You may wish to see an introductory page to this section first.
An aqueduct (made its appearance) crossing
the high road, and almost reaching the hills from which
it formerly brought water to the town; the modern burgh
of Trajetta crowns the eminence above its extremity, in a
beautiful style of landscape, which is only to be seen in Italy, and in pictures painted from ideas acquired there.
Henry Swinburne - Travels in the Two Sicilies. 1777-1780
Shortly afterwards an aqueduct leading from Trajetto situated upon an eminence to the left of the celebrated city of Minturnae and a variety of other antique ruins made their appearance. The most remarkable of these are the aqueduct which traverses the modern road and an amphitheatre built with brick which forebodes a speedy decay as workmen were employed in breaking down its walls for the sake of the materials.
Sir Richard Colt Hoare - A Classical Tour through Italy and Sicily - Journey from Rome to Beneventum on the Appian Way in 1789 - 1819.
Masonry structure of the aqueduct
We noticed an aqueduct which ran from the mountains over
some nameless and orderless masses of ruins.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Italian Journey - March 1787 - translation by Charles Nisbet
The aqueduct is named after Emperor Vespasian, but its construction is generally dated early Ist century AD. It had a length of 11 km / 7 miles and it carried water to Minturnae from a spring at the foot of the Aurunci Mountains which is still used today for the same purpose. The remaining stretch of the aqueduct has 120 consecutive arches. Its inner structure is in opus caementicium, but it was faced with opus reticulatum to improve its aspect.
From St. Agatha (an inn on the road from Capua) I descended into a spacious plain, open to the Sea, and clothed with rich crops of corn; the few uncultivated spots were over-grown with cistus in full flower and fragrance. The Garigliano flowing silently out of the mountains, traverses the vale in a deep winding bed, and empties itself into the sea, a little below the ruins of Minturnae, which made an awful appearance along its banks. They consist of parts of an amphitheatre, and of a theatre still more evidently marked, an octagon hall, numberless vaults and arches. Swinburne
Theatre: (left) external structure; (right) inner passages
Similar to the aqueduct, the theatre is dated early Ist century AD. It incorporated a section of the ancient walls of the town which perhaps had lost their purpose. Its strong masonry structure has resisted the ravages of time and the vaults which supported the seating section today house a small museum.
Theatre: seating section; the blue dot indicates the highest point where some original stones can be seen
The stones of the seating section were almost entirely taken away as it occurred in the Amphitheatre of Capua. The seating section was bombed in 1943/1944 and it was entirely rebuilt. In 1960 the theatre was inaugurated with a performance of The Trojan Women by Euripides with the aim to contribute to the touristic development of the area. The initiative did not meet with the same success as the Festival of the Greek Theatre of Syracuse.
View of the ancient town from the theatre
Minturnae was crossed by Via Appia, the very important road which linked Rome with southern Italy, and it was situated near the mouth of the River Garigliano at less than a mile from the Tyrrhenian Sea. The urban section of Via Appia which can be seen in the introductory page divided the town in two halves: the eastern/inland one which included the theatre is the oldest one, the western/seaside one was mainly developed in the IInd century AD.
(left) The River Garigliano and the three bridges which cross it in the proximity of the ancient town; (right) pillars of Ponte Real Ferdinando, a suspension bridge built in 1832 which was blown out in October 1943
The banks of the Garigliano have been the scene of
many bloody encounters. (..) There is at present no bridge
across but only a ferry at a large tower; a little higher up
are some remains of a bridge, but it is not known when it
was built, or when destroyed. Swinburne
Though all writers agree in placing Minturnae on the banks of the river Liris, now the Garigliano, yet they do not coincide as to its extent. Sanfelice in his treatise on the Campania says that this city was formerly divided by the river Glanis afterwards the Liris and that a bridge of communication existed on the same spot where the ferry is now placed. (..) I cannot agree with Sanfelice in placing the city of Minturnae on each side of the Liris for I could not observe the slightest traces of residence on that side of the river nearest Naples. Colt Hoare
The conclusion reached by Colt Hoare was confirmed by archaeological excavations which have identified remains of harbour facilities only on the northern side of the river (towards Rome).
