View of Alba and Mount Velino (1839) by Georg Heinrich Busse, a German landscape painter and engraver
Alba is the most inland of all the Latin cities; it borders on the Marsi, and is situated on a high hill near to Lake Fucinus. This [lake] is vast as a sea, and is of great service to the Marsi and all the surrounding nations.
Strabo - Geography - Book V - Perseus Edition
Behind Avezzano, a well-defined and detached mass, shaded by trees and adorned by cultivation, is surmounted by the little village of Alba, the representative of the ancient Alba Fucens, whose ruins appear from a great distance, under the two weather-worn and shadowy peaks of the majestic Velino, bearing the second rank in elevation among the Apennines. The neighbourhood of Avezzano offers objects of interest to the antiquary in the ruins of Alba which are easily accessible. The modern village, which only contains three hundred inhabitants, is on the summit of one of the two peaks which crown the hill; while the remains of the ancient city stand on another, together with a church dedicated to St. Peter.
Keppel Richard Craven - Excursions in the Abruzzi and northern provinces of Naples - 1838
Prince Torlonia at his sole cost has drained Lake Fucino. One engineer after another has perished from fever while employed in its construction, and the expense has been so enormous, that it has become a popular saying, "O Torlonia secca il Fucino, o il Fucino secca Torlonia." After all, the work may still in one sense be esteemed a failure. Though the redeemed land is wonderfully rich, it is considered that the profits of a thousand years will not repay the Torlonias for the expenses they have undergone.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days Near Rome - 1875
Views of the archaeological site of Alba Fucens from the amphitheatre near the church of S. Pietro: (above) with Castello Orsini in the background; (below) with the theatre in the slope of the hill to the far right
Within the walls there are hardly any buildings. Excavations have only been made casually, though remains of buildings and of roads can be traced, and also an extensive system of underground passages perhaps connected with the defences of the place.
1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica
The remains of this ancient Roman colonia stand on a hill that rises almost 300 m above the basin formerly occupied by the Fucine Lake. A memory of the ancient glory lingers on in the name of the modern village (comune of Massa d'Albe). The first systematic exploration of the city was begun in 1949 and has continued without interruption. The center of the city has been excavated and a detailed study of most of the public and private edifices has been made. The town was on an oblong hill, its greatest length running N-S. On the acropolis, a rocky spur, the mediaeval village formerly stood and perhaps also the pre-Roman settlement. To the S is the hill of San Pietro, with a Romanesque church and Italic temple. (..) Between these two heights stretches a valley some 100 m wide, where the principal buildings of the town were situated.
Joseph Mertens - The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites - 1971
The excavations were initiated by Fernand De Visscher in 1949 and were continued by Joseph Mertens, both Directors of the Belgian Academy in Rome
Walls: (left) near the gates; (right) behind the shops along Via dei Pilastri
The existing ruins consist of a triple line of walls, each rising above the other, round what was probably the citadel. These are not only of great extent, but constructed in such a manner as to resist with equal success the efforts of man and the ravages of time: the materials in grain and colour are equal to the finest marble; and the blocks, though immensely large and irregular, are so well connected, that they present one of the most perfect specimens of those constructions termed polygonal or Cyclopean. Craven
The original wall was constructed of massive rubble work. It dates, for the most part, to the mid 3d c.; some modifications were made in the 2d c. and at the beginning of the 1st c. B.C. Mertens
Walls similar to those of Alba can be noticed in many towns of Southern Latium, e.g. Alatri, Segni and Cori.
At Alba, 6,000 colonists were enrolled among the Aequi. (..) As it were a citadel situated on their own frontiers, the Aequi stormed it with the greatest violence, and attacked the colonists themselves, and were repulsed.
Livy - History of Rome - Book X - The Latin Library
That legion has encamped at Alba. What city could it have selected either more suitable for enabling it to act, or more faithful, or full of more gallant men, or of citizens more devoted to the republic? (..) They encamped at Alba, in a city convenient, fortified, near, full of brave men and loyal and virtuous citizens.
