Cippus Abellanus
by M. Horatius Piscinus

The Cippus Abellanus is a marker testifying to the arbitration decision made by Q. Fabius Labienus in 183 B.C.E. (Cicero: De officiis I). It affixed the boundary between the towns of Nola and Avellino, attesting to the relationship Rome had had with its allies at that time.  The inscription of the cippus, written in Oscan, is as follows:

Maiiui vestirikiiui mai. Sir. Prupukid sverrunei kvaistu rei Abellanui inim maiiui iuvkiiui mai.  Pukalatui medikei deketasiui Nuvlanui inim ligatuis Abellanuis inim ligatuis Nuvlanuis pus senateis tanginud suveis puturuspid ligatus fufans, ekss kumbened.  Sakaraklum Herekleis up slaagid pud ist inim teerum pud up eisud sakaraklud ist pud anter teremniss eh truis ist, pai teremenniu muinikad tanginud pruftuset rihtud amnud, puz idik sakaraklum inim idik terum muinkum muinikei terei fusid inim eiseis sakarakleis inim tereis fruktatiuf, fruktatiuf muiniku puturumpid fusid.  Avt Nuvlanu…Herekleis fiisn…pispid Nuvlan…gt

Ekkum svai pid herieset triibarak avum terei pud liimitum pernum puis Herekleis fiisnu mefiu ist, ehtrad feihuss pus Herekleis fiisnam amfret, pert viam pusstist pai ip ist, pustin slagim senateis suveis tanginud tribarakavum likitud.  Inim iuk tribarakkiuf inim uittiuf Abellanum estud.  Avt pust feihuis pus fisnam amfret, eisei terei nep Abellanus nep Nuvlanus pidum tribarakattins.  Avt thesavrum pud esei terei ist, pun patensins, muinikad tanginud patensins, inim pid eisei thesavrei pukkapid eestit aittium alttram alttrus herrins.  Avt anter slagim Abellanam inim Nuvlanam sullad viu uruvu ist.  Edu.  Eisai viai mefiai teremenniu staiet.

Greater may your bounty grow by this: (By the order of the arbiter), Quaestor (Q. Fabius Labienus) speaking quid pro quo between the King of Avellanus and the ten Medixes (magistrates) of Nola, this is now the law of Avellanus, this is now the law of Nola, by a Consultum of the Senate (of Rome) the law has been established:

Whereas the Sanctuary of Hercules near this location to which Avellanus has claims to this land, where also near this other place, Nola, has claims to the sanctuary, which lies between their two respective boundaries, straddling their common border, both sides having presented their opinions in proof of their claims, of rites conducted at the Holy Sanctuary, lying on common land, on a common border, has been for the purpose of ensuring the fertility of the land, and that this rite of fructification has also been common to both cities, Avellanus and Nola, …Hercules became…which one Nola…gt…

From this he wanted, to build up the land, he did so without permission.  Hercules came to the middle, from outside the city walls.  When Hercules himself came to circumscribe around (the sanctuary) across the road behind, also, and afterward through this area.  The Senate therefore issues this decision, permitting the sanctuary to be rebuilt.  It is to be rebuilt in this manner:  Nola is to build up this part and Avellanus is to build up another part for its own use.  Also, after this has been completed, it is to be circuited (in a joint rite?) for the mutual benefit of the nearby lands of Avellanus and certainly also the nearby lands of Nola.  Also whatever savrum should be discovered on the land which the sanctuary comprises, it should be commonly recognized that that which the one side desires is also what the other side wants, for their mutual benefit.  Also between the two places, Avellanus and Nola, the curved roadway (passing through) the middle of the (sanctuary) shall be the border between, but belong to neither.

