After less than a year spent in Rome since his arrival in the capital as the new emperor, Hadrian journeyed into Campania, the southern region of Italy where Greek civilisation had once flourished. A passage in the Historia Augusta gives a chronological order of the events and states that the journey came after the removal of the prefects, thus placing Hadrian’s Campanian excursion sometime during the year of AD 119 (or even 120). More information is given regarding the intention and motive of the trip, which was to relieve cities from unspecified difficulties and engage in public relations.
After Hadrian had removed from the prefecture the very men to whom he owed the imperial power, he departed for Campania, where he aided all the towns of the region by gifts and benefactions, attaching all the leading men to his friendship. HA, Hadr. 9.6
Several inscriptions discovered in various cities across Latium and Campania, all dated to AD 121/22, testify to the variety of Hadrian’s munificence. In Campania, he offered benefactions to civic communities, while in Latium, he restored temples and sanctuaries. The evidence suggests that some local communities in Campania may have been affected by financial issues, which convinced the emperor to donate money for public work.
As Roman historian Anthony Everitt puts it, Campania was “the nearest thing to Greece that Italy could provide”, and the emperor was well known for his strong philhellenic sentiments. Hadrian’s biographer claims that Hadrian was honoured by being named dēmarchos (chief magistrate) of Neapolis (today Naples), a worthy office and highly appropriate gesture for an Emperor with such a genuine interest in the Greek world. By Hadrian’s time, the inhabitants of Neapoli had maintained their Greek language and customs and remained thoroughly Hellenic in their identity. According to Strabo, “many traces of Greek way of life are preserved there, [such as] gymnasia and ephebeia and phratries and Greek names, although they [the Neapoliteans] are Romans” (Geography: 5.4.7). No date is given for Hadrian’s honorary title in Naples, but it may have held it during his Campanian journey.
Campania was “the most blest of plains”, according to Strabo. The region was celebrated for the fertility of its soil, which prompted the epithet Campania felix (fortunate countryside). The Roman poet and friend of Hadrian, Florus, also adds:
The district of Campania is the fairest of all regions, not only in Italy, but in the whole world. Nothing can be softer than its climate: indeed it has spring and its flowers twice a year. Nowhere is the soil more fertile; for which reason it is said to have been an object of contention between Liber and Ceres. Nowhere is the coast more hospitable, which contains the famous harbours of Caieta, Misenus, Baiae with its hot springs, and the Lucrine and Avernian Lakes where the sea seems to enjoy perpetual repose.
Hadrian’s journey around Campania is not recorded, but we may suppose that he visited most of the cities whose foundations dated back to Greek times, including Cumae, which was extremely significant since Greek culture and settlements spread from here to the other areas of the Bay of Naples. He may also have visited the naval base at Misenum, where he would have reviewed the fleet.
In her work on Hadrian’s economic attention to the towns of Italy, Mary T. Boatwright reveals that epigraphic evidence attests to Hadrian’s involvement with more than 29 Italian cities other than Rome, eight of which, listed here, are associated with the time when he travelled in Campania. The dated Hadrianic inscriptions alluding to Hadrian’s donations have been found in Anzio, Ariccia, Caiazzo, Pozzuoli, Angri, Castellamare di Stabia and Sorrento.
Hadrian’s interactions with cities are further evidenced by the fourth-century Epitome de Caesaribus, which gives a brief account of the reign of Hadrian. It says the emperor restored entire cities as he journeyed, accompanied by a corps of builders and artisans.
He was of immense industry, inasmuch as he made a circuit of all the provinces on foot, outstripping the accompanying retinue, while he revived all towns and increased the orders. For indeed, on the example of the military legions, he had mustered into cohorts workmen, stone-masons, architects, and, of men for the building and beautifying of walls, every sort. (14.4-5).
The benefactions to civic communities at Puteoli are attested by two dedicatory inscriptions dated AD 121. Both inscriptions are pedestals to Hadrian and were discovered in the sea at Campi Flegrei in Pozzuoli. The first one was found in 1890, 25 metres from the coast. Because the inscription was exposed to marine environments for a long period, 80% of its surface has been damaged by the action of the sea (bioerosion). The dedication was made by the inhabitants of the vici Lartidiani. On the plinth, shields and loricas are depicted in bas-reliefs.
The other pedestal, found in 1972, is dedicated by the inhabitants of the vicus Annianus. It was also dragged out of the sea and was damaged by bioerosion. Today, it can be found standing in the Flavian Amphitheatre of Pozzuoli.
