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Minturnae archaeological site

Minturnae was a Roman city ​​and a regionally important port and trading center. The archaeological site is located in the province of Latina in the Lazio region near the city of Minturno , which is named after the ancient site.


Settlement areas of the Aurunkians, Volscians and Latins in the 4th century BC BC Minturnae lower right.

The founding of the city goes back to the ancient Italian people of the Aurunker and seems to have been in the 5th or 4th century BC. To be done. Since no remnants of a pre-Roman village have been found so far, the existence of such a Aurunker settlement is controversial in recent research. Perhaps the pre-Roman settlement was not on the plain of ancient Minturnae, but on the hill of medieval Minturno.

Settlement areas of the Aurunker, Volsker, Kampaner, Sidiciner and Samniten in the 4th century BC Chr.

Minturnae is mentioned for the first time by ancient sources in connection with the events of the First Latin War (340–338 BC), in which the Romans and Samnites had to defend themselves against a coalition of Latins , Volscians , Sidicins , Auruncians and Campanians and finally won. After the Roman defeat at Lautulae in the Second Samnite War (326–304 BC), the rebellion was 314 BC. Chr. Aurunker and Kampaner against Rome. The Romans suppressed the uprising with all their might and destroyed the three urban settlements of the Aurunker in Ausona, Vescia and Minturnae. 313 BC The Romans founded the colony Suessa Aurunca in the area of ​​the Aurunker and between 296 and 295 BC. The colonies of Sinuessa and Minturnae.

Castrum of Minturnae on Garigliano

The original core of the Minturnae colony consisted of a small military camp ( castrum ) with walls and four square corner towers near the Garigliano river , which was called Liris in ancient times . The already 312 BC Via Appia , built in BC, led directly through the Castrum. As archaeological finds show, a wooden bridge led across the river directly at the Castrum. Between the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC A substantial expansion of the colony took place west of the castrum. The new urban area was delimited with a tuff stone wall, which is still partially preserved on the north side. The center of the new city formed a Jupiter - Temple , which on three sides by a colonnade ( portico was surrounded) with two aisles. This created a trapezoidal space that bordered the Via Appia from the north. This square is now known as the Republican Forum , although at that time the forum stretched south across the Via Appia.

In the Second Punic War , Rome claimed in 207 BC BC the inhabitants of Minturnae and other Roman colonies to make their military contribution due to the imminent arrival of Hasdrubal in Italy. In the same year, the temple of Jupiter and the grove of the goddess Marica were hit by lightning, which the Romans regarded as a sign of the gods ( Prodigium ). Marica was an Italian deity who had lived since the 6th century BC. It was worshiped in a sanctuary near the mouth of the Garigliano river , as numerous small sculptures and other votive offerings attest. 191 BC Another lightning strike hit the Jupiter temple and the adjacent tabernae around the forum.

During the 2nd century BC The colony experienced remarkable economic development, mainly thanks to its favorable geographical location. The city was located at an estuary and had a richly forested hinterland, the exploitation of which was favored by the navigable river. Minturnae was both a port city that was open to large maritime traffic and a trading center for goods traffic along the Garigliano river valley to Fregellae . Archaeological evidence is u. a. the production of numerous transport vessels such as B. Amphorae and a brisk shipbuilding activity . Minturnae delivered wine grown in the surrounding area to the Mediterranean world and was an important market for food , especially fish , which was preserved locally by salting .

Minturnae's economic development would not have been possible without slavery in the Roman Empire . This is from the second half of the 2nd century BC. Attested by literary and epigraphic sources. Among them is a report that reports the crucifixion of 450 slaves in Minturnae and of 2000 in Sinuessa after the slave revolt in Sicily in 133 BC. Contains. Important information was also provided by inscriptions on panels that were built into the podium of a temple. This also includes lists of persons from the municipal magistrate . Of the approximately 330 people listed, around 80% were slaves.

