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REA´TE (Ῥεάτε, Strab.; Ῥεάτος, Dionys.: Et. Ῥεατῖνος, Reatinus: Rieti), an ancient city of the Sabines, and one of the most considerable that belonged to that people. It was situated on the Via Salaria, 48 miles from Rome (Itin. Ant. p. 306), and on the banks of the river Velinus. All writers agree in representing it as a very ancient city: according to one account, quoted by Dionysius from Zenodotus of Troezen, it was one of the original abodes of the Umbrians, from which they were expelled by the Pelasgi; but Cato represented it as one of the first places occupied by the Sabines when they descended from the neighbourhood of Amiternum, their original abode. (Dionys. A. R. 2.49.) Whatever authority Cato may have had for this statement, there seems no reason to doubt that it was substantially true. The fertile valley in which Reate was situated lay in the natural route of migration for a people descending from the highlands of the central Apennines: and there is no doubt that both Reate and its neighbourhood were in historical times occupied by the Sabines. It was this migration of the Sabines that led to the expulsion of the Aborigines, who, according to Dionysius, previously occupied this part of Italy, and whose ancient metropolis, Lista, was only 24 stadia from Reate. (Dionys. A. R. 1.14, 2.49.) Silius Italicus appears to derive its name from Rhea, and calls it consecrated to the Mother of the Gods; but this is probably a mere poetical fancy. (Sil. Ital. 8.415.) No mention of Reate occurs in history before the period when the Sabines had been subjected to the Roman rule, and admitted to the Roman Franchise (B.C. 290) ; but its name is more than once incidentally noticed during the Second Punic War. In B.C. 211 Hannibal passed under its walls during his retreat from Rome, or, according to Coelius, during his advance upon that city (Liv. 26.11); and in B.C. 205 the Reatini are specially mentioned as coming forward, in common with the other Sabines, to furnish volunteers to the armament of Scipio. (Id. 28.45.) We are wholly ignorant of the reasons why it was reduced to the subordinate condition of a Praefectura, under which title it is repeatedly mentioned by Cicero, but we learn from the great orator himself, under whose especial patronage the inhabitants were placed, that it was a flourishing and important town. (Cic. in Cat. 3.2, pro Scaur. 2.27, de Nat. Deor. 2.2.) Under the Empire it certainly obtained the ordinary municipal privileges, and had its own magistrates (Zumpt, de Col. pp. 98, 188; Gruter, Inscr. p. 354. 3, &c.): under Vespasian it received a considerable number of veteran soldiers as colonists, but did not obtain the rank or title of a Colonia. (Lib. Col. p. 257; Orell. Inscr. 3685 Gruter, Inscr. p. 538. 2; &c.)

The territory of Reate included the whole of the lower valley of the Velinus, as far as the falls of that river; one of the most fertile, as well as beautiful, districts of Italy, whence it is called by Cicero the Reatine Tempe (ad Att. 4.15.) But the peculiar natural character of this district was the means of involving the citizens in frequent disputes with their neighbours of Interamna. (Varr. R. R. 3.2.3.) The valley of the Velinus below Reate, where the river emerges from the narrow mountain valley through which it has hitherto flowed, and receives at the same time the waters of the Salto and Turano, both of them considerable streams, expands into a broad plain, not less than 5 or 6 miles in breadth, and almost perfectly level; so that the waters of the Velinus itself, and those of the smaller streams that flow into it, have a tendency to stagnate and form marshes, while in other places they give rise to a series of small lakes, remarkable for their picturesque beauty. The largest of these, now known as the Lago di Piè di Lugo, seems to have been the one designated in ancient times as the LACUS VELINUS ; while the fertile plains which extended from Reate to its banks were known as the ROSEI or more properly ROSEAE CAMPI, termed by Virgil the “Rosea rura Velini.” (Verg. A. 7.712; Cic. Att. 4.1. 5; Varro, R. R. i.> 7.10, 2.1.16, 3.2.10; Plin. Nat. 17.4. s. 3.) But this broad and level valley is at an elevation of near 1000 feet above that of the Nar, into which it pours its waters by an abrupt descent, a few miles above Interamna (Terni); and the stream of the Velinus must always have constituted in this part a natural cascade. Those waters, however, are so strongly impregnated with carbonate of lime, that they are continually forming an extensive deposit of travertine, and thus tending to block up their own channel. The consequence was, that unless their course was artificially regulated, and their channel kept clear, the valley of the Velinus was inundated, while on the other hand, if these waters were carried off too rapidly into the Nar, the valley of that river and the territory of Interamna suffered the same fate. The first attempt to regulate the course of the Velinus artificially, of which we have any account, was made by M‘. Curius Dentatus, after his conquest of the Sabines, when he carried off its waters by a deep cut through the brow of the hill overlooking the Nar, and thus gave rise to the celebrated cascade now known as the Falls of Terni. (Cic. Att. 4.1. 5; Serv. ad Aen. 7.712.) From the expressions of Cicero it would appear that the Lacus Velinus, previous to this time, occupied a much larger extent, and that a considerable part of the valley was then first reclaimed for cultivation.

But the expedient thus resorted to did not fully accomplish its object. In the time of Cicero (B.C. 54) fresh disputes arose between the citizens of Reate and those of Interamna; and the former appealed to the great orator himself as their patron, who pleaded their cause before the arbiters appointed by the Roman senate. On this occasion he visited Reate in person, and inspected the lakes and the channels of the Velinus. (Cic. pro Scaur, 2 § 27, ad Att. 4.15.) The result of the arbitration is [p. 2.696]unknown: but in the reign of Tiberius the Reatines had to contend against a more formidable danger, arising from the project which had been suggested of blocking up the outlet of the Lacus Velinus altogether; a measure which, as they justly complained, would undoubtedly have inundated the whole valley. (Tac. Ann. 1.79.) Similar disputes and difficulties again arose in the middle ages; and in A.D. 1400 a new channel was opened for the waters of the Velinus, which has continued in use ever since.

No other mention occurs of Reate under the Roman Empire; but inscriptions attest its continued municipal importance: its name is found in the Itineraries (Itin. Ant. p. 306), and it early became the see of a bishop, which it has continued ever since. Throughout the middle ages it was, as it still continues to be, the capital of the surrounding country. No ancient remains are now visible at Rieti.

The territory of Reate was famous in ancient times for its breed of mules and asses ; the latter were particularly celebrated, and are said to have been sometimes sold for a price as high as 300,000 or even 400,000 sesterces (Varr. R.R. 2.8.3; Plin. Nat. 8.43. s. 68), though it is difficult not to suppose some error in these numbers. Hence, Q. Axius, a friend of Varro, who had a villa on the Lacus Velinus, and extensive possessions in the Reatine territory, is introduced by Varro in his dialogues De Re Rustica, as discoursing on the subject of breeding horses, mules, and asses. (Varr. R. R. 2.1.8; Strab. v. p.228.) It was at the villa of this Q. Axius that Cicero lodged when he visited Reate. (Cic. Att. 4.1. 5) The SEPTEM AQUAE mentioned by him in the same passage, and alluded to also by Dionysius (1.14), were evidently some springs or sources, which supplied one of the small lakes in the valley of the Velinus.


hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 4.1.5
    • Cicero, Against Catiline, 3.2
    • Cicero, For Aemilius Scaurus, 2
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.712
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.79
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 17.4
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 8.43
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 11
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