1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aletrium

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ALETRIUM (mod. Alatri), a town of the Hernici, about 6 m. due N. of Frusino, Italy, mentioned in 306 B.C. for its fidelity to Rome. In Cicero's time it was a municipium, and continued in this position throughout the imperial period. It is chiefly remarkable for its finely preserved fortifications constructed of tetrahedral and polygonal blocks of local limestone well jointed, with maximum dimensions of about 3 by 1½ ft.; the outer circuit of the city wall measures about 2½ m. It is almost entirely an embanking wall, as is the rule in the cities of this part of Italy, with a maximum height, probably, of about 30 ft. Two of the gates (of which there were perhaps five) are still to some extent preserved, and three posterns are to be found. In the centre of the city rises a hill (1647 ft.) which was adopted as the citadel. Remains of the fortifications of three successive periods can be traced, of which the last, perhaps a little more recent than that of the city wall, is the best preserved. In the first two periods the construction is rough, while in the third the blocks are very well and finely jointed, and the faces smoothed; they are mostly polygonal in form and are much larger (the maximum about 10 by 6 ft.) than those of the city wall. A flat surface was formed partly by smoothing off the rock and partly by the erection of huge terrace walls which rise to a height of over 50 ft., enclosing a roughly rectangular area of 235 by 115 yds. Two approaches to the citadel were constructed, both passing through the wall; the openings of both are rectangular. The architrave of the larger, known as Porta di Civita, measures about 17 ft. in length, 5 ft. in height, 6 ft. in thickness; while that of the smaller is decorated with three phalli in relief. Later, though probably in ancient times, a ramp was added on the northern side. In the centre of the arx was a building on the site of the present cathedral, of which only a small portion is preserved. Remains of a high-pressure aqueduct, which supplied the town with water and was constructed with other public buildings (Corp. Inscr. Lat. x., Berlin, 1883, p. 5807) by L. Betilienus Varus, may still be traced. A temple was excavated in 1889 about ½ m. to the north of the town, and many fragments of the painted terra-cottas with which it was decorated were found. A reconstruction of it has been erected in the Museo di Villa Giulia at Rome. The present town (pop. in 1901, 15,322) has a picturesque aspect, and contains many buildings in the Gothic style.

See R. Bassel, Centralblatt der Bauverwaltung, 1881, 121, p. 134; H. Winnefeld, Römische Mitteilungen, 1889, 126; G. Fiorelli in Notizie degli Scavi, 1882, 417. (T. As.)