the Solfatara

In ancient times  the Solfatara was known as the  square of Hephaestus, where  even then the volcanism of the Phlegrean Fields was observable.

The only monumental rest of District Terra is the temple of Augustus,  fully saved, as  transformed into the church  of St.Procolo in the XI century. The church underwent some changes  between 1500-1600 during the construction of the side chapels.

The restoration  works, following a fire,  brought to light one of the best examples of the Augustan architecture.  It was built by the architect Lucio Aucto who realized the crypts of Cuma and Naples.

Outside  the  District  Terra there are numerous ruins now incorporated into modern houses.

Monuments such as the Temple of Diana and Neptune are difficult to be reached, but their size reflects the importance of the city in the late Republican and Imperial age.

Flavian Amphitheatre

Located between the solfatara and Mount Guaro, just there, where crossed the most important streets:  Domitiana, Campana  and Antiniana.

The Flavian Amphitheatre was built by Vespasian following the increase of the population of Pozzuoli, at that time a  flavian-augustan colony.

This is evidenced by the discovery of registration Colonia Flavia Augusta Puteolana pecunie sua.

The amphitheater had three architectural orders crowned by an attic. An elliptical porch surrounded the building, through this it was possible to reach four main and twelve secondary entrances, to facilitate the exit of the spectators.

From the outside porch departed twenty flights of stairs allowing  to reach higher areas. Other   meeting points  were obtained in the arches under the auditorium.

In the first arch there was a podium for statues with marble floor with inscriptions dedicated to Caio Trofimiano.

The auditorium was divided into three ranges, above these there was a porch with columns and statues , which in the Middle Ages were used for the production of lime.

Ambulatories and underground kept well preserved as  they were covered by the ashes of solfatara.  the basement  could be reached  by  two steep stairs.

Observing the underground we can understand the operation of  lifting structures, essential for Venationes,  or shows with wild beasts.   There were stored the  necessary  tools for the shows too.

The basement consisted of two corridors crossed in   the center (assuming a form of H). The four  rooms were communicating with each other.

The corridor was fitted with  stone openings,  with wooden hatches from which animals were raised.

Even this one, as other amphitheaters, is related to the Christian martyrology.  St.Gennaro  was taken here to suffer his torment, but the sentence was suspended because of the absence of the governor of Campania, so the penalty was  commuted to his  beheading.

Only in the fifth century his relics were transported to  Naples,  becoming a destination of worship such as those of S.Procolo in Pozzuoli.

Today of this amphitheater you can only see  about  ten arches, and the auditorium from Via Solfatara, other arches are observable from Via Vigne.

The building is to be dated about in  the second century.

the Macellum

known as the Temple of Serapis for the discovery of the statue of the god in 1750, the Macellum is actually a public market, with a round building in the center (one of  the same type is located in Pompei, but  smaller)  as large as was necessary  to serve the center of a big commercial city.

The building has a square courtyard surrounded by thirty-six Corinthian columns, decorated with shells containing dolphins.  The court and the porch were paved with marble slabs.

At the center there is a circular building called Tholos, with walls covered in marble.  Access to the court was provided by four stairs, with four  railings  dolphin shaped and  with friezes of seas animals.  Sixteen Corinthian columns supported the lintel, and on it  rested a perhaps conical coverage.

Around the porch there were the shops, six on  the  entrance side  and eleven on the other two sides.

The need to increase the usable space pushed  to develop a second floor decorated with a second order of columns and accessible  through  two flights of stairs.

In the corners were the bathrooms, decorated with marble niches, and lit by a large window.

Perforated marble benches communicated with a discharge channel which, thanks to a proper slope,  let waters flow away  and guaranteed hygiene.

The most important point of the Macellum was represented by the  front hall  embellished by honorary statues.  Important was the flooring with  red, yellow, purple and green marble.

Three niches contained  statues of the  market protectors:  Serapis – Genius -Macelli – characters of the imperial family.

