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Home » The Town » What to see » Egnazia and the Archaeological Park

Egnazia and the Archaeological Park

OPENING HOURS every day except Jan 1st/May 1st/Christmas
MUSEUM 8,30am – 7,30pm (ticket office 8,30am – 7,00pm)
April/September 8,30am – 7,15pm (ticket office 8,30am – 6,15pm)
October 8,30am – 6,00pm (ticket office 8,30am – 5,00pm)
November/February 8,30am – 4,30pm (ticket office 8,30am – 3,30pm)
March 8,30am – 5,30pm (ticket office 8,30am – 4,30pm)

Museum & park € 6,00
Free admission on the first Sunday of the month
Discounted admissions by current regulations
Guided tours booking service +39 080 48 29 742 - NOVA APULIA Soc. Cons. a r.l.

Little information about Egnazia (Gnathia) is given, among the others, by Greek geographer Strabo at the end of the 1st century B.C., and by Latin poet Horace, who went through there in 38 B.C. during his famous trip from Rome to Brindisi (Satire I. 5).
From those authors, as well as from later information, we barely and scarcely know about its geographic position; on the sea, on the border between Peucetia (territory of Bari) and Messapia (Salento), half way between Bari and Brindisi, along the Via Traiana, which at that time was already one of the most important routes in the whole area road system.
The Via Traiana, which runs through the centre of ancient Egnazia, was a part of a major new route built by Emperor Trajan in 109 A.D. Starting at Benevento, the Via Traiana gave travelers from Rome to Brindisi a more comfortable alternative to the older Via Appia.
Earliest human traces in Egnazia date back to late Bronze Age (15th – 12th century B.C.), with shacks and cabins spread along the coast and partially inland. The most inhabited and safe portion of the settlement was protected by a raised stone wall on the land side, widening up to that small peninsula which would have gradually become a knoll (acropolis) because of the layered buildings.
The plant of the walls dates back to Messapian phase, perhaps from the end of the 5th century B.C. The walls, almost two kilometres long, protected the city in an inland facing semicircle, and a defensive system facing the sea seems to have been built on the northern side of the acropolis only. The reinforcement and rebuilding of the wall through the centuries can be detected by the different stone-masonry layers which characterize the defensive belt, even if the square blocks building technique is maintained. At the northern corner, the better known one, walls are still preserved at their original height of seven metres. There can be seen construction of two clearly different phases, and the later one is extended into the pre-existent moat. Pre-Roman tombs have been found even within city walls, but true Messapian necropolis were beyond the city, where they kept burying with changing burial rites through the centuries (western necropolis). The first discovery of these rich Messapian tombs dates back to 19th century. Since then, we conventionally talk of “Gnathia Pottery” referring to a particular kind of pottery made in Apulia between the middle of the 4th century and the first decades of the 3rd century B.C., decorated in white, yellow and red painted over the black haze, mainly depicting vegetal subjects. Around the same period (4th – 3rd centuries B.C.) there must have been a substantial reorganization of Hellenistic taste at the base of the acropolis, where, underneath several more recent buildings, are recognizable a series of porticoes forming an irregular piazza (agorà), to demonstrate the taste of time. In the same area there’s the monumental centre of the city, formed after the “Romanization” of the region (nearby Brindisi became a Roman colony in 244 B.C.): the Civil Basilica, the Shrine of Eastern Divinities, the so-called Amphitheatre and the Forum; the houses district, with shops and workshops, including a pottery kiln and a probable underground grain storage area (criptoporticus), are on the other side of Via Traiana.

The Archaeological Museum of Egnazia is set outside the boundary walls and is in its mounting phase. It’s the actual premises of a permanent didactic exhibition about history and topography of ancient Gnathia, which includes a selection of mosaics and architectural fragments from the inhabited area and necropolis outfits. From the floor below, partially dedicated to exhibitions, you enter a Messapian hypogeum, i.e. a formerly open sky vestibule and a funerary cell depicting architectural motifs and vegetal subjects (ivy branches and pomegranates) and closed by a terrific two monolithic wings door.

Western Necropolis
This portion of Egnazia large necropolis began to be used from the middle of the 4th century B.C. where pre-existent quarries were bordered by two parallel tracks. Messapian tombs are shaft graves (pseudo-sarcophagus), mainly in groups of burials placed at the bottom of even larger shafts, chamber and semi-chamber ones, which are often plastered and painted. In the 1st century A.D. these areas were used for cremation burials, while in 3rd and 4th century A.D. the remaining free areas were used for further inhumations.

