The place of battle.
Landscapes, documents, materials, images, words.

by Angelo Luttazzi

Sacriporto. iam quot apud sacri cecidere cadavera portum…….. (How many corpses now lay near the Sacred Harbour). This is the description of the crude epilogue of the battle of Sacriporto, accurately described by Lucano (Phars. II, vv. 134-137).

It all started in the spring of 83 BC, when L. Cornelius Silla returned to Italy from Greece after landing at Brindisi. As head of an army of some 40,000 men, his clear intention was to confront his political enemies. His forces were joined by those of Metello and those of Gnao Pompeo, son of Gnao Pompeo Strabone, who had recruited a private army in Piceno.

The consul Marius the Younger tried to halt Silla’s advance, almost at the gates of Rome, into Lazio. The battle took place on the plain of Sacriportus, near the town of Signia in the present-day territory of Colleferro, along the path of the river Trerus or Tolerus (now the river Sacco).

Marius attacked believing he would create confusion and havoc among his enemies, but he achieved the opposite effect, namely a reaction of pride on the part of Silla’s troops that led to the rout and defeat of his army. The outcome of the battle was favourable for Silla as Marius and what was left of the troops took refuge in nearby Praeneste, where they suffered a siege that ended with the death of the consul and all his cohorts.

The book deals with the identification of the site of Sacriporto by comparing the writings of various scholars from the second half of the 16th century to the present day, with the outstanding work of Filippo Coarelli and Giovanni Colonna. It can be deduced that Sacriporto was a territorial district which had a sacred character and was situated near the Via Labicana where a number of sanctuaries were located, in an area between today’s Colleferro, the sites of Colle S. Pietro, Piombinara, Macchia di Piombinara and Colle Maiorana. In addition to the main topic, there are descriptions of the territory in archaic and republican times, site notes and a reconstruction, albeit hypothetical, of the battle itself.

Dr. Angelo Luttazzi

Scientific Director of the Municipal Archaeological Museum of the Toleriense Territory of Colleferro