From the Temple of Serapis it is possible to observe the phenomenon of bradyseism on the three central columns,  where the holes left by the sea dates, demonstrate the level reached by the sea.

In the Middle Ages the floor was five meters below the water level. In 1700 the temple was re-emerging, but in 1800 the slow sinking made it unhealthy.

Macellum - Tempio di Serapide

The Macellum – Temple of Serapis

The harbour

The  harbour is the economic center of the city.

From the second century b.C. it was an important trade center of the Mediterranean,  by Pozzuoli passed anything was to reach Rome, from the slaves to the corn.

Of the old pier, following the construction of the new one, nothing remains.  Except for some eighteenth-nineteenth century depiction,  we would have never known  what was the appearance of the old port, considered one of the greatest engineering works of the time.

The old harbor was formed by 15 pillars supporting 15 arches on which rested a platform, at whose end there was a triumphal arch with statues of Neptune and the Dioscuri and probably a lighthouse.

This structure of the Augustan age was damaged by a storm and restored only in the time of Antoninus Pius.

Via Campana

Campana  Street is the main  outside-town street   of Pozzuoli, it was edged with monumental tombs  today giving us an idea about the costumes and about Roman funerary architecture.

Among the various tombs prevails a tomb  with columbus patterns, or rooms with perforated walls to house the urns. Two or more storey graves were often dug  towerlike.

It was frequently found,  to be family  or associations tombs which  ensured a decent funeral at little cost. Cremation was the most common practice, the deceased was  burnt on a stake  and the ashes kept in a funerary urn and subsequently  placed in the niche.

Once  the urn was placed into the tomb,  only the name and age of the deceased was indicated.

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The Catacombs

The  tuff hills  from the  old age  have contributed to the construction of underground tombs.

The catacombs began to develop from the second  up to the tenth century ( from the second century  are dated the oldest  paintings known).

Christianity spread from the first century, and this development is attested by the  privileges given  by the Emperor Constantine, an example is the construction of the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte.

Maximum expression of early Christian culture are: the Catacombs of St.Gennaro-  St.Gaudioso -S.Eufebio.

 Catacomb of San Gennaro.

Named after the bishop of Benevento martyr in Pozzuoli in 305.  The relics were taken to  Naples into the catacombs in the fifth century.

People  have access to the Catacomb  from the church of Good Counsel. The original center was an underground buring place   of a noble  Christian family in  the second century.

There were numerous  expansion works, which were completed in the fourth century, having reached  a second level of galleries.

In the fifth century the faithful people wanted to be buried next to the saint, and it was necessary a further expansion with the opening of new cubicles.

The ancient tomb consists of a trapezoidal room with a central  baptismal source, commissioned by Paul II.  In  776  a  repainting of the room with the fresco of Christ’s baptism took place.

To the south we find the basilica of Agrippino dating from the fifth century, worth considering are paintings depicting the saint who heals the Moro, works dating back to the mid-ninth century.

Behind the vestibule are the tombs.  The upper catacomb dating from the third century, is formed by two almost square rooms communicating with each other by a  staircase.

That the tomb belonged to a Christian community, is demonstrated by a fresco on the ceiling of Adam and Eve. (Dating from the third century)

Poorly preserved is the scene of two women  building  a tower, taken from a Greek work “the pastor of herms”.  In  the catacomb centre there  is the Crypt Of Bishops.

Cripta dei Vescovi

Crypt of Bishops.

Decorated with mosaics depicting bishops of the fifth century, remarkable is  the one  of  bishop of Carthage, a circular field of golden tiles surrounding the African bishop recognized by different colors of the cards, holding the book of Gospels.

In this same crypt, all the bishops of the fifth century were buried, but the absence of registration does not allow their  identification.

Catacomb  of San Gaudioso.

It is located at the Church of St. Mary of Health.  It owes its name to an African bishop who died in exile in Naples in 452.

It can be  reached  through a passage to the catacombs beneath the altar.