Puteoli was founded as a Greek colony in ca. 600 BC and was known as Dicaearchia (City of Justice). It retained its Greek character throughout its history, as seen in its festivals and temples. In the 1st century AD, Petronius described Puteoli as an urbs Graeca (Satyricon, 81,3). The city was granted the title of colonia iulia Augusta Puteoli, as revealed in the Mucerine tablets dated AD 39. Thanks to its protected harbour, Puteoli became the most important port. Since the city was linked by road to Roma, it functioned as the principal port of Italy from the earliest period of Roman civilisation. All goods imported into Italy, including the important grain supply from Alexandria, passed through Puteoli and then overland to Rome via Capua. As a result, Puteoli became a leading commercial centre and a cosmopolitan city, attracting merchants and traders from the Greek East and the Orient.
The urban area of Puteoli was divided into regiones (districts), which were divided into wards vici (wards). The vicus Lartidianus was an area of Puteoli believed to have been inhabited by foreign people engaged in trade and business. The city was an important nexus for trade to the Near East, and it is known to have had a Nabataean trading colony during the mid-1st century BC. The several cultic inscriptions found at Pozzuoli and dedicated to the god Dushara, the head of the Nabataean pantheon, suggest that there was a temple dedicated to this deity, possibly located in the vicus Lartidianus.
The vicus Lartidianus and vicus Annianus were located along the coast between the Rione Terra and the Portus Iulius. They were identified thanks to underwater discoveries that included architectural elements, inscribed marble bases and altarpieces, including the pedestals dedicated to Hadrian. The names of these two vici (and others) belonged to families, most of which had a series of properties and businesses in and around Puteoli.
Following storm damages, Harbour works were to be carried out at Puteoli under Hadrian and his successor Antoninus Pius. Two twin inscriptions (CIL X, 1640 & CIL X, 1641) commemorate the completion of the restoration by Antoninus Pius of twenty damaged pilae in the harbour. Restoring the harbour was part of a group of gifts promised by Hadrian.
Today, the most visible remains of Puteoli are the Amphitheatre and the Macellum (Roman market). It is the third-largest in Italy after Rome and Capua, measuring 149 x 116m, with an estimated seating capacity of 40-60,000 spectators. The great Macellum (mistakenly labelled the Temple of Serapis for many years) has been a landmark for tourists since the 18th-century Grand Tour through Italy. Built between the 1st and 2nd century AD with some restoration work that took place during the Severan period, the Macellum was a rectangular market that would have had a row of tabernae (shops) on either side, a tholos, a covered portico and public latrines. As a result of the volcanic phenomenon known as “bradyseism”, which involved the relatively rapid rising and sinking of the land, the Macellum’s columns were submerged at one time to a depth of at least 7 metres. The holes left by the marine molluscs are also visible on the columns.
Lying on a terrace west of the town centre, parallel to the Via Domitiana, stood the stadium which is said to have been built following the institution of the Eusebeia. These Greek-style athletic games were instituted by Antonius Pius in AD 142 in memory of Hadrian and were held every five years. The stadium was entirely buried following the eruption of Monte Nuovo in 1538 and brought to light again in October 2008 through a series of excavation campaigns.
Antoninus, moreover, finally built a temple for him at Puteoli to take the place of a tomb, and he also established a quinquennial contest and flamens and sodales and many other institutions which appertain to the honour of one regarded as a god. HA Had 27.3
The various architectural landmarks of Puteoli appear on a series of eight decorated glass flasks with topographical representations of Puteoli viewed from the sea. They show the harbour with two big arches and two columns with statues on top. On every flask inscription, we find vertically inscribed vertically the two honorary columns standing on the mole with the label PILAE. On the upper left-hand corner of the Prague flask (see below), the stadium is depicted and labelled STADIV(M). The arena is labelled AMPITHEAT(RUM) and is shown with the masts of the velum. We can also find the THEATRV(M). Generally dated to the late 3rd AD, the flasks signal the city’s continued importance.
Two more Hadrianic inscriptions dated to AD 121 (CIL X 676a & CIL X 676b) and related to Hadrian’s tour of Campania come from Surrentum, a coastal town situated on the southern side of the bay of Naples, now Sorrento. At Surrentum, the decurions (members of the local council) of the municipium (Surrentum was granted certain citizenship rights) collected a sum of money to erect two statues of Hadrian in the town.
