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LUNA (Λούνα, Strab. Λοῦνα, Ptol.: Σελήνης πόλις, Steph. B. sub voce: Eth. Lunensis: Luni), a city of Etruria, situated on the left bank of the Macra, a short distance from its mouth, and consequently on the very borders of Liguria. There is indeed considerable discrepancy among ancient authors as to whether it was an Etruscan or a Ligurian city; and it is probable that this arose not only from the circumstance of its position on the immediate frontier of the two countries, but from its having been successively occupied and held by both nations. Pliny calls it “the first city of Etruria ;” and Strabo begins to reckon the Etrurian coast from thence: Ptolemy also mentions it first in order among the cities of Etruria; while Mela, on the contrary, assigns it to the Ligurians. ( “Luna Ligurum,” Mel. 2.4.9; Strab. v. p.222; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8; Ptol. 3.1.4.) From the time indeed when the Macra became the established limit between Liguria and Etruria, there could be no doubt as to Luna being geographically included within the latter country; but it is certain that when the Romans first came into collision with the Ligurians, that people was in possession of Luna and the surrounding territory, and indeed held the whole country from the Macra to the mouth of the Arnus. (Pol. 2.16; Liv. 34.56; 39.32, &c.) Livy, however, tells us that the territory of Luna, in which the Roman colony was founded, and which had been taken by them from the Ligurians, had previously belonged to the Etruscans (Liv. 41.13), and this seems to be the true explanation of the case. Both Luna and Luca, with the whole of the fertile and level country adjoining them at the foot of the Apennines, seem to have really belonged to the Etruscans during the height of their power, but had fallen into the hands of the Ligurians, before that people came into contact with Rome. We have, however, scarcely any account of Luna as an Etruscan city, no Etruscan remains have been found there, and there is certainly no foundation for the views of some modern writers who have supposed it to be one of the chief cities of Etruria, and one of the twelve that composed the League. (Dennis's Etruria, vol. ii. p. 79.)

The first historical mention of Luna itself (as distinguished from its more celebrated port) is that of its capture by the Romans under Domitius Calvinus (Frontin. Strat. 3.2.1); but the date of this event, which is not noticed by Livy, cannot be fixed with any approach to certainty. Hence, the first fact in its history of which we have any positive information, is the establishment there of a Roman colony in B.C. 177 (Liv. 41.13), if at least we are to adopt in that passage the reading of “Lunam” for “Lucam,” which has been received by the latest editors of Livy. (Madvig, de Colon. p. 287.) Its territory is mentioned repeatedly in conjunction with that of Pisae, as having been laid waste by the neighbouring Ligurians. (Liv. 34.56, 41.19, 43.9.) It appears that the two districts adjoined one another, so that the Pisans, in B.C. 169, complained of the encroachments of the Roman colonists on their territory. (Id. 45.13.) But, notwithstanding this colony, Luna seems not to have risen into any importance: Lucan indeed represents it as in a state of complete decay at the period of the Civil War (desertae moenia Lunae, Lucan 1.586); and though it received a fresh colony under the Second Triumvirate, it was still in Strabo's time but a small and inconsiderable city. (Lib. Colon. p. 223; Strab. v. p.222.) No historical notice of it is found under the Roman Empire, but its continued existence down to the fifth century is attested by Pliny, Ptolemy, the Itineraries, and Rutilius, as well as by inscriptions found on the spot. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8; Ptol. 3.1.4 ; Itin. Ant. p. 293 ; Itin. Marit. p. 501; Rutil. Itin. 2.63--68.) We learn also that it was celebrated for its wine, which was reckoned the best in Etruria (Plin. xiv. s. 8.67), as well as for its cheeses, which were of vast size, some of them weighing as much as a thousand pounds. (Plin. Nat. 11.42. s. 97; Martial. 13.30.) But the chief celebrity of Luna in imperial times was derived from its quarries of white marble, the same now known as Carrara marble, and which was considered equal, if not superior in quality, to the finest Greek marbles. It is first mentioned as employed at Rome for building purposes in the time of Caesar, and from the age of Augustus onwards was very extensively employed, as may still be seen in the Pantheon, the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, [p. 2.216]&c. But it was speedily adopted for statuary purposes also, for which it was esteemed a finer material even than the Parian. (Plin. Nat. 36.5. s. 4, 6. s. 7; Strab. v. p.222; Sil. Ital. 8.480; Rutil. l.c.; Stat. Silv. 4.2. 29, 4. 23.) The buildings of Luna itself, and even. its walls, are said to have been constructed wholly of it, whence Rutilius calls then “candentia moenia:” and Cyriacus, an antiquarian of the 15th century, who visited the ruins of Luna, attests the same fact.

