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PISAURUM (Pesaro) Italy.

A Roman citizen colony founded in 184 B.C. on the Umbrian coast of the Adriatic at the mouth of the Pisaurus; it lies on the right bank of the river in a small plain between two spurs of the Apennines. It was a sister colony of Potentia in Picenum, founded the same year and with the same tresviri: Q. Fabius Labeo, M. Fulvius Flaccus, and Q. Fulvius Nobilior. A prehistoric necropolis (Novilara) has been discovered nearby, showing that the area was inhabited at least from the Early Iron Age. But the Roman city has its own plan, castrum-like, with a rectangular grid of streets, and a forum at the center near the crossing of arteries. Each colonist received six jugera of land (Livy 39.44.10); the colony was inscribed in the Tribus Camilia. Its most famous son was the tragic poet Accius (b. 170 B.C.).

Apparently the colony did not thrive, despite its situation on the Via Flaminia. It may have received a Sullan colony. Cicero (Sest. 9) speaks of it as a hotbed of discontent and full of men ready to join the Catilinarian conspiracy; Catullus (81.3) describes it as “moribunda” in the early fifties. It was briefly occupied by Caesar after the crossing of the Rubicon (BCiv. 1.11.4). It received a colony of Antony's veterans after Philippi (Plut. Vit.Ant. 60.2) and another of Augustus', after which it bore the name colonia Iulia Felix Pisaurum. It is mentioned under the Empire only by the geographers and reappears only in the Gothic wars, when it was burnt and its walls destroyed by Vittigis and rebuilt in haste by Belisarius in 544 (Procop. Goth. 3.11.32-34).

Of the walls of the ancient city enough has been traced to permit reconstruction of their rectangular plan (488 x 394 m), with an inward bow toward the N gate, whence the Via Flaminia issued. The base is of blocks of local sandstone, probably the wall of the original colony; the upper parts are a rebuilding in brick and mortar. Many mosaics have been found, many inscriptions, and other archaeological material, much of which is housed in Pesaro's Museo Oliveriano (formerly Athenaeum). The most famous of the finds is a bronze statue, the so-called Idolino, in the Museo Archeologico in Florence.

Nothing is known of Pisaurum's port, though inscriptions inform us it was an active shipbuilding center. There are noteworthy remains of an Augustan bridge over the Pisaurus (Foglia) and another over the Metaurus.


P. Gazzola, Ponti romani (1963) 2.68, 74-76; G. Annibaldi in Atti del XI Congresso di Storia dell'Architettura (1965) 46-47, 52-54; I. Zicari, “Pisaurum,” RE II (1968).


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  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 44
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