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Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Province of Caserta, Campania

The center rises on the site of ancient Capua, in antiquity the chief city of Campania and one of the most important Roman towns in ancient Italy, and very likely occupied the site of an early Oscan settlement. It is situated 25 km north of Naples, on the northeastern edge of the Campania plain. The origin of the name is probably from Campus (= plain).

Info

  • Population: about 32,000 inhabitants in 2018
  • Zip/postal code: 81055
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0823
  • Demonym: sammaritani
  • Patron Saint: St. Simmaco celebrated on 22 October.
  • Frazioni & Localities: Sant'Andrea dei Lagni

History - Antiquity before the Romans

Its foundation is attributed by Cato the Elder to the Etruscans, and the date given as about 260 years before it was occupied by Rome in 338 BC, which gives about 600 BC as the date of its foundation. The Etruscan supremacy in Campania came to an end in the latter half of the 5th century BC with the Samnites, who entered into alliance with Rome for protection against Samnite mountain tribes, so that the greater part of Campania now fell under Roman influence. In the second Samnite War they did not remain loyal to the Romans, so that the Ager Falerus on the right bank of the Volturnus was taken from them and distributed among citizens of Rome and Falerna was established.

In 312 BC Capua was connected with Rome by the Via Appia, the most important military Roman road at the time, which left the walls of Rome through the Porta Capena. The importance of Capua increased during the 3rd century, and at the beginning of the second Punic War it was considered to be only slightly behind Rome and Carthage themselves, and was able to furnish 30,000 infantry and 4000 cavalry. Until after the defeat of Cannae it remained faithful to Rome, but then entered an alliance with Hannibal, who made it his winter quarters, with bad results to the morale of his troops.

History - Antiquity after 211 BC

After a long siege it was taken by the Romans in 211 B.C. and severely punished: its magistrates were abolished, the inhabitants lost their civic rights, parts of it were sold, another part was divided among the citizens of the new colonies of Volturnum and Liternum established near the coast in 194 BC, but the greater portion of it was reserved to the state.

In the meantime, the thickly populated district was organized around important shrines, especially that of Diana Tifatina, in connection with which a "pagus Dianae" existed, and a "pagus Herculaneus" is also known. Capua enjoyed great prosperity, owing to its spelt and its manufacture of bronze objects. Its luxury was proverbial, especially as the home of gladiatorial combats. From the gladiatorial schools of Campania came Spartacus and his followers in 73 BC. In 59 BC consul Julius Caesar established a colony of 20,000 Roman citizens in connection with his agrarian law. The number of colonists was increased by Mark Antony, Augustus, and Nero.

History - from the Christian Era onwards

In the war of AD 69 it took the side of Vitellius. Under the later empire it is not often mentioned; but in the 4th century it was the seat of the "consularis Campaniae" and its chief town, though Ausonius puts it behind Mediolanum (Milan) and Aquileia in his "ordo nobilium urbium".

Under Constantine the foundation of a Christian church in Capua was recorded. In 456 it was destroyed by Genseric, but was soon rebuilt: it was finally destroyed by the Saracens in 840 and only the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, founded about 497, was spared. It contains 52 ancient marble columns, but was modernized in 1766.

The site was occupied again only in the late Middle Ages by a village which little by little, however, outgrew ancient Capua.

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