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Rudiae Archaelogical Site
Photo: www.parcoarcheologicorudiae.it

Rudiae Archaelogical Site

Rudiae was a former ancient city in the Cupa Valley, 3 km south-west of Lecce, now preserved as an archaeological site. Humans lived on the site from the 7th century BC until Roman times. Despite being mentioned in the texts of many ancient writers including Strabon and Ovid, not much is known about the old city’s origins.

According to the Greek geographer Strabo, the city was founded by Rhodians who, along with Crete, colonised the local area. In Pre-Roman times the site was occupied by the Messapians. In the 3rd century, like other areas of Puglia, Rudiae fell into the hands of the Romans. The Romans made Rudiae an official municipium, incorporating the city into the Roman state.

500 years later the impressive amphitheatre was built. Before long, however, the city suffered a decline in numbers, in part due to the growing relevance of the nearby city Lupiae (later to become Lecce). Eventually, the city emptied and fell into the hands of nature.

The earliest mention of the abandoned remains of the city came from Italian scholar Antonio De Ferraris, who wrote of his despair over the destruction extensive agricultural works were having on the land. The park remained in a state of abandonment until the second half of the 1800s when the ‘Conserving Commission of Historical Monuments and Fine Arts of Terra d'Otranto’ led excavation campaigns to discover what secrets the ancient site held.

These excavations enabled the discovery of Attica and Italiote ceramics and were ultimately responsible for the largest discovery of funerary pottery from the Messapian region, which is now held at Lecce’s Sigismondo Castromediano Museum. These archaeological excavations also uncovered painted tombs, thought to have dated from the city’s peak period in the 5th to 3rd century BC, as well as the hypogeum. These are said to have come from the necropolis that surrounds the site.

In 1957, two additional excavation campaigns began, led by renowned archaeologist Giovanna Delli Ponti. These uncovered the streets and buildings of the ancient city, as well as significant buildings and two Hellenistic hypogea. In the mid-1980s, Rudiae became an official preserved archaeological site.

Nowadays, Rudiae is perhaps best known for being home to the 2nd century BC ‘father of Roman poetry’ Quintus Ennius, author of the epic Latin poem Annales. It is also one of the two very well-preserved Roman amphitheatres in close proximity to each other in Lecce, the only city in the world to enjoy this privilege.

Visitors can walk the stone streets of the old city, touch the tuff city walls, view the 3rd-century BC Hellenic underground burial chamber and explore the 8,000-capacity ancient amphitheatre. The site also hosts an underground hypogeum, although access is not permitted.

The site is surrounded by olive trees and the Parco Naturale e Giardino Botanico botanical garden.
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