88 BC BC residents support the general and statesman Marius in his escape from Sulla . The escape led him from Italy to North Africa. Marius apparently had a clientele in town, as the presence of one of his servants suggests on an inscription. Between 65 BC BC and the reorganization of the city in the early imperial period , a great fire seems to have destroyed the forum. The destruction could have been caused by lightning. It is also conceivable that the city was sacked and devastated by Sextus Pompeius between 41 and 39 BC. At this time, Pompey was waging a pirate war in the Tyrrhenian Sea after he had been ostracized by the proscriptions of the triumvirs Octavianus , Mark Antony and Lepidus . Pompey Magnus , the father of Sextus Pompeius, had long been the rival and adversary of Julius Caesar , whose death the triumvirs now wanted to avenge.

After the fire, the city underwent intensive redesign, which reached a climax and a certain conclusion under Emperor Augustus. In the 1st century BC A new forum with a temple was built east of the republican forum on the site of the old castrum. Later the portico and the old Jupiter temple were renewed on the old forum and a new temple was built, which was probably dedicated to Augustus. Eventually an aqueduct , a theater and large colonnades were built along the Via Appia. The so-called imperial forum was monumentalized by numerous public buildings such as a curia and a basilica .

Vignette by Minturnae from Codex Palatinus Latinus 1564

This transformation was evidently related to a recolonization of Minturnae by Augustus. Veterans were probably settled. For this purpose, the area to the west of the previous development was apparently to be developed, as documented by a passage by Hyginus Gromaticus in the Corpus agrimensorum Romanorum . The tradition of this writing in the Codex Palatinus Latinus 1564 also shows that the fields east of the Garigliano were presumably redistributed as in a land consolidation. At that time the city stretched far across both banks of the Garigliano. No other events have come down to us from the 1st century AD, except that under the reign of Emperor Vitellius, the city appeared to side with the usurper and later Emperor Vespasian .

During the 2nd century AD there was a resumption of construction. The construction of the thermal baths and macellum and the redesign of various public buildings, including the curia, basilica and theater, can be traced back to this phase. The execution of the floors in some private houses also allows conclusions to be drawn about the time of Emperor Hadrian or Antoninus Pius . Further reconstruction and restoration work can be traced back to the 6th century AD.

Although the spread of Christianity in Minturnae is not archaeologically reflected, the city was a bishopric at the end of the 5th century AD . Bishop Celius Rusticus is one of the signatories of the Roman synod of 499 AD under Pope Symmachus . Therefore, there must have been a cathedral in Minturnae in the last decade of the fifth century , but no archaeological relic has yet been found. In the 6th century AD, the city seems to have slowly depopulated. It is possible that the plain, which had already been swampy in the early days, threatened to become further swampy, so that the danger to the population from malaria was too great. In 590 AD, Pope Gregory the Great was finally forced to dissolve the diocese of Minturnae and incorporate the area into the diocese of Formia . Around AD 600, Minturnae was likely destroyed by the Saracens . The population finally withdrew to the hill of the medieval Traetto or modern Minturno.

Excavation site

Minturnae map
Via Appia with the old forum

Systematic excavations were carried out as early as the 1930s under the direction of Jotham Johnson and continued from the 1960s to the 1980s. They produced the most important buildings of the Roman city center. In the 2000s, archaeological investigations were carried out in the area of ​​the castrum along the Via Appia.

The remains of the castrum (1), which formed the earliest core of the settlement, could be discovered east of the theater and at the southern end of the archaeological site. The wall ring around the castrum consists of polygonal masonry. Due to the wall technology, the excavators suspected that this must be a wall of the pre-Roman settlement. This dating later turned out to be an error. Shortly after the construction of the first fortification, another wall (2) was erected, which attaches to one of the corner towers of the castrum, consists of regular blocks and surrounded the larger settlement of the citizen colony. The Via Appia (3), as the main axis of the city ( Decumanus ) running west-east, crossed the Castrum and the later republican forum (4).

