Palestrina – Italy

Palestrina, or ancient Praeneste, is situated about 23 miles to the east of Rome on a spur of Mount Prenestini in the Apennine Mountains.  It may go back as far as the 8th Century BC.  It appears that it was part of the Latin League – a collection of about 30 villages and cities near Rome who organized for mutual defense.  It eventually left the Latin League and by 499 BC was drawing closer ties to Rome itself.  

This changed however in 390 BC, after Rome suffered some setbacks in its wars against Gaul.  Switching alliances, Praeneste, found itself on the losing side of the Latin Wars against Rome.  As a result, the city-state lost much of its territory to Rome and eventually was subjugated. 

During the Social War, Praeneste made further concessions to Rome in order to shore up its alliance.  Eventually, its citizens were offered Roman citizenship @ 90 BC – this for all intents and purposes, ended her independence.  Its state got only worse when it became a key hot spot during Rome’s Civil War @ 82 BC.  Sulla besieged Gaius Marius the Younger here – and because the town gave the loser quarter, it paid the consequences.  Many were slaughtered.

Scriptural Significance

Palestrina would eventually serve as a key resort spot for Rome’s power and elite.  Emperors Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) and Tiberius (14 AD – 37 AD) had resorts here – the former being the Emperor at the time of Christ’s birth and the latter at the time of His death, burial, and resurrection.

Due to its proximity to Rome and nearness to some key ports of entry, this became a focal point for the trafficking of slaves.  It has been estimated that as many as 20,000 slaves at a time were brought into Italy via Praeneste.  It is likely that those taken into captivity from the Judean War would have come through here.

The chief engineering marvel of Praeneste was the Temple to Fortuna Primigenia – this was the goddess of fortune or lick in Roman religion (Greek religion as well).  The Temple and its associated Treasury go back as far as the 2nd Century BC.  Expansion to the Temple and town as a whole took place after Sulla’s siege. 

Much of the town had been lost to history and remained buried under until the American Air Force bombed German positions here during the Battle for Anzio.  The bombing revealed the ancient ruins underneath the modern town.