M. Tullius Cicero, Orations, Philippics III - 6. IV - 6 C. D. Yonge, Ed.
Alba Fucens was situated on a crossroads, of which the most important route, the Via Valeria Tiburtina, linked Rome to the Adriatic. Another road gave passage from S. Etruria to the Campania by way of the valley of the Liri. This geographical position determined the history of Alba, whose development is due entirely to the military events which took place in central Italy. (..) Rome founded this colony in 303 B.C., a year after the submission of the Aequi, by transferring there 6000 colonists. During the 3d c. wars, at first against the Samnites, then against the Carthaginians, Alba remained a faithful ally. (..) During the social wars, Alba, which remained faithful, was besieged, but in 89 it was relieved by Rome. The immense rubble work wall attests the essentially military character of Alba. Mertens
Forum between the main decumanus and Via dei Pilastri (pillars)
The monumental center of the city is an example of city planning dating in its principal elements from the end of the Republican period (1st c. B.C.). Whole districts of the town were rebuilt, and the center of the city was entirely remodeled. (..) The streets are laid out on a grid pattern, the outside of the grid measuring 336 m by 246 m. It is subdivided into regular sectors by the two axes of the city: the decumanus or Via Valeria, which runs along the bottom of the valley, and the transverse cardo. A second street, the Via dei Pilastri, is parallel to the decumanus. Between the two stood all the official buildings and monuments of the city, which stretch from the N to the S as follows: the comitium; the forum, which is terminated at the S by a portico and a rectangular basilica which has three doors opening onto the forum; then the market, the baths, and the Sanctuary of Hercules, the last being a vast complex consisting of a small cella and a very large esplanade. (..) In the outlying districts are the theater and the amphitheater. Mertens
Baths: "calidarium" (hot room): heating system and (covered) floor mosaic, see those at Ostia
The senate voted that Q. Cassius should lead king Perseus into custody to Alba. Livy
As Alba is situated in the depths of the country, and is besides a strong position, the Romans have often employed it as a place of security, for lodging important prisoners. Strabo
Alba Fucensis (..) became a place of importance from the natural advantages of its position, and the great strength of its fortifications. These qualifications induced the Romans to fix upon it as the most eligible residence, or rather prison for such captives as their tyrannical line of policy doomed to eternal confinement. Among these are numbered Bituitus, sovereign of the Arverni; Syphax, king of Numidia; and Perseus, king of Macedonia, who, as well as his son Alexander, terminated his days there, after many years of seclusion. Craven
Via dei Pilastri: (left) pedestrian crossing similar to those which can be seen at Pompeii; (right) pillars of a portico and shops; the image used as background for this page shows a fragment of a fluted column
Further inland lies Alba in water-meadows, and compensates by its orchards for the lack of corn.
Silius Italicus - Punica - English Translation By James Duff
At the present day, the almonds of Thasos and those of Alba are held in the highest esteem.
Pliny - Natural History - Book XV:24 - John Bostock, H.T. Riley
Along the principal streets are shops of standardized ground plan. (..) The principal objects discovered in the course of the excavations - the Venus of Alba, a statue of Herakles Epitrapezios, marble portrait busts, bronze statuettes, inscriptions, etc. are preserved at Museo Nazionale degli Abruzzi at Chieti. Mertens
The altitude of the countryside of Alba made it unsuited for olive or corn production, but because of its orchards of fruit and nut producing trees, the town was wealthy enough to decorate its public and private buildings with statues and other works of art.
Beneath the hill of S. Pietro there is a large hollow in the ground. Its shape and the scanty evidence of some walls indicate it was an amphitheatre. It is entirely below the level of the ground (..) similar to that excavated at Sutri. (..) The hollow is called "The Pit of Judgement".
Carlo Promis - Le antichità di Alba Fucense - 1836
During the second half of the XXth century, the amphitheatre was excavated and partially reconstructed by Belgian and Italian archaeologists. They discovered an inscription which indicated that its construction was financed by Naevius Sutorius Macro, prefect of the Praetorian Guard under Emperors Tiberius and Caligula, who was born at Alba in 21 BC.
Amphitheatre: (above) view of the northern side; (below) inscription celebrating the bequest by Macro
On the 16th of March, his breath failing, Tiberius was believed to have expired, and Caius Caesar (Caligula) was going forth with a numerous throng of congratulating followers to take the first possession of the empire, when suddenly news came that Tiberius was recovering his voice and sight, and calling for persons to bring him food to revive him from his faintness. Then ensued a universal panic, and while the rest fled hither and thither, every one feigning grief or ignorance, Caius Caesar, in silent stupor, passed from the highest hopes to the extremity of apprehension. Macro, nothing daunted, ordered the old emperor to be smothered under a huge heap of clothes, and all to quit the entrance-hall.
