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Lighthouse in Campania

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Salvatore Ponticelli

on 8 June 2017

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Transcript of Lighthouse in Campania

Lighthouse
The Roman Capo Miseno lighthouse was built on the base of the lighthouse of Alexandria.
Magnificatur et alia turris a rege facta in insula. Pharo portum optinente Alexandriae, quam constitisse DCCC talentis tradunt, magno animo, ne quid omittamus, Ptolomaei regis, quo in ea permiserit Sostrati Cnidi architecti structura ipsa nomen inscribi usus eius nocturno navium cursu ignes ostendere ad praenuntianda vada portusque introitum, quales iam compluribus locis flagrant, sicut Ostiae ac Ravennae.
Εστι δ'απο τησ Σινοεσσησ επι μεν την εξησ παραλιαν κολποσ ευμεγεθησ μεχρι Μισηνου, κακειθεν αλλοσ κολποσ πολυ μειζων του προτερου, καλουσι δ'αυτον Κρατηρα.

Strabone,Geography, 1st century B.C.
The coast extends from Sinuessa to Miseno and forms a big gulf and another much larger one, even bigger than the first one, called a crater.
Πλησιον δε τησ Κυμηεσ το Μισηνον ακρωτηριον και εν τω μεταξυ Αχερουσυα λιμνη, τησ θαλαττησ αναχυσισ τισ τεναγωδησ. Καμψαντι δε το Μισηνον λιμην ευθυσ υπο τη ακρα.

Strabone,Geography, 1st century B.C.
"Capo Miseno" and Acheronte lake, a kind of marshy channel, are located near Cuma. Round Capo Miseno, right at the base of the headland, there is a harbor.
The Miseno lighthouse, in Roman times, was used by Tiberio to communicate with Rome when he was in Capri. Messages were sent from Capri lighthouse to the Miseno one and from Miseno to Rome. Thanks to smoke signals in the daylight and fire signals at night, Tiberio could not only control Rome remotely, but he could also get to know if he was safe in Capri.
As technology has advanced, the traditional use of lighthouses has by and large become obsolete.
In the future we will be able to repurpose them by hosting guests and events throughout Italy.
The Italian government sold many lighthouses to private companies;
The companies can own the lighthouses for up to 50 years.
There are 40 lighthouses that the Italian government has already sold.





If I could be anything,
I would be a lighthouse.
Around, everywhere,
the endless sky.
A bit of land behind me.

The entire sea in front of me.
I would stand in the wind
In the rain and in the sun
from time to time a seagull
would say 'hello’ to me.

At night I would look
for every lost glance
with my bright one.

English version of ‘Se io fossi una cosa’
Roberto Piumini

The Romans built about 400 lighthouses like the lighthouse of Alessandria.
The lighthouse of Capo Miseno indicated the entrance to the harbour of Miseno. There you could see Tiberio's imperial residence situated in Capri and called "Villa Iovis".
One of the first lighthouses was built in Alexandria, Egypt.
This lighthouse was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The function of this lighthouse was to signal the location of the port to approaching ships, and to demonstrate the power of the king.

The lighthouse's smoke was more important for
navigation than its tower because it allowed sailors to see the place they were going.
At night too, the light which the lighthouse projected was a method for communicating with other cities and ships.

The concept of the lighthouse also had a religious significance.
Its structure was the inspiration for Christian bell towers and Islamic mosques.

Instead of the lantern with flames of the lighthouses, the towers of these religious structures had strange domes shaped like flames and coated with a ceramic substance which, when reflecting the light of the sun, looked like a blazing fire.

The building was divided into 3 parts. The lighthouse had edges at the base that were important because there were often earthquakes and the building was very tall.

The tower was divided into two parts.
At the top of the tower there was the light indicating the land.
There was the brazier where there was the fire made with oil or naphta.
Behind the brazier there was a whirling round bronze sheet, for reflecting the flashing light.

Alexandria lighthouse
Maarten van Heemskerck
In this pictures we can see fragments of a bottle found in Astorga, Spain.
We can read the words "FARI" (lighthouses) and "BAIA" (the name of this area) near the allegorical feminine figure
These bottles were used as funeral urns, but first of all as souvenirs
In 1500 the Spanish viceroy of Naples wanted to build 366 towers in Campania, to signal the attacks of Saracens on the inhabitants of this region.
But our lighthouse was not built until the beginning of 1800.
On 17 July 1910, by Royal Decree, the king Vittorio Emanuele III commanded the lighthouses to be managed by the Royal Navy.

Another tower is celebrated.
It was magnificently built by the king on the island of "Faro": the harbor near Alexandria. It cost 800 Talents.
On that tower Sostrato Di Cnido was allowed to write his name.
It use was to show the route to ships, to signal the entry of the harbor with fire, as it already happens in several places such as Ostia and Ravenna.
"Natural History" by Pliny the Elder, 23-79 AD
Capo Miseno has been the location of lighthouses since ancient time as Greek documents taken from Strabone's geography (1st century B.C) prove
In Greek times the area of Misenum was under the rule of Cuma. In 38 BC, it was the site where a short-lived pact was made between Octavian ( heir of Julius Caesar, who later became the emperor Augustus ), and his rival Sextus Pompeius.

The promontory of Cape Misenum is what remains of an ancient volcano belonging to the area of the Phlegraean Fields. Its caldera can be better seen from the sea. From a geological point of view, the promontory is made of yellow tuff rock. The peak is covered with the typical ashes of the Phlegraean area, that is the “white pozzolana”.

In ancient times, 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. The top of the promontory is also where Augustus’s sacellum was placed .


According to mythology, Misenum was named after Misenus, a companion of Hector and trumpeter to Aeneas. Misenus is supposed to have drowned near here after a trumpet competition with the sea-god Triton, as recounted in Virgil’s Aeneid.

In 1943, almost at the end of the II World War, the lighthouse was attacked and destroyed by German bombardments.
In 1948 it was rebuilt. Today we can appreciate its white presence on our coast!

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 “praefect” in charge of the naval fleet at Misenum in AD 79, at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvious, visible to the south across the Bay of Naples.


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