Olbia, Sardinia - Encyclopedia

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OLBIA (Gr. OX(3La, i.e. happy; mod. Terranova Pausania, q.v.), an ancient seaport city of Sardinia, on the east coast. The name indicates that it was of Greek origin, and tradition attributes its foundation to the Boeotians and Thespians under Iolaus (see Sardinia). Pais considers that it was founded by the Phocaeans of Massilia before the 4th century B.C. (in Tamponi, op. cit. p. 83). It is situated on low ground, at the extremity of a deep recess, now called the Golfo di Terranova. It was besieged unsuccessfully by L. Cornelius Scipio in 259 B.C. Its territory was ravaged in 210 B.C. by a Carthaginian fleet. In Roman times it was the regular landing-place for travellers from Italy. Cicero notes the receipt of a letter from his brother from Olbia in 56 B.C., and obviously shared the prevailing belief as to the unhealthiness of Sardinia. Traces of the preRoman city have not been found. The line of the Roman city walls has been determined on the N. and E., the N.E. angle being at the ancient harbour, which lay to the N. of the modern (Notizie degli Scavi, 1890, p. 224). Among the inscriptions are two tombstones, one of an imperial freedwoman,' the other of a freedman of Acte, the concubine of Nero; a similar tombstone was also found at Carales, and tiles bearing her name have been found in several parts of the island, but especially at Olbia, where in building a modern house in 1881 about one thousand were discovered. Pais (op. cit. 89 sqq.) attributes to Olbia an inscription now in the Campo Santo at Pisa, an epistyle bearing the words "Cereri sacrum Claudia Aug. lib. Acte," and made of Sardinian (?) granite. In any case it is clear that Acte must have had considerable property in the island (Corp. Inscr. Lat. x. 7980). Discoveries of buildings and tombs have frequently occurred within the area of the town and in its neighbourhood. Some scanty remains of an aqueduct exist outside the town, but hardly anything else of 1 The freedwoman had been a slave of Acte before passing into the property of the emperor, and took the cognomen Acteniana - a practice which otherwise only occurs in the case of slaves of citizens of the highest rank or of foreign kings.

antiquity is to be seen in situ. A large number of milestones, fifty-one in all, with inscriptions, and several more with illegible ones, belonging to the first twelve miles of the Roman road between Olbia and Carales, have been discovered, and are now kept in the church of S. Simplicio (Notizie degli Scavi, 1888, p. 535; 1889, p. 258; 1892, pp. 217, 366; Classical Review, 1889, p. 228; 1890, p. 65; P. Tamponi, Silloge Epigrafica, Olbiense, Sassari, 1895). This large number may be accounted for by the fact that a new stone was often erected for a new emperor. They range in date from A.D. 245 to 375 (one is possibly of Domitian). The itineraries state that the main road from Carales to Olbia ran through the centre of the island to the east of Gennargentu (see SARDINIA); but a branch certainly diverged from the main road from Carales to Turris Libisonis (which kept farther west, more or less along the line followed by the modern railway) and came to Olbia. The distance by both lines is much the same; and all these milestones belong to the last portion which was common to both roads. (T. As.)

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