Ancient Naples: A Documentary History


Ancient Naples is one of five projected volumes in a series entitled A Documentary History of Naples, published by Italica Press. Co-authored with Joseph Alchermes of Connecticut College, it will be the first book in English to provide an in-depth investigation of the metropolis from its beginnings as the Greek colony of Parthenope to its recolonization as Neapolis, through Roman control into late antiquity. We will deal with every recoverable aspect of the ancient city: geography and geology; political and social history; local mythology; literary and cultural currents; art and architecture; urbanism and topography; epigraphy; numismatics; and archaeology. Excavations for a new subway line in the western and southern parts of the ancient walled city have sparked a renaissance in scholarship and a thorough reassessment of existing assumptions. Ancient Naples seeks not only to characterize the current state of the debate, but to contribute to it with substantive analysis of recently published material and reevaluation of older evidence.



Archaeologist Francesca Longobardo takes us on a tour of the recent reclamations and restorations made to the Roman theater in Naples, which is still embedded inside much later buildings in the historic center. This zone will soon be open to the public.

Theater-annular corridor


Another view of the recently reclaimed part of the theater: a radial corridor in opus mixtum.

Theater radial corridor


Joe photographs an ancient Roman nymphaeum cut from the living rock on the hill of Pizzofalcone, the site of the original Greek colony of Parthenope and later occupied by a famous villa of Lucullus.

Nymphaeum of Pizzofalcone


Chief archaeologist Daniela Giampaola (right) and ceramicist Vittoria Carsana (center) with a plan of the archaeological remains at the Piazza Municipio subway excavations.

Giampaola and Carsana


Model of the three Roman ships and a rubble jetty discovered at the Piazza Municipio site. This is the first definite archaeological evidence of the port of ancient Neapolis. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples.

Roman ships


A sampling of the thousands of finds from the Greco-Roman harbor in the vicinity of the ships. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples.

Harbor ceramics


San Paolo Maggiore, site of the temple of the Dioscuri. Corinthian columns, architraves, and pedimental elements have been worked into the baroque facade.

San Paolo Maggiore


Roman altar and architectural remains embedded in the Campanile of Pietrasanta.

Campanile of Pietrasanta


The Crypta Neapolitana, the tunnel leading west from Neapolis to the Puteoli highway. Designed and engineered by the architect Cocceius, it was said by Petronius and Seneca to be claustrophobic and choked with dust.

Crpyta Neapolitana interior


Capo Posilippo, eponymous site of the imperial villa of Pausilypon. The odeion is visible in the center; out of sight to the left is the villa's theater, which seated about two thousand.

Capo Posilippo


Catacomb of Gaudiosus. Naples is home to four catacombs, all of them founded in late antiquity to accommodate the remains of local saints.

Catacomb of Gaudiosus


Baptistery of S. Giovanni della Fonte at the church of S. Restituta. These spectacular early-Christian mosaics are reminiscent of the more famous ones at Ravenna.

Baptistery at S. Restituta


The martyrium complex founded by St. Paulinus at Cimitile, near Nola. The bishoprics of Neapolis and Nola had a complex relationship in late antiquity.