Culture And Media

Italy: Birthplace of Roman emperor 'found' in Lazio

Rome, 27 Jan. (AKI) - An international team of archaeologists claims to have unearthed the 2000-year-old birthplace of the Roman emperor, Vespasian, north of the Italian capital. Vespasian ruled the Roman empire in the first century A.D. and was behind the construction of the Colosseum, one of Italy's most popular landmarks.

Archeologists believe they have located his birthplace in the Falacrinae valley near the hill town of Cittareale, 130 km northeast of Rome.

"Ancient Roman historian Suetonius says Vespasian was born in the Falacrinae valley area. Field surveys and information from locals have told us tell us this must be Vespasian's birthplace," one of the project's directors, British archaeologist Helen Patterson told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Vespasian was the ninth Roman emperor, who reigned from 69-79 AD. He was believed to come from humble beginnings and founded the short-lived Flavian dynasty after the civil wars that followed Nero's death in 68 AD.

During recent excavations, the archaeologists uncovered sumptuous marble floors and mosaics at the site of the 3,000-4,000 square metre Villa of Falacrinae, Patterson said.

The team of 30-60 archaeologists recovered pots, numerous coins, ceramic and metal artefacts from the site which is 820 metres above sea level, overlooking the surrounding Falacrinae valley.

The archeologists are hoping to recover more items in fresh excavations in July and August, Patterson said.

Archaelogists from the British School at Rome and the University of Perugia used geophysical surveys to give them an X-ray image of the buried building, Patterson explained.

"It was obviously a very,very big structure and very luxurious," she said adding that the marble used in the villa's floors had been imported from all over the Mediterranean.

"We have also discovered Roman baths, a garden and a dining room and have only excavated a portion of the villa since the dig began in 2007," she said.

The villa lies on a major Roman road, Via Salaria, which connects the capital, Rome, to the northeastern Italian Adriatic coast and that was once used to transport salt.

Italian archaeologist Filippo Coarelli, a retired archaeology professor at Perugia University is the project's co-director.

He told AKI excavations began in the Falacrinae area after a farmer found a block of marble with a Latin inscription on it dedicated to a local chieftain.

The local official is believed to have played a role in the Roman victory over the Italic peoples during the 91-88 BC wars between the Roman Republic and other Italian cities.

Excavations conducted in 2005 uncovered an ancient Christian cemetery and former necropolis at Pallotini, near Cittareale.

Vespasian was the son of Flavius Sabinus, a Roman knight, tax collector and banker. His mother, Vespasia Polla, also belonged to the equestrian order in society but had a brother who entered the Senate.

Little is known about his reign but the former soldier is best known for his fiscal reforms and the consolidation of the empire which generated political stability and a vast Roman building programme including the Colosseum.

"These digs are important for our understanding of ancient Roman history and of the Flavian dynasty," Coarelli said.

"He was a man from the provinces, a self-made man from a bourgeois not an aristocratic family.

"To find the place where Vespasian was born and lived can help us understand his career and the Roman occupation of Italy," Coarelli concluded.




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