The acropolis of Cumae seen from the lower city.
|Location||Cuma, Province of Naples, Campania, Italy|
|Builder||Colonists from Euboea|
|Founded||8th century BC|
|Periods||Archaic Greek to High Medieval|
|Associated with||Cumaean Sibyl, Gaius Blossius|
|Events||Battle of Cumae|
|Management||Direzione Regionale per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici della Campania|
|Website||Sito Archeologico di Cuma (Italian)|
Cumae (Ancient Greek: Κύμη (Kumē) or Κύμαι (Kumai) or Κύμα (Kuma); Italian: Cuma) was an ancient city of Magna Graecia on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Cumae was the first Greek colony on the mainland of Italy and the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl. It was founded by Euboean Greeks who used a local variant of the Greek alphabet, the Euboean alphabet. This alphabet developed into the Latin alphabet, the world's most widely used phonemic script, after it was adopted and modified first by the Etruscans (800–100 BC) and then by the Romans (300–100 BC). The ruins of the city lie near the modern village of Cuma, a frazione of the comune Bacoli in the Province of Naples, Campania, Italy.
The settlement, in a location that was already occupied, is believed to have been founded in the 8th century BC by Euboean Greeks, originally from the cities of Eretria and Chalcis in Euboea, who were already established at Pithecusae (modern Ischia); they were led by the paired oecists (colonizers) Megasthenes of Chalcis and Hippocles of Cyme.
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. Its name refers to the peninsula of Cyme in Euboea. The colony was also the entry point in the Italian peninsula for the Euboean alphabet, the local variant of the Greek alphabet used by its colonists, a variant of which was adapted and modified by the Etruscans and then by the Romans and became the Latin alphabet still used worldwide today.
Cumae was a direct offshoot of an earlier colony on the nearby island of Ischia, Pithecusae, founded by colonists from the Euboean cities of Eretria and of Chalcis (Χαλκίς), which was accounted its mother-city by agreement among the first settlers.
The colony thrived. By the 8th 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. It spread its influence throughout the area over the 7th and 6th 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 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.
Contact between the Romans and the Cumaeans is recorded during the reign of Aristodemus. Livy states that immediately prior to the war between Rome and Clusium, the Roman senate sent agents to Cumae to purchase grain in anticipation of a siege of Rome. Also Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last legendary King of Rome, lived his life in exile with Aristodemus at Cumae after the Battle of Lake Regillus and died there in 495 BC. Livy records that Aristodemus became the heir of Tarquinius, and in 492 when Roman envoys travelled to Cumae to purchase grain, Aristodemus seized the envoys' vessels on account of the property of Tarquinius which had been seized at the time of Tarquinius' exile.
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. 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 to revolt from Roman authority, Cumae withstood Hannibal's siege, under the leadership of Tib. Sempronius Gracchus.
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 AD, 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.
The Sibyl of Cumae
Cumae is perhaps most famous as the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl. Her sanctuary is now open to the public.
The Temple of Zeus at Cumae was transformed into a Christian basilica at the end of the 4th century. At Cumae was set a widely influential Christian work of the 2nd century, The Shepherd of Hermas said by its author to have been inspired by visions.
Notes and references
- Perseus: Κύ̂μα
- Eusebius of Caesarea placed Cumae's Greek foundation at 1050 BC; modern archaeology has not detected the first settlers' graves, but fragments of Greek pottery ca 750-40 have been found by the city wall (Robin Lane Fox, Travelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer, 2008:140).
- Lane Fox 2008:140 notes that whether the Euboeans were from the Ischian colony or freshly arrived is a moot question
- Strabo, v.5, noted in Elizabeth Hazelton Haight, "Cumae in Legend and History" The Classical Journal 13.8 (May 1918:565-578) p. 567.
- Livy, viii.22.
- Strabo, v.4.
- Pausanias, vii.22.6.
- Dionysius of Halicarnassus, vii.3; Plutarch tells the story of Xenocrite, the girl who roused the Cumaeans against Aristodemus, in De mulierum virturibus 26.
- Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2.9
- Livy, ii.21; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations iii.27.
- Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2:34
- Livy, iv.44; Diodorus Siculus, xii. 76.
- Livy, xxiii.35
- Livy, xxiii.35-37.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cumae.|
- Official website (Italian)