It leads to a double row of cubicles,  found again  in 1616, after  the Dominicans had obstructed the passage with twelve altars.

The St.Gaudioso tomb is recognizable by the  mosaic epithaf  in which  the saint is exactly depicted.


Catacombs of S.Eufebio.

They are named after  the eighth bishop of Naples.

The catacombs were digged again  in 1931, of  the two frescoes found,  one is dating back to the fifth century (a prayer  with a red tunic between two saints), the second painting represents a dead woman  between the archangels Michael and Gabriel.

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The ancient core of the town  can be related to he Greek-Roman city (Rettifilo – Street Foria – Street Tribunali). Roads following the ancient main road of the city, (composed of vertical axes “Decumani” and horizontal axes “stenopoi” characterizing the  Greek town-planning  of the fifth century.)  The area where Neapolis arose was fortified by  tuff walls.

Later there was the need to reinforce the walls and partly rebuild some new ones. (IV century).

Due  to the adjustment of  the wall circle, the city managed to withstand the attack by Hannibal. Remains of these fortifications are still present in Piazza Bellini.

During Roman age  the walls restoration led to cover them with plaster,  and in  440 they were extended to the west for the defense of the port from the Goths.

Some remains are still visible in Piazza Bellini, they  are composed of tuff blocks in double curtain with double system of spurs. Due to its tufa quality and the construction technique and especially considering   the quarry signs, we can date these findings in the fourth century and it is possible that this line of walls belonged to a defensive tower.

scavi archeologici di Piazza Bellini

archeological escavations under piazza Bellini

Under the hospital of the Incurable there is another stretch of wall dating back to the fifth century. Built in grainy tuff blocks, 10.50 meters high. The wall is firmly built in the hill,  thanks to  series of spurs beds at about 3 meters from each other.

Rare are the signs of the quarry, which are ofte seen  on the blocks of the fourth century.

The  Dioscuri Temple.

Father Gods  of the city were Apollo, Demeter and the Dioscuri. The worship of the god Apollo, is due to the Apollo founder of the motherland Cuma. Demeter was worshiped as Altaea in Naples and in her honor was celebrated the feast of lamps. Of Castor and Pollux, we preserve the remains in the church of San Paolo Maggiore. The church of San Paolo Maggiore was built between the eighth and ninth centuries exactly above the pre-existing temple dedicated to the Dioscuri.

The old structure was preserved until 1538 when it was partially demolished by fathers Teatini to build the present church with the facade and appearance that we see today. Of the  ancient look,   only the Renaissance drawings by Palladio still remain.

Thanks to these drawings it was possible to reconstruct the architecture and style of the temple, which stood on a podium with hexastyle front, with two Corinthian columns on the lapels. The few remains are from the Roman period and almost certainly have been modified by a restoration which  took place around the first century.

The ancient Theatre.

We have only a few remains about the ancient theater. The few findings  are of Roman age.
The inability to make excavations, makes the hypothesis of the presence of the ancient greek theater, just under  the ruins of the  known theatre , unverifiable.

The literary evidence  telling us about the theater are exclusively of Roman age, related to the passion of some emperors for the theater. Claudius Nero considered the Neapolitan play,  the only one to  be considered worthy of being seen by an emperor of his importance. Nero was responsible for the invention of “Claque” or  a group of persons appointed to loudly express their appreciation for the play  in progress.

Well preserved is the building of the scene. The external fasade was divided into three orders, each of 23 arches, on pillars which stood against semicolumns.

The seat capacity was for about 8000 people. The absence of excavations makes  difficult  the  dating of the remains, which appear to be of the first century.

We know with certainty  it was damaged by several earthquakes and the eruption of Vesuvius in 79, but it remains unknown,  although plausible,  the possibility that  the remains  we see  today have undergone some  restoration work.

Next to the theater there was the Odeion.  We have some proofs about it  from the Neapolitan poet Statius, who lived in the time of Domitian.

Today of this building there are very few remains embedded in modern buildings. About other nearby buildings ,as the thermal bath and caesareum (art gallery)   only some literary memory remains.

