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Cape Misenum, the Rome foremost military port

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Miseno

According to the mythology Misenum was named after Misenus, a companion of Hector and trumpeter on the Aeneas ship as recounted in Virgil’s poem.

Cape Miseno is the headland that marks the northwestern limit of the Gulf of Naples as well as the Bay of Pozzuoli in southern Italy. The cape is directly across from the island of Procida and is named for Misenus, a character in Virgil’s Aeneid.

Misenum was the largest base of the Roman navy, since its port (Portus Julius) was the base of the Classis Misenensis, the most important Roman fleet. It was first established as a naval base in 27 BC by Marcus Agrippa, the right-hand man of the emperor Augustus.

In 38 BC, Misenum was the site where a short-lived pact was made between Octavian and his rival Sextus Pompeius.

With its gorgeous natural setting close to the naval base and the nearby important Roman cities of Puteoli and Neapolis, Misenum became the site of Roman luxury villas.

Pliny the Elder was the praefectus classis in charge of the naval fleet at Misenum in AD 79, at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius visible to the south across the Bay of Naples.

Seeing the beginnings of the eruption, Pliny left for a closer view in Stabia and to effect a possible rescue, and was killed by the eruption.

The account of his death is given by his nephew Pliny the Younger, who was also resident in Misenum at the time.

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pliny_route

The Pliny’s route

In Miseno there is the biggest Roman cistern  of drinkable water ever built called Piscina Mirabilis, realized during the Augustan period. Entirely excavated in the tufa rock, it has a capacity of 12.000 cubic meter of water, it’s 15 meters high, 72 m long and 25 m wide and it is covered by a vault, supported by 48 enormous cruciform pillars to form five long naves. The cistern was built to collect water for the fleet of the Roman Empire that docked in Miseno’s harbour.

It represented the final tank of the Augustan aqueduct (Aqua Augusta) that, from its springs in Serino and for 100 kilometers, brought water to Naples and the Phlegrean Fields.

piscina mirabilis

Piscina Mirabilis at Miseno

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