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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Formiae (Phormiai: Eth. Formianug: Mola di Gaeta), a city of Latium on the coast of the Sinus Caietanus, and situated on the Via Appia, between Fundi and Minturnae, 13 miles from the former and 9 from the latter city. (Itin. Ant. p. 121.) Though included in Latium, in the later and more extended sense of the term, it certainly was not originally a Latin city; but whether this and the neighbouring Fundi were Volscian, or, as is perhaps more probable, Ausonian cities we have no information: indeed, no mention occurs of either in history until they entered into municipal relations with Rome. But a legend adopted by late writers ascribed the foundation of. Formiae to a Greek colony, which was derived from Lacedaemon, and connected with the origin of the neighbouring Amyclae. In accordance with this tradition, its name was said to have been originally Hormiae, and was derived from the excellent anchorage or roadstead for shipping (hormos) which its bay afforded (Strab. v. p. 233; Plin. iii. 5. s. 9; Fest. s. v. Formiae; Serv. ad Aen. x. 564.) Another legend, still more generally received both by Greek and Roman writers, selected Formiae as the site of the fable of the Laestrygones in the Odyssey; and the Roman family of the Lamiae, in the days of Augustus, even asserted their direct descent from Lamus, the king of the Laestrygones. (Cic. ad Att. ii. 1. 3; Hor. Carm. iii. 17; Plin. l. c.; Sil. Ital. vii. 410; Solin. 2. § 23.)
  The first historical mention of Formiae occurs immediately after the great Latin War, in B.C. 338. It appears that on that occasion the two cities of Fundi and Formiae had taken no part in the war, and had thus kept the passes through their territory (of the highest importance in a military point of view) always open to the Roman armies. For this service they were rewarded with the gift of the Roman citizenship, but at first without the right of suffrage, which was not granted them till B.C. 190: they were then included in the Aemilian tribe. (Liv. viii. 14, xxxviii. 36; Vell. Pat. i. 14; Cic. ad Att. ii. 1. 4) From henceforth Formiae appears to have been a flourishing Roman municipal town, to which its situation on the Appian Way doubtless contributed; but it was probably still more indebted to the extreme beauty of its situation, which rendered it a favourite place of resort with the wealthy Roman nobles in the latter days of the Republic, as well as under the Empire. The charm of its beautiful climate and tranquil bay, the Temperatae dulce Formiae litus is celebrated by Martial in one of his most elegant epigrams; and all modern travellers concur in extolling Mola di Gaeta as one of the most lovely spots in all Italy. Among the villas with which Formiae thus became adorned, by far the most celebrated is that of Cicero, which appears to have become a favourite residence of the great orator, from whence many of his letters to Atticus are dated, and which afforded him a welcome retirement during the most disturbed periods of the civil wars. It was here also that, on his flight from Rome, he landed for the last time, and spent the night in his Formian villa, from whence he was attempting to escape when he was overtaken by the murderers and put to death, B.C. 43. (Cic. ad Att. ii. 1. 3, 14, iv. 2, vii. 8, &c., ad Fam. xvi. 10, 12, &c.; Plut. Cic. 47, 48; Appian, B.C. iv. 19, 20; Val. Max. i. 4. § 5; Vict. de Vir. Illustr. 81.) Several ancient writers, including Plutarch, represent Caieta as the scene of this catastrophe; but this evidently arises from a mere confusion of the two: Caieta, indeed, at this time, appears to have been in a municipal sense a mere dependency of Formiae, of which it served as the port; and it is certainly not necessary to suppose, as Middleton has done, that Cicero had a villa at Caieta itself as well as at Formiae. (See this point fully discussed by Chaupy, Maison d'Horace, vol. i. pp. 232-236.) Several other Romans had villas at Formiae in the days of the great orator, as well as in those of Horace; but the wealthy family of Mamurra, who was himself a native of Formiae, had at the latter period engrossed so great a part of the locality, that Horace calls it the city of the Mamurrae. (Hor. Sat. i. 5. 37, and Schol. ad loc.; Plin. xxxvi. 6. s. 7.) Martial bears testimony that, at a later period, the charms of Baiae and the other places on the Bay of Naples had not caused Formiae to be neglected. (Mart. x. 30.) The hills at the back of it, and which bound the Sinus Caietanus, are also celebrated by Horace for the excellence of their wine. (Hor. Carm. i. 20. 12, iii. 16. 34.) We learn that Formiae received a colony under the Second Triumvirate, and it bears the title of a colonia in several inscriptions of imperial date. (Lib. Colon. p. 234; Orell. Inscr. 3782, 3884.) It appears to have continued a tolerably flourishing place till the close of the Roman Empire, and retained its episcopal see till the 9th century, when it was taken and destroyed by the Saracens, in 856. The remaining inhabitants took refuge at Gaeta, which succeeded to the episcopal dignity; and the modern town of Mola, which has grown up on the ruins of Formiae, is, as its appellation of Mola di Gaeta implies, a sort of dependency of the neighbouring city. The remains of antiquity still visible at Formiae are extensive; they appear to have all belonged to different Roman villas, of which there remain extensive substructions, with the ruins of terraces, vaulted passages, baths, grottoes, &c., lining the whole coast from Mola di Gaeta to the neighbouring village of Castellone. These ruins may be traced to have formed part of three ancient villas, of which the one next to Mola is commonly known as that of Cicero; but the Abbe Chaupy would assign to the great orator the more important remains in the garden of the modern Villa Marsana, the furthest of the three from Mola. The point is scarcely susceptible of precise determination; but a monument on the hill above is regarded as that of Cicero, and the discovery near it of an inscription bearing the names of some freedmen of the Tullian family, certainly affords some countenance to the attribution. Several other ancient inscriptions have been discovered at Formiae, and numerous sepulchres and ruins of ancient edifices are scattered along the coast for some miles eastward of Mola along the Appian Way. Among these the names of the Torre di Scauri, and a spot called Mamurano, evidently indicate the site of villas of Aemilius Scaurus, and of the wealthy Mamurra. (Chaupy, Maison d'Horace, vol. i. pp. 181-231; Romanelli, vol. iii. pp. 422, 423; Hoare, Class. Tour, vol. i. pp. 118-129.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   (Mola di Gaeta). A very ancient town in Latium, on the Via Appia, in the innermost corner of the beautiful Sinus Caietanus (Gulf of Gaeta). It was founded by the Pelasgic Tyrrhenians, and was the fabled abode of Lamus and the Laestrygones. Near this place were numerous villas of the Roman nobles; of these the best known is the Formianum of Cicero, in the neighbourhood of which he was killed, and whose remains are still visible at the Villa Marsana. The hills of Formiae produced good wine.

