot called Capo di Bove, little more than two miles from the gates of Rome. It was extensively quarried by the Romans, who derived from thence their principal supplies of the hard basaltic lava (called by them silex) with which they paved their high roads. Smaller beds of the same material occur near the Lago di Castiglione, and at other spots in the Campagna. (Concerning the geological phenomena of Latium see Daubeny On Volcanoes, pp. 162--173; and an Essay by Hoffmann in the Beschreibung der Stadt Rom. vol. i. pp. 45--81.)

The strip of country immediately adjoining the sea-coast of Latium differs materially from the rest of the district. Between the borders of the volcanic deposit just described and the sea there intervenes a broad strip of sandy plain, evidently formed merely by successive accumulations of sand from the sea, and constituting a barren tract, still covered, as it was in ancient times, almost wholly with wood. This broad belt of forest region extends without interruption from the mouth of the Tiber near Ostia to the promontory of Antium. The parts of it nearest the sea are rendered marshy by the stagnation of the streams that flow through it, the outlets of which to the sea are blocked up by the accumulations of sand. The headland of Antium is formed by a mass of limestone rock, forming a remarkable break in the otherwise uniform line of the coast, though itself of small elevation. A bay of about 8 miles across separates this headland from the low point or promontory of Astura: beyond which commences the far more extensive bay that stretches from the latter point to the mountain headland of Circeii. The whole of this line of coast from Astura to Circeii is bordered by a narrow strip of sand-hills, within which the waters accumulate into stagnant pools or lagoons. Beyond this again is a broad sandy tract, covered with dense forest and brushwood, but almost perfectly level, and in many places marshy; while from thence to the foot of the Volscian mountains extends a tract of a still more marshy character, forming the celebrated district known as the Pontine Marshes, and noted in ancient as well as modern times for its insalubrity. The whole of this region, which, from its N. extremity at Cisterna to the sea near Terracina, is about 30 Roman miles in length, with an average breadth of 12 miles, is perfectly flat, and, from the stagnation of the waters which descend to it from the mountains on the E., has been in all ages so marshy as to be almost uninhabitable. Pliny, indeed, records a tradition that there once existed no less than 24 cities on the site of what was in his days an unpeopled marsh, but a careful inspection of the locality is sufficient to prove that this must be a mere fable. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9.) The dry land adjoining the marshes was doubtless occupied in ancient times by the cities or towns of Satricum, Ulubrae, and Suessa Pometia; while on the mountain ridges overlooking them rose those of Cora, Norba, Setia and Privernum; but not even the name of any town has been preserved to us as situated in the marshy region itself. Equally unfounded is the statement hastily adopted by Pliny, though obviously inconsistent with the last, that the whole of this alluvial tract had been formed within the historical period, a notion that appears to have arisen in consequence of the identification of the Mons Circeius with the island of Circe, described by Homer as situated in the midst of an open sea. This remarkable headland is indeed a perfectly insulated mountain, being separated from the Apennines near Terracina by a strip of level sandy coast above 8 miles in breadth, forming the southern extremity of the plain of the Pontine Marshes; but this alluvial deposit, which alone connects the two, must have been formed at a period long anterior to the historical age.

The Circeian promontory formed the southern limit of Latium in the original sense. On the opposite side of the Pontine Marshes rises the lofty group of the Volscian mountains already described: and these are separated by the valley of the Trerus or Sacco from the ridges more immediately connected with the central Apennines, which were inhabited by the Aequians and Hernicans. All these mountain districts, as well as those inhabited by the Volscians on the S. of the Liris, around Arpinum and Atina, partake of the same general character: they are occupied almost entirely by masses and groups of [p. 2.136]limestone mountains, frequently rising to a great height, and very abruptly, while in other cases their sides are clothed with magnificent forests of oak and chestnut trees, and their lower slopes are well adapted for the growth of vines, olives, and corn. The broad valley of the Trerus, which extends from the foot of the hill of Praeneste to the valley of the Liris, is bordered on both sides by hills, covered with the richest vegetation, at the back of which rise the lofty ranges of the Volscian and Hernican mountains. This valley, which is followed throughout by the course of the Via Latina, forms a natural line of communication from the interior of Latium to the valley of the Liris, and so to Campania; the importance of which in a military point of view is apparent on many occasions in Roman history. The broad valley of the Liris itself opens an easy and unbroken communication from the heart of the Apennines near the Lake Fucinus with the plains of Campania. On the other side, the Anio, which has its sources in the rugged mountains near Trevi, not far from those of the Liris, flows in a SW. direction, and after changing its course abruptly two or three times, emerges through the gorge at Tivoli into the plain of the Roman Campagna.

The greater part of Latium is not (as compared with some other parts of Italy) a country of great natural fertility. On the other hand, the barren and desolate aspect which the Campagna now presents is apt to convey a very erroneous impression as to its character and resources. The greater part of the volcanic plain not only affords good pasturage for sheep and cattle, but is capable of producing considerable quantities of corn, while the slopes of the hills on all sides are well adapted to the growth of vines, olives, and other fruit-trees. The wine of the Alban Hills was celebrated in the days of Horace (Hor. Carm. 4.11. 2, Sat. 2.8. 16), while the figs of Tusculum, the hazel-nuts of Praeneste, and the pears of Crustumium and Tibur were equally noted for their excellence. (Macr. 2.14, 15; Cato, R.R. 8.)

In the early ages of the Roman history the cultivation of corn must, from the number of small towns scattered over the plain of Latium, have been carried to a far greater extent than we find it at the present day; but under the Roman Empire, and even before the close of the Republic, there appears to have been a continually increasing tendency to diminish the amount of arable cultivation, and increase that of pasture. Nevertheless the attempts that have been made even in modern times to promote agriculture in the neighbourhood of Rome have sufficiently proved that its decline is more to be attributed to other causes than to the sterility of the soil itself. The tract near the sea-coast alone is sandy and barren, and fully justifies the language of Fabius, who called it “agrum macerrimum, littorosissimumque” (Serv. ad Aen. 1.3). On the other hand, the slopes of the Alban Hills are of great fertility, and are still studded, as they were in ancient times, with the villas of Roman nobles, and with gardens of the greatest richness.

