Fodor's Expert Review Cumae

Cumae Archaeological Site/Ruins

Allow at least two hours to soak up the ambience of the ruins of Cumae, founded by Greek colonists late in the 8th century BC. Centuries later Virgil wrote his epic of the Aeneid, the story of the Trojan prince Aeneas's wanderings, partly to give Rome the historical legitimacy that Homer had given the Greeks. On his journey, Aeneas had to descend to the underworld to speak to his father, and to find his way in, he needed the guidance of the Cumaean Sibyl. Virgil did not dream up the Sibyl's Cave or the entrance to Hades—he must have actually stood both in her chamber and along the rim of Lake Avernus. When he described the Sibyl's Cave in Book VI of the Aeneid as having "centum ostia" (a hundred mouths), and depicted the entrance to the underworld on Lake Avernus so vividly, "spelunca alta . . . tuta lacu nigro nemorum tenebris" (a deep cave . . . protected by a lake of black water and the glooming forest), it was because he was familiar with this awesome... READ MORE

Allow at least two hours to soak up the ambience of the ruins of Cumae, founded by Greek colonists late in the 8th century BC. Centuries later Virgil wrote his epic of the Aeneid, the story of the Trojan prince Aeneas's wanderings, partly to give Rome the historical legitimacy that Homer had given the Greeks. On his journey, Aeneas had to descend to the underworld to speak to his father, and to find his way in, he needed the guidance of the Cumaean Sibyl. Virgil did not dream up the Sibyl's Cave or the entrance to Hades—he must have actually stood both in her chamber and along the rim of Lake Avernus. When he described the Sibyl's Cave in Book VI of the Aeneid as having "centum ostia" (a hundred mouths), and depicted the entrance to the underworld on Lake Avernus so vividly, "spelunca alta . . . tuta lacu nigro nemorum tenebris" (a deep cave . . . protected by a lake of black water and the glooming forest), it was because he was familiar with this awesome landscape. In Book VI of the Aeneid, Virgil describes how Aeneas, arriving at Cumae, sought Apollo's throne—remains of the Temple of Apollo can still be seen—and "the deep hidden abode of the dread Sibyl / An enormous cave . . ."

Although Cumae never achieved the status of Delphi, it was the most important oracular center in Magna Graecia (Great Greece), and the Sibyl would have been consulted on a whole range of matters. Governments consulted the Sibyl before mounting campaigns. It was the Sibyl's prophecies that ensured the crowds here, prophecies written on palm leaves and later collected into the corpus of the Sibylline books.

Explore the fascinating Sibyl Chamber, a long trapezoidal corridor where light filters through shafts cut into the tufa rock. Steep steps climb above the Cave and lead to the Sacred Road; before reaching the remains of Apollo’s temple that Virgil described as immanea templa (spacious temples), you can stop at the terrace overlooking the sea. From the temple of the God of the Sun, the via Sacra reaches the highest part of the acropolis, where the remains of the temple of Jupiter can be seen. This Greek temple was transformed by the Romans and than became a Christian basilica with a baptismal font still visible. Unlike in Greek and Roman times, when access to Cumae was through a network of underground passages, an aboveground EAV bus service leaves outside Fusano station at regular intervals. (See www.eavbus.it for times.)

READ LESS
Archaeological Site/Ruins Views

Quick Facts

Via Acropoli 1
Baia, Campania  80078, Italy

081-848800288

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: €4, includes Museo Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei, Parco Archeologico di Baia, and Anfiteatro Flavio in Pozzuoli

What’s Nearby