img_coa = Palestrina-Stemma.png
official_name = Comune di Palestrina
name = Palestrina
province = Rome (RM)
elevation_m = 450
area_total_km2 = 46.8
population_as_of = December 2004
population_total = 18012
population_density_km2 = 385
timezone = CET, UTC+1
coordinates = coord|41|50|N|12|54|E|type:city(18,012)_region:IT
frazioni = Carchitti, Valvarino
telephone = 06
postalcode = 00036 (capital, Valvarino), 00030 (Carchitti)
gentilic = Palestrinesi o Prenestini
saint = St. Agapitus martyr
day = August 18
mayor = Rodolfo Lena
website = [http://www.comune.palestrina.rm.it/ www.comune.palestrina.rm.it]
mapy = 12.9000
mapx = 41.8333
Palestrina (ancient "Praeneste") is an ancient city and "
comune" (municipality) with a population of about 18,000, in Lazio, c. 35 km east of Rome. It is connected to latter by the Via Prenestina. Palestrina is sited on a spur of the Monti Prenestini, a range in the Apennines.
Palestrina borders the following municipalities:
Artena, Castel San Pietro Romano, Cave, Gallicano nel Lazio, Labico, Rocca di Cave, Rocca Priora, Rome, San Cesareo, Valmontone, Zagarolo.
It is the namesake of composer
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.
Early burials show that the site was already occupied in the 8th or 7th century BC. The ancient
necropolislay on a plateau at the foot of the hill below the ancient town. Of the objects found in the oldest graves, and supposed to date from about the 7th century BC, the cups of silver and silver-gilt and most of the gold and amberjewelry are Phoenician (possibly Carthaginian), but the bronzes and some of the ivoryarticles seem to be of the Etruscan civilization.
Praenestine graves from about 240 BC onwards have been found: they are surmounted by the characteristic pine-apple of local stone, containing stone coffins with rich bronze, ivory and gold ornaments beside the skeleton. From these come the famous bronze boxes ("cistae") and hand mirrors with inscriptions partly in Etruscan. Also famous is the bronze Ficoroni casket (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Rome), engraved with pictures of the arrival of the
Argonautsin Bithyniaand the victory of Pollux over Amycus, found in 1738. An example of archaic Latin is the inscription on the "Cista Ficoroni": "Novios Plautios Romai med fecid / Dindia Macolnia fileai dedit" ("Novios Plautios made me in Rome, Dindia Macolnia gave me to her daughter"). The caskets are unique in Italy, but a large number of mirrors of precisely similar style have been discovered in Etruria. Hence, although it would be reasonable to conjecture that objects with Etruscan characteristics came from Etruria, the evidence points decisively to an Etruscan factory in or near Praeneste itself. Other imported objects in the burials show that Praeneste traded not only with Etruriabut also with the Greek east.
The origin of Praeneste was attributed by the ancients to Ulysses, or to other fabulous characters variously called Caeculus, Telegonus, Praenestus or Erulus. the name derives probably from the word "Praenesteus", referring to its overlooking location.
Praeneste was probably under the hegemony of
Alba Longawhile that city was the head of the Latin League. It withdrew from the league in 499 BC, according to Livy(its earlest historical mention), and formed an alliance with Rome. After Rome was weakened by the Gaulsof Brennus (390 BC), Praeneste switched allegiances and fought against Rome in the long struggles that culminated in the Latin War. From 373 to 370, it was in continual war against Rome or her allies, and was defeated by Cincinnatus.
Eventually in 354 and in 338 the Romans were victorious and Praeneste was punished by the loss of portions of its territory, becoming a city allied to Rome. As such, it furnished contingents to the Roman army, and Roman exiles were permitted to live at Praeneste, which grew prosperous. The roses of Praeneste were a byword for profusion and beauty. Præneste was situated on the
Its citizens were offered Roman
citizenshipin 90 BC in the Social War, when concessions had to be made by Rome to cement necessary alliances. In Sulla's second civil war, Gaius Marius the Youngerwas blockaded in the town by the forces of Sulla(82 BC). When the city was captured, Marius slew himself, the male inhabitants were massacred in cold blood, and a military colony was settled on part of its territory. From an inscription it appears that Sulla delegated the foundation of the new colony to Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus, who was consulin 73 BC. Within a decade the lands of the colonia had been assembled by a few large landowners.
