ARCHAEOLOGY | Cassiodorus’ Scolacium

Scolacium, the city of Cassiodorus, also known as Scylletium, is an ancient coastal city of Brutium, whose foundation dates back to the mid-sixth century BC by Greek settlers, perhaps from Athens or Kroton. We find ourselves in a scenic place, overlooking the sea on the Gulf of Squillace, where among centenary olive trees the monumental remains of a Byzantine basilica stand out. However, Scolacium has a history much more distant in time, that of Magna Graecia and ancient Rome.

History of ancient Skylletion

Because of its strategic position on the sea, it had great importance within the balance of Magna Graecia, being located between Kroton and Locri Epizephyrii, who contended for the primacy of maritime trade. At first linked to Kroton, then passed under the domination of Locri in the fourth century BC. The town was also involved in the Peloponnesian War, at the end of the 5th century, and therefore, had a role not only in the Magna Graecia events, but also in a wider context that concerned the whole Greek world.

The Romans recovered the city precisely because of its strategic position and transformed it: the emperor Nerva renamed it colonia Minerva Nervia Augusta Scolacium and reformed its urban planning and the surrounding agricultural territory. The city thrived in wealth in Roman times and also saw the birth of Cassiodorus, one of the most important authors of the late Roman period, an important figure for the recovery of ancient culture in these years of decadence.

What remains of the Roman colony

The Roman Theatre of Scolacium was built using the natural slope and the cavity offered by a clayish hill close to the Roman forum; it was built around the first century AD, once deduced the Roman colony of Scolacium, which replaced the ancient polis of Skylletion.

During the second century A.D. the emperor Nerva had the Roman colony restructured, within which the theatre was enlarged and equipped with a new stage, with renovations that continued until the fourth century AD.

From this area comes much of the marble and clay decoration of the same structure, including capitals, antefixes and columns, which are elements of the scene, as well as an epigraph of Fors Fortuna, all exhibited in the Antiquarium housed in Villa Mazza, in Roccelletta di Borgia.

The Amphitheatre and the Forum
The Roman amphitheatre of Scolacium

The Amphitheatre, from the era of Nerva, a few meters from the Theatre, is followed by at least three thermal baths, necropolis and aqueducts. These are the remains of the only Roman amphitheatre in Calabria: the building stands in a marginal sector of the colony, where refined sculptures have been found, such as the statue of Fortune, the Genius of Augustus and a rare statue of Germanicus, the adopted son of the Emperor Tiberius.

In the eastern sector, a “hollow structure” sector was added, with elements on at least two levels, with arches and vaults in brick and stone concretion. The lower one, which develops along the major axis of the amphitheatre, also served as the entrance to the arena (Vomitorium). On its sides there were two other smaller vomitoria, which allowed the spectators to reach the upper sectors of the cavea.

ricostruzione foro
Digital reconstruction of the Roman Forum

The Forum, with its particular brick paving, which has no comparison in the whole Roman world, together with the remains of some buildings, including the Curia, the Cesareum and the Capitolium, consists of a rectangular area paved with bricks, surrounded by arcades, a small temple, a fountain and finally the court. Here were found statues and portraits that today are preserved in the Antiquarium.

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