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LAV´INIUM (Λαουΐνιον; Λαβίνιον, Steph. B. sub voce: Eth. Λαβινιἁτης Laviniensis: Pratica), an ancient city of Latium, situated about 3 miles from the sea-coast, between Laurentum and Ardea, and distant 17 miles from Rome. It was founded, according to the tradition universally adopted by Roman writers, by Aeneas, shortly after his landing in Italy, and called by him after the name of his wife Lavinia, the daughter of the king Latinus. (Liv. 1.1; Dionys. A. R. 1.45, 59; Strab. v. p.229; Varr. L.L. 5.144; Solin. 2.14.) The same legendary history represented Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, as transferring the seat of government and rank of the capital city of the Latins from Lavinium to Alba, 30 years after the foundation of the former city. But the attempt to remove at the same time the Penates, or household gods of Lavinium, proved unsuccessful: the tutelary deities returned to their old abode; hence Lavinium continued not only to exist by the side of the new capital, but was always regarded with reverence as a kind of sacred metropolis, a character which it retained even down to a late period of the Roman history. (Liv. 1.8; Dionys. A. R. 1.66, 67; Strab. v. p.229; Vict. Orig. Gent. Rom. 17.) It is impossible here to enter into a discussion of the legend of the Trojan settlement in Latium, a question which is briefly examined under the article LATIUM; but it may be observed that there are many reasons for admitting the correctness of the tradition that Lavinium was at one time the metropolis or centre of the Latin state; a conclusion, indeed, to which we are led by the name alone, for there can be little doubt that Latinus and Lavinus are only two forms of the same name, so that Lavinium would be merely the capital or city of the Latins. (Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 201; Donaldson, Varronianus, p. 6.) The circumstance that the Penates or tutelary gods of Lavinium continued down to a late period to be regarded as those not only of Rome, but of all Latium, affords a strong corroboration of this view. (Varr. L. L. 5.144.) Whether Lavinium was from the first only the sacred metropolis of the Latin cities,--a kind of common sanctuary or centre of religious worship (as supposed by Schwegler, Römische Geschichte, vol. i. p. 319),--or, as represented in the common tradition, was the political capital also, until supplanted by Alba, is a point on which it is difficult to pronounce with certainty; but the circumstance that Lavinium appears in history as a separate political community, and one of the cities composing the Latin League,. would seem opposed to the former view. It is certain, however, that it had lost all political supremacy, and that this had passed into the hands of Alba, at a very early period; nor did Lavinium recover any political importance after the fall, of Alba: throughout the historical period it plays a very subordinate part. The first notice we find of it in the Roman history is in the legends concerning Tatius, who is represented. as being murdered at Lavinium on occasion of a solemn sacrifice, in revenge for some depredations. committed by his followers on the Lavinian territory. (Liv. 1.14; Dionys. A. R. 2.51, 52; Plut. Rom. 23; Strab. v. p.230.) It is remarkable that Livy in this passage represents the people injured as the Laurentes, though the injury was avenged at Lavinium,--a strong proof of the intimate relations which were conceived as existing between the two cities. The treaty between Rome and Lavinium was said to have been renewed at the same time (Liv. l.c.), and there is no doubt that both the Roman annals and traditions represented Lavinium, as well as Laurentum, as almost uniformly on friendly terms with Rome. It was, however, an independent city, as is proved by the statement that Collatinus and his family, when banished from Rome, retired into exile at Lavinium. (Liv. 2.2.) The only interruption of these friendly relations took place, according to Dionysius, a few years after this, when he reckons the Lavinians among the Latin cities which entered into a league against Rome before the battle of Regillus. (Dionys. A. R. 5.61.) There is, however, good reason to believe that the names there enumerated are in reality only those of the cities that formed the permanent Latin League, and who concluded the celebrated treaty with Sp. Cassius in B.C. 493. (Niebuhr, vol. ii. pp. 23, 24.)