Statue of the Nile

Nile Square is named after the statue of a river god.

The statue is an old man lying, resting with his left side on a rock from which water flows. He is anteriorly covered by a mantle  and posteriorly naked. Under his feet  there is  a crocodile, and the presence of the sphinx alludes to Egypt. It was found in  1500 and only in 1734 it was placed on the current stand.

Following several and important  renovations, very  little remains of its original appearance.

Statua del Nilo

Nile statue


Tomb of Virgil

Near  the church of Piedigrotta you can see the tomb of the poet Virgil. It is a funerary monument standing on a cubic base, the wall structure is made of concrete.

Inside the base there is the burial chamber, a square plan with a barrel vault lighted by three slots.


In front of the new  Spa, some ruins were found  allowing  us to determine with certainty the existence of a  much older spa complex.

The main building was built on a terrace supported by wall buttressed by pillars, another wall with 9 exedras stretched to the west.

Due to the long use during the Middle Age, the plant got altered in its original structure. Among the findings, great importance has the statue of the  Sea Venus, now preserved in the new spa.


Submerged in the sea, because of bradyseism, there  are some inaccessible ruins of the villas  which  from the first century  stood at the foot of the  Posillipo hill.

Near Gaiola remains have been found of an Odeion.

The monuments found in the area confirm that the hill was considered a magnificence, especially thanks to the extraordinary view it allows to admire the gulf.

The  most famous villa is the one by Vedio Pollio, a complex called pausilypon.

Also we can watch and still cross the cave of Sejanus, a  800m long pass,   crossing the hill and reaching the area of Coroglio.

Grotta di Seiano

Grotto of Sejano

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Samnitization and Romanization

The Samnites were a people of Sabellic lineage who moved between the valleys of the river Volturno and  river  Calore.  They superseded the Etruscans in the domain of internal Campania, in 421  they conquered Cuma and Dicearchia (now Pozzuoli), while Naples  managed to avoid the military occupation.

Samnites expansionism collided with the Roman one,  likewise seeking the conquest of Naples, as important port of the Mediterranean.

In the clash between Samnites and Romans, Cuma sided with Rome, (getting in 338 Roman citizenship without, however, the opportunity to vote.) Naples instead remained pro-Samnites and at the end of the war, following the victory of the Romans, in 326 it was militarily occupied.  At the end of the clash, the whole  phlegrean area  was in  Romans’ hands.

Naples  managed to “trade”  its own autonomy with the promise to provide its fleet in case of need, to the Roman Empire.

In 264 the Romans undertook the expedition to Sicily and Naples had to remain faithful to the previously agreed covenant.  From this collaboration  Naples came out with advantage, being able to do business  where the strong  Roman military penetration  opened some gates!

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The foundation of Cuma dates back from about the mid-eighth century b.C. on a site inhabited by indigenous Opici, representing according to the Greek historians the oldest Greek colony of the West.

According to the legend, the site was indicated by a dove or by the sound of cymbals .

Cuma was founded not only to strengthen the trade but also as a population colony, where to find a living space for those who in motherland did not have any kind of perspective .

The city soon experienced a rapid development, due to the geographical position as a Greek outpost in the trade with Latio and Campania territories. It created its rapidly expanding territory towards the Campania plain and over the Gulf of Naples.

The intellectual influence of Cuma on the surrounding cities is evidenced by discoveries of statues of Apollo, Demeter and Dionysus, in the near Etruscan areas of Latio and Campania.

An important further confirmation of the intellectual Cuman influence on surrounding cities, is the adoption of the alphabet with Cuma variants by the Etruscans and other Italic peoples .

In the sixth century b.C. devastated by home struggles and eruptions, Pithecusa ( now Ischia) was abandoned. With a free Pithecusa, Cuma consolidated its presence in the Gulf of Naples, which was named of Gulf of Cuma, creating sub-colonies and outposts at key points on the coast ( Misenus – Pozzuoli – Pizzofalcone – Capri – Islet of Megaride: a space currently occupied by Castel dell ‘Ovo. )

Pizzofalcone according to tradition would correspond to the establishment of Partenope, taking its name from the Sirene, buried nearby.

