: Eth. Privernas
--ātis: Piperno Vecchio
), an ancient and important city of the Volscians, afterwards included, with the rest of the territory of that people, in Latium, in the more extended sense of the name.
It was situated in the Volscian mountains, or Monti Lepini;
but not, like Setia and Norba, on the front towards the plain of the Pontine Marshes, but at some distance forther back, in the valley of the Amasenus. Virgil represents it as an ancient city of the Volscians, and the residence of Metabus, the father of Camilla (Aen.
11.540); and there is no reason to doubt that it was originally a city of that people. Its name is not indeed mentioned during any of the earlier wars of the Volscians against Rome; but on these occasions the name of the people is generally given collectively, and the brunt of the war naturally fell upon those cities which more immediately adjoined the frontiers of Latium. When the name of Privernum first appears in history it is as a city of considerable power and importance, holding an independent position, and able not only to engage in, but to sustain, a war against Rome single-handed. In B.C. 358 the Privernates drew upon themselves the hostility of Rome by plundering the lands of the Roman colonists who had been recently settled in the Pontine Plains.
The next year they were attacked by the consul C. Marcius, their forces defeated in the field, and they themselves cempelled to submit (Liv. 7.15
But though their submission is represented as an unconditional surrender (deditio), they certainly continued to form an independent and even powerful state, and only a few years afterwards again ventured to attack the Roman colonies of Norba and Setia, for which they were speedily punished by the consul C. Plautius: their city is said to have been taken, and two-thirds of their territory forfeited. (Id. vii. [p. 2.670]
This was soon after divided among the Roman plebeians. (Id. 8.11.) They do not appear to have taken any part in the general war of the Latins and Campanians against Rome; but in B.C. 327 the Privernates again took up arms single-handed, with only the assistance of a few of the Fundani. Notwithstanding this, the war was deemed of sufficient importance to employ two consular armies; and it was not till after a long siege that Privernum was reduced by C. Plautius, the consul of the following year.
The walls of the city were destroyed, and the leaders of the defection severely punished; but the rest of the people were admitted to the Roman citizenship,--probably, however, in the first instance without the right of suffrage, though this also must have been granted them in the year B.C. 316, when the Ufentine tribe was constituted, of which Privernum was the chief town. (Liv. 8.19
; Fast. Capit.; V. Max. 6.2.1
; Festus, s. v. Ufentina;
Niebuhr, vol. iii. p. 176.)
According to Festus (p. 233) it became a Praefectura ; but notwithstanding this subordinate condition (which was perhaps confined to the short period before it attained the full franchise), it seems to have been a flourishing municipal town under the Roman government. Its territory was one of those which the agrarian law of Servilius Rullus proposed to assign to the Roman populace (Cic. de Leg. Agr. 2.2. 5
); but though it escaped upon this occasion, it subsequently received a military colony (Lib. Colon.
The period of this is uncertain: according to Zumpt (de Colon. p.
401) it probably did not take place till the reign of Trajan.
In inscriptions it bears the title of a colony; though others term it a municipium ; and neither Pliny nor Ptolemy assign it the rank of a colony. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9
; Ptol. 3.1.63
; Zumpt, l.c.
) It was noted, as well as the neighbouring Setia, for the excellence of its wine (Plin. Nat. 14.6. s. 8
); but we hear little of Privernum under the Roman Empire, and have no subsequent account of its fate. From its secluded position, no mention occurs of it in the Itineraries.
The ruins of the ancient city, which according to Cluverius are considerable, are situated about 2 miles. N. of the modern Piperno,
on the site still called Piperno Vecchio.
The period or occasion of the abandonment of the ancient site is unknown; but it is certainly erroneous to connect it with a great earthquake which is alluded to by Cicero as taking place at Privernum (Cic. de Div. 1.4. 3
). On that occasion, we are told, the earth sank down to a great depth,--a phenomenon which may have given rise to a remarkable chasm or cavity still visible in the neighbourhood of Piperno.
The ancient city was more probably deserted in consequence of the ravages of the Saracens in the tenth century, from which all this part of Latium suffered severely (Rampoldi, Corografia d'Italia,
vol. iii. p. 258), and the inhabitants sought refuge in more elevated and secure positions, such as that of the modern town of Piperno.