The road network
Following the Roman conquest and
throughout the first half of the 2nd century BC, the
area witnessed many important developments, the most
significant being the laying of the consular road from
Reggio Calabria to Capua and the laying of the Via
Appia towards Rome.
An anonymous inscription, known as the Elogium of Polla, confirms that Viam fecei ab Regio ad Capuam.
Much of the ancient consular road has been preserved intersecting a close modern day net of small streets and bridleways. Indeed, little has changed since the original road network was plotted by Roman land surveyors pursuant to Gracchi’s land reform legislation.
The official division of the area into clearly identified land parcels, centuriae, also led to the building of a large number of villas, many of which have recently been brought back to light. One of these villas, a large complex in the vicinity of Auletta, is protected by the peaks of the Alburni mountains to the south and surrounded by verdant olive groves.
Originally composed of a central set of service areas, probably storerooms, arranged around a small courtyard, as from circa 70 BC a new courtyard and upper floor were added to the complex and a luxurious apartment with mosaic floored halls opening onto a peristyle was built to the south. The production of olive oil seems to have been the villa’s primary activity as three large communicating rooms and several ground floor storerooms were clearly dedicated to the processing of olives and the storage of olive oil.
Not far from the villa, a little further along the road to Caggiano, stands the funeral monument of Gresia Tertia, a tomb similar in shape and style to the Tomb of Garlands at the Gate of Herculaneum in Pompeii.
Probably dating back, as does the Tomb of Garlands, to circa 40 BC, this tomb was built by Gresia Tertia for her husband Quintus Insteius Cimbris, a member of one of the most important families of magistrates in Volcei.
The sumptuousness of the architectural decoration of this tomb and the magnificence of the mosaics of the villa are indicative of the vast wealth accumulated by local land owners in the Republican age.
Indeed, documentary evidence proves that the Insteius family, whose members included a number of senators in the Imperial age, owned properties in Auletta and Caggiano but also in Polla.