The climate of Latium was very far from being a healthy one, even in the most flourishing times of Rome, though the greater amount of population and cultivation tended to diminish the effects of the malaria which at the present day is the scourge of the district. Strabo tells us that the territory of Ardea, as well as the tract between Antium and Lanuvium, and extending from thence to the Pontine Marshes, was marshy and unwholesome (v. p. 231). The Pontine plains themselves are described as “pestiferous” (Sil. Ital. 8.379), and all the attempts made to drain them seem to have produced but little effect. The unhealthiness of Ardea is noticed both by Martial and Seneca as something proverbial (Mart. 4.60; Seneca, Ep. 105): but, besides this, expressions occur which point to a much more general diffusion of malaria. Livy in one passage represents the Roman soldiers as complaining that they had to maintain a constant struggle “in arido atque pestilenti, circa urbem, solo” (Liv. 7.38); and Cicero, in a passage where there was much less room for rhetorical exaggeration, praises the choice of Romulus in fixing his city “in a healthy spot in the midst of a pestilential region.” ( “Locum delegit in regione pestilenti salubrem,” Cic. de Rep. 2.6) But we learn also, from abundant allusions in ancient writers, that it was only by comparison that Rome itself could be considered healthy; even in the city malaria fevers were of frequent occurrence in summer and autumn, and Horace speaks of the heats of summer as bringing in “fresh figs and funerals.” (Hor. Ep.1.7. 1--9.) Frontinus also extols the increased supply of water as tending to remove the causes which had previously rendered Rome notorious for its unhealthy climate ( “causae gravioris coeli, quibus apud veteres urbis infamis aer fuit,” Frontin. de Aquaed. § 88). But the great accumulation of the population at Rome itself must have operated as a powerful check ; for even at the present day malaria is unknown in the most densely populated parts of the city, though these are the lowest in point of position, while the hills, which were then thickly peopled, but are now almost uninlhabited, are all subject to its ravages. In like manner in the Campagna, wherever a considerable nucleus of population was once formed, with a certain extent of cultivation around it, this would in itself tend to keep down the mischief; and it is probable that, even in the most flourishing times of the Roman Empire, this evil was considerably greater than it had been in the earlier ages, when the numerous free cities formed so many centres of population and agricultural industry. It is in accordance with this view that we find the malaria extending its ravages with frightful rapidity after the fall of the Roman Empire and the devastation of the Campagna; and a writer of the 11th century speaks of the deadly climate of Rome in terms which at the present day would appear greatly exaggerated. (Petrus Damianus, cited by Bunsen.) The unhealthiness arising from this cause is, however, entirely confined to the plains. It is found at the present day that an elevation of 350 or 400 feet above their level gives complete immunity; and hence Tibur, Tusculum, Aricia, Lanuvium, and all the other cities that were built at a considerable height above the plain were perfectly healthy, and were resorted to during the summer (in ancient as well as modern times) by all who could afford to retreat from the city and its immediate neighbourhood. (See on this subject Tournon, Etudes Statistiques sur Rome, liv. i. chap. 9; Bunsen, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom. vol. i. pp. 98--108.)


1. Origin and Affinities of the Latins.

All ancient writers are agreed in representing the Latins, properly so called, or the inhabitants of Latium in the restricted sense of the term, as a distinct people [p. 2.137]from those which surrounded them, from the Volscians and Aequians on the one hand, as well as from the Sabines and Etruscans on the other. But the views and traditions recorded by the same writers concur also in representing them as a mixed people, produced by the blending of different races, and not as the pure descendants of one common stock. The legend most commonly adopted, and which gradually became firmly established in the popular belief, was that which represented Latium as inhabited by a people termed Aborigines, who received, shortly after the Trojan War, a colony or band of emigrant Trojans under their king Aeneas. At the time of the arrival of these strangers the Aborigines were governed by a king named Latinus, and it was not till after the death of Latinus and the union of the two races under the rule of Aeneas, that the combined people assumed the name of Latini. (Liv. 1.1, 2; Dionys. A. R. 1.45, 60; Strab. v. p.229; Appian, Rom. 1.1.) But a tradition, which has much more the character of a national one, preserved to us on the authority both of Varro and Cato, represents the population of Latium, as it existed previous to the Trojan colony, as already of a mixed character, and resulting from the union of a conquering race, who descended from the Central Apennines about Reate, with a people whom they found already established in the plains of Latium, and who bore the name of Siculi. It is strange that Varro (according to Dionysius) gave the name of Aborigines, which must originally have been applied or adopted in the sense of Autochthones, as the indigenous inhabitants of the country [ABORIGINES], to these foreign invaders from the north. Cato apparently used it in the more natural signification as applied to the previously existing population, the same which were called by Dionysius and Varro, Siculi. (Varr. ap. Dionys. 1.9, 10; Cato, ap. Priscian. 5.12.65.) But though it is impossible to receive the statement of Varro with regard to the name of the invading population, the fact of such a migration having taken place may be fairly admitted as worthy of credit, and is in accordance with all else that we know of the progress of the population of Central Italy, and the course of the several successive waves of emigration that descended along the central line of the Apennines. [ITALIA pp. 84, 85.]

The authority of Varro is here also confirmed by the result of modern philological researches. Niebuhr was the first to point out that the Latin language bore in itself the traces of a composite character, and was made up of two distinct elements; the one nearly resembling the Greek, and therefore probably derived from a Pelasgic source; the other closely connected with the Oscan and Umbrian dialects of Central Italy. To this he adds the important observation, that the terms connected with war and arms belong almost exclusively to the latter class, while those of agriculture and domestic life have for the most part a strong resemblance to the corresponding Greek terms. (Niebuhr, vol. i. pp. 82, 83; Donaldson, Varronianus, p. 3.) We may hence fairly infer that the conquering people from the north was a race akin to the Oscans, Sabines and Umbrians, whom we find in historical times settled in the same or adjoining regions of the Apennines: and that the inhabitants of the plains whom they reduced to subjection, and with whom they became gradually mingled (like the Normans with the Saxons in England) were a race of Pelasgic extraction. This last circumstance is in accordance with the inferences to be drawn from several of the historical traditions or statements transmitted to us. Thus Cato represented the Aborigines (whom he appears to have identified with the Siculi) as of Hellenic or Greek extraction (Cato, ap. Dionys. 1.11, 13), by which Roman writers often mean nothing more than Pelasgic: and the Siculi, where they reappear in the S. of Italy, are found indissolubly connected with the Oenotrians, a race whose Pelasgic origin is well established. [SICULI]

The Latin people may thus be regarded as composed of two distinct races, both of them members of the great Indo-Teutonic family, but belonging to different branches of that family, the one more closely related to the Greek or Pelasgic stock, the other to that race which, under the various forms of Umbrian, Oscan and Sabellian, constituted the basis of the greater part of the population of Central Italy. [ITALIA]

But whatever value may be attached to the historical traditions above cited, it is certain that the two elements of the Latin people had become indissolubly blended before the period when it first appears in history: the Latin nation, as well as the Latin language, is always regarded by Roman writers as one organic whole.