The period of the final decay of Luna is uncertain. It was taken and plundered by the Normans in 857, but was probably not destroyed ; and Dante, writing after 1300, speaks of Luni as a city that had sunk gradually into complete decay (Par. 16.73); which was doubtless accelerated by the malaria, from which the neighbourhood now suffers severely. When it was visited by Cyriacus of Ancona, the ruins were still extensive and in good preservation ; but little now remains. Vestiges of an amphitheatre, of a semi-circular building which may have been a theatre, of a circus, and piscina, as well as fragments of columns, pedestals, &c., are still however visible. All these remains are certainly of Roman date, and no vestiges of Etruscan antiquity have been found on the spot. The ruins, which are obviously those of a small town, as it is called by Strabo, are situated about 4 m. S. of Sarzana, and little more than a mile from the sea. (Dennis's Etruria, vol. ii. pp. 78--84; Targioni-Tozzetti, Viaggia in Toscana, vol. x. pp. 403--466; Promis, Memorie della Città di Luna, 4to. Turin, 1838.)

Far more celebrated in ancient times than Luna itself was its port, or rather the magnificent gulf that was known by that name (PORTUS LUNAE Liv., Plin., &c.; Σελήνης λιμήν, Strab.), now called the Gulf of Spezia. This is well described by Strabo as one of the largest and finest, harbours in the world, containing within itself many minor ports, and surrounded rounded by high mountains, with deep water close in to shore. (Strab. v. p.222; Sil. Ital. 8.482.) He adds, that it was well adapted for a people that had so long possessed the dominion of the sea,--a remark that must refer to the Etruscans or Tyrrhenians in general, as we have no allusion to any naval supremacy of Luna in particular. The great advantages of this port, which is so spacious as to be capable of containing all the navies of Europe, seem to have early attracted the attention of the Romans ; and long before the subjection of the mountain tribes of Liguria was completed, they were accustomed to make the Lunae Portus the station or rendezvous of their fleets which were destined either for Spain or Sardinia. (Liv. 34.8, 39.21, 32.) It must have been on one of these occasions (probably in company with M. Cato) that it was visited by Ennius, who was much struck with it, and celebrated it in the opening of his Annals (Ennius, ap. Pers. Sat. 6.9.) At a later period it seems to have been resorted to also for its mild and delightful climate. (Pers. l.c.) No doubt can exist that the port of Luna is identical with the modern Gulf of Spezia; but it is certainly curious that it should have derived that name from the town or city of Luna, which was situated on the left bank of the Magra, at least five miles from the gulf, and separated from it, not only by the river Magra, but by a considerable range of rocky hills, which divide the Gulf of Spezia from the valley of the Magra, so that the gulf is not even within sight of Luna itself. It is this range of hills which at their extremity form a promontory, called by Ptolemy, Lunae Promontorium (Σελήνης ἄκρον Ptol. 3.1.4.), now the Panta Bianca. It is true that Strabo places Luna on the right bank of the Macra; but this is a mere mistake, as he is certainly speaking of the Roman town of Luna: it is possible that the Etruscan city of that name may not have occupied the same site with the Roman colony, but may have been situated on the right bank of the Macra, but even then it would have been at some distance from the port. Holstenius and some other writers have endeavoured to prove that the port of Luna was situated at the mouth of the Macra ; and it is probable that the town may have had a small port or landing-place at that point; but the celebrated Port of Luna, described by Strabo and extolled by Ennius, can certainly be no other than the Gulf of Spezia.

The Gulf of Spezia is about 7 miles in depth by 3 in breadth: it contains within itself (as justly observed by Strabo) several minor ports, two of which are noticed by Ptolemy under the names of PORTUS VENERIS (Ἀφροδίτης λιμήν), still called Porto Venere, and situated near the western extremity of the gulf; and PORTUS ERICIS (Ἐρίκης κόλπος), now Lerici, on the E. shore of the gulf. The former name is found also in the Maritime Itinerary. (Ptol. 3.1.3; Itin. Marit. p. 502.)


hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.586
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 11.42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 56
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 21
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 32
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 43, 9
    • Statius, Silvae, 4.2
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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