It was probably after the disaster of 82 BC that the city was removed from the hillside to the lower ground at the Madonna dell Aquila, and that the sanctuary and temple of Fortune was enlarged so as to include much of the space occupied by the ancient city.
Under the Empire the cool breezes of Praeneste made it a favorite summer resort of wealthy Romans, whose villas studded the neighborhood, though they ridiculed the language and the rough manners of the native inhabitants. The poet
Horaceranked "cool Praeneste" with Tibur and Baiaeas favored resorts. The emperor Augustusstayed in Praeneste, and Tiberiusrecovered there from a dangerous illness and made it a municipium. The ruins of the villa associated with Hadrianstand in the plain near the church of S. Maria della Villa, about three-quarters of a mile from the town. At the site was discovered the "Braschi Antinous", now in the Vatican Museums. Marcus Aurelius, Pliny the Youngerand Symmachusalso had villas there. Inscriptions show that the inhabitants of Praeneste were fond of gladiatorialshows.
anctuary of Fortuna Primigenia
Praeneste was chiefly famed for its great Temple of Fortuna Primigenia connected with the
oracleknown as the Praenestine lots ("sortes praenestinae"). The temple was redeveloped after 82 BC as a spectacular series of terraces, exedras and porticos on four levels down the hillside, linked by monumental stairs and ramps. The inspiration for this feat of unified urbanistic design lay, not in republican Rome, but in the
The oldest portion of the primitive sanctuary was situated on the terrace just above the lowest one, in a
grottoin the natural rock where there was a spring that developed into a well. As the archaic shrine was elaborated from the 2nd century BC, it was given a colored mosaicpavement representing a seascape: a temple of Poseidonon the shore, with fish of all kinds swimming in the sea. To the east of this grotto is a large space, now open, but once very possibly roofed, and forming a two-story basilicabuilt against the rock on the north side, and there decorated with pilasters. To the east is an apsidal hall, often identified with the temple itself, in which was found the famous mosaic with scenes from the Nile, relaid in the Palazzo Barberini-Colonna [ [http://www.tibursuperbum.it/ita/escursioni/palestrina/santuario/PalazzoBarberini.htm The Nile Mosaic of Palestrina] ] in Palestrina (not that in Rome!) on the uppermost terrace (now a National Museum). Under this hall is a chamber, which an inscription on its walls identified as a treasury in the 2nd century BC. In front of this temple an obeliskwas erected in the reign of Claudius, fragments of which still exist.
As extended under
Sulla, the sanctuary of Fortune came to occupy a series of five vast terraces, which, resting on gigantic masonry substructure and connected with each other by grand staircases, rose one above the other on the hill in the form of the side of a pyramid, crowned on the highest terrace by the round temple of Fortune. This immense edifice, probably by far the largest sanctuary in Italy, must have presented a most imposing aspect, visible as it was from a great part of Latium, from Rome, and even from the sea. The ground at the foot of the lowest terrace is 1476 feet (450 m) above sea-level; here is a cistern, divided into ten large chambers, in brick-faced concrete.
The goddess Fortuna here went by the name of "Primigenia" ("First Bearer"), she was represented suckling two babes, as in the
Christianrepresentation of Charity, said to be Jupiter and Juno, and she was especially worshipped by matrons. The oracle continued to be consulted down to Christian times, until Constantine the Great, and again later Theodosius I, forbade the practice and closed the temple.
Features of the temple influenced Roman garden design on steeply sloped sites through Antiquity and once again in Italian villa gardens from the 15th century. The monument to Vittorio Emmanuel II in Rome owes a lot to the Praeneste sanctuary complex.