We may safely refuse to admit the existence of a third element, as representing the Trojan settlers, who, according to the tradition commonly adopted by the Romans themselves, formed an integral portion of the Latin nation. The legend of the arrival of Aeneas and the Trojan colony is, in all probability, a mere fiction adopted from the Greeks (Schwegler, Röm. Gesch. vol. i. pp. 310--326): though it may have found some adventitious support from the existence of usages and religious rites which, being of Pelasgic origin, recalled those found among the Pelasgic races on the shores of the Aegean Sea. And it is in accordance with this view that we find traces of similar legends connected with the worship of Aeneas and the Penates at different points along the coasts of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, all the way from the Troad to Latium. (Dionys. A. R. 1.46-55; Klausen, Aeneas u. die Penaten, book 3.) The worship of the Penates at Lavinium in particular would seem to have been closely connected with the Cabeiric worship so prevalent among the Pelasgians, and hence probably that city was selected as the supposed capital of the Trojans on their first settlement in Italy.

But though these traditions, as well as the sacred rites which continued to be practised down to a late period of the Roman power, point to Lavinium as the ancient metropolis of Latium, which retained its sacred character as such long after its political power had disappeared, all the earliest traditions represent Alba, and not Lavinium, as the chief city of the Latins when that people first appears in connection with Rome. It is possible that Alba was the capital of the conquering Oscan race, as Lavinium had been that of the conquered Pelasgians, and that there was thus some historical foundation for the legend of the transference of the supreme power from the one to the other: but no such supposition can claim to rank as more than a conjecture. On the other hand, we may fairly admit as historical the fact, that, at the period of the foundation or first origin of Rome, the Latin people constituted a national league, composed of numerous independent cities, at the head of which stood Alba, which exercised a certain supremacy over the rest. This vague superiority, arising prebably from its greater actual power, appears to have given rise [p. 2.138]to the notion that Alba was in another sense the metropolis of Latium, and that all, or at any rate the greater part, of the cities of Latium were merely colonies of Alba. So far was this idea carried, that we find expressly enumerated in the list of such colonies places like Ardea, Tusculum, and Praeneste, which, according to other traditions generally received, were more ancient than Alba itself. (Liv. 1.52; Dionys. A. R. 3.34; Diod. vii. ap. Euseb. Arm. p. 185; Vict. Orig. Gent. Rom. 17.) [ALBA LONGA]

Pliny has, however, preserved to us a statement of a very different stamp, according to which there were thirty towns or communities, which he terms the “populi Albenses,” that were accustomed to share in the sacrifices on the Alban Mount. Many of these names are now obscure or unknown, several others appear to have been always inconsiderable places, while a few only subsequently figure among the well-known cities of Latium. It is therefore highly probable that we have here an authentic record, preserved from ancient times, of a league which actually subsisted at a very early period, before Alba became the head of the more important and better known confederacy of the Latins in general. Of the towns thus enumerated, those whose situation can be determined with any certainty were all (with the remarkable exception of Fidenae) situated in the immediate neighbourhood of the Alban Hills; and thus appear to have been grouped around Alba as their natural centre. Among them we find Bola, Pedum, Toleria, and Vitellia on the N. of the Alban Hills, and Corioli, Longula, and Pollusca on the S. of the same group. On the other hand, the more powerful cities of Aricia, Lanuvium, and Tusculum, though so much nearer to Alba, are not included in this list. But there is a remarkable statement of Cato (ap. Priscian. iv. p. 629), in which he speaks of the celebrated temple of Diana at Aricia, as founded in common by the people of Tusculum, Aricia, Lanuvium, Laurentum, Cora, Tibur, Pometia, Ardea, and the Rutuli, that seems to point to the existence of a separate, and, as it were, counter league, subsisting at the same time with that of which Alba was the head. All these minor unions would seem, however, to have ultimately been merged in the general confederacy of the Latins, of which, according to the tradition universally adopted by Roman writers, Alba was the acknowledged head.

Another people whose name appears in all the earliest historical traditions of Latium, but who had become completely merged in the general body of the Latin nation, before we arrive at the historical period, was that of the Rutuli. Their capital was Ardea, a city to which a Greek or Argive origin was ascribed [ARDEA]; if any value can be attached to such traditions, they may be regarded as pointing to a Pelasgic origin of the Rutuli; and Niebuhr explains the traditionary greatness of Ardea by supposing it to have been the chief city of maritime Latium, while it was still in the hands of the Pelasgians. (Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 44, vol. ii. p. 21.)

One of the most difficult questions connected with the early history of Latium is the meaning and origin of the term “Prisci Latini,” which we find applied by many Roman writers to the cities of the Latin League, and which occurs in a formula given by Livy that has every appearance of being very ancient. (Liv. 1.32.) It may safely be assumed that the term means “Old Latins,” and Niebuhr's idea that Prisci was itself a national appellation has been generally rejected as untenable. But it is difficult to believe that a people could ever have called themselves “the old Latins:” and yet it seems certain that the name was so used, both from its occurrence in the formula just referred to (which was in all probability borrowed from the old law books of the Fetiales), and from the circumstance that we find the name almost solely in connection with the wars of Ancus Marcius and Tarquinius Priscus (Liv. 1.32, 33, 38); and it never occurs at a later period. Hence it seems impossible to suppose that it was used as a term of distinction for the Latins properly so called, or inhabitants of Latium Antiquum, as contradistinguished from the Aequians, Volscians, and other nations subsequently included in Latium: a supposition adopted by several modern writers. On the other hand the name does not occur in the Roman history, prior to the destruction of Alba, and perhaps the most plausible conjecture is that the name was one assumed by a league or confederacy of the Latin cities, established after the fall of Alba, but who thus asserted their claim to represent the original and ancient Latin people. It must be admitted that this explanation seems wholly at variance with the statement that the Prisci Latini were the colonies of Alba, which is found both in Livy and Dionysius (Liv. 1.3; Dionys. A. R. 1.45), but this probably meant to convey nothing more than the notion already noticed, that all the cities of Latium were founded by such colonies. Livy, at least, seems certainly to regard the “Prisci Latini” as equivalent to the whole Latin nation, and not as a part contradistinguished from the rest. (Liv. 1.38.)

