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NU´RSIA (Νουρσία: Eth. Nursinus: Norcia), a city of the Sabines, situated in the upper part of the valley of the Nar, at the foot of the lofty group of the Apennines, now known as the Monti della Sibilla. The coldness of its climate,: resulting from its position in the midst of high mountains, is celebrated by Virgil and Silius Italicus. (Verg. A. 7.716; Sil. Ital. 8.417.) The first mention of it in history is in the Second Punic War (B.C. 205), when it was one of the cities which came forward with volunteers for the armaments of Scipio. (Liv. 28.45.) As on this occasion the only three cities of the Sabines mentioned by name are Nursia, Reate, and Amiternum, it is probable that Nursia was, as well as the other two, one of the most considerable places among the Sabines. It was a municipal town under the Roman government (Orell. Inscr. 3966; Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17; Ptol. iii:. 1.55), and we learn that its inhabitants were punished by Octavian for their zealous adherence to the republican party, and the support they afforded to L. Antonius in the Perusian War. (Suet. Aug. 12; D. C. 48.13.) It was the birthplace of Vespasia Polla, the mother of the emperor. Vespasian; and the monuments of her family existed in the time of Suetonius at a place called Vespasiae, 6 miles from Nursia on the road to Spoletium. (Suet. Vesp. 1.) The “ager Nursinus” is mentioned more than once in the Liber Coloniarum (pp. 227, 257), but it does not appear that it ever received a regular colony. We learn from Columella and Pliny that it was celebrated for its turnips, which are also alluded to. by Martial. (Col. 10.421; Plin. Nat. 18.13. s. 34; Martial, 13.20.) From its secluded position Nursia is not mentioned in the Itineraries, but there is no doubt that it continued to exist throughout the period of the Roman Empire. It became an episcopal see at an early period, and is celebrated in ecclesiastical history as the birthplace of St. Benedict, the founder of the first great monastic order.

It is said that remains of the ancient walls still exist at Norcia, in the same massive polygonal style as those near Reate and Amiternum (Petit-Radel, Ann. d. Inst Arch. 1829, p. 51), but they have never been described in detail. [E.H.B] [p. 2.456]

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