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date: 20 January 2021


  • Nicholas Purcell


Roman municipium on a spur of Vesuvius commanding the coast-road, 8 km. (5 mi.) south-east of Naples (Strabo 5. 4. 8; see neapolis). An independent member of the Samnite league centred on Nuceria in the 4th cent. bce and subsequently allied to Rome, it joined the allied cause in the *Social War (3): Oscan civic institutions (see oscans) were replaced by Roman ones in 89 bce. Its origins are still obscure, though the regular street-plan and the name suggest that it may have been a dependency of the Greek *apoikia at Naples (perhaps of the 6th or 5th cent.).Recent discoveries have made its municipal life seem comparably vigorous with its neighbours', but restricted hinterland, limited communications, and a small harbour denied it much economic opportunity. On present evidence, the streets (whose plan is more regular than that of *Pompeii) show little sign of heavy traffic (nor are there stepping-stones for pedestrians); shops and workshops are unobtrusive. As the centre of a resort-coast, however, renowned for its beauty and salubrious climate, and close enough to Naples to be a kind of luxury suburb, the town benefited from the wealth of local proprietors (including Roman senators). The grandest property (known from its rifling in 1750–61), the Villa of the Papyri, north-west of the town, on terraces overlooking the sea, was embellished with gardens, waterworks, and statues and inspired the mod.

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