2. Relations of the Latins with Rome.

As the first historical appearance of the Latins is that of a confederation of different cities, of which Alba was the head, so the fall and destruction of Alba may be regarded as the first event in their annals which can be termed historical. The circumstances transmitted to us in connection with this are undoubtedly poetical fictions; but the main fact of the destruction of the city and downfal of its power is well established. This event must have been followed by a complete derangement in the previously existing relations. Rome appears to have speedily put forth a claim to the supremacy which Alba had previously exercised (Dionys. A. R. 3.34); but it is evident that this was not acknowledged by the other cities of Latium ; and the Prisci Latini, whose name appears in history only during this period, probably formed a separate league of their own. It was not long, however, before the Romans succeeded in establishing their superiority: and the statement of the Roman annals, that the Latin league was renewed under Tarquinius Superbus, and the supremacy of that monarch acknowledged by all the other cities that composed it, derives a strong confirmation from the more authentic testimony of the treaty between Rome and Carthage, preserved to us by Polybius (3.22). In this important document, which dates from the year immediately following the expulsion of the kings (B.C. 509), Rome appears as stipulating on behalf of the people of Ardea, Antium, Laurentum, Circeii, Tarracina, and the other subject (or dependent) cities of Latium, and even making conditions in regard to the whole Latin territory, as if it was subject to its rule. But the state of things which appears to have been at this time fully established, was broken up soon after; whether in consequence of the revolution at [p. 2.139]Rome which led to the abolition of the kingly power, or from some other cause, we know not. The Latin cities became wholly independent of Rome; and though the war which was marked by the great battle at the lake Regillus has been dressed up in the legendary history with so much of fiction as to render it difficult to attach any historical value to the traditions connected with it, there is no reason to doubt the fact that the Latins had at this time shaken off the supremacy of Rome, and that a war between the two powers was the result. Not long after this, in B.C. 493, a treaty was concluded with them by Sp. Cassius, which determined their relations with Rome for a long period of time. (Liv. 2.33; Dionys. A. R. 6.96; Cic. pro Balb. 23

By the treaty thus concluded the Romans and Latins entered into an alliance as equal and independent states, both for offence and defence: all booty or conquered territory was to be shared between them; and there is much reason to believe that the supreme command of the allied armies was to be held in alternate years by the Roman and Latin generals. (Dionys. l.c.; Nieb. vol. ii. p. 40.) The Latin cities, which at this time composed the league or confederacy, were thirty in number: a list of them is given by Dionysius in another passage (5.61), but which, in all probability, was derived from the treaty in question (Niebuhr, vol. ii. p. 23). They were:--Ardea, Aricia, Bovillae, Bubentum, Corniculum, Carventum, Circeii, Corioli, Corbio, Cora, Fortinei (?), Gabii, Laurentum, Lavinium, Lanuvium, Labicum, Nomentum, Norba, Praeneste, Pedum, Querquetulum, Satricum, Scaptia, Setia, Tellenae, Tibur, Tusculum, Toleria, Tricrinum (?), Velitrae. The number thirty appears to have been a recognised and established one, not dependent upon accidental changes and fluctuations: the cities which composed the old league under the supremacy of Alba are also represented as thirty in number (Dionys. A. R. 3.34), and the “populi Albenses,” which formed the smaller and closer union under the same head, were, according to Pliny's list, just thirty. It is therefore quite in accordance with the usages of ancient nations that the league when formed anew should consist as before of thirty cities, though these could not have been the same as previously composed it.

The object of this alliance between Rome and Latium was no doubt to oppose a barrier to the rapidly advancing power of the Aequians and Volscians. With the same view the Hernicans were soon after admitted to participate in it (B.C. 486); and from this time for more than a century the Latins continued to be the faithful allies of Rome, and shared alike in her victories and reverses during her long and arduous struggle with their warlike neighbours. (Liv. 6.2.) A shock was given to these friendly relations by the Gaulish War and the capture of Rome in B.C. 390: the calamity which then befel the city appears to have incited some of her nearest neighbours and most faithful allies to take up arms against her. (Varr. L. L. 6.18; Liv. 6.2.) The Latins and Hernicans are represented as not only refusing their contingent to the Roman armies, but supporting and assisting the Volscians against them; and though they still avoided as long as possible an open breach with Rome, it seems evident that the former close alliance between them was virtually at an end. (Liv. 6.6, 7, 10, 11, 17.) But it would appear that the bond of union of the Latin League itself was, by this time, very much weakened. The more powerful cities are found acting with a degree of independence to which there is no parallel in earlier times: thus, in B.C. 383, the Lanuvians formed an alliance with the Volscians, and Praeneste declared itself hostile to Rome, while Tusculum, Gabii, and Labicum continued on friendly terms with the republic. (Id. 6.21.) In B.C. 380 the Romans were at open war with the Praenestines, and in B.C. 360 with the Tiburtines, but in neither instance do the other cities of Latium appear to have joined in the war. (Id. 6.27--29, 7.10--12, 18, 19.) The repeated invasions of the Gauls, whose armies traversed the Latin territory year after year, tended to increase the confusion and disorder: nevertheless the Latin League, though much disorganised, was never broken up; and the cities composing it still continued to hold their meetings at the Lucus Ferentinae, to deliberate on their common interests and policy. (Id. 7.25.) In B.C. 358 the league with Rome appears to have been renewed upon the same terms as before; and in that year the Latins, for the first time after a long interval, sent their contingent to the Roman armies. (Liv. 7.12.)

