WHAT BINDS US TOGETHER From Roman origins to contemporary times
from: Bartolomeo Capasso, Napoli Greco-romana, Società napoletana di storia patria, 1905
In 470 B.C. the Greek Cumaeans decided to found a city and chose the eastest part of ancient Partenope, which is nowadays the historical centre. They decided to call it "Neapolis" (new city) to be distinguished from "Palepolis" (old city). At that time the city was probably an aristocratic republic governed by two arcons and a council of nobles. From the point of view of the urban structure, Neapolis was characterized by cards and decumans, according to Greek tradition. The city was rich in religious and public buildings such as temples, curia, theatres and hippodrome. It became an important Magna Grecia colony, together with Taranto and Cuma. In the years to come, the Romans would be inspired by the culture, art and traditions which enriched Neapolis in that period.
At first the relationship between Rome and Neapolis was based on friendship and commercial agreements but under the pressure of other colonies, Neapolis was forced not to cooperate with the Romans any longer. In 326 B.C. the Roman Counsellor defeated the allied Samnites and Nola people. Peace was not a dishonour since a confederation with Rome was created and Neapolis could keep its istitutions and differencies. Years later Neapolis was a trusting ally of the more and more powerful Romans. As a matter of fact Neapolis was, to the Romans, an important means for Greek culture and civilization. Neapolis and its surroundings became a privileged summer resort for Roman patricians, who built luxurious villas between Puteoli and Sorrento. On one hand Scipio the African, Silla, Tiberius, Caligola, Claudius, Nero, Brutus and Lucullus chose these lands for simple relaxation and pleasure; on the other hand Cicero, Horace, Pliny the Elder and Virgil found there inspiration to their artistic genius. In other words Neapolis was a centre of sophisticated culture, a piece of Greece in the Italian peninsula, always respected and admired by the Romans, who tried not to oppress it or contaminate it.
From: Ferdinando Ferrajoli , Napoli monumentale , Napoli: A. Gallina,1981
The ancient Agora or Forum After the arrival of several Greek colonies, the population increased and soon arose, over the Acropolis, the “Agorà” or the “Forum”, wich was the main square, the center of the gouvernement and public life,of the town, located in corrispondence of P.zza San Gaetano, as has been pointed out by excavaions under the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore. In these place there was the “ Archeion”, a building equivalent to the roman basilica, where was exercised the Judiciary and the documents were guarded and the treasure State.-
San Lorenzo Maggiore The church rises in the place where once was a paleo Christian church, the Neapolitan bishop Giovanni II (535-555) made it build, it was named as the martyr Lorenzo. The rudimental church whit a nave and two aisles, is still visible on the floor, it is traced with brazen bands that indicate the perimeter walls and the position retaining columns. In the area underneath the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore there are the remains of some public buildings dated back to the Greek and Roman era, when the center of the town was in the actual piazza San Gaetano. Apart from the early Christian church of the 6th century A.D., there are traces of previous building of the 4th century B.C. and of the food market of the time. Many other buildings side by side on along street, among which the treasury, show the complex stratification of the urban soil during the centuries.
Excavations • Archeological area, 8 mt. underground there is a roman paved street, 3 mt. large and 54 mt. long. This street is expandingfromnorth to south. Here there are some veryrecognizableruins, some kind of Roman shops, all part of the Macellum (the Roman market structurefrom the I century A.D.) and underneaththem is stillvisible the ancient Greek part (the perimeterwall and the Agora terracefrom the V centuryB.C.). The specificuse of some of the shopshasbeenidentified, while the one of othershasn’t. There are some reconstruction and remakingmarksdone after the violentearthquake in 62 A.D. and the destructive eruption in 79 A.D. At the end of the “Cardine”(street) there is a Cryptoporticus (the covered market), this is divided in littlecommunicatingrooms, eachhaving some masonrycountersfor the merchandise’s exposition. In the last and new part of the archaeological area, there is a monumentalhydraulic work dated back from the late Hellenisticperiod and a “Schola”, a vaststructure with mosaicflooring, a fountain-bassin (Impluvium) and rests of typicalPompeian’s frescoes.
