1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alba Longa

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2464731911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1 — Alba LongaThomas Ashby

ALBA LONGA, an ancient city of Latium, situated on the western edge of the Albanus Lacus, about 12 m. S.E. of Rome. It was, according to tradition, founded by Ascanius, and was the oldest of all Latin cities—the mother indeed of Rome, by which, however, it was destroyed, it is said under Tullus Hostilius. By this act Rome succeeded to the hegemony of the Latin league. It has by many topographers been placed between the Albanus Mons and the Albanus Lacus, according to the indication given by Dionysius (i. 66), at the monastery of Palazzolo; but the position is quite unsuitable for an ancient city, and does not at all answer to Livy’s description, ab situ porrectae in dorso urbis Alba longa appellata; and it is much more probable that its site is to be sought on the western side of the lake, where the modern Castel Gandolfo stands, immediately to the north of which the most important part of the archaic necropolis was situated. Confirmation of this may be found in Cicero’s description (Pro Milone, 85) of the destruction of the shrines and sacred groves of Alba by the construction of Clodius’s villa, in the local application of the adjective Albanus, and in the position of Castel Gandolfo itself, which exactly suits Livy’s description. No traces of the ancient city, except of its necropolis, the tombs of which are overlaid with a stratum of peperino 3 ft. thick, are preserved. The view that the modern Albano occupies the site of Alba Longa was commonly held in the 15th and 16th centuries, but was disproved by P. Cluver (1624). But it is certain that no city took the place of Alba Longa until comparatively late times. The name Albanum, from about 150 B.C. till the time of Constantine, meant a villa in the Alban territory. The emperors formed a single estate out of a considerable part of this district, including apparently the whole of the lake, and Domitian was especially fond of residing here. The imperial villa occupied the site of the present Villa Barberini at Castel Gandolfo, and considerable remains of it still exist. To the south was a camp for the imperial bodyguard, with baths, an amphitheatre, a large water reservoir, &c. The first legion known to have been quartered there is the II. Parthica, founded by Septimius Severus; but it was probably constructed earlier. In some of the tombs of these legionaries coins of Maxentius have been found, while the Liber Pontificalis records that Constantine gave to the church of Albano “omnia scheneca deserta vel domos intra urbem Albanensem,” which has generally been taken to refer to the abandoned camp. It was at this period, then, that the civitas Albanensis arose. The lapis Albanus is a green grey volcanic stone with black and white grains in it (hence the modern name, peperino), much used for building material.

See T. Ashby in Journal of Philology, xxvii., 1901, 37.  (T. As.)