At length, in B.C. 340, the Latins, who had adhered faithfully to their alliance during the First Samnite War, appear to have been roused to a sense of the increasing power of Rome, and became conscious that, under the shadow of an equal alliance, they were gradually passing into a state of dependence and servitude. (Id. 8.4.) Hence, after a vain appeal to Rome for the establishment of a more equitable arrangement, the Latins, as well as the Volscians, took part with the Campanians in the war of that year, and shared in their memorable defeat at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. Even on this occasion, however, the councils of the Latins were divided: the Laurentes at least, and probably the Lavinians also, remained faithful to the Roman cause, while Signia, Setia, Circeii, and Velitrae, though regarded as Roman colonies, were among the most prominent in the war, (Id. 8.3--11.) The contest was renewed the next year with various success; but in B.C. 338 Furius Camillus defeated the forces of the Latins in a great battle at Pedum, while the other consul, C. Maenius, obtained a not less decisive victory on the river Astura. The struggle was now at an end ; the Latin cities submitted one after the other, and the Roman senate pronounced separately on the fate of each. The first great object of the arrangements now made was to deprive the Latins of all bonds of national or social unity: for this purpose not only were they prohibited from holding general councils or assemblies, but the several cities were deprived of the mutual rights of “connubium” and “commercium,” so as to isolate each little community from its neighbours. Tibur and Praeneste, the two most powerful cities of the confederacy, and which had taken a prominent part in the war, were deprived of a large portion of their territory, but continued to exist as nominally independent communities, retaining their own laws, and the old treaties with them were renewed, so that as late as the time of Polybius a Roman citizen might choose Tibur or Praeneste as a place of exile. (Liv. 43.2; Pol. 6.14.) Tusculum, on the contrary, received the Roman franchise; as did Lanuvium, Aricia, Pedum, and Nomentum, though these last appear to have, in the first instance, received only the imperfect citizenship without the right of suffrage. Velitrae was [p. 2.140]more severely punished; but the people of this city also were soon after admitted to the Roman franchise, and the creation shortly after of the Maecian and Scaptian tribes was designed to include the new citizens added to the republic as the result of these arrangements. (Liv. 8.14, 17; Niebuhr, vol. iii. pp. 140--145.)

From this time the Latins as a nation may be said to disappear from history: they became gradually more and more blended into one mass with the Roman people; and though the formula of “the allies and Latin nation” (socii et nomen Latinum) is one of perpetual occurrence from this time forth in the Roman history, it must be remembered that this phrase includes also the citizens of the so-called Latin colonies, who formed a body far superior in importance and numbers to the remains of the old Latin people. [ITALIA p. 90.]

In the above historical review, the history of the old Latins, or the Latins properly so called, has been studiously kept separate from that of the other nations which were subsequently included under the general appellation of Latium,--the Aequians, Hernicans, Volscians, and Ausonians. The history of these several tribes, as long as they sustained a separate national existence, will be found under their respective names. It may suffice here to mention that the Hernicans were reduced to complete subjection to Rome in B.C. 306, and the Aequians in B.C. 304; the period of the final subjugation of the Volscians is more uncertain, but we meet with no mention of them in arms after the capture of Privernum in B.C. 329; and it seems certain that they, as well as the Ausonian cities which adjoined them, had fallen into the power of Rome before the commencement of the Second Samnite War, B.C. 326. [VOLSCI] Hence, the whole of the country subsequently known as Latium had become finally subject to Rome before the year 300 B.C.

3. Latium under the Romans.

The history of Latium, properly speaking, ends with the breaking up of the Latin League. Although some of the cities continued, as already mentioned, to retain a nominal independence down to a late period, and it was not till after the outbreak of the Social War, in B.C. 90, that the Lex Julia at length conferred upon all the Latins, without exception, the rights of Roman citizens, they had long before lost all traces of national distinction. The only events in the intervening period which belong to the history of Latium are inseparably bound up with that of Rome. Such was the invasion by Pyrrhus in B.C. 280, who advanced however only as far as Praeneste, from whence he looked down upon the plain around Rome, but without venturing to descend into it. (Eutrop. 2.12; Flor. 1.18.24.) In the Second Punic War, however, Hannibal, advancing like Pyrrhus by the line of the Via Latina, established his camp within four miles of the city, and carried his ravages up to the very gates of Rome. (Liv. 26.9-11; Pol. 9.6.) This was the last time for many centuries that Latium witnessed the presence of a foreign hostile army; but it suffered severely in the civil wars of Marius and Sulla, and the whole tract near the sea-coast especially was ravaged by the Samnite auxiliaries of the former in a manner that it seems never to have recovered. (Strab. v. p.232.)

Before the close of the Republic Latium appears to have lapsed almost completely into the condition of the mere suburban district of Rome. Tibur, Tusculum, and Praeneste became the favourite resorts of the Roman nobles, and the fertile slopes of the Alban Hills and the Apennines were studded with villas and gardens, to which the wealthier citizens of the metropolis used to retire in order to avoid the heat or bustle of Rome. But the plain immediately around the city, or the Campagna, as it is now called, seems to have lost rather than gained by its proximity to the capital. Livy, in more than one passage, speaks with astonishment of the inexhaustible resources which the infant republic appears to have possessed, as compared with the condition of the same territory in his own time. (Liv. 6.12, 7.25.) We learn from Cicero that Gabii, Labicum, Collatia, Fidenae, and Bovillae were in his time sunk into almost complete decay, while even those towns, such as Aricia and Lanuvium, which were in a comparatively flourishing condition, were still very inferior to the opulent municipal towns of Campania. (Cic. pro Plane. 9, de Leg. Agrar. 2.35.) Nor did this state of things become materially improved even under the Roman Empire. The whole Laurentine tract, or the woody district adjoining the sea-coast, as well as the adjacent territory of Ardea, had already come to be regarded as unhealthy, and was therefore thinly inhabited. In other parts of the Campagna single farms or villages already occupied the sites of ancient cities, such as Antemnae, Collatia, Fidenae, &c. (Strab. v. p.230); and Pliny gives a long list of cities of ancient Latium which in his time had altogether ceased to exist. (Plin. Nat. 3.6. s. 9.) The great lines of highway, the Appian, Latin, Salarian, and Valerian Ways, became the means of collecting a considerable population along their immediate lines, but appear to have had rather a contrary effect in regard to all intermediate tracts. The notices that we find of the attempts made by successive emperors to recruit the decaying population of many of the towns of Latium with fresh colonies, sufficiently show how far they were from sharing in the prosperity of the capital; while, on the other hand, these colonies seem to have for the most part succeeded only in giving a delusive air of splendour to the towns in question, without laying the foundation of any real and permanent improvement.

