Roman Age


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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ARCHAEOLOGY | Mount Sabucina, symbol of ancient Sikania

Mount Sabucina is located about 10 km northeast of Caltanissetta. Officially declared a Regional Archaeological Park by decree in 2001, together with the nearby Mount of Capodarso, the mountain constitutes a single system overlooking the valley of the Salso river, the ancient Himera.

Its plateau, at 720 m a.s.l., has constituted over time an important point of control and domination of the trade routes that crept into the territory of ancient Sikania. This characteristic has not escaped the populations that have inhabited this territory from the Ancient Bronze Age until the Roman Age. The first archaeological investigations date back to the 60s of the last century by Piero Orlandini.  

The Bronze Age

The very first site of the Ancient Bronze Age, at the foot of Mount Sabucina, is composed of several villages corresponding to the prehistoric culture of Castelluccio. Later, around the XIII century B.C., the village moved to the hillsides, probably for defensive reasons. Between the XIII and the X century the inhabited area, attributable to the facies of North Pentalica, evolved.

This unique large settlement consists of circular huts, placed both on the platform and on the slope of the hill. Among the huts, moreover, there are hypogea dug into the rock, used as burial places, deposits or shelters for animals. Lastly, some of the huts display moulds and ceramic objects that indicate their function as metallurgical workshops and ceramic workshops. During the X and IX centuries B.C., the huts were built with dry stone walls and the built-up area was more modest in size. Moreover, the site, equipped with terraces and small channels, was part of the cultural horizon of Cassibile.  

Mount Sabucina in the Iron Age


Clay model of a small temple from Sabucina


Between the VIII and VII century B.C. a new settlement was established on the top and slopes of Mount Sabucina. The houses are rectangular in plan and the inhabited area seems to be organized in specialized areas. In the sacred area there are two shrines, perhaps dedicated to the Chthonian divinities, which have been enlarged and modified over time.

Of considerable interest is one of the cells, which is oriented towards the east. It is a circular cell, built with irregular stones and reinforced at the base by a second ring that doubles the wall thickness. The remains tell us that it is a structure in antis (two columns on the front): this testifies the contacts between the indigenous world and the Greek one. The famous “Shrine of Sabucina” also comes from the sacred area: a clay model on a high foot of a small temple in antis with a rectangular plan, whose sloping roof is surmounted by figures of knights and decorated on the forehead by two gorgons.

The classic face of Sabucina
Archaeological area of Sabucina

The process of Hellenization, attested by the “Shrine of Sabucina”, ends around the VI century B.C., with the arrival of Rhodium-Cretan settlers from Gela. The settlement, even though it has fortification walls in the Greek style, lacks a regular urban plan. In fact, it appears as an agglomeration of irregular streets and alleys. This polis was violently destroyed by Ducezio in the V century B.C., during the uprising of the Sicilian cities against the Greeks.

During the IV century, like many other towns on the island, Sabucina also was repopulated with new settlers by Timoleon. The city was also rebuilt and protected with powerful fortified walls and equipped with rectangular and semicircular towers. After 310 B.C. the site was abandoned and the population returned to live at the foot of the mountain.

In Roman times, especially during the Imperial Age, the inhabitants continued to live in villas and dwellings that extended to the foot of Mount Sabucina. The residential centre of Piano della Clesia and the necropolis in the Lannari district, where the marble bust of Emperor Geta (209 – 212 A.D.) was found, testify to the continuity of life on the site.

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