Museum of Minturno: (left) votive statues from the Temple to Marica; (right) inscription with a list of women, perhaps priestesses of that temple
The marshes below these ruins will never be forgotten, as
long as the events of Roman history are remembered; for
in them Caius Marius concealed himself, when he fled
before the prevailing faction of Sylla. Swinburne
Many a situation otherwise unworthy of attention thus becomes in the highest degree interesting; even the infectious marshes of Minturnae will claim from the traveller a short attention during his progress when he traverses the classical river Liris and recollects that to these marshes the unfortunate Caius Marius fled for secrecy and was drawn forth from this melancholy hiding place by his pursuers and unfeelingly delivered up to the magistrates of the neighbouring city of Minturnae. (..) The people of Minturnae were struck with astonishment; pity and remorse ensued. Should they put to death the preserver of Italy? Was it not even a disgrace to them that they did not contribute to his relief? Let the exile go, said they, and await his destiny in some other region! It is time we should deprecate the anger of the gods for having refused the poor naked wanderer the common privileges of hospitality! Under the influence of this enthusiasm they immediately conducted him to the sea coast. Yet in the midst of their expedition an unforeseen delay was occasioned for the Sylva Maricae or Marician Grove was held so sacred that nothing entering it was suffered to be removed and to go round it would be tedious. At last an old man of the company exclaimed that "no place however religious was inaccessible if it could contribute to the safety of Marius:" upon which he took some of the baggage in his hand and marched directly through the grove. His companions followed with the same alacrity and, when Marius came to the sea coast, he found a vessel in readiness to receive him.
The groves and temple consecrated to the goddess Marica were situated below Minturnae and nearer the sea coast. This deity is frequently mentioned by the classic writers and by Virgil. Colt Hoare
(above) "Castrum"; (below) detail of its lower part
Minturnae is recorded as a Roman colony as early as 296 BC. It initially consisted of a very small fortified site (castrum) near the river. Eventually it was incorporated into a shrine which was dedicated to Divo Julio, i.e. Julius Caesar after he was deified by the Senate in 44 BC.
Museum of Minturno: inscriptions of the Late Republican period
The museum houses 29 inscriptions which shed light on the social and economic life of the town between 69 and 44 BC. Most of them list members of guilds or religious colleges. Many of the names (e.g. Philocles, Nicephorus, Antiochus and Seleucus) indicate an origin from Greece or other countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, thus showing that Minturnae had a cosmopolitan population.
The first (Republican) Forum was situated to the east of Via Appia and it had two temples along the road. One of them was the Capitolium of Minturnae, i.e. the temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, the three gods who were worshipped on the Capitoline Hill of Rome. It was a monument which symbolized the loyalty of the town to Rome. Capitolia have ben found in very many Roman towns from Ostia to Sufetula on the edge of the Sahara Desert.
Views of the "Imperial Forum"
The area opposite the Republican Forum was redesigned in the late Ist century AD or early IInd century to house a large paved square having a draining system and a number of public buildings including a basilica and a curia for the local Senate.
Latrine of the "Imperial Forum"
Archaeologists have identified three latrines and a urinal in the centre of Minturnae. The latrine of the "Imperial Forum", the most complex one, is located at the western end of the excavated area. It could seat 18 people. Although it was not decorated with marbles, it had a good floor in opus spicatum and an excellent flushing system (you may wish to see the Latrine of the Forum at Ostia and that of the Baths at Sabratha).
The "Imperial Forum" bordered on a macellum. It had a central square with a round temple and a niche housing statues of deities or emperors (all lost). The square was surrounded by a portico of cipollino columns and fourteen shops. It could be accessed also from Via Appia where it had a long (partly reconstructed) fašade (you may wish to see the macellum of Pompeii which had a broadly similar design).
One of the heated halls of the baths
The main baths of Minturnae were located behind the macellum and had the three traditional halls: calidarium (hot), tepidarium (warm) and frigidarium (cold); the frigidarium had also a small swimming pool. The halls have almost entirely lost their large walls and vaults, but the floors with their heating systems are in relative good condition.
Domus delle Terme
It often occurs when visiting the archaeological site of an ancient Roman town to be impressed by the number and size of its monuments and at the same time to wonder where the inhabitants lived. This is particularly true at Minturnae where the number of private buildings which have been identified is very small. A large house is named after the adjoining baths, but it had its own small baths.
Domus delle Terme: mosaic floor (IInd century AD) found in 1955
One of the main halls of the house has an interesting black and white floor mosaic which depicts three cupids stomping grapes inside a container into which another cupid pours them. The juice falls into three jars. This subject became very popular in the following centuries and it can be found also in Christian buildings, e.g. S. Costanza in Rome. At Minturnae it might have had a special meaning because the wines of the area were highly appreciated.
