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Neapolis

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Capua lies on the Volturno River and the ancient Appian Way, 16 miles (26 km) north of Neapolis (Naples) in the province of Caserta.

Neapolis is a port city in Italy.Neapolis was a busy and important port. At the end of the fourth century BC massive dredging had to be carried out in order to keep the port functional. Excavations have shown that a pier of wooden poles and calcareous stones was built at the end of the first century AD, and quays were built as late as the second century AD. The port remained in use in the approximate configuration shown in the graphic for a very long time, well into Byzantine times after the Gothic wars. This is where the ships loaded and unloaded their freight, part of which fell into the sea to become archaeological finds for us.

Neapolis divided on the issue with the ruling Greek element coming out in favor of an alliance which would leave their position virtually untouched whilst allying them with the up-and-coming force of the day. Nevertheless, the pro-Samnite faction came out on top and, so, in 327 B.C. Rome declared war on Neapolis on the grounds that the city had been involved in hostilities against Roman colonies. Consul Quinto Publilio Filone headed the army which, sent to take Neapolis and Palepoli, found the latter reinforced with six thousand Nolans and Samnites and the former tightly ensconced within its walls of tufa. Filone camped his forces between the two centres, a tactic which was as sound politically as it was militarily in that it not only split the enemy's forces but also separated the Greeks in Neapolis from the more heavily pro-Samnite Palepoli, thus allowing internal divisions to come to a head. This proved to be the case when, even before the Romans had attacked, some of the leading citizens of Neapolis opened the gates to admit the besiegers. Able now to give their full attention to Palepoli, the Romans achieved a quick victory, completely routing the defenders.

Neapolis was able to prosper during the first period of the alliance. Its mint was of particular importance as a source of income up until the period of the 3rd Samnite Wars when growing Roman ties with Carthage weakened Neapolis' monopoly of money production so much that by 280 there was a serious devaluation and the production of silver coins ceased.

The economic life of Neapolis suffered a serious blow in 199 B.C. when customs set up in Capua and Pozzuoli had a detrimental effect on commercial port traffic. Nevertheless, Neapolis was able to continue to grow in terms of military importance, acting as a fleet base and containing many arsenals. In 90 B.C. Neapolis was made a Roman Municipality and Roman citizenship was conferred on the Neapolitans. Citizenship was a highly sought-after status and would have only have been given as a recognition of services rendered by Neapolis to Rome. Interestingly, Neapolis tried to refuse the honor. This is generally interpreted as showing just how important the Neapolitans had come to consider their independence and, in particular, their status as a 'Greek' city. Rome, however, had its way, and although precisely what changes came in the wake of this promotion are lost to us, it must be assumed some degree of Romanization came with the passage from 'free-city' to Roman Municipality.

This cultural life of Neapolis shines through even the darkest moments, and while the true importance of the role can barely be guessed at, there is evidence other than the presence of literary-minded and philosophical Romans and foreigners to suggest the cultural importance of the city. There were, for example, quadrennial games held in honor of Augustus. Lasting for four days, the 'games' included athletic, musical and theatrical competitions.

Neapolis also boasted two theatres, one covered, the other open-aired. The former has been completely built over but extensive ruins (photo, right) of the latter have been uncovered (unfortunately, they are on private property and off-limits to tourists and, unbelievably, in some cases access is denied to archaeologists). The theatres were relatively large, suggesting the importance they must have played in the life of Neapolis. Quite whether the Roman theatres stand on the site of original Greek theatres is not known but authorities feel that is likely to be the case.

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