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SARNUS ( Σαρνός: Sarno), a river of Campania, flowing into the Bay of Naples. It has its sources in the Apennines, above Nuceria (Nocera), near which city it emerges into the plain, and, after traversing this, falls into the sea a short distance S. of Pompeii. Its present mouth is about 2 miles distant from that city, but we know that in ancient times it flowed under the walls of Pompeii, and entered the sea close to its gates. [POMPEII] The change in its course is doubtless owing to the great catastrophe of A.D. 79, which buried Pompeii and Herculaneum. Virgil speaks of the Sarnus as flowing through a plain (quae rigat aequora Sarnus, Aen. 7.738); and both Silius Italicus and Statius allude to it as a placid and sluggish stream. (Sil. Ital. 8.538; Stat. Silv. 1.2. 265; Lucan 2.422.) According to Strabo it was navigable, and served both for the export and import of the produce of the interior to and from Pompeii. (Strab. v. p.247; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Ptol. 3.1.7; Suet. Clar. Rhet. 4.) Vibius Sequester tells us (p. 18) that it derived its name as well as its sources from a mountain called Sarus, or Sarnus, evidently the same which rises above the modern town of Sarno, and is still called Monte Saro or Sarno. One of the principal sources of the Sarno does, in fact, rise at the foot of this mountain, which is joined shortly after by several confluents, the most considerable of these being the one which flows, as above described, from the valley beyond Nuceria.

According to a tradition alluded to by Virgil (l.c.), the banks of the Sarnus and the plain through which it flowed, were inhabited in ancient times by a people called SARRASTES whose name is evidently connected with that of the river. They are represented as a Pelasgian tribe, who settled in this part of Italy, where they founded Nuceria, as well as several other cities. (Conon, ap. Serv. ad Aen. l.c.; Sil. Ital. 8.537.) But their name seems to have quite disappeared in the historical period; and we find Nuceria occupied by the Alfaterni, who were an Oscan or Sabellian race. [NUCERIA] [p. 2.921]

No trace is found in ancient authors of a town of the name of Sarnus; but it is mentioned by the Geographer of Ravenna (4.32), and seems, therefore, to have grown up soon after the fall of the Roman Empire.


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