Early Christian Episcopal Basilica and Baptistery
Big three nave building, with one apse jutting out at the bottom of the wall of the central nave, and three entrances preceded by a portico (nartece); the right side only preserved the original mosaic floor (now in the Museum), in big tiles with different decorations, damaged and blackened by the fire which destroyed the building.
In the largest of a number of enclosures on the left side of the Basilica, paved with square tiles, there are pools in which they administered baptism by immersion.
The whole complex, including other pools and a large cistern, seem to have been developed over a pre-existent laundry (fullo), over which the Basilica was built.

Early Christian Southern Basilica
Similar to the Episcopal Basilica plan, of smaller dimension. The single apse juts out into the so-called “Via delle Basiliche”. The Early Christian Southern Basilica overlies a former place of worship, from which a multi-coloured geometric patterns fine mosaic has been temporarily transferred in the Museum.

Plaza of trapezoidal shape of which an half only of its width has been excavated, paved in tufa and surrounded by a canal to drain off the rain water and a portico of Doric order (elements of the frieze in smooth metopes and triglyphs lay on the floor by the amphitheatre side). Up towards the Acropolis an oratorical stall and an honorary base are preserved. The former presence of other monuments is suggested by the impressions left on the tufa pavement. A paved walkway connects the Forum with Via Traiana. They have recently supposed this 1st century B.C. plaza not to be the real Forum of this Roman town, which instead would have been at the south-eastern side of the Civil Basilica.

This name is given conventionally, if you consider the monument to be too much centrally positioned, its small dimensions and the absolute lack of tiers and underground, essential in a building used to stage shows.
Being mainly a fenced enclosure, having one main and one side entrances on each of the broader lengths, it possibly could have been an area subsidiary to the Forum, with a specific usage (market?), definitely different from civil and political activities typical of the Forum.

Via Traiana and Sacellum
This urban stretch of the major arterial route Via Traiana (please note the deep ruts) is paved with polygonal blocks of limestone and curbstones of the same material mainly boarding the curves.
Via Traiana was built by Emperor Trajan; in this area of Apulia region they probably renovated the older track Via Minucia, the one covered by Horace in 38 B.C.
Sacellum (shrine): we can tell it has been used as a shrine from the altar step, or statue step, on the back wall; only impressions of the precious marble floor remain. The Sacellum, same as the other surrounding structures, dates back to Roman Imperial Age.

Eastern Divinities Shrine
About the middle of the 2nd century A.D. this shrine occupied the boundary portion, towards the Acropolis, of an L shaped portico, which bounded the south-western side of large plaza, pre-existing the creation of the Forum and the Amphitheatre. In the centre there’s a base with a dedicatory inscription in Latin on the front and musical instruments (two flutes, a kettledrum, a cymbal) carved on the three faces. The practice of eastern cults is demonstrated either by the dedication to Magna Mater Cibele and Goddess Siria or by the classicizing head of Attis found nearby (now in the Museum).

Civil Basilica and the Hall of the Three Graces
Public building used for meetings, administration of justice and business. With its rectangular plant and an inside quadriporticus supported by 4 x 8 columns, it had its main front and entrances on the broader south-east side.
On the Acropolis side it was connected to a large hall paved with a mosaic floor (partially covered by the new road), representing at its centre the Three Graces (now preserved in the Museum). The Basilica plan dates back to Augustan Age, with a later restoration datable between the 3rd and the 4th century A.D., as the Three Graces Mosaic is. At last, the Civil Basilica has probably been transformed in a Christian church.

Roman Kiln and Messapian Tombs
With circular plan and access corridor (praefurnium), this kiln was probably used for the manufacturing of large clay containers. It’s built over a Messapian tomb with the inscription TABAPA (priestess) impressed over one of the covering blocks. Quite a number of other Messapian tombs have been found nearby, underlying south of the Forum. However, this overlapping is absolutely accidental, because tombs date back to an age when these portions of the town hadn’t been rationalized yet, as they instead did in Roman time, and houses were built with no order, so that that much space left was used for burials and their gorgeous equipment, made of rich pottery and decorated terracottas.

Underground structure having four arms of different length. A small portion of the structure was carved out of the rock, the remaining part was built with concrete, covered with a barrel vault and plastered. Low embrasures at a regular distance can be found on the interior sides of the arms; at the two ends of the longer side are two pairs of entrances, modified through times. As we don’t know details about the overlapping structures, we assume it could have been a simple covered walkway or a storage area for grains (horreum).

The Acropolis
Artificial knoll formed between 15th century B.C. and 9th century A.D. Favourably positioned between two coves, which have surely been the perfect asset both for defence of the protohistoric settlement and for sheltering and loading of ships. The northern inlet became a port in Roman times. Looking towards Monopoli you can see the so called “muraglione” (massive wall), i.e. the best preserved section of the ancient walls. The foundations of a Hellenistic period temple are on the top of the acropolis, and on the facing inland side a fortification of the late period pivots on massive ramparts on the south-eastern corner.

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