The Roman “Cardo”A narrow street that crossed perpendicularly the “decumani” ( i.e. the main streets)
The group of buildings consisting of the church of Saint Patrizia and the monastery was built on the remains of the Temples of Cerere. According to various sources, the church may have been built by Saint Elena, according to others by the Bishop Nostriano, (X Century). After the "Concilio di Trento”(1545-1563), and the new rulings regarding cloistered orders, the old chapel was completely rebuilt. We can find evidence of these cloistered orders in the iron bars of the building's façade, in the grilles that imprison the choir, and in the splendid lighting of the "Polito" through which the Sisters used to communicate. The inside is aisles but has side chapels. It is worth noting the splendid box ceiling and two gold organs. Beyond the vestibule there is the wonderful cloister of Della Monica, which has arches and pillars supporting terraces and belvederes, and a baroque fountain which provides the base for two marble statues of the Christ and the Samaritan. In the centre there is the Byzantine Chapel of the Madonna dell'Idria.
Nile statue The name "Nile“ curiously, no doubt occurs in Neapolitan toponymy. There is a small Nile Square where you find the Church of Sant’Angelo a Nilo, as well as a statue of a Nile river god. The church is the only one in Naples with a name that gives such obvious testimony to the bonds that the Greek founders of the original city had with their own cultural forerunners, the Egyptians; the word ‘Nilo’ does, in fact, mean Nile. Here was the ‘Alexandrian (Egyptian) Quarter’ of the original Greek city.
la fontana delle “zizze” ( The Tits Fountain) It is all too clear why it is commonly referred to as Fontana delle Mammelle (mammelle being the Italian for breasts): on the top of the fountain is the sculpture of a Mermaid (symbol of Naples), who is trying to extinguish the fire of Mount Vesuvius with water that is spurting from her breasts.Historical documents state that a public fountain already stood in this place as far back as the 12th century, but it was not until the 16th century that Don Pedro de Toledo commissioned its transformation by Giovanni da Nola.The work consists of a rectangular white marble basin and stands against the wall of the church of Santa Caterina di Spinacorona (from which it gets its name).
Vesuvius shape before the eruption The activity between 79 AD and 1631 The most famous and destructive eruption of Mt. Vesuvius occurred in AD 79. Greek and roman scholars (Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Vitruvius, Vergil) already knew the volcanic nature of the mountain before this eruption. It destroyed many towns around Vesuvius. A detailed description was made by Pliny the Younger who observed the eruption from Cape Misenum at a distance of about 20 km from the volcano. During the eruption the uncle of Pliny the Younger (Pliny the Elder), admiral of the roman fleet based in Misenum, went to the rescue of the people endangered by the eruption and lost his life. We have no information on the state of Vesuvius immediately after the eruption of 79. The first account of continuing activity is from Galenus (c.172 AD) who testifies that "the matter in it (Vesuvius) is still burning".
HERCULANEUM EXCAVATIONS At the moment of the eruptionof the Vesuvius in 79 b.C , Herculaneumwas sweptawaybymud and Volcanicdetritus , which , once solidified , made a kindof hard tufabankofabout 8-10 metreswhichpreserved the topsof the buildings and alsoall the organicmaterials , so this site offers a unique vision of the domestic life of the time. The Excavations of Herculaneum According to the legend, Herculaneum was founded by Hercules, even though the history tells about various dominations (Osci, Etruscan and Samnite). In the III century the city became part of the Nocerina Confederation, and took part into the so-called "social war" of Italic populations against the Roman Empire. Herculaneum was conquered by Titus Didius (Silla's legate) in 89 BC, when it lost its autonomy and became a Roman "municipium", governed by two duumviris (consuls). The extraordinary beauty and fertility attracted many Roman patricians, that built their sumptuous villas and residences, like the suburban Villa of Papiri, dating back to the Republican Age. During the Augustan Age, were built or deeply restored many public buildings, like the walls and the aqueduct, the central thermal baths, the theatre, the basilica and even the gym. On the 24th of August 79AC, the restoration works after the terrible earthquake of 62AC were still in progress, when the tragic eruption of Mont Vesuvius swept away everything. The city was covered by burning clouds, hot ash and pumice-stone dust that caused thermal shocks, killing the citizens of Herculaneum, and buring the houses under a thick cover of ash, 30 metres high. In 1709, during the excavation of a well, at some point the workers bumped into the wall belonging to the ancient theatre. From that point started the first explorations (as well as the first sackings) making underground passages. Only in 1738 Charles of Bourbon set the works going properly, under the supervision of Rocco Gioacchino d’Alcubierre, then Carlo Weber and, later on, Francesco La Vega. First were found the ancient theatre and basilica and, in 1752, the suburban Villa of Papiri, so called for the conspicuous library of Greek books, nowadays preserved into the homonym "Officina della Biblioteca Nazionale of Naples". The villa probably belonged to Lucio Calpurnio Pisone Cesonino, Emperor Caesar's father in law.