Spoleto (Latin: Spoletium ), 42°44N 12°44E, an ancient town in the Italian province of Perugia in east central Umbria, at 385 meters (1391 ft) above sea-level on a foothill of the Apennines. It is 20 km (12 mi) S. of Trevi and 29 km (18 mi) N. of Terni. Its population according to the 2003 census was 38,000.
The first historical mention of Spoleto is the notice of the foundation of a colony there in 241 BC. (Liv. Epit. xx ; Vell. Pat. i.14 ), and it was still, according to Cicero (Pro Balbo) colonia latina in primis firma et illustris: a Latin colony in 95 BC. After the battle of Trasimenus (217 BC) Spoletium was attacked by Hannibal, who was repulsed by the inhabitants (Liv. xxii.9) . During the Second Punic War the city was a useful ally to Rome. It suffered greatly during the civil wars of Marius and Sulla. The latter, after his victory over Crassus, confiscated the territory of Spoletium (82 BC). From this time forth it was a municipium.
Under the empire it seems to have flourished once again, but is not often mentioned in history. It was situated on a branch of the Via Flaminia, which left the main road at Narnia and rejoined it at Forum Flaminii . An ancient road also ran hence to Nursia . Martial speaks of its wine. Aemilianus, who had been proclaimed emperor by his soldiers in Moesia, was slain by them here on his way to Rome (253), after a reign of three or four months. Rescripts of Constantine (326) and Julian (362) are dated from Spoleto. The foundation of the episcopal see dates from the 4th century. Owing to its elevated position it was an important stronghold during the Vandal and Gothic wars; its walls were dismantled by Totila (Procopius, de Bello Gothico iii. 12).
- See main entry Duchy of Spoleto.
Under the Lombards, Spoleto became the capital of an independent duchy (from 570), and its dukes ruled a considerable part of central Italy. Together with other fiefs, it was bequeathed to Pope Gregory VII by the empress Matilda, but for some time struggled to maintain its independence. In 1155 it was destroyed by Frederick Barbarossa. In 1213 it was definitely occupied by Pope Gregory IX. During the absence of the papal court in Avignon, it was a prey to the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines, until in 1354 Cardinal Albornoz brought it once more under the authority of the Church.
In 1809 it became capital of the short-lived French department of Trasimene, returning to the Papal State within five years. In 1860, after a gallant defence, Spoleto was taken by the troops fighting for the unification of Italy. Giovanni Pontano , founder of the Accademia Pontaniana of Naples, was born here.
In 1958, because Spoleto was a small town, at the time relatively inexpensive, yet fairly close to Rome with good rail connections, it was chosen by Gian-Carlo Menotti as the venue for an arts festival. The Spoleto Festival has developed into the most important cultural manifestation in Umbria, with a three-week schedule of music, theater and dance performances; it is usually held in July.
- Roman theater
- Roman amphitheater
- Ponte Sanguinaro, a Roman bridge
- a striking 13th-century aqueduct
- principal churches:
- Duomo S. Maria Assunta
- S. Pietro, with a remarkable Romanesque façade
- S. Salvatore, incorporating the cella of a Roman temple
- S. Ponziano
- S. Eufemia
- Official Site
- Spoleto Festival
- Spoleto Storia
- Bill Thayer's site