Early Roman military fortifications and the origin of Trieste, Italy



Publication Details

Bernardini, F., Vinci, G., Horvat, J., De Min, A., Forte, E., Furlani, S., Lenaz, D., Pipan, M., Zhao, W., Sgambati, A., Potleca, M., Micheli, R., Fragiacomo, A. & Tuniz, C. (2015). Early Roman military fortifications and the origin of Trieste, Italy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112 (13), E1520-E1529.


An interdisciplinary study of the archaeological landscape of the Trieste area (northeastern Italy), mainly based on airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR), ground penetrating radar (GPR), and archaeological surveys, has led to the discovery of an early Roman fortification system, composed of a big central camp (San Rocco) flanked by two minor forts. The most ancient archaeological findings, including a Greco-Italic amphora rim produced in Latium or Campania, provide a relative chronology for the first installation of the structures between the end of the third century B.C. and the first decades of the second century B.C. whereas other materials, such as Lamboglia 2 amphorae and a military footwear hobnail (type D of Alesia), indicate that they maintained a strategic role at least up to the mid first century B.C. According to archaeological data and literary sources, the sites were probably established in connection with the Roman conquest of the Istria peninsula in 178-177 B.C. They were in use, perhaps not continuously, at least until the foundation of Tergeste, the ancestor of Trieste, in the mid first century B.C. The San Rocco site, with its exceptional size and imposing fortifications, is the main known Roman evidence of the Trieste area during this phase and could correspond to the location of the first settlement of Tergeste preceding the colony foundation. This hypothesis would also be supported by literary sources that describe it as a phrourion (Strabo, V, 1, 9, C 215), a term used by ancient writers to designate the fortifications of the Roman army.

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