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VELITRAE (Velletri) Italy.

A city in the Alban Hills, probably of Volscian rather than Latin origins (cf. Livy 2.30.14), set high on a spur of Monte Artemisio that descends toward the Pontine plain. Livy (ibid.) speaks of Rome's sending a colony there following Velitrae's defeat by the consul P. Virginius in 494 B.C., and there is record of a new draft of colonists in 404 B.C. (Diod. 14.34.7). Velitrae sided with Aricia and Lanuvium in the Latin war, and when conquered in 338, it was punished by the destruction of its fortifications, the deportation of its senate to Rome, the confiscation of the senators' property and its distribution among colonists from Rome (Livy 8.14.5-7). This was the punishment also meted out to Privernum only a little later, and as the record shows, Veliternian sympathies were with the Volscians of Antium and Anxur rather than with the Latins. In the 3d c., as an inscription proves, Volscian was still spoken at Velitrae. After 338 it became a municipium, its people, except for the Roman colonists, having civitas sine suffragio, and so it remained until it received a settlement of veterans under Claudius and became a colonia. Its later history is meager; its greatest fame derives from its having been the home of the family of Augustus' father (Suet. Aug. 1).

Though no ancient building is to be seen in the city today, it was a flourishing community from a very early period, as is attested by the remains of a temple with richly figured and colored terracotta revetments of the archaic period. These first came to light in 1784 around the church of SS. Stimmate, and systematic excavations of the area were carried out as far as they could be in 1910. Unfortunately it was not possible to obtain a satisfactory plan of the temple. The fact that many of the relief scenes of the plaques are identical with others from Rome and Veii indicates a centralized manufacture. There are also recorded in inscriptions or old documents a basilica, an amphitheater, a theater, and temples of Apollo and Sangus (Livy 32.1.10).

An abundance of antiquities has been taken from Velitrae and its neighborhood (Tomassetti and Wagener-Ashby give impressive lists of those known to them with their present locations). By and large the marbles seem to have belonged to the villas of rich Romans—then as now Velitrae was a center of wine production (Pliny HN 14.65)—but no villa that can with any assurance be assigned to the Octavii is known.

Burials in the neighborhood range from an Early Iron Age necropolis (including a hut-urn burial) to an Early Christian one. In 1956 a richly carved sarcophagus of ca. A.D. 200 came to light. This, with a collection of minor sculptures, inscriptions found in the territory and archaic architectural terracottas, is housed in the municipal museum in the palazzo comunale. The Borgia collection of material from Velitrae is in the Museo Nazionale in Naples.


R. S. Conway, The Italic Dialects (1897), no. 252; A. P. Wagener & T. Ashby, AJA 17 (1913) 399-428; G. Tomassetti, La campagna romana 2 (1910); G. Mancini, NSc (1915) 68-88; T. Ashby, The Roman Campagna in Classical Times (1927) 200-201; A. Andrén, Architectural Terracottas from Etrusco-Italic Temples (1940) 407-16, pls. 126-29; G. Cressedi, Velitrae (Velletri) (Italia Romana: Municipi e Colonie, Series 1, vol. 12, 1953)MPI; M. Lawrence, AJA 69 (1965) 207-22, pls. 45-54.


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.34.7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 30.14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 32, 1.10
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