Archaeological remains at Nola date back to the Bronze Age.  The city of Nola was originally founded as Hyria, in 801 B.C.E. composed of Greeks and Calcidesi, a pre-Italic, Ausonian people.  Later it was taken over by Etruscans as they expanded from the seacoast into the Campanian hinterlands.  The expansion of the Oscan tribes out of the Apennines led to a war against the Campanian Etruscans, 524-474 B.C.E..  The Sabelli then followed in another wave of Oscan expansion, seizing Campania (450-420), Lucania (420-390), and Bruttia (c. 356).  Hyria was then renamed Nuv-la, “New City,” and became the capital of the Oscan Samnite confederation around 400 B.C.E.  In 327 B.C.E., 2000 Nolans and 4000 Sanniti were sent to capture Neapolis and Palepoli.  The following year Neapolis expelled the Samnite garrison and allied with Rome.  A border war continued for a few years until the Romans decided to launch an invasion into Samnite territory.  In 320 the Romans suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Samnites at the Caudine Forks.  A lull occurred until the Samnites renewed the war against Rome in 316.  They invaded Latium, winning a pitched battle at Lautulae near Terracina, devastating much of Latium and advancing as far as Aricia, the center of the Latin League.  But in 315 the Romans defeated the Samnite, capturing Nola, which in the following year was made a Roman municipium.  The Second Samnite War then concluded in 304 B.C.E.  At the conclusion of the Third Samnite in 290 B.C.E. Nola and Avellino held the status of being allies of Rome.  Nola remained loyal to Rome against Hannibal, whereas Avellino defected.  Nola revolted during the Social War and was subjugated by Sulla in 89, and then again by Sulla in 82 when Nola and the Samnites sided with Marius.

The Sanctuary of Hercules predates the Samnites, and even the arrival of the Greeks.  It was unusual in Italy that such a sanctuary lay on the border between two towns.  Such border sanctuaries were known however among the Celtic tribes of southern Gaul.  Originally the sanctuary was probably a site attributed to some earlier hero of the Calcides. When the Greeks arrived, and they explained its location by attributing it to Hercules.  The actual sanctuary has not been found so it cannot be dated, but several other megalithic sites exist in various parts of Italy which were later attributed to folk heroes like Hercules or to the “Sons of Saturn.”   The Cippus Abellanus attests to continuity in the use of this pre-Italic sanctuary into the late Republican era.  

There is a similarity in the foundation rite described for this sanctuary at Avellino, performed by Hercules, and the founding rites of Rome by Romulus described by Livy.  Supposedly the foundation rite was introduced to Rome from Etruria, but the allusion to a similar rite in Campania dating to a much earlier period than Romans, Samnites, or Etruscans would have been present, suggests that such rites were derived from a much earlier period and was more widespread than previously thought.  At Rome there have been found remains dating from the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age.  Latin texts refer to the earlier pre-Italic Ausonii who inhabited the region prior to the founding of Rome. Such sites as the sacred grove of Alernus near the Tiber (Ovid, Fasti VI.105-106), a deity otherwise unattested to, may extend back to these peoples of an earlier age.  In that there is then an implication of the origin of many other obscure deities found in Roman records. Looking in a broader context, of Rome not as a Latin city but as an Italian community, we may gain some insight into the more obscure aspects of early Rome, its sanctuaries, and its religious institutions.  The lustration rites performed for the city of Rome on special occasions are similar to the rite referred to in the Tavolo Iguvium of Umbria.  There may also be a connection with a similar rite performed at the “Garden of Ceres” mentioned in the Oscan Tavolo Agnone, with the lustration of a private estate described by Cato (De Agricultura 141) and Virgil’s mention of rustic rites of Ceres blessing the fields by an ambularia (Georgic I.338-350).  The rite mentioned in the Cippus Abellanus where by the sanctuary is circuited can be seen as another example of an ambularia.  Among the petroglyphs of Val Camonica, at Dos Cui, there is a plowing scene dating to the end of the Neolithic and transition into the Chalcolithic.  The scene depicts a man plowing behind a team of horses, but to one side is seen a woman with upraised arms in a sign of adoration that can be recognized as such from other scenes in the region.  Rather than a scene of everyday life, her presence suggests that this may be a representation of a religious rite.  If that is the case then the foundation rite found among diverse people in Italy, and perhaps the ambularia as well, may extend back to the period of the introduction of the plow.  At any rate the similarity between the ambularia and foundation rites among Umbrians, Oscans, Latins, and Etruscans cannot be attributed to any one of these peoples, and the fact that the same rites are associated with a sanctuary of the pre-Italic Calcidesi suggests there is a much earlier level that was common among the traditions of diverse peoples in Archaic Italy.

 

M Horatius Piscinus, Rector Collegii Religionis