For many ages its immediate proximity to the capital at least secured Latium from the ravages of foreign invaders; but when, towards the decline of the Empire, this ceased to be the case, and each successive swarm of barbarians carried their arms up to the very gates and walls of Rome, the district immediately round the city probably suffered more severely than any other. Before the fall of the Western Empire the Campagna seems to have been reduced almost to a desert, and the evil must have been continually augmented after that period by the long continued wars with the Gothic kings, as well as subsequently with the Lombards, who, though they never made themselves masters of Rome itself, repeatedly laid waste the surrounding territory. All the records of the middle ages represent to us the Roman Campagna as reduced to a state of complete desolation, from which it has never more than partially recovered.

In the division of Italy under Augustus, Latium, in the wider sense of the term, together with Campania, constituted the First Region. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9.) But gradually, for what reason we know not, the name of Campania came to be generally employed to designate the whole region; while that of Latium fell completely into disuse. Hence the origin of the name of La Campagna di Roma, by [p. 2.141]which the ancient Latium is known in modern times. [CAMPANIA p. 494.]


It is for the most part impossible to separate the Latin element of the Roman character and institutions from that which they derived from the Sabines: at the same time we know that the connection between the Romans and the Latins was so intimate, that we may generally regard the Roman sacred rites, as well as their political institutions, in the absence of all evidence to the contrary, as of Latin origin. But it would be obviously here out of place to enter into any detail as to those parts of the Latin institutions which were common to the two nations. A few words may, however, be added, concerning the constitution of the Latin League, as it existed in its independent form. This was composed, as has been already stated, of thirty cities, all apparently, in name at least, equal and independent, though they certainly at one time admitted a kind of presiding authority or supremacy on the part of Alba, and at a later period on that of Rome.

The general councils or assemblies of deputies from the several cities were held at the Lucus Ferentinae, in the immediate neighbourhood of Alba; a custom which was evidently connected in the first instance with the supremacy of that city, but which was retained after the presidency had devolved on Rome, and down to the great Latin War of B.C. 340. (Cincius, ap. Fest. v. Praetor, p. 241.) Each city had undoubtedly the sole direction of its own affairs: the chief magistrate was termed a Dictator, a title borrowed from the Latins by the Romans, and which continued to be employed as the name of a municipal magistracy by the Latin cities long after they had lost their independence. It is remarkable that, with the exception of the mythical or fictitious kings of Alba, we meet with no trace of monarchical government in Latium; and if the account given by Cato of the consecration of the temple of Diana at Aricia can be trusted, even at that early period each city had its chief magistrate, with the title of dictator. (Cato, ap. Priscian. iv. p. 629.) They must necessarily have had a chief magistrate, on whom the command of the forces of the whole League would devolve in time of war, as is represented as being the case with Mamilius Octavius at the battle of Regillus. But such a commander may probably have been specially chosen for each particular occasion. On the other hand, Livy speaks in B.C. 340 of C. Annius of Setia and L. Numisius of Circeii, as the two “praetors of the Latins,” as if this were a customary and regular magistracy. (Liv. 8.3.) Of the internal government or constitution of the individual Latin cities we have no knowledge at all, except what we may gather from the analogy of those of Rome or of their later municipal institutions.

As the Lucus Ferentinae, in the neighbourhood of Alba, was the established place of meeting for political purposes of all the Latin cities, so the temple of Jupiter, on the summit of the Alban Mount (Monte Cavo), was the central sanctuary of the whole Latin people, where sacrifices were offered on their behalf at the Feriae Latinae, in which every city was bound to participate, a custom retained down to a very late period by the Romans themselves. (Liv. 32.1; Cic. pro Planc. 9; Plin. Nat. 3.6. s. 9.) In like manner there can be no doubt that the custom sometimes adopted by Roman generals of celebrating a triumph on the Alban Mount was derived from the times of Latin independence, when the temple of Jupiter Latiaris was the natural end of such a procession, just as that of Jupiter Capitolinus was at Rome.

Among the deities especially worshipped by the Romans, it may suffice to mention, as apparently of peculiarly Latin origin, Janus, Saturnus, Faunus, and Picus. The latter seems to have been so closely connected with Mars, that he was probably only another form of the same deity. Janus was originally a god of the sun, answering to Jana or Diana, the goddess of the moon. Saturnus was a terrestrial deity, regarded as the inventor of agriculture and of all the most essential improvements of life. Hence he came to be regarded by the pragmatical mythologers of later times as a very ancient king of Latium; and by degrees Janus, Saturnus, Picus, and Faunus became established as successive kings of the earliest Latins or Aborigines. To complete the series Latinus was made the son of Faunus. This last appears as a gloomy and mysterious being, probably originally connected with the infernal deities; but who figures in the mythology received in later times partly as a patron of agriculture, partly as a giver of oracles. (Hartung, Religion der Römer. vol. ii.; Schwegler, R. G. vol. i. pp. 212--234.)

The worship of the Penates also, though not peculiar to Latium, seems to have formed an integral and important part of the Latin religion. The Penates at Lavinium were regarded as the tutelary gods of the whole Latin people, and as such continued to be the object of the most scrupulous reverence to the Romans themselves down quite to the extinction of Paganism. Every Roman consul or praetor, upon first entering on his magistracy, was bound to repair to Lavinium, and there offer sacrifices to the Penates, as well, as to Vesta, whose worship was closely connected with them. (Macr. 3.4; Varr. L.L. 5.144.) This custom points to Lavinium as having been at one time, probably before the rise of Alba, the sacred metropolis of Latium: and it may very probably have been, at the same early period, the political capital or head of the Latin confederacy.


The principal physical features of Latium have already been described; but it remains here to notice the minor rivers and streams, as well as the names of some particular hills or mountain heights which have been transmitted to us.

