The Ancient Town of Peltuinum

After visiting the medieval town of Capestrano we are heading to an archaeological site of the ancient town Peltuinum situated in a large valley near four national parks. Peltuinum is located at an altitude of 850 m above sea level, surrounded by three great Apennine mountains – Gran Sasso, Majella and Sirente. I believe that these magnificent decorations had not undergone major changes over last two millennia. They were silent witnesses of the historic drama – birth, rise and decline of Peltuinum.

Peltuinum was founded about Ist century BC by an ancient Italic tribe, Vestines, and it was apparently the chief town of the area. It occupied a strategic position on the ancient Roman road Via Claudia Nova, which was built by Emperor Claudius in 47 AD, and led from Rome to the Adriatic Sea. In the Peltuinum area Via Claudia Nova was merging with another important road of transumanza, or seasonal migration of sheep flocks from north to south, from Aquila (Abruzzo) to Foggia (Puglia) and vice versa. This ancient road was called Tratturo Magno or the Great Path because it was the longest one (244 km) in Italy. Today the Tratturo Magno, which runs through several natural reserves and very beautiful historic cities, serves as a picturesque tourist route, for example, for motorcycling.

At the end of the IVth century BC the Vestines had been defeated by the Roman Republic and were forced to sign an unequal treaty with Rome. In IVth century AD Peltuinum was annexed by the Roman Republic and according to the Roman tradition had been destroyed and rebuilt. During the reign of Emperor Augustus Peltuinum had become a prosperous city, due to livestock, wine and saffron trade. Its population had increased up to 11 thousand people. In IVth century AD the city had begun to decline as a result of the terrible earthquake of 346, as well as the devastating Gothic-Byzantine wars and Longobard invasions. The mortal blow to the city had been made by Charles the Great in 775; during the Norman reign the city had been rebuilt, but never reached its former grandeur.

The ruins of the ancient Roman town including remains of town walls, eastern gate, amphitheatre and other important buildings can be observed at the site. The most important urban facilities were united into a complex that included a theater, a temple and a forum. The amphitheater was allegedly built by the emperor Augustus. It had a diameter of 58 m and could accommodate up to 2600 spectators. The amphitheater was oriented to the east and was facing a magnificent panoramic view. Obviously, no special decorations were necessary to perform there an ancient drama. The nature itself served as a majestic background. To the north of the theater there was the temple dedicated to the pagan god Apollo. It had suffered greatly from natural disasters, but even more from local residents, who dismantled it for building needs.

Excavations of Peltuinum have begun in 1983, when pieces of ruins began to appear on the surface, and they are held every summer. In 2009 there have been started excavations of a large cemetery located outside city walls

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