al termine della via Appia
Throughout history, Brindisi has
always functioned as "the Gate of the Orient", the
point of embarkation, in every epoch, for the Greece of myth
and the amazing riches of Asia.
The city, with its strategic importance and extended dockyards,
was perfectly adapted to this historical role as the only
genuinely great Adriatic port in the centre of southern Italy.
Because of the radical transformation which the city has undergone
in modern times, it is difficult to discern the phyisical
signs of this ancient prestige. But, it retains the atmosphere
of a city which knew how to make of its port, traffic and
commerce a channel for culture and art, mixing the traditional
with the new.
The name Brindisi is derived, according to legend, from that
of Brento, son of the VII century B.C. Lybian Hercules. The
other theory is that it comes from the Messapian brunda, or
brendon (deer head), reflecting the shape of its port, which
is made up of two branching inlets. Even in present times,
a deer, along with the columns which mark the end of the Appian
Way, are the symbols which decorate the city's coat of arms.
The Messapian origin of Brindisi is well documented, but it
was with the Roman occupation which began in 266 B.C., and
the installation of a Latin colony in 244, that Brindisi began
to acquire prestige, becoming an extremely important naval
base in Rome's struggle for expansion.
From the II century B.C. onwards, Brindisi was directly connected
to Rome by the Appian Way, which after passing Taranto reached
its end at the gates of the port. To the Appian Way, the Emperor
Trajan added the Trajan Way, which, taking in Canosa and following
the coast through Bari and Egnazia, linked these centres to
the most important port of the region. During these centuries
Brindisi was a great city, but in modern times little remains.
Although the Archaeology Museum in Piazza Duomo contains a
noteworthy collection of Roman relics (mainly amphoras discovered
during underwater excavations), of the most important monuments,
such as the forum, the baths, the temples and theatres, absolutely
nothing has survived. The only memory of Roman Brindisi are
the two columns which most probably marked the end of the
Appian Way. One of these two cipolin marble pillars is today
situated at the bottom of the steps leading to the Lungomare
Regina Margherita (the sea-front), and is surmounted by a
precious capital decorated by busts of Neptune, Jove, Athena
and Mars. The other column, which collapsed in 1528, was remounted
in Piazza S. Orono of Lecce to support a statue of the Patron
Saint of the city.