: Eth. Νωρβανὸς
, Norbanus: Norma
), an ancient city of Latium, situated on the border of the Volscian mountains, overlooking the Pontine Marshes, and about midway between Cora and Setia.
There seems no doubt that Norba was an ancient Latin city; its name is found in the list given by Dionysius of the thirty cities of the League; and again, in another passage, he expressly calls it a city of the Latin nation. (Dionys, 5.61, 7.13; Niebuhr, vol. ii. note 21.)
It appears, indeed, certain that all the three cities, Cora, Norba, and Setia, were originally Latin, before they fell into the hands of the Volscians.
The statement that Norba received a fresh colony in B. C. 492, immediately after the conclusion of the league of Rome with the Latins, points to the necessity, already felt, of strengthening a position of much importance, which was well calculated, as it is expressed by Livy, to be the citadel of the surrounding country ("“quae arx in Pomptino esset,
”" Liv. 2.34
; Dionys, 7.13).
But it seems probable that Norba, as well as the adjoining cities of Cora and Setia, fell into the hands of the Volscians during the height of their power, and received a fresh colony on the breaking up of the latter. (Niebuhr, vol. ii. p. 108.) For it is impossible to believe that these strong fortresses had continued in the hands of the Romans and Latins throughout their wars with the Volscians so much nearer home; while, on the other hand, when their names reappear in history, it is as ordinary "coloniae Latinae
," and not as independent cities. Hence none of the three are mentioned in the great Latin War of B. C. 340, or the settlement of affairs by the treaty that followed it.
But, just before the breaking out of that war, and again in B. C. 327, we find the territories of Cora, Norba, and Setia ravaged by their neighbours the Privernates, whose incursions drew upon them the vengeance of Rome. (Liv. 7.42
,19.) No further mention occurs of Norba till the period of the Second Punic War, when it was one of the eighteen Latin colonies which, in B. C. 209, expressed their readiness to bear the continued burthens of the war, and to whose fidelity on this occasion Livy ascribes the preservation of the Roman state. (Liv. 27.10
It seems to have been chosen, from its strong and secluded position, as one of the places where the Carthaginian hostages were kept, and, in consequence, was involved in the servile conspiracy of the year B. C. 198, of which the neighbouring town of Setia was the centre. (Liv. 32.2
Norba played a more important part during the civil wars of Marius and Sulla; having been occupied by the partisans of the former, it was the last city of Italy that held out, even after the fall of Praeneste and the death of the younger Marius, B. C. 82.
It was at last betrayed into the hands of Aemilius Lepidus, the general of Sulla ; but the garrison put themselves and the other inhabitants to the sword, and set fire to the town, which was so entirely destroyed that the conquerors could carry off no booty. (Appian, App. BC 1.94
It seems certain that it was never rebuilt: Strabo omits all notice of it, where he mentions all the other towns that bordered the Pontine Marshes (v. p. 237); and though Pliny mentions the Norbani among the existing "populi
" of Latium, in another passage he reckons Norba among the cities that in his time had altogether disappeared (3.5. s. 9. §§ 64, 68).
The absence of all subsequent notice of it is confirmed by the evidence of the existing remains, which belong exclusively to a very early age, without any traces of buildings that can be referred to the period of the Roman Empire.
The existing ruins of Norba are celebrated as one of the most perfect specimens remaining in Italy of the style of construction commonly known as Cyclopean. Great part of the circuit of the walls is still entire, composed of very massive polygonal or rudely squared blocks of solid limestone, without regular towers, though the principal gate is flanked by a rude projecting mass which serves the purpose of one; and on the E. side there is a great square tower or bastion projecting considerably in advance of the general line of the walls.
The position is one of great natural strength, and the defences have been skilfully adapted to the natural outlines of the hill, so as to take the fullest advantage of the ground. On the side towards the Pontine Marshes the fall is very great, and as abrupt as that of a cliff on the sea-coast: on the other sides the escarpment is less considerable, but still enough to render the hill in great measure detached from the adjoining Volscian mountains.
The only remains within the circuit of the ancient walls are some foundations and substructions, in the same massive style of construction as the walls themselves: these probably served to support temples and other public buildings ; but all traces of the structures themselves have disappeared.
The site of the ancient city is wholly uninhabited, the modern village of Norma
, (a very poor place) being situated about half a mile to the S. on a detached hill.
In the middle ages there arose, in the plain at the foot of the hill, a small town which took the name of Ninfa
, from the sources of the river of the same name (the Nymphaens of Pliny), close to which it was situated; but this was destroyed in the 13th century, and is now wholly in ruins.
The remains of Norba are described and illustrated in detail in the first volume of the Annali dell' Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica
(Rome, 1829); and views of the walls, gates, &c. will be found also in Dodwell's Pelasgic Remains
(fol. Lond. 1834, pi. 72-80).