Of the several small rivers which have their rise at the foot of the Alban hills, and flow from thence to the sea between the mouth of the Tiber and Antium, the only one of which the ancient name is preserved is the NUMICIUS which may be identified with the stream now called Rio Torto, between Lavinium and Ardea. The ASTURA rising also at the foot of the Alban hills near Velletri, and flowing from thence in a SW. direction, enters the sea a little to the S. of the promontory of Astura: it is now known in the lower part of its course as the Flume di Conca, but the several small streams by the confluence of which it is formed have each their separate appellation. The NYMPHIAEUS, mentioned by Pliny (3.5. s. 9), and still called La Ninfa, rises immediately at the foot of the Volscian mountains, just below the city of Norba: in Pliny's time it appears to have had an independent course to the sea, but now loses itself in the Pontine Marshes, [p. 2.142]where its waters add to the stagnation. But the principal agents in the formation of those extensive marshes are the UFENS and the AMASENUS, both of them flowing from the Volscian mountains and uniting their waters before they reach the sea. They still retain their ancient names. Of the lesser streams of Latium, which flow into the Tiber, we need only mention the celebrated ALLIA, which falls into that river about 11 miles above Rome; the ALMO, a still smaller stream, which joins it just below the city, having previously received the waters of the AQUA FERENTINA (now called the Marrana degli Orti), which have their source at the foot of the Alban Hills, near Marino; and the RIVUS ALBANUS (still called the Rivo Albano), which carries off the superfluous waters of the Alban lake to the Tiber, about four miles below Rome.

The mountains of Latium, as already mentioned, may be classed into three principal groups:--(1) the Apennines, properly so called, including the ranges at the back of Tibur and Praeneste, as well as the mountains of the Aequians and Hernicans; (2) the group of the Alban Hills, of which the central and loftiest summit (the Monte Cavo) was the proper Mons Albanus of the ancients, while the part which faced Praeneste and the Volscian Mountains was known as the MONS ALGIDUS; (3) the lofty group or mass of the Volscian Mountains, frequently called by modern geographers the Monti Lepini, though we have no ancient authority for this use of the word. The name of MONS LEPINUS occurs only in Columella (10.131), as that of a mountain in the neighbourhood of Signia. The MONTES CORNICULANI (τὰ Κόρνικλα ὄρεα, Dionys. A. R. 1.16) must evidently have been the detached group of outlying peaks, wholly separate from the main range of the Apennines, now known as the Monticelli, situated between the Tiber and the Monte Gennaro. The MONS SACER so celebrated in Roman history, was a mere hill of trifling elevation above the adjoining plain, situated on the right bank of the Anio, close to the Via Nomentana.

It only remains to enumerate the towns or cities which existed within the limits of Latium; but as many of these had disappeared at a very early period, and all trace of their geographical position is lost, it will be necessary in the first instance to confine this list to places of which the site is known, approximately at least, reserving the more obscure names for subsequent consideration.

Beginning from the mouth of the Tiber, the first place is OSTIA situated on the left bank of the river, and, as its name imports, originally close to its mouth, though it is now three miles distant from it. A short distance from the coast, and about 8 miles from Ostia, was LAURENTUM the reputed capital of the Aborigines, situated probably at Torre di Paternò, or at least in that immediate neighbourhood. A few miles further S., but considerably more inland, being near 4 miles from the sea, was LAVINIUM the site of which may be clearly recognised at Pratica. S. of this again, and about the same distance from the sea, was ARDEA which retains its ancient name: and 15 miles further, on a projecting point of the coast, was ANTIUM still called Porto d'Anzo. Between 9 and 10 miles further on along the coast, was the town or village of ASTURA with the islet of the same,,name; and from thence a long tract of barren sandy coast, without a village and almost without inhabitants, extended to the Circeian promontory and the town of CIRCEII which was generally reckoned the last place in Latium Proper. Returning to Rome as a centre, we find N. of the city, and between it and the Sabine frontier, the cities of ANTEMNAE, FIDENAE, CRUSTUMERIUM, and NOMENTUM. On or around the group of the Montes Corniculani, were situated CORNICULUM, MEDULLIA, and AMERIOLA: CAMERIA, also, may probably be placed in the same neighbourhood; and a little nearer Rome, on the road leading to Nomentum, was FICULEA At the foot, or rather on the lower slopes and underfalls of the main range of the Apennines, were TIBUR, AESULA, and PRAENESTE the latter occupying a lofty spur or projecting point of the Apennines, standing out towards the Alban Hills. This latter group was surrounded as it were with a crown or circle of ancient towns, beginning with CORBIO (Rocca Priore), nearly opposite to Praeneste, and continued on by TUSOULUM, ALBA, and ARICIA to LANUVIUM and VELITRAE the last two situated on projecting offshoots from the central group, standing out towards the Pontine Plains. On the skirts of the Volscian mountains or Monti Lepini, were situated SIGNIA, CORA, NORBA, and SETIA the last three all standing on commanding heights, looking down upon the plain of the Pontine Marshes. In that plain, and immediately adjoining the marshes themselves, was ULUBRAE and in all probability SUESSA POMETIA also, the city which gave name both to the marshes and plain, but the precise site of which is unknown. The other places within the marshy tract, such as FORUM APPII, TRES TABERNAE, and TRIPONTIUM owed their existence to the construction of the Via Appia, and did not represent or replace ancient Latin towns. In the level tract bordering on the Pontine Plains on the N., and extending from the foot of the Alban Hills towards Antium and Ardea, were situated SATRICUM, LONGULA, POLLUSCA and CORIOLI; all of them places of which the exact site is still a matter of doubt, but which must certainly be sought in this neighbourhood. Between the Laurentine region (Laurens tractus), as the forest district near the sea was often called, and the Via Appia, was an open level tract, to which (or to a part of which) the name of CAMPUS SOLONIUS was given; and within the limits of this district were situated TELLENAE and POLITORIUM as well as probably APIOLAE. BOVILLAE, at the foot of the Alban hills, and just on the S. of the Appian Way, was at one extremity of the same tract, while FICANA stood at the other, immediately adjoining the Tiber. In the portion of the plain of the Campagna extending from the line of the Via Appia to the foot of the Apennines, between the Anio and the Alban Hills, the only city of which the site is known was GABII 12 miles distant from Rome, and the same distance from Praeneste. Nearer the Apennines were SCAPTIA and PEDUM as well as probably QUERQUETULA; while LABICUM occupied the hill of La Colonna, nearly at the foot of the Alban group. In the tract which extends southwards between the Apennines at Praeneste and the Alban Hills, so as to connect the plain of the Campagna with the land of the Hernicans in the valley of the Trerus or Sacco, were situated VITELLIA, TOLERIUM, and probably also BOLA and ORTONA; though the exact site of all four is a matter of doubt. ECETRA which appears in history as a Volscian city, and is never mentioned as a Latin one, must nevertheless have been situated within the limits of the Latin territory, apparently [p. 2.143]at the foot of the Mons Lepinus, or northern extremity of the Volscian mountains. [ECETRA]

Besides these cities, which in the early ages of Latium formed members of the Latin League, or are otherwise conspicuous in Roman history, we find mention in Pliny of some smaller towns still existing in his time; of which the “Fabienses in Monte Albano” may certainly be placed at Rocca di Papa, the highest village on the Alban Mount, and the Castrimonienses at Marino, near the site of Alba Longa. The list of the thirty cities of the League given by Dionysius (5.61) has been already cited (p. 139). Of the names included in it, BUBENTUM is wholly unknown, and must have disappeared at an early period. CARVENTUM is known only from the mention of the Arx Carventana in Livy during the wars with the Aequians (4.53, 55), and was probably situated somewhere on the frontier of that people; while two of the names, the Fortineii (Φορτινεῖοι) and Tricrini (Τρικρῖνοι), are utterly unknown, and in all probability corrupt. The former may probably be the same with the Foretti of Pliny, or perhaps with the Forentani of the same author, but both these are equally unknown to us.