Tacitus - Annals - Book VI - translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Caligula was aware of the potential threat Macro posed and soon removed him from office. He committed suicide, but his properties were not confiscated and his bequest to his hometown was carried out.
|Other ancient amphitheatres in this web site:|
The Colosseo of Rome
The Amphitheatre of Capua
The Amphitheatre of Albano
The Amphitheatre of Verona
The Amphitheatre of Pompeii
The Amphitheatre of Catania
The Amphitheatre of Syracuse
The Amphitheatre of Sutri
The Amphitheatre of Urbs Salvia (Urbisaglia)
The Amphitheatre of Pola in Istria
The Amphitheatre of Salona in Dalmatia
The Amphitheatre of Arles in France
The Amphitheatre of Bordeaux in France
The Amphitheatre of Nîmes in France
The Amphitheatre of Périgueux in France
The Amphitheatre of Saintes in France
The Amphitheatre of Toulouse in France
The Amphitheatre(s) of Carnuntum in Austria
The Amphitheatre of Trier in Germany
The Amphitheatre of London
The Amphitheatre of Caerleon in Wales
The Amphitheatre of Italica in Spain
The Amphitheatre of Merida in Spain
The Amphitheatre of Tarragona in Spain
The Amphitheatre of Caesarea Maritima in Israel
The Amphitheatre of Carthage
The Amphitheatre of Mactaris (Makhtar) in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Thapsus in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Thysdrus (El Djem) in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Uthina (Oudna) in Tunisia
The Amphitheatre of Leptis Magna in Libya
S. Pietro: (left) apse; (right) details of its XIIth century Romanesque decoration (similar to that of the Cathedral of Anagni)
From the 3d c. A.D. decline is marked, accelerating in the following century. The last reference to the city is made by Procopius, who mentions that in 537 Justinian's troops took up their winter quarters there. Mertens
The church at Alba, above mentioned, occupies the site of a temple which rose from a semicircular base built in the same style, and with the same ponderous materials as the walls. (..) A great portion of the marbles of Alba had been employed by Charles of Anjou in the fabrication of a monastery which he erected at Scurcola, in this vicinity, to commemorate his victory over Corradino. Craven
Side and front views of S. Pietro and detail of its portal with the coat of arms of Pope Nicholas V
The temples of the gods, protectors of the city, also those of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, should be on some eminence which commands a view of the greater part of the city. (..) Those of Apollo and Father Bacchus near the theatre.
Vitruvius - The Architecture of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio Book I - translated by Joseph Gwilt, 1826
A restoration of the church led to the discovery of a small inscription celebrating the reconstruction of the roof of the temple in 236 AD; the inscription indicated that the temple was dedicated to Apollo, contrary to the traditional opinion which was based on Vitruvius; some small pits containing votive bronze and terracotta small statues were found near the apse of the church (see those discovered at Lucus Feroniae, a small Roman town in Latium). The Greeks dedicated imposing sanctuaries to Apollo at Delos, Delphi and Didyma and to his son Asklepios, god of medicine at Epidauros. The temple might have been the site of a local oracular deity who was eventually associated with Apollo.
Interior of the church
The interior offers a still more interesting spectacle in the original colonnade, composed of two rows of eight pillars ending in a double portico of four to each, which four are more than half concealed in the lateral walls; the last eight being, moreover, buried in great part by the raised pavement which supports the choir and altar at this extremity of the edifice; all which circumstances prove that these columns occupy their primaeval position. The building contains, besides some curious relics of that species of gilt and variegated mosaic work which has been called Saracenic, Greek, or Norman; a screen, composed of small spiral pillars incrusted with this material, divides the nave from the choir; and a white marble pulpit, fancifully adorned with the same, and enriched with slabs of porphyry and seirpentine, present very brilliant specimens of this minute and not inelegant kind of labour. Craven
At Alba were found numerous inscriptions, fragments of pavements and architectural sculptures, and the statues of Scipio and Hannibal, which are to be seen in the Colonna garden at Rome. Craven
The fiefdom of Albe was acquired by the Orsini of Gravina, a branch of the Orsini of Bracciano, in the early XVth century. They built a castle upon the fortifications of the ancient town. It was taken by the Colonna, but in 1444 it was a possession of the Orsini. Towards the end of the century it was again seized by the Colonna who kept it until the XIXth century. The castle was heavily bombed during WWII.