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Pompeii in Umbria - Buried Roman Town of Carsulae
Buried Roman Ruins
If you mention undiscovered, abandoned towns, destroyed by nature and buried then everyone will automatically think you are talking about Pompeii in Italy. The central province of Umbria however also has its own hidden secret at Carsulae. Here you can visit the haunting remains of an ancient Roman town that grew up along the western branch of the main road the Via Flaminia and were left undiscovered for 1,100 years after the area fell into disuse.
Carsulae is situated about 5 km from the beautiful hill top spa town of San Gemini and just off the main E45 motorway that travels through the province. Here you can discover the ruins of the ancient town that first sprang to life in 220 BC when the main road linking Rome to the Adriatic Sea was built. Initially the town developed as a trading post and stop over point where weary travellers could eat and bathe. Its importance along the route soon became established and it grew to such an extent that it became a municipality and an important commercial and political centre.
Now though its ghostly remains nestle peacefully in the Martani hills, surrounded by the rolling green fields of an agricultural landscape that is a surprisingly tranquil place where once there would have been such a hive of activity and buzzing with people.
The remains that can be seen at Carsulae attest to its importance, there are two large temples, the forum and basilica. The residents would have been entertained at the amphitheatre, and plays put on in the theatre. While the towns old main gate, St Damiano’s arch still stands on an undisturbed section of the Via Flamina.
The area was a great attraction to many Roman tourists who had villas in the town and would come to sample the mineral waters and public amenities it had to offer. Like its neighbouring towns of San Gemini and Aquasparta; Carsulae was a thriving spa centre, with piped mineral water, cisterns and public baths, the remains of which can still be seen today. The area was also well known for its healers and curative powers, the towns twin temples dedicated to Castor and Pollux the gods of healers and surgeons.
The reason for the towns decline and abandonment in the 4th century are not clear but the area lies on an active seismic zone and it is felt that earthquake activity is likely to have destroyed and damaged some of the buildings and along with the closure of the western branch of the Via Flamina led to the towns eventual demise.
Carsulae was left undisturbed and over time earth from the surrounding hillsides covered it over until there was little evidence of its existence. It was not until tentative excavations took place in the 16th and 17th century that the town was revealed when the local lord removed monumental stones and inscribed tablets. The 1950’s saw the real exploration of the site begin and many of the remains properly uncovered and documented.
Along with the ruins, there is the small church of San Damiano that has examples of medieval frescoes. It was constructed on the site of an older building and for many years the home to a group of nuns. Much of this interesting site has yet to be uncovered but what is on show portrays a vibrant and busy centre full of life and vitality.