Antium History

By the 5th century BCE, Antium was an important city of the Volsci, and fought against the Etruscans and Romans in various conflicts. This participation included being the town to which Gaius Marcius Coriolanus fled after his exile from Rome, and from where he led a Volsci army to attack Rome in 491 BCE. Hostilities continued between the Volsci and Romans throughout the first half of the 5th century BCE, with Antium taking center stage in the conflict in 469-68 BCE. In 469 BCE, Livy notes an engagement by the consul T. Numicius Priscus against the Volsci that resulted in the enemy army being routed and fleeing to Antium. Though Antium was said by Livy to be a wealthy city, Priscus opted not to follow the survivors to Antium, but rather turned his attention elsewhere (2.62). The following year followed a similar turn of events with the consul Titus Quinctius Capitolinus Barbatus achieving a victory against the Volsci and the defeated army retreating to Antium. This time, however, Barbatus pursued the army and laid siege to the city, forcing its capitulation after a few days due to, according to Livy, a lack of will on the part of the Volsci following the defeat and subsequent siege.

In 467 BCE, one of the new consuls, Titus Aemilius Mamercus, pushed for the granting of land in Antium to plebeians in order to help alleviate an on-going class conflict in Rome. In that year, a priscae coloniae Latinae was established at Antium, though few plebeians applied for the land, and so the number of colonists had to be supplemented by Volsci. Antium seems to have remained under the umbrella of the Volsci despite the colonization, but remained on generally friendly terms with the Romans. During the remainder of the 5th century BCE, the city seems to have grown and achieved a significant degree of prominence in the area. In 406 BCE, though, Antium joined other Volscian towns in a series of minor actions against the Romans. Following the sack of Rome by the Senone Gauls in 390 BCE, the Volsci, led by Antium, took advantage of the chaos following the sack to wage a war of opportunity against the Romans, as did other neighbors of Rome. A war continued between the Volsci and Romans from 389-377 BCE, with some Latin cities eventually joining with the Volsci. That conflict came to close again with a battle and retreat to Antium, though this time the Romans did not have the resources to lay siege to the city. Instead, the Volsci at Antium sued for peace, ending the protracted conflict between the two for the time being.

In 346 BCE, the Antiates sent a colony to the nearby settlement of Satricum (which had been a sometimes focal point of the previous period of war between the Romans and the Volsci/Latins) and then apparently sent envoys to various Latin cities to gauge support for renewed war against the Romans. The next year, the Romans attacked Satricum and later defeated an army of the Volsci, ending briefly the hostilities between the two. In 341 BCE, Antium again participated in a Volsci war against the Romans, but they were defeated and driven back to Antium. Antium and the other Volsci cities threw their support in with the Latins during the Second Latin War from 340-338 BCE, which ended with a decisive Roman victory at the Battle of Antium, just to the east of Antium at the Astura River.

Following defeat in the Second Latin War, Antium was harshly punished. The Romans confiscated all of the city’s warships and displayed the ships’ rostra on the Rostra platform in the Roman Forum, giving the structure its name. Antium was also banned from participating in maritime commerce. A coloniae civium Romanorum was established at Antium that year, effectively ending Antium’s resistance against Roman rule. Antium was governed by magistrates from Rome until 317 BCE, when the city gained its own magistrates. During the Second Punic War, Antium received an exemption as a maritime colony from providing extra soldiers during Hannibal’s invasion of Italy.

Antium once again found itself on the receiving end of Roman punishment during the First Sullan Civil War, as Marius captured the city and inflicted some amount destruction and punitive action. Antium doesn’t feature much in Roman history after that, though Cicero and Gaius Maecenas both apparently had villas there, as did many other wealthy Romans. Cicero is said to have returned to his villa there after his exile to reconstruct his library. According to Suetonius, Augustus first received the title of Pater Patriae at Antium, though he turned it down before being offered it again in Rome. In imperial times, Antium was the birthplace of the emperors Caligula and Nero, with the latter having a large villa there. In addition to the villa, Nero built a new harbor at Antium and established a colony of veterans and praetorians. It was at Antium that Nero was reportedly staying during the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE, and received the news of the fire at his villa there. During the later years of the Empire, Antium seems to have declined, though the port was still in use as late as 537 CE. By the Middle Ages, though, the city had been completely abandoned.