Province of Latina, Latium, Italy

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About Gaeta

Gaeta (Italian: ; Latin: Cāiēta; ancient Greek: Καιήτη, Romanized: Kaiḗtē) is a city and municipality in the province of Latina, in Lazio, in central Italy. Located on a promontory that extends towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Rome and 80 km (50 miles) from Naples.

The city played an obvious role in military history; its fortifications date back to Roman times and have numerous traces of the period, including the 1st century mausoleum of the Roman general Lucius Munatius Plancus on top of Mount Orlando.

The fortifications of Gaeta were enlarged and strengthened in the fifteenth century, in particular during the history of the Kingdom of Naples (later the Two Sicilies). Today Gaeta is a seaport for fishing and oil and a popular tourist resort. NATO maintains a naval base of operations in Gaeta.


Ancient times

It is the ancient Caieta, located on the slopes of the Orlando Tower, a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Inhabited by the Oscan-speaking Italic tribe of the Aurunci at least in the X-IX century BC, the city was an ancient Ionian colony of the Samians according to Strabo, since he believed that its name derived from the ancient Greek καιέτας, which means "cave", probably referring to to the various ports.

According to Virgil's Aeneid (vii. 1-9), Gaeta was named after Caieta, the nurse of Aeneas (another legend says that Ascanius), who buried here.

In the classical age Caieta, famous for its pleasant and temperate climate, such as nearby Formia and Sperlonga, was a tourist resort and the site of the seaside villas of many important and wealthy characters from Rome. Like other Roman locations, Caieta was connected to the capital of the Empire by Via Appia and its final trunk Via Flacca (or Valeria), through an opposite diverticulum or road. Its port was of great importance in trade and in war and was restored under the emperor Antoninus Pius. Among its antiquities is the mausoleum of Lucio Munazio Plancus.

Middle Ages

At the beginning of the Middle Ages, after the Lombard invasion, Gaeta remained under the sovereignty of the Byzantine Empire. In the following years, like Amalfi, Sorrento and Naples, it would seem to have established itself as a practically independent port and to have exercised a thriving trade with the Levant.

With the decline of Byzantine influence in southern Italy, the city began to grow. For fear of the Saracens, in 840 the inhabitants of nearby Formiæ fled to Gaeta. Although under the sovereignty of Byzantium, Gaeta therefore had, like the nearby ports of Naples and Amalfi, a republican form of government with a dux ("duke", or lord commander under the command of the Byzantine exarch of Ravenna), like a fort bulwark against Saracen invasion.

Around 830, it became a lordship ruled by hereditary ipati or consuls: the first of these was Constantine (839-866), who in 847 helped Pope Leo IV in the naval battle of Ostia. At the same time (846) the episcopal see of Gaeta was founded when Constantine, bishop of Formiae, fled from there and established his residence. He was associated with his son Marinus I. They were probably violently overthrown (suddenly disappear from history) in 866 or 867 by Docibilis I, who, looking rather at local security, entered into treaties with the Saracens and abandoned friendly relations with the papacy. However, he greatly expanded the duchy and began building the palace. The greatest of the hypati was probably John I, who helped crush the Saracens in Garigliano in 915 and obtained the title of patricius from the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII.

The principle of co-regency governed the early dynasties: Docibilis associated Giovanni with him and Giovanni in turn associated his son Docibilis II with him. In 933, three generations were briefly dominant: John I, Docibilis II and John II. At the death of Docibilis II (954), who first took the title of dux, the duchy passed from its golden age and entered a decline marked by a division of the territory. John II ruled Gaeta and his brother Marinus ruled Fondi with the same title as duke. Lands and peripheral castles were donated to the youngest children and so the Docibili family slowly declined after the middle of the century.

Presumably, but unlikely, from the end of the 9th century, the principality of Capua claimed Gaeta as a title of courtesy for the younger son of his ruling prince. In the mid-tenth century, the De Ceremoniis of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus lists the ceremonial title "prince of Gaeta" among the protocols for letters written to foreigners.

Source: Wikipedia
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