Lavinium is next mentioned during the wars of Coriolanus, who is said to have besieged and, according to Livy, reduced the city (Liv. 2.39; Dionys. A. R. 8.21); but, from this time, we hear no more of it till the great Latin War. in B.C. 340. On that occasion,. according to our present text of Livy (8.11), the citizens of Lavinium are represented as sending auxiliaries to the forces of the League, who, however, arrived too late to be of service. But no mention occurs of Lavinium in the following campaigns, or in the general. settlement of the Latin state at the end. of the war; hence it ap. pears highly probable that in the former passage Lanuvium, and not Lavinium, is the city really meant; the confusion between these names in the MSS. being of perpetual occurrence. [LANUVIUM] It is much more probable that the Lavinians were on this occasion also comprised with the Laurentes, who, as we are expressly told, took no part in the war, and in consequence continued to maintain their former friendly relations with Rome without interruption. (L. vi. l.c.) From this time no historical mention occurs of Lavinium till. after the fall of the Roman Republic; but it appears to have fallen into decay in common with most of the places.near the coast of Latium; and Strabo speaks of it as presenting the mere vestiges of a city, but still retaining its sacred rites, which were believed to have been transmitted from the days of Aeneas. (Strab. v. p.232.) Dionysius also tells us that the memory of the three animals--the eagle, the wolf, and the fox--which were connected by a well-known legend with the foundation of Lavinium, was preserved by the figures of them still extant in his time in the forum of that town;. while, according to Varro, not only was there a similar bronze figure of the celebrated sow with her thirty young ones, but part of the flesh of the sow herself was still preserved in pickle, and shown by the priests. (Dionys. A. R. 1.57, 59 ; Varr. R. R. 2.4.) The name of Lavinium is omitted by Pliny, where we should have expected to find it, between Laurentum and Ardea, but he enumerates among the existing communities of Latium the “Ilionenses Lavini,” --an appellation evidently assumed by the, citizens in commemoration of their supposed Trojan descent. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9.)

Shortly after the time of Pliny, and probably in the reign of Trajan, Lavinium seems to have received [p. 2.146]a fresh colony, which for a short time raised it again to a degree of prosperity. On this occasion it would appear that the Laurentines and Lavinians were united into one community, which assumed the name of LAURO-LAVINIUM, and the citizens that of LAURENTES LAVINATES, names which from henceforth occur frequently in inscriptions. As a tribute to its ancient sacred character, though a fresh apportionment of lands necessarily attended the establishment of this colony, the territory still retained its old limits and regulations (lege et consecratione veteri manet, Lib. Colon. p. 234.) This union of the two communities into one has given rise to much confusion and misconception. Nor can we trace exactly the mode in which it was effected; but it would appear that Lavinium became the chief town, while the “populus” continued to be often called that of the Laurentes, though more correctly designated as that of the Laurentes Lavinates. The effect of this confusion is apparent in the commentary of Servius on the Aeneid, who evidently confounded the Laurentum of Virgil with the Lauro-Lavinium of his own day, and thence, strangely enough, identifies it with the Lavinium founded as the same city. (Serv. ad Aen. 1.2.) But, even at a much earlier period, it would seem as if the “ager Laurens,” or Laurentine territory, was regarded as comprising Lavinium; and it is certainly described as extending to the river Numicius, which was situated between Lavinium and Ardea. [NUMICIUS] Inscriptions discovered at Pratica enable us to trace the existence of this new colony, or revived Lavinium, down to the end of the 4th century; and its name is found also in the Itineraries and the Tabula. (Itin. Ant. p. 301; Tab. Pent.; Orell. Inscr. 1063, 2179, 3218, 3921.)

We learn also from a letter of Symmachus that it was still subsisting as a municipal town as late as A.D. 391, and still retained its ancient religious character. Macrobius also informs us that in his time it was still customary for the Roman consuls and praetors, when entering on their office, to repair to Lavinium to offer certain sacrifices there to Vesta and the Penates,--a custom which appears to have been transmitted without interruption from a very early period. (Macr. 2.4.11; V. Max. 1.6.7; Symmach. Ep. 1.65.) The final decay of Lavinium was probably produced by the fall of paganism, and the consequent extinction of that religious reverence which had apparently been the principal means of its preservation for a long while before.

The position of Lavinium at Pratica may be considered as clearly established, by the discovery there of the numerous inscriptions already referred to relating to Lauro-Lavinium: in other respects also the site of Pratica agrees well with the data for that of Lavinium, which is placed by Dionysius 24 stadia, or 3 miles, from the coast. (Dionys. A. R. 1.56.) The Itineraries call it 16 miles from Rome; but this statement is below the truth, the real distance being little, if at all, less than 18 miles. The most direct approach to it from Rome is by the Via Ardeatina, from whence a side branch diverges soon after passing the Solfatara,--a spot supposed to be the site of the celebrated grove and oracle of Faunus, referred to by Virgil [ARDEA], which is about 4 miles from Pratica. The site of this latter village, which still possesses a baronial castle of the middle ages, resembles those of most of the early Latin towns : it is a nearly isolated hill, with a level summit of no great extent, bounded by wooded ravines, with steep banks of tufo rock. These banks have probably been on all sides more or less scarped or cut away artificially, and some slight remains of the ancient walls may be still traced in one or two places. Besides the inscriptions already noticed, some fragments of marble columns remain from the Imperial period, while broken pottery and terra cottas of a rude workmanship found scattered in the soil.are the only relics of an earlier age. (Nibby, Dintorni, vol. ii. pp. 206--237.)


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 39
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 8
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 23
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 1.6.7
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