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Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


KYMI (Ancient city) CAMPANIA
   Kume. A town of Campania, the most ancient of the Greek colonies in Italy and Sicily. It was founded from Cyme in Aeolis, in conjunction with Chalcis and Eretria in Euboea. Its foundation is placed in B.C. 1050, but the date must be regarded as uncertain. It was situated on a steep hill of Mount Gaurus, a little north of the promontory Misenum. It became in early times a great and flourishing city; its commerce was extensive; its territory included a great part of the rich Campanian plain; its population was at least 60,000; and its power is attested by its colonies in Italy and Sicily--Puteoli, Palaeopolis (afterwards Neapolis), Zancle (afterwards Messana). But it had powerful enemies to encounter in the Etruscans and the Italian nations. It was also weakened by internal dissensions, and one of its citizens, Aristodemus, made himself tyrant of the place. Its power became so much reduced that it was only saved from the attacks of the Etruscans by the assistance of Hiero, who annihilated the Etruscan fleet, 474. It maintained its independence till 417, when it was taken by the Campanians and most of its inhabitants sold as slaves. From this time Capua became the chief city of Campania; and although Cumae was subsequently a Roman municipium and a colony, it continued to decline in importance. At last the Acropolis was the only part of the town that remained, and this was eventually destroyed by Narses in his wars with the Goths. Cumae was celebrated as the residence of the earliest Sibyl, and as the place where Tarquinius Superbus died.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Perseus Project index

