Sites & cities that bear the name of Palestrina


Today in : Italy
First trace of activity : ca. 8th century B.C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Πραίνεστος, Prainestos, Praeneste

Description : Palestrina (ancient Praeneste; Ancient Greek: Πραίνεστος, Prainestos) is a modern Italian city and comune (municipality) with a population of about 22,000, in Lazio, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of Rome. Ancient mythology connected the origin of Praeneste to Ulysses, or to other fabulous characters variously called Caeculus, Telegonus, Erulus or Praenestus. The name probably derives from the word Praenesteus, referring to its overlooking location. Early burials show that the site was already occupied in the 8th or 7th century BC. The ancient necropolis lays 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 amber jewelry are Phoenician (possibly Carthaginian), but the bronzes and some of the ivory articles seem to be of the Etruscan civilization. Praeneste was probably under the hegemony of Alba Longa while that city was the head of the Latin League. It withdrew from the league in 499 BC, according to Livy (its earliest historical mention), and formed an alliance with Rome. After Rome was weakened by the Gauls of 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 Via Labicana. Praenestine graves from about 240 BC onwards have been found: they are surmounted by the characteristic cippus made 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 Cista (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Rome), engraved with pictures of the arrival of the Argonauts in Bithynia and the victory of Pollux over Amycus, found in 1738. An example of archaic Latin is the inscription on the Ficoroni Cista: "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 Etruria but also with the Greek east. Its citizens were offered Roman citizenship in 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 Younger was 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 consul in 73 BC. Within a decade the lands of the colonia had been assembled by a few large landowners.

See on map »