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Ancient ruins of Cumae
Location of the province of Naples
There is also a small modern Greek Euboean city called Kymi, near the ruins of the ancient Cuma.

Cumae (Italian: Cuma, Greek: Κύμη or Κύμαι) is an ancient Greek settlement lying to the northwest of Naples in the Italian region of Campania. Cumae was the first Greek colony on the mainland of Italy (Magna Graecia) and is perhaps most famous as the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl.

Today Cuma - Fusaro is a frazione of the comune of Bacoli.

Contents

Early history

The settlement is believed to have been founded in the 8th century BC[1] by Greeks originally from the cities of Cuma and Chalkis in Euboea led by the oecist (colonizer) Hippocles.

The Greeks were planted upon the earlier dwellings of indigenous, Iron-Age peoples whom they supplanted; a memory of them was preserved as cave-dwellers named Cimmerians, among whom there was already an oracular tradition.[2] Its name comes from the Greek word kymé, meaning wave - perhaps in reference to the big waves that the peninsula of Κyme in Euboea has. The colony was also the entry point in the Italian peninsula for the Cumaean alphabet used in the ancient Greek city of Cuma, a variant of which was adapted by the Romans and became the Latin alphabet still used worldwide today. Cumae was a direct offshoot of an earlier colony on the island of Ischia, Pithekoussai,[3] founded by colonists from the Euboean cities of Cuma (Kύμη) and Chalcis (Χαλκίς) which was accounted its mother-city, by agreement among the first settlers.[4]

The colony thrived. By the eighth century it was strong enough to send Perieres and a group with him, who were among the founders of Zancle in Sicily, and another band had returned to found Triteia in Achaea, Pausanias was told.[5] It spread its influence throughout the area over the seventh and sixth centuries BC, gaining sway over Puteoli and Misenum and, thereafter, founding Neapolis in 470 BC. All these facts were recalled long afterwards; Cumae's first brief contemporary mention in written history is in Thucydides.

The Latins, Greeks and Etruscans were among the first settlers...

The growing power of the Cumaean Greeks led many indigenous tribes of the region to organize against them, notably the Dauni and Aurunci with the leadership of the Capuan Etruscans. This coalition was defeated by the Cumaeans in 524 BC under the direction of Aristodemus, called Malacus, a successful man of the people who overthrew the aristocratic faction, became a tyrant himself, and was assassinated.[6] Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last legendary King of Rome, lived his life in exile with Aristodemus at Cumae after the establishment of the Roman Republic.[7]

The combined fleets of Cumae and Syracuse defeated the Etruscans at the Battle of Cumae in 474 BC.

The Temple of Zeus at Cumae was converted into a paleochristian basilica

Oscan and Roman Cumae

The Greek period at Cumae came to an end in 421 BC, when the Oscans broke down the walls and took the city, ravaging the countryside. Some survivors fled to Neapolis.[8] Cumae came under Roman rule with Capua and in 338 was granted partial citizenship, a civitas sine suffragio. In the Second Punic War, in spite of temptations, Cumae withstood Hannibal's siege, under the leadership of Tib.. Sempronius Gracchus.[9]

Under Roman rule "quiet Cumae" slumbered until the disasters of the Gothic Wars, when it was repeatedly attacked, as the only fortified city in Campania aside from Neapolis: Belisarius took it in 536, Totila held it, and when Narses gained possession of Cumae, he found he had won the whole treasury of the Goths. In 1207, forces from Naples, acting for the boy-King of Sicily, destroyed the city and its walls, as the stronghold of a nest of bandits.

Entrance to the Cave of the Sibyl

The Sibyl of Cumae

Cumae is perhaps most famous as the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl. Her sanctuary is now open to the public.

In Roman mythology, there is an entrance to the underworld located at Avernus, a crater lake near Cumae, and was the route Aeneas used to descend to the Underworld.

The Temple of Zeus at Cumae was transformed into a Christian basilica at the end of the fourth century. At Cumae was set a widely influential Christian work of the second century, The Shepherd of Hermas said by its author to have been inspired by way of visions.

The colony was built on a large rise, the seaward side of which was used as a bunker and gun emplacement by the Germans during World War II.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea placed Cumae's Greek foundation at 1050 BC.
  2. ^ Strabo, v.5, noted in Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, "Cumae in Legend and History" The Classical Journal 13.8 (May 1918:565-578) p. 567.
  3. ^ Livy, viii.22.
  4. ^ Strabo, v.4.
  5. ^ Pausanias, vii.22.6.
  6. ^ Dionysius of Halicarnassus, vii.3; Plutarch tells the story of Xenocrite, the girl who roused the Cumaeans against Aristodemus, in De mulierum virturibus 26.
  7. ^ Livy, ii.21; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations iii.27.
  8. ^ Livy, iv.44; Diodorus Siculus, xii. 76.
  9. ^ Livy, xxiii.35-37.

See also

External links

Coordinates: 40°50′31″N 14°03′21″E / 40.84194°N 14.05583°E / 40.84194; 14.05583


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Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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