Langhe in Roman times

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The Langhe were colonised by the Romans around the second century BC with the battle of Caristo which saw the defeat (and near extermination) of the Ligurian Statielli. Their conquered capital became Acque Statiellorum; other villages became Hasta, Alba, Pollentia and Augusta Bagiennorum, while a dense network of roads was constructed to keep order, to move the armies which shortly thereafter conquered the rest of Gaul, but especially to strengthen commerce. The Via Aemelia Scauri connected Acqui to the port of Vado, while another important road united Hasta with Alba Ingauna (that is, Albenga) by way of Alba, Pollentia, Augusta Bagiennorum and Ceva. In between was the Via Magistra Langarum, probably a set of paths that crossed the Langhe to the southeast, which still exists at the crossroads at Campetto in the Belbo Valley.
In Alba itself, to be precise in the Pertinace hamlet of Barbaresco, Publius Pertinax was born, generalissimo of the Empire under Marcus Aurelius who – having fallen from favour with Commodus - retired to his homelands where he apparently opened a "Taberna" as proof of the winemaking vocation of these hills. On the death of Commodus, Pertinax was elected emperor by the Praetorian Guard who expected privileges which were not forthcoming: an upright and virtuous man, Pertinax was murdered just three months later. The Senate celebrated him as a new Cincinnatus, upholding him as an example.
Many centuries later, the last time the Empire stopped the barbarian hordes was upon the plain of Pollenzo, where Stilicho defeated Alaric in an entirely Visigoth duel (both being barbarians).
Very much of that time remains , even if- as in the rest of Italy – the current city still stands on the Roman site and so the archaeological routes are often underground.
Alba offers a fascinating tour, starting from the Cathedral, with some remains open to the elements and others in the nearby countryside: a visit to the "Eusebio" Civic Museum is a must.
At Pollenzo, in addition to stretches of road and fragments of sewers, the circle of houses whose pattern follows the outline of the ancient Roman amphitheatre is worthy of attention.
But it is Benevagienna which offers the best things, the city having been moved into the most defensible position near the fortresses of the Tanaro, and so its ruins are in open countryside! It is the most important archaeological site in the region, with a theatre (still used in the summer for performances of the classics), the Necropolis, the Basilica and the Temple. A great deal is still to be restored (such as the imposing Amphitheatre) but what we have today is sufficient to understand why the city was dedicated to Augustus Octavian.

Text by ©Pietro Giovannini

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