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


   A savage race of cannibals, whom Odysseus encountered in his wanderings. They were governed by Antiphates and Lamus. They belong to mythology rather than to history. The Greeks placed them on the east coast of Sicily, in the plains of Leontini, which are therefore called Laestrygonii Campi. The Roman poets, who regarded the promontory Circeium as the Homeric island of Circe, transplanted the Laestrygones to the southern coast of Latium, in the neighbourhood of Formiae, which they supposed to have been built by Lamus, the king of this people.

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

Present location

It is said that the country of the Laestrygones was to the S of Latium, on the borders with Campania.

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  A coastal town ca. 4 km N-NE of Gaeta, exceptionally beautiful in situation and benign in climate. It faces S over the bay of Gaeta. It is uncertain whether its origin was Ausonian or Volscian; it appears first in history in 338 B.C. when it remained neutral in the Latin war and was rewarded by Rome with citizenship sine suffragio (Liv 8.14.10). Suffrage came in 188 B.C. when it was inscribed in the tribus Aemilia (Livy 38.36.9). Under Hadrian it received a colony and was designated Colonia Aelia Hadriana Augusta. It seems to have flourished until it was destroyed by the Saracens in 859. It owed its prosperity to its situation on the Via Appia, its abundant water, and the excellence of its agriculture, especially its fruit, and its attractions as a resort. It was among the earliest of the sites preferred by rich Romans for seaside villas, and it continued to draw them at least as late as the time of Symmachus. Its most famous frequenters were Pompey and Cicero, who was assassinated at his villa there while attempting to flee from the proscription of the triumvirs in 43 B.C. (Plut. Vit. Cic. 47-48). It may also have been the home of Vitruvius, the architect.
  The town plan is hard to discern. Some walls in massive trapezoidal blocks and others in Roman concrete appear at various points. These must include remains of its fortifications and perhaps terrace walls of private villas. One circuit seems to have enclosed the arx of the city (Castellone); another, more fragmentary, can be completed as a larger triangle. An amphitheater and theater can be recognized inland and uphill from the waterfront. But Formiae's great glory is its ring of villa remains stretching from the Peschiera Romana in the Nuovo Porto, to the Porto di Caposele on the confines between Formiae and Gaeta. From Formiae to Gaeta the line of villas is, in effect, unbroken.
  The most conspicuous of the remains are those in Villa Rubino, attributed without basis to the villa of Cicero, including an important nymphaeum and remains of substructions decorated with painting and stuccos, Villa Irlanda (a cryptoporticus with stuccos), and Villa Caracciolo (a great court surrounded by rooms and other constructions). From them have been removed a great many marbles, the majority of which are in the Museo Nazionale in Naples; the most famous are a fine pair of Nereids mounted on sea monsters. There are collections of antiquities gathered largely or entirely locally in Villa Rubino, the park of Piazza della Vittoria, and the antiquarium of the municipio.
  In the vicinity of Formiae along the Via Appia are ruins of a number of monumental tombs of interesting architecture. The most imposing of these, 24 m high, is given the name Tomba di Cicerone.

L. Richardson, Jr., 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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