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Translated Jeff Matthews

The area of the Campi Flegrei (Fiery Fields) was actually urbanized before Naples, itself, and for many centuries was a wealthier and more important center. First, Greek colonists and then Romans populated the area, famous as it was for mild climate, fertile soil and the presence of numerous thermal springs. Due to this long history as an urban center, it is quite easy to come across archaeological items in the current daily urban fabric of the territory; thus, you can admire vestiges of our ancient past while modern daily life carries on around you.

Such is the case with the “Roman Necropolis of Cappella”, located in the area of that name (Cappella) on the slopes of Monte di Procida. Originally it was a funerary structure, a mausoleum dated to the late Republican epoch (around 100 BC); there is certain to have been an underground vault but that has not yet been investigated. Additionally we may add four architectural units (rectangular spaces that were collective or “group” tombs) that may be ascribed to the first Imperial period (first century AD). They were built in the brick design known as opus reticulatum and had barrel vaults; they faced directly on the road and were thus easily accessible. On the front wall of these spaces there is a votive shrine mounted by a triangular pediment (or gable) and a semivault decorated in stucco and representing a shell. There are niches (columbaria) along all of the walls to hold the ashes of the deceased.

Beneath the vault of two of these spaces we find frescoed figures that represent, in one case, Isis/Selene, and in the second case, the dancing figure of a menad (a follower of the god, Dionysus, represented by a “tirso” (sacred staff) and a cup of wine.

Isis and Dionyus were two mystery divinities; their cult practiced initiation rites and believed in resurrection after death. This particular belief at the time was very much in vogue in military circles. A number of epitaphs uncovered during the excavations, indeed, show the presence of the remains of sailors of the imperial fleet quartered at Miseno and provide some interesting detail. For example, one inscription carries a dedication of Lucius Vibius Valentus, non-commissioned officer aboard the trireme, Capricorn, to his heir, ordinary seaman on the trireme Virtus, Tiberius Claudius Phoebus, orginally from Asia Minor, who lived 30 years and served 14 of them in the Miseno fleet.

Towards the beginning of the 2nd century AD the Romans started burying the dead (as opposed to cremation) such that, with time, the earthen graves encroached upon the earlier tombs (about one-hundred of these have been found in the area and investigated).

The necropolis does not seem to have been used after the end of the 4th century.

Excavations began in 2003 and the archaeological site may now be visited.

Below you will find information on how to find the site.

To get into the site, see Salvatore, who lives in the immediate area.

Typology: Necroplis, Roman era

Description: Necropolis of sailors in the Praetorian Misensis Roman Imperial fleet at Miseno.

City: Cappella - Monte di Procida (NA)

Coordinates: 40°47'56.01"N - 14° 3'44.68"E

Address: Piazza Michele Sovente

For more information: The Roman Cemetery for the Western Imperial Fleet (the Classis Praetoria Misenensis )

Photos: The Cappella necroplis at Monte di Procida

Videos: La necropoli di Cappella (Monte di Procida)

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