Besides these Pliny has given a long list of towns or cities (clara oppida, 3.5. s. 9.68) which once existed in Latium, but had wholly disappeared in his time. Among these we find many that are well known in history and have been already noticed, viz. Satricum, Pometia, Scaptia, Politorium, Tellenae, Caenina, Ficana, Crustumerium, Ameriola, Medullia, Corniculum, Antemnae, Cameria, Collatia. With these he joins two cities which are certainly of mythical character: Saturnia, which was alleged to have previously existed on the site of Rome, and Antipolis, on the hill of the Janiculum; and adds three other names, Sulmo, a place not mentioned by any other writer, but the name of which may probably be recognised in the modern Sermoneta; Norbe, which seems to be an erroneous repetition of the well-known Norba, already mentioned by him among the existing cities of Latium (Ib. § 64); and Amitinum or Amiternum, of which no trace is found elsewhere, except the well-known city of the name in the Vestini, which cannot possibly be meant. But, after mentioning these cities as extinct, Pliny adds another list of “populi” or communities, which had been accustomed to share with them in the sacrifices on the Alban Mount, and which were all equally decayed. According to the punctuation proposed by Niebuhr and adopted by the latest editors of Pliny, he classes these collectively as “populi Albenses,” and enumerates them as follows: Albani, Aesulani, Accienses, Abolani, Bubetani, Bolani, Cusuetani, Coriolani, Fidenates, Foretii, Hortenses, Latinienses, Longulani, Manates, Macrales, Mutucumenses, Munienses, Numinienses, Olliculani, Octulani, Pedani, Polluscini, Querquetulani, Sicani, Sisolenses, Tolerienses, Tutienses, Vimitellarii, Velienses, Venetulani, Vitellenses. Of the names here given, eleven relate to well-known towns (Alba, Aesula, Bola, Corioli, Fidenae, Longula, Pedum, Pollusca, Querquetula, Tolerium and Vitellia): the Bubetani are evidently the same with the Bubentani of Dionysius already noticed; the Foretii may perhaps be the same with the Fortineii of that author; the Hortenses may probably be the inhabitants of the town called by Livy Ortona; the Munienses are very possibly the people of the town afterwards called Castrimoenium: but there still remain sixteen wholly unknown. At the same time there are several indications (such as the agreement with Dionysius in regard to the otherwise unknown Bubentani, and the notice of Aesula and Querquetula, towns which do not figure in history) that the list is derived from an authentic source; and was probably copied as a whole by Pliny from some more ancient authority. The conjecture of Niebuhr, therefore, that we have here a list of the subject or dependent cities of Alba, derived from a period when they formed a separate and closer league with Alba itself, is at least highly plausible. The notice in the list of the Velienses is a strong confirmation of this view, if we can suppose them to be the inhabitants of the hill at Rome called the Velia, which is known to us as bearing an important part in the ancient sacrifices of the Septimontium. [ROMA]

The works on the topography of Latium, as might be expected from the peculiar interest of the subject, are sufficiently numerous: but the older ones are of little value. Cluverius, as usual, laid a safe and solid foundation, which, with the criticisms and corrections of Holstenius, must be considered as the basis of all subsequent researches. The special works of Kircher (Vetus Latium, fol. Amst. 1671) and Volpi (Vetus Latium Profanum et Sacrums, Romae, 1704--1748, 10 vols.4to.) contain very little of real value. After the ancient authorities had been carefully brought together and revised by Cluverius, the great requisite was a careful and systematic examination of the localities and existing remains, and the geographical survey of the country. These objects were to a great extent carried out by Sir W. Gell (whose excellent map of the country around Rome is an invaluable guide to the historical inquirer) and by Professor Nibby. (Sir W. Gell, Topography of Rome and its Vicinity; with a large map to accompany it, 2 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1834; 2d edit. 1 vol. Lond. 1846. Nibby, Analisi Storico-Topografico-Antiquaria della Carta dei Dintorni di Roma, 3 vols. 8vo. Rome, 1837; 2d edit. lb. 1849. The former work by the same author, Viaggio Antiquario nei Contorni di Roma, 2 vols. 8vo. Rome, 1819, is a very inferior performance.) It is unfortunate that both their works are deficient in accurate scholarship, and still more in the spirit of historical criticism, so absolutely necessary in all inquiries into the early history of Rome. Westphal, in his work (Die Römische Kampagne in Topographischer u. Antiquarischer Hinsicht dargestellt, 4to. Berlin, 1829) published before the survey of Sir W. Gell, and consequently with imperfect geographical resources, attached himself especially to tracing out the ancient roads, and his work is in this respect of the greatest importance. The recent work of Bormann (Alt-Latinische Clorographie und Städte-Geschichte, 8vo. Halle, 1852) contains a careful review of the historical statements of ancient authors, as well as of the researches of modern inquirers, but is not based upon any new topographical researches. Notwithstanding the labours of Gell and Nibby, much still remains to be done in this respect, and a work that should combine the results of such inquiries with sound scholarship and a judicious spirit of criticism would be a valuable contribution to ancient geography. [E.H.B]

hide References (37 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (37):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.4.26
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.22
    • Cicero, For Cornelius Balbus, 23
    • Cicero, For Plancius, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 38
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 38
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 8.322
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 2.7
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 43, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 32
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 52
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 25
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 32, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 7
    • Cicero, De Republica, 2.6
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 4.60
    • Ovid, Fasti, 1
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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