The foundation of Sorrentum also dates back to the Greek age, and the modern city has preserved the orthogonal ground plan typical of Greek colonies, with streets intersecting at right angles. The oldest ruins are Oscan, dating from about 600 BC, and there are remnants of the Greek defensive walls and an arched gateway, one of Sorrento’s original Greek city gates, built in the 4th century BC.
Surrentum boasted the only temple to the Sirens in the ancient Greek world, and its name derived from the myth of the Sirens who tried to tempt Ulysses. A temple dedicated to Athena at Punta della Campanella was also important to the Sorrentines of the time. Facing the island of Capri, Punta Campanella, a promontory overlooking the sea, was frequented from at least the 6th century BC, as the archaeological remains testify. The temple survived until the Imperial Roman Age when it was called Promontorium Minervae and appeared on the Tabula Peutingeriana as Templum Minervae. Strabo mentioned it as being founded by Odysseus during his troubled return from Troy to Ithaca.
Now, in the first place, this rock is not three-peaked, nor does it form a crest at the summit at all, but a long and narrow angle reaching from the territory of Surrentum to the Strait of Capria, having on one side of the mountain the sanctuary of the Sirens, and on the other side, next the Gulf of Posidonium, three little rocky and uninhabited islands, named the Sirenes; upon the strait, is situated the Athenaion, from which the rocky angle itself takes its name. Strab. 1.2.12
Surrentum became a vacation spot for wealthy Romans, particularly in the 1st century BC and AD, as attested by the sumptuous villas located along the most panoramic points of the coast. They were constructed by the elite Romans, who had chosen the area as a favourite vacation spot.
It is not known what kind of benefactions Hadrian bestowed on the local community of Surrentum. The AD 79 earthquake severely damaged the town, and there is epigraphical evidence that even before Vesuvius erupted, Titus restored the town’s clock (horologium) and its architectural adornments (see inscription here). During Hadrian’s time, Surrentum experienced a period of great splendour as suggested by the Roman villa extending over the entire promontory at Massa Lubrense, where finds included two marble capitals with palm leaves, marble reliefs and other architectural elements dated to the age of Hadrian.
In Caiatia, today Caiazzo, some 18 kilometres northeast of Capua, Hadrian supplied funds (pecunia sua) for the restoration of a building which he decorated with Cubulterini marbles. This was recorded on a large slab (CIL X 4574) found in fragments and re-used in the church of the Castle of Caiazzo and is now preserved in the Bishop’s Palace. The Cubulterini marbles came from the nearby quarries of Alvignano, located in the territory of the Roman municipium of Cubulteria. Unfortunately, there are no traces of the building Hadrian ordered to be embellished, and his motives for donating to this relatively insignificant town are unknown.
Caiazzo, located on a hill on the right bank of the Volturnus, was probably founded by the Oscans and was attacked by the Samnites to become a town of the Caudini tribe. With the coming of the Romans down the Via Appia, the ancient city became a Latin colony and, eventually, a Roman municipium of the tribus Falerna ca. 89 BC.
One of Hadrian’s other concerns seems to have been the improvement of the road network in Campania. The emergency repairs of the roads in the area devastated by Vesuvius appear to have begun almost immediately after the eruption but were probably not completed until the reign of Hadrian, which is when Stabiae also seems to have recovered.
The construction and restoration of roads in the imperial period were usually accompanied by the erection of milestones bearing the name of the reigning emperor and his titles. In addition to showing the distance between the two cities, milestones were seen to publicise the emperor’s initiative wherever the new roads were built or restored. The rebuilding by Hadrian of the road network linking Nuceria and Stabiae with Neapolis was commemorated on milestones.
One milestone (CIL X 6939), which lacks a distance marker, was found at Angri near Nocera Inferiore at the beginning of the 1950s during works on the city’s sewers. It can be related to another milestone brought to light at Castellammare di Stabia in 1879 near the Duomo, attesting to the Neapolis to Nuceria highway restoration.
Based on Hadrian’s imperial titles, the set up of the milestone can be dated precisely to the year between 10th December AD 120 and 9th December AD 121, the time of office of his fifth year of tribunician power. The stated distance of eleven miles on the second milestone (below) corresponds to the distance from Stabiae to Nuceria.
Hadrian’s next recorded benefactions are in Antium (CIL X 6652), which mentions the temple restoration. It is a large architrave found in 1702 during the construction of the new port of Anzio, which replaced what was left of the old Neronian site. Only two original fragments remain of the 6.50 metre-long inscription. The missing parts were reconstructed in 1816. Fortunae was added to complete the gap between aedem and vetustat, but it remains uncertain which temple was restored.
