Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entries  Feb 2009 & Mar 2018

ld City/New City

There are two items on this page:
1. Old City/New City (directly below)     2. a blue insert box on the ancient port of Palepolis (added March 2018)

<---back to map 11        this is map 12       to map 13--->

Livy tells us* that Roman general Quintus Publilius Philo, during the second Samnite war in 326 b.c., put his army between the cities of Palepolis [old city], Parthenope, and the “new city”, Neapolis [Naples], in order to keep the Palepolitans from linking up with the Neapolitans and aiding the Samnites in the war with Rome.

The above graphic is in the delightful mini-museum of the metro stop below the large National Archaeological Museum. Parthenope is on the hill on the right. That area today corresponds to Mt. Echia, also known as Pizzofalcone; it overlooks the small island (or, possibly, peninsula, depending on the date) of Megaride, which is where the Castel dell'Ovo now sits. New City is about a mile away to the east at sea-level, although the graphic does not make particularly evident that there was (and still is) is a prominent height at the north-west corner where the Greek Neapolitans located their own acropolis. Assuming the graphic to be a reasonably accurate reconstruction, the main harbor at Neapolis is now filled in and is roughly where today's Piazza Municipio is located. The space between the two towns looks big enough to accommodate the encampment of Roman soldiers that Livy speaks of; thus, give or take some decades, this might be the area in the year 300 b.c.

When you try to reconstruct the history of Greeks in the gulf of Naples, you rely heavily on historians such as Livy (mentioned above) and Strabo and his 17-volume encyclopedia entitled Geographica, a compendium of the peoples and places known in his age (he wrote at the time of Augustus Caesar; Book V, chapter 4 of the Geographica is about the peoples and places of the Campanian coast. Livy wrote at about the same time). Putting those histories together with others, you get a foundation of Parthenope at about 750 b.c. by settlers from nearby Cuma and of nearby Neapolis (also by Cumans) at around 450 b.c. The difference between the two became moot when the Romans took over the area in the third century b.c., by which time the two towns had grown together.

*Titus Livius, Ab Urbe condita [History of Rome from its Foundations, VIII.23]

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   added March 16, 2018

The Port of Palepolis (Old City)

In a press conference this week Neapolitan archaeologist Mario Negri brought us up to date on underwater archeology in the area of the Egg Castle (seen in the photo of the main logo display at the top of this page); that is, at the base of Mt. Echia, the height upon which the original Greek city of Parthenope used to stand. Parthenope was founded in around 750 BC by Greek settlers. The years between the founding of Parthenope and that of late-comer Naples (Neapolis/New City) in the mid-400s were complicated by the strong presence of the Etruscans,  who were at their height in around 600. That presence sent the original city of Parthenope into a decline that was not halted until the final defeat of Etruscan naval forces by the Greeks in the 400s. (The "Etruscans" link in the previous sentence will tell you what an absolutely rotten century the 400s were for the Etruscans.) At that point, more Greeks arrived to found Neapolis, at which point the former Parthenope became Palepolis (Old City).
Underwater archaeology has now revealed remnants of what appear to be the harbor of Palepolis (which itself may be on the site of whatever port the Parthenopians had). So far the submerged remnants (image, above) include four tunnels, a three-meter-wide (9 ft) street with cart-furrows still visible. There is also a long trench at a depth of 6 meters (18 ft) near the castle, as well as a street obviously meant to lead away from the port and up to the city, itself. The most obvious physical fact is that what we think of as the island upon which the Egg Castle stands was once a true peninsula (it is now an "artificial peninsula," joined by a causeway to the mainland). The great change in sea level is also evident elsewhere along this part of the coast. Further submerged archeology will continue in May. There is a great deal to be learned about the early history of the city and there are already enthusiastic comparisons to the sunken ruins of Baia at the western end of the bay of Pozzuoli and the possibilities of somehow opening the site to tourism. Don't hold your breath. Seriously, get some SCUBA gear.

See also: Greek Naples: Two Tales of One City

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