Ancient  Port of  Misenum



The Wharf

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The Wharf



















































In 1988, in the area of the port of Misenum, it was pointed out the accomplishment of a clandestine subaqueous excavation near Punta Pennata. Though the responsible have not been individuated, the reconnaissance then effected by volunteers has documented the presence, at 6-7 metres of depth, of a piece of the wharf of the Roman port, parallel to the coast and realized with casting of cement in wooden cases.

In the same year the members of the Archaeoclub in Miseno pointed out and documented, on the sounding-depth before Punta di Cento Camerelle in Bacoli, the presence of a cement pila covered with reticular work, probably relative to the port works of a maritime villa anciently located on the same cape. Occasional discoveries of plumb anchors of Roman age have been effected along the shores of the isle of Ischia.

Two systematic interventions have been made in the last years:

  • in the Secca (Shoal) of Miseno, thanks to professor PA. Gianfrotta and dr. S. Tusa, with the discovery of baked clay material and stone anchors;

  • in Procida, before Punta Serra, with the collaboration of professor Gianfrotta;

  • off Punta Scutolo with the Subaqueous Nuclei of the Carabineers.

It is intention of the Archaeological Superintendence of Naples and Caserta to effect surveys and subaqueous excavations programmed in the areas within their province, if they are appropriated suitable funds from the Ministry of the Cultural and Environmental Patrimony.


Near Punta Terone, in the spring 1988 they were suspended by the Superintendence the works of prolongation of the outer dyke, realized with huge calcareous rocks and existing from many years, as on the sounding-depth they were found some pilae, at about 5-6 metres of depth.

Beloch, outlining the topography of Misenum, had already indicated, lined in an orthogonal way in Punta Terone, a first line of pilae, to whose interspaces it corresponded a second one. Only one line of pilae was recognizable on the other side of the port entrance, in proximity to Punta Pennata, located at about 100 metres  in a more inward zone than the ones of Punta Terone.

The underwater surveys which have been led so far seem to indicate that the modern reef was placed, already many years before, upon the one that Beloch identified with the most inner line of pilae, but it was actually a wharf.

In the tract graphically surveyed (see picture above), orientated north-east/south-west, completely made of a cement conglomerate resting on a prevalently sandy bottom, it is probably to recognize the final extremity of the wharf.

At present this latter is bent on the east side, maybe for a sinking, while a deep wound crosses it along the east-west line. In the points 1, 2, 3, and 4 they have been inserted huge stone rings, broken in the middle (the two halves have been twice recovered on the bottom), and they had a mooring function; at point 5 we can recognize the lodging of another ring; in Al and A2 there are ruins of lateritious quadrangular elements, pertaining to pillars which once maybe supported a small arch; in B there is the basement of a marble column; in C a room drawn in the conglomerate of the wharf; below the mooring rings, in D, the line of circular holes passing horizontally from one side to the other and intersecting in the middle on the semicircular head, are traces of the wooden scaffolding.

The interest of this archaeological witness, chronologically referable to the port plant of the first Roman imperial age, besides in the new contribution to the knowledge of the morphology of Misenum, consists also in the possibility, in a zone which during the centuries was violently subject to bradyseism, of reconstructing with a certain precision the values of the emersion of the site in ancient age, with reservation of verifying them in following works of general surveying of the area and fixing the datum-points of all the submerged structures.

In this case, considering the average of the maxima and the minima as regards the average sea level of the coastal waters (port of Naples), in which it is located the archaeological witness, the ancient average sea level is obtained subtracting from the measure of the present depth from the surface of the water at the base of the monument, the one from the surface of the water at the tangent of the holes of the wooden scaffolding, in the place where the wharf at the back of the head and lying below the modern reef, is still in its original position.

Detail of the huge stone rings, broken in the middle, with a mooring function.

As the first value corresponds to -8.50 metres and the second one to -6.30 metres, their difference is of about 2.20 metres, to which we must add and/or subtract the ones pertaining to the maximum disparities of the sea level coefficient between low and high tide (-0.21/+0.20). This means that the archaeological witness, considered at the height of its efficiency at the beginning of the Roman imperial age, came afloat for +2.20 (+ 0.20/0.21) from the surface of the water in that place and that from that age till today in the same zone the sea bottom sank of about 6.30 metres.

Considered the alternate events of the bradyseism in Pozzuoli, we can suppose that also in this site, since the age that we have considered, the sinking of the soil was not always constant. Probably there were also moments of lifting, unfortunately not attestable from this monument, which seems to be remained always submerged .

For the exceptional importance of this discovery, the Superintendence, in collaboration with the apposite Organizations, wants to free the monument from the reef resting upon it, moving this latter towards the open sea verso, in an archaeologically sterile zone.


In the Phlegraean area, in Miseno (Bacoli), on the sea bottom of the port of the Roman maritime military colony of Misenum, in the north-east of Punta Terone, a little away from the present outer dyke, thanks to the signalling of the scuba divers of the local Archeoclub, in July 1988 they were recovered at about 7-8 metres of depth, with the help of the Archaeological Superintendence of Naples and Caserta: a headless marble sculpture of a virile togaed personage, with a small pillar at the base of his left leg, encrusted all over the front, chronologically datable between the II and the III century A.D. thanks to the stylistic clues; a marble basement, not pertaining to the statue, bearing a patera and a jug in relief rispectively on two opposite side, on the third one a long Latin inscription, with dedication of a statue by the fishermen and fish traders of Misenum to Caio Giulio Marone (eminent personage, who had important public offices in the community of Miseno, deserving its gratitude), and this allow us to date back the manufacture between the end of the III and the beginning of the IV century A.D.
The two ruins, in course of restoration, enrich the epigraphy of Miseno and give new suggestive elements for the topography of the Roman colony.

Extracted from: Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali - Bollettino di Archeologia subacquea n 1-2/ Anno II/III Estratto - by Paolo CAPUTO

The survey of the monument was effected in 1989 by Nicola Severino


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