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  A city in Phlegraean Fields inside Cape Misenum on the Bay of Naples. This area and its original Oscan inhabitants were known to Mycenaean explorers of the 12th c. B.C., but the city was actually founded ca. 750 B.C. by colonists from Chalkis, Eretria, and the island of Pithekusai (Ischia). The site included a strong acropolis, fertile hinterland, and an attractive harbor, now nonexistent. From 700 to 500 B.C. it was a prosperous and important disseminator of Greek culture in the West through the Chalkidian alphabet, Greek cults, and several important colonies of its own. The earliest historic Cumaean, Anistodemos, repulsed an Etruscan attack in 524 B.C. and shared a leading role with the Latins and Romans in defeating the Etruscans again at Aricia ca. 505; in 474 the Cumaean and Syracusan fleets combined to crush Etruscan power in Campania. But about a half century later Cumae was conquered by the Samnites and became Oscan until 180 B.C. Samnites were not maritime-minded and did not really maintain the harbor. However, after Hannibal's failure to establish outlets to the sea at Neapolis and Puteoli, in 215 B.C. Cumae was his third--and equally unsuccessful--choice. Already a civitas sine suffragio (338 B.C.) Cumae was now granted municipal citizenship with Latin as the official language, and it became a municipium at the end of the Republic. In 37-36 Agrippa undertook a massive reorganization of the harbor facilities, adapting the lakes Lucrinus and Avernus on the bay side into Portus Julius for the construction of a fleet and the training of personnel against Sextus Pompey (battles of Mylae and Naulochos, 36 B.C.) and, on the Cumaean side, the construction of a whole new Roman port for the unloading of supplies, and two long tunnels for communication between the sea and the lakes (see below). After this great ad hoc achievement Cumae once more silted up into maritime insignificance, though Symmachos sailed from there to Formia in A.D. 383.
  Cumae was most famous for its oracular Sibyl, just as her grotto is now its most spectacular monument. As shown by an inscribed bronze disk, she was giving, and declining to elucidate, responses by the middle or the late 7th c. B.C., originally for a chthonic Hera and only later for Apollo, and her famous bargaining with Tarquinius Priscus (regn. ca. 616-579) for the Sibylline Books was about contemporary. Vergil's poetic but surprisingly accurate description of her antrum (A en. 6.9-155 for the whole incident) is clearly based on autopsy. Though restored by Augustus, the Sibyl's official cult lapsed within the next century.
  The site of the Sibyl's grotto was discovered in 1932, a trapezoidal gallery (131.5 x 2.4 m and an average height of 5 m) cut N-S into a solid tufa ridge below the acropolis, overlooking the sea through six similar trapezoidal bays, with a total of nine doorways (not all now documented) and, cut back into the rock on the left (E) side, three ceremonial baths later converted into cisterns; note the repetition of triads and the Sibyl's relation to Hekate (Trivia). The splendid archaic Greek stone-cutting is attributable to the 5th c. B.C. and reminiscent of Mycenaean and Etruscan dromoi. At the extreme (S) end is an arched chamber, the inmost adyton wherein Aeneas received oral instructions from the frenzied priestess; a vaulted chamber to the E, perhaps the Sibyl's personal apartment, and a similar but smaller W chamber, probably for light and ventilation, open to left and right of the adyton. This last complex, with vertical walls and doorposts supporting semicircular arches, is a 4th-3d c. addition or alteration to the original gallery. Under the early Empire the whole floor was lowered 1.5 m to convert the entire grotto into a cistern; still later, parts were used for Christian inhumation.
  The entrance to the Sibyl's grotto was part of an architectural unit including steps leading up to the Temple of Apollo (see below) and a ramp leading downward to the entrance of the so-called Cumaean Roman crypt, a long underground E-W tunnel passing under the acropolis. The operations of Narses against the Goths (A.D. 560), landslides, and quarrying have destroyed this impressive facade, but the crypt itself is undoubtedly attributable to Cocceius, the Augustan architect who also built the very similar crypt of Cocceius under Monte Grillo (see below) and the crypta Neapolitana tunnel between Puteoli and Neapolis. For 26 m the Cumaean crypt is barrel-vaulted 5 m high and then opens into an enormous Great Hall or "vestibule" 23 m high with revetment of tufa blocks and with four niches for large statues; lighting for these and the whole crypt, of which the remainder was a normal tunnel, was supplied by vertical or oblique light-shafts down through the rock. Toward the E end enormous rock-cut storerooms and cisterns open on one side. Like the Sibyl's grotto, this crypt was eventually used for Christian burials.
  Even more impressive is the so-called crypt of Cocceius itself which, passing for ca. 1 km under Monte Grillo, was wide enough for loaded wagons to pass and which, after an open interval from the previous crypt, continued the underground water-level supply route from Cumae to Agrippa's Lake Avernus base. It was partly barrel-vaulted with neat blocks; the remainder was cut through unadorned tufa. Like the other crypt it was lighted by vertical and oblique light-wells of which the deepest is 30 m. As a further tour de force, Cocceius included an aqueduct along its N side, with its own niches, ventilation shafts, and wells. But it and the Cumaean crypt were strictly military in purpose and were not properly maintained thereafter until the Bourbons cleared it for land reclamation purposes. It can still be traversed despite ruts and water due to bradyseism and deforestation.- It was undoubtedly Cocceius' masterpiece.
  Not all of the crypt of Cocceius and the mountain under which it passes is strictly Cumaean, but consideration of Cumae cannot ignore Domitian's cut through the crest of Monte Grillo and his filling the consequent gash with the high narrow Arco Felice of brick, not an aqueduct but apparently simply a high-level bridge from one side of the cut to the other.
  The precise areas of the Greek, Samnite, and Roman territory of Cumae varied from time to time and are not entirely clear, but at least the acropolis was always the obvious center. It was originally part of a crater; much of it consists of varying qualities of tufa. Easiest access was from the S where the harbor and principal city lay with appropriate gates, but on the remaining sides it was impregnable. In Greek times it was fortified with walls of which some fine stretches remain visible, but in Roman times it was extensively occupied by private dwellings which have virtually eradicated structures (portico, cistern), but two temples remain identifiable.
  The lower of these, epigraphically identified as the Temple of Apollo, built upon a still earlier sanctuary, exists only in ground plan (34.6 x 18.3 m). It was oriented N-S; in Augustan times the Cumaean Apollo received a new and presumably more elaborate E-W temple; in the 6th-7th c. this was converted into a Christian basilica, once more N-S. The Greek phase of the upper so-called Temple of Jupiter is E-W but even less recognizable than that of Apollo, though its dimensions were greater (at least 39.6 x 24.6 m). The Tiberio-Claudian phase is of characteristic reticulate masonry and is generally recognizable in its unusual plan, which was adapted to a Christian basilica in the 5th-6th c., one of the earliest such structures in Campania.
  In the lower town were Temples of Jupiter Flazzus (later the Capitolium) and of Divus Vespasianus used for a committee meeting in A.D. 289, a forum (ca. 120 x 50 m) with long porticos, largely unexplored, and two 2d c. bathing establishments. At the S end of the city was an amphitheater with a major axis of 90 m, of which only parts of the outer shell remain above ground. Statius, who often refers to Cumae, refers to quieta Cyme (Silv. 4.3.65) and Juvenal calls it vacuae (3.2), but this was doubtless in contrast to Rome and busy Puteoli. Under the late Republic and early Empire Cumae was a favorite resort of upper-class Romans, vying with Puteoli and Baiae.
  A large and ill-defined necropolis surrounds the city, especially to the NE where extensive plundering during the 19th c., as well as responsible excavation during the 20th c., has revealed interments of all periods including pre-Hellenic; some tombs are painted. A tholos tomb reflecting Mycenaean tradition and a mass grave of headless skeletons are of especial interest.
  Most of the finds from Cumae, including a fine marble copy of Cresilas' Diomedes, are in the Naples Museum.

H. Comfort, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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