A Landscape of Conflict: Battlefield Archaeology in the Territory of Ancient Fregellae / Modern Ceprano (FR, Lazio, Italy)

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Dr Dominik Maschek (PI)

Partners: Dr Pier Giorgio Monti, Stephen Kay, Dr Piero Sebastiani Del Grande, Dr Rudolf Känel

In 125 BCE, a Roman army led by the praetor Lucius Opimius attacked the allied Latin town of Fregellae, located close to modern Ceprano. After a ferocious siege, Fregellae was taken and destroyed, fuelling a series of crises which ultimately led to the Social War of 91 BCE.

The project ‘A Landscape of Conflict’, funded by the John Fell OUP Research Fund, aims to identify the archaeological traces of this cataclysmic siege as well as those of other clashes from the Napoleonic Wars to World War II. In collaboration with the Museo Archeologico Fregellae “Amedeo Maiuri” at Ceprano (Dr Pier Giorgio Monti), the British School at Rome (Stephen Kay), the company Archeo V.A.L. (Dr Piero Sebastiani del Grande), and international experts working on the finds from Fregellae (Dr Rudolf Känel), it is the primary goal of the project to establish the size and shape of the siegeworks erected by the Roman army under Lucius Opimius in 125 BCE.

Complementing the results of airborne laser scanning (LiDAR) with fieldwalking, earthwork survey, and the analysis of historical maps, we were able to locate a significant stretch of a ditch-and-rampart system which served as a circumvallation during the siege of 125 BCE to the north of Fregellae. Moreover, the 2019 field campaign helped to identify structural remains of two Roman military camps in the same area. The larger of these camps was then partly reoccupied by a German anti-aircraft battery in the early months of 1944 for which both archaeological evidence and eyewitness reports could be gathered. Apart from its cross-period character and its chronological breadth of 1,900 years, the pioneering character of this fieldwork is further emphasised by the fact that it is indeed the first multidisciplinary project of battlefield archaeology on a Roman site in Italy.

Literature / Publications:

Coarelli, F., Monti, P. G. (eds.) 1998: Fregellae 1. Le fonti, la storia, il territorio, Rome.

Maschek, D. 2018: Die römischen Bürgerkriege: Archäologie und Geschichte einer Krisenzeit, Darmstadt, pp. 64-73.