( About ​​who founded Partenope there are different theses, among the most reliable ones we have :

The Rhodians, seafarer people who in their travels would beat the routes to the West well before the Greek colonization .

A group of Cumans having left the country. )

Having become economically strong, Partenope began to pose a threat to Cuma, which destroyed it . The tradition is partly confirmed by the discovery of a necropolis on the hill of Pizzofalcone and materials dating VII -VI b.C., the period of the maximum Cuman power.

The expansion of Cuma and its dominion over the Gulf led to a clash with the Etruscans . (Which from the inner cores of Salerno tried to expand towards the coast ) .

In this same period ( 531-530 b.C.), the Cumans allowed a group of Samians, fleeing from the tyranny of Polycrates to settle in their territory on the site corresponding to the today’s Pozzuoli.

The New town built under the protection of the Cumans and without any political autonomy, took the name of Dicearchia (City of the right government ) as opposed to the regime of Polycrates at Samos .

The hostility between Cumans and Etruscans ended in 524 BC with the defeat of the latter.

Cuma became so reinforced by the conflict, being able to send to Ariccia ( Latin ally ) a part if its army to counter the Etruscans attack. This further victory marked the rise of the tyrant Aristodemus who remained in power until 492 b.C.

The return of the oligarchs of Capua along with other mercenaries marked the fall of the tyrant, who was killed with his entire family .

Another city replaced Cuma as a bulwark of the Greeks against the barbarians in the Mediterranean , Syracuse!

With the fall of Cuma, the Gulf was again dominated by Naples, which soon began a war against the Romans for the control of the Gulf itself.

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The Neapolitan-phlegraean territory consists of yellow and grey tuffaceous soils produced by a volcanic system giving this area its geo-morphological characteristics .

There are numerous recognizable craters in the Phlegraean Fields area bordered on the east by the Gulf of Naples and on the west by Literno. Among the largest ones we include: the Gulf of Baia, the harbor of Miseno, the Torregaveta crater, the crater of Chiaia, Pozzo Vecchio (Old Pit) and Torre Murata in Procida, the islet of Vivara and Mount Epomeo in Ischia .

Characteristic of the Phlegraean area is the bradyseism .

With the term bradyseism we mean the raising and lowering of the soil compared to the sea level, due to the variation of the pressure exerted by the internal heat sources of the earth, on the pyroclastic mass.

This phenomenon since ancient times fueled numerous myths related to the idea of afterlife world.

The warm waters arising from the subsoil have been repeatedly connceted with Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus, the rivers of the kingdom of the dead.

Lucrino was identified as an Acherontean swamp .

Still in Lucrino it was imagined the Giants were buried after being defeated by the Gods of Olympus, and in their attempts to escape, they shaked up the earth.

Another myth would have as protagonist the island of Ischia, whose first inhabitants were the Cimmerians, who would live in underground homes without ever seeing the sunlight.

They would make their living by extracting metals from the caves .

On these same lands would live the Lestrigoni, huge and vicious creatures that would have hurled boulders against the ships of Ulysses.

Leaving aside the mythical elements, the first human settlements in the Phlegraen area are very recent, as the documentation from Paleolithic and Mesolithic in all probability were destroyed as a result of volcanic eruptions, and bradyseism .

The first records are from Neolithic age and consist of fragments of arrowheads and pottery shards .

From Eneolithic we have a greater amount of evidence :

At Materdei, in Naples, following the discovery of two tombs, copper daggers were discovered, while in Ischia and on the islet of Vivara fragments of Mycenaean pottery were found.

From the Iron Age, there are instead traces especially in the area of Cuma, where traces were found of a native settlement built on the rock giving the possibility to visually check anyone entering the Gulf of Naples





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