I expect you as my guest, Torquatus, at home, at sunset. You'll drink wine that was drawn off between marshy Minturnae and Petrinum-under-Sinuessa (today's Mondragone, south of the River Garigliano). If you have a better one send it over: otherwise, obey.
Horace - Epistles I.5 - To Torquatus - translation by Andrew Dalby
(left) Museum of Minturno: capital from a suburban villa; (centre) marble inlay floor from a house along Via Appia; (right) inscription to Caesar Flavius Valerius Severus, who is referred to as "Domino N(ostro)" (Our Lord), an appellation which was used also for the first Christian emperors
The capital and the marble floor testify to the taste of the wealthiest citizens of Minturnae, while the poorly carved inscription shows the first signs of the decline of the town (and of the Roman Empire). Emperor Diocletian developed a complex system to ensure a smooth transition of power. In 305 the system was implemented for the first time. Flavius Valerius Severus, a general, was appointed Caesar, deputy-emperor of the western part of the Empire. In the following year his "boss" Emperor Constantius Chlorus died and Severus should have become Augustus, i.e. emperor, but his authority was challenged by Maxentius and in 307 he was forced to commit suicide or was executed. That of Minturnae is a rare inscription quoting him.
Museum of Minturno: fragments of statues (see a page on Roman Feet and Sandals)
Thence we drove to Garigliano where Cavalier Venuti is making explorations. Here Hackert parted from us to speed to Caserta, and leaving the highway we went down to the sea, where a breakfast was made ready for us good enough to pass for a dinner. We here saw brought up the disinterred antiques which, however, were lamentably mutilated. Among other beautiful findings is the leg of a statue little inferior to the Apollo of Belvedere. It would be a happiness were the rest of the statue to be found. Goethe (account by W. Tischbein of his journey from Rome to Naples)
(left) Museum of Minturno: early Vth century bronze inscription celebrating a patron of "Minturnae"; it is one of the last records of the history of the town; (centre) details; (right) inscription celebrating the 915 victory over the Saracens near "Minturnae" which was placed on a tower at the mouth of the Garigliano and was eventually walled in the bell tower of the Cathedral of Gaeta
Minturnae was a desolate place early in the seventh century, probably abandoned on account of the malignity of the vapours that rise from the adjacent fens. This did not deter the Saracens from settling there, when they wanted a safe retreat, where they might deposit the booty they had collected in their expeditions, and take breath after their toils and warfare. They fortified themselves strongly near this ruined city, and for several years maintained the post in defiance of all the armies that could be brought against them. It was not till the year 915 that the united force of all the neighbouring potentates prevailed over them, and delivered this country from the ravages of these merciless unbelievers. Swinburne
Roundabout near the entrance to the archaeological area
I went strolling along the beach (..) Here I met with a right pleasant sight. A goatherd was driving his flock on the strand of the sea; the goats entered the water and cooled themselves. Next came a swineherd; and while the two flocks were refreshing themselves in the crisping waves, the drivers both sought out seats in the shade and regaled themselves with music, the swineherd with a flute, the goatherd with the bagpipes. Goethe (Tischbein's account)
Minturno War Cemetery adjoining the archaeological area
On 3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Allied objectives were to draw German troops from the Russian front and more particularly from France, where an offensive was planned for the following year. Progress through southern Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance, but by the end of October, the Allies were facing the German winter defensive position known as the Gustav Line, which stretched from the river Garigliano in the west to the Sangro in the east. Initial attempts to breach the western end of the line were unsuccessful and it was not until 17 January 1944 that the Garigliano was crossed, and Minturno taken two days later. The site for the cemetery was chosen in January 1944, but the Allies then lost some ground and the site came under German small-arms fire. The cemetery could not be used again until May 1944 when the Allies launched their final advance on Rome and the US 85th and 88th Divisions were in this sector. The burials are mainly those of the heavy casualties incurred in crossing the Garigliano in January. Minturno War Cemetery contains 2,049 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. The cemetery was designed by Louis de Soissons.
From the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
You may wish to see the Commonwealth War Cemetery of Rome, other WWII memories in Anzio and a memorial plaque near Porta S. Paolo.
Museum of Minturno: other ancient statues/fountains found in the town and its surroundings; the image used as background for this page shows a detail of the statue of a Roman commander
Amphitheatre of Capua
Other monuments of Roman Capua
Ancient Capua at New Capua
Grand Tour Travellers' Formia
Formia - Other Monuments
Grand Tour Travellers' Gaeta
Gaeta - Churches