The modern town is built on the ruins of the famous temple of Fortuna Primigenia. A
bishop of Praenesteis first mentioned in 313.
In 1297 the
Colonna family, who then owned Praeneste (by then called Palestrina) from the eleventh century as a fief, revolted from the pope. In the following year the town was taken by Papal forces and razed to the ground by order of Pope Boniface VIII. In 1437 the rebuilt city was captured by the Papal general Giovanni Vitelleschiand once more utterly destroyed at the command of Pope Eugenius IV.
It was rebuilt once more and fortified by Stefano Colonna in 1448. It was again sacked in 1527, and occupied by the Duke of Alba, in 1556. In 1630 it passed by purchase into the Barberini family. Praeneste was the native town of the 3rd century Roman writer Aelian, and of the great 16th century composer
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Thomas Mannspent some time there in 1895 and, two years later, during the long harsh summer of 1897, he stayed over again, with his brother Heinrich Mann, in a sojourn which:: 'set both brothers on the road to literary fame as novelists, and provide the backcloth, exactly half a century later, for Adrian Leverkühn's pact with the Devil in (the former's late masterpiece) Doctor Faustus' [Nigel Hamilton,"The Brothers Mann",1978 p.49]
The modern town of Palestrina is centered on the terraces once occupied by the massive temple of Fortune. The town came to largely obscure the temple, whose monumental remains were revealed as a result of American bombing of German positions in
World War II.
The town contains remnants of cyclopean walls and of the aforesaid great temple of Fortune.
On the summit of the hill (753 m), nearly a mile from the town, stood the ancient citadel, the site of which is now occupied by a few poor houses (Castel San Pietro) and a ruined medieval castle of the Colonna family. The magnificent view embraces the
Monte Soratte, Rome, the Alban Hillsand the Pontinian Plainas far as the sea. Considerable portions of the southern wall of the ancient citadel, built in very massive Cyclopean masonry of blocks of limestone, are still to be seen; and the two walls, also polygonal, which formerly united the citadel with the town, can still be traced.
The calendar, which, as Suetonius tells, was set up by the grammarian,
Marcus Verrius Flaccusin the forum of Praeneste (the reference being to the forum of the imperial period, at the Madonna dell'Aquila), was discovered in the ruins of the church of Saint Agapitus in 1771, where it had been used as building material.
The cathedral, just below the level of the temple, occupies the former civil
basilicaof the town, upon the facade of which was a sundialdescribed by Varro, traces of which may still be seen. In the modern piazzathe steps leading up to this latter basilica and the base of a large monument were found in 1907; so that only a part of the piazza represents the ancient forum. The cathedral has fine paintings and frescoes. In the Church of "Santa Rosalia "(1677) there is a noteworthy "Pietà", carved in the solid rock.
The National Archeological Museum
The National Archeological Museum of Palestrina is housed inside the Renaissance Barberini Palace, ex baronal palace, builded above the big Temple dedicated to the Ancient Fortune.In exhibits the most important works from the ancient town of Praeneste. The famous sculpture of the
Capitoline Triadis exhibited on the first floor. The second floor is dedicated to the necropoli and sanctuaries while the third floor contains the large polychrome mosaic depicting the flooding of the Nile ( Nile mosaic of Palestrina).
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Bièvres, Essonne, Francefrom 2007
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11421b.htm|Full Catholic Encyclopaedia entry]
ources and external links
* [http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Post/117031 Model of the Roman Sanctuary and its modern appearance]
* [http://www.tibursuperbum.it/eng/escursioni/Palestrina.htm History and monuments of Palestrina]
* [http://www.tibursuperbum.it/ita/escursioni/palestrina/santuario/index.htm Full description of the Sanctuary, illustrated] (Italian)
* [http://www.comune.palestrina.rm.it/ www.comune.palestrina.rm.it/]
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