View from the theater in west direction over the Republican Forum

The northern part of the forum has been completely excavated. The forum was surrounded on three sides by a two-row portico raised by a podium . Remains of the tuff columns and the terracotta decorations of the portico have been found. Towards the Via Appia, the ends of the columned hall formed closed decorative facades. The Jupiter Temple (5), of which the foundations are still preserved, was probably designed according to the Tuscan order and had three cult rooms ( Cellae ) for the Capitoline Triassic Jupiter, Juno and Minerva . That is why it is also known as the Capitolium . The small temple A (6) is much younger and dates from the early imperial era. Augustus and Roma may have been worshiped in it. A large number of stones with inscriptions dating from the 2nd and 1st centuries BC are built into the podium of this temple. Come from BC.

View from the theater in south direction to temples A and B.

To the east of the old forum, another forum (7) was laid out over the wall foundations of the castrum. Due to the wall technique used ( Opus reticulatum ), one can conclude that the forum was founded in the early imperial period. Here, too, a two-row portico surrounds the square on three sides. In the center of the forum there was a building called Temple B (8). The discovery of an inscription near the foundations suggests that the temple was dedicated to the deified Caesar ( Divus Iulius ). A depot of ceramic fragments from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC was found on the forum . Found. The fragments come from simple utensils and finer goods. Presumably these vessels were made in Minturnae.

The theater (9) was also built in the early imperial era. According to recent calculations, it held around 4600 spectators. The two main entrances could be reached from two streets that led from the Via Appia to the west and east of the forum. For the theater, which was divided into the three usual areas of stage front ( Scaena ), dance floor ( Orchestra ) and auditorium (Cavea), part of the old city wall was built over. The front of the stage was rebuilt in the middle of the imperial period, for which a relocation of the north portico at the forum was necessary. Today the theater is used for comedies, operas and concerts of all kinds. In the rooms below the cavea there is a museum ( antiquarium ), in which statues , sculptures , votive offerings , inscriptions , coins and other artifacts are housed.

View from the basilica to the north over the imperial forum

The greater part of the forum, also known as the imperial forum (10), lay across the Via Appia. It is unclear how far the forum extended to the south during the Republican era. In any case, a curia (11) and a basilica (12) were built on the east side in the early imperial period, which were remodeled in the middle of the 2nd century AD. Public latrines (13) and another temple (14) have been excavated at the southeast corner of the Imperial Forum . This temple, which was probably built at the end of the 1st century AD, stood on a dais and had three cellae.

A large complex of buildings extends to the west, separated from the imperial forum by a row of shops and another building. The complex is divided into two large parts. The northern part of the building (15) is accessible from the colonnades on the Via Appia. The central entrance leads into an inner courtyard, which is surrounded by a colonnade with round arches. This building is probably a market hall ( Macellum ). The construction and decoration point to an emergence in the 2nd century AD.

To the south there are thermal baths (16) with the corresponding bathing rooms. This building seems to come from an earlier construction phase, as its walls do not follow the alignment of the market hall. In three rooms you can still see the small brick towers on which the flooring rested in the case of an ancient underfloor heating system ( hypocaust ). The hot air passed through the cavity and warmed the rooms. These were the warm water rooms ( caldarium and tepidarium ) and perhaps another room of the same type. A cooling room ( frigidarium ) can still be seen. An outdoor swimming pool ( Natatio ) was characterized by circumferential steps that made access easier. The main entrance to the thermal baths is likely to have been towards the imperial forum, but access via the Macellum also seems to have been possible.



  • Anita Rieche : Ancient Italy from the air. 2nd edition, Lübbe Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach 1987, ISBN 378570223X , pp. 228-230.
  • Giovanna Rita Bellini: Minturnae - Porto del Mediterraneo. In: Romula. No. 6, 2007, pp. 7-28. ( online )
  • Cristina Ferrante, Daria Mastrorilli: Minturnae (Minturno). Introduzione. In: Cristina Ferrante, Jean-Claude Lacam, Daniela Quadrino (eds.): Fana, templa, delubra. Corpus dei luoghi di culto dell'Italia antica. Volume 4. Quasar Edizioni, Rome 2015. ISBN 9788871406015 , pp. 87-98. ( online )

Web links

Commons : Minturnae  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 41 ° 15 '  N , 13 ° 46'  E