According to literary sources, there were two temples in Antium; one was the Temple of Aesculapius, mentioned by Livy (43.4.7) and by Ovid (Met. 15.718), and the other was the Temple of Fortuna, where she was worshipped in a double form (dual cult) and called Fortunae Antiates (“Fortunes of Antium”). Cults of Hercules, Ceres and Fortuna Equestris are also attested in Antium. Despite the inscription’s reconstruction as Fortunae, no evidence allows us to assign the Hadrianic restoration to this famous temple. The inscription is now walled up in the Capitoline Museums, in the Hall of the Gladiator.
Hadrian is said to have been particularly fond of Antium. Philostratus said Antium was one of Hadrian’s favourite places in Italy. He had a villa and a library where he kept important books and letters from Greek philosophers. Hadrian’s intervention at Antium may be connected to his interest in this place.
This book is preserved in Antium, and the village in question, which is on the Italian seaboard, is much visited for the purpose of seeing it. I must acknowledge that I only heard these details from the inhabitants of Lebadea; but in regard to the volume in question I must set on record my conviction, that it was subsequently conveyed to the Emperor Hadrian at the same time as certain letters of Apollonius, though by no means all of them; and it remained in the palace at Antium, which was that one of his Italian palaces in which this Emperor took most pleasure. Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 8.20
Antium was a seaside city favoured in the late republic and early empire by the wealthy of Rome to build their villas. Of the villas, the most famous was the Villa of Nero, where he was born in AD 37. Over the foundations of Augustus’ villa, Nero raised a palatial complex extending 170 metres along the seafront. The successors of Nero continued to use the Imperial villa at Antium, including Domitian, Hadrian and Septimius Severus, when the complex underwent radical changes. The villa was levelled and rebuilt with a series of rooms and corridors with high vaults supported by pillars. One of the rooms might have been the library of Hadrian. The use of opus mixtum can identify the Hadrianic building phase.
Hadrian’s last recorded benefactions are from the famous Sanctuary of Diana at Nemi, some 30 kilometres from Rome. A fragment of an architrave (CIL XIV 2216) was found at Aricia, the ancient Latin town on the Via Appia, which was strongly associated with the sacred grove of Diana. The inscription records Hadrian’s restoration of a shrine erected there a few decades earlier by Arsacides, a son of a Parthian king.
[Imp(erator) Caesar divi Traiani Parthici filius divi] Nervae nepos Traianus / [Hadrianus Augustus pont(ifex) max(imus) trib]unic(ia) potest(ate) VI co(n)s(ul) III / [— quod Dareius regis regu]m Parthorum fil(ius) Arsacadis / [fecerat vetustate collaps]um restituit
The sanctuary of Diana in Nemi was one of Latium’s most revered and ancient religious centres. Hadrian is known to have had a particular interest in ancient religious practices, and the antiquity of the shrine at Nemi may have been key in Hadrian’s decision to support the restoration of one of its sacred buildings. This Hadrianic restoration, together with the one at Antium, confirms the note in the Augustan biography that Hadrian was respectful and pious towards the archaic Italic gods, which “he observed most scrupulously” (HA, Hadr. 22.10).
The Latins built the original temple of Diana on the northern shore of the small volcanic lake of Nemi. The Romans replaced it with a sanctuary consisting of several buildings spread over a vast area. It featured a huge Roman-era platform with tall retaining walls on the west sides, and on the east sides were large porticoed retaining walls. Diana was considered the protector of the lower classes in her cult there, especially slaves.
Diana was also honoured at Aricia with an annual festival called Nemoralia on the Ides (13th) of August. As the Roman poet Ovid described, burning torches, known as Speculum Dianae, were carried in a procession around the lake. The street that joined Aricia to the sanctuary passed along the lake’s western bank. The best-preserved stretch of the ancient road can be seen inside the Museo delle Navi.
In the same year, the city of Aricia honoured the emperor with a public dedication (EphEpigr. IX 651). The inscription, probably a base bearing a portrait statue of Hadrian, was found during excavations in 1895 but is now conserved in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen.
Imp(eratori) Caeesari / Divi Traiani / Parthici f(ilio) Divi / Nervae nepoti / Traiano Hadriano / Aug(usto) pont(ifici) max(imo), trib(unicia) pot(estate) VI / co(n)s(uli) III / senatus populusque / Aricinus
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- PECS: PUTEOLI (Pozzuoli) Campania, Italy (link).
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