Veleia Romana (460 m below sea level), in the Chero valley, an ancient city whose name derives from the Ligurian tribe called Veleiates, was founded in 158 BC, after the definitive submission of the Ligurians to Rome. A Prosperious Roman municipality and important administrative capital, it ruled over a vast hilly and mountain area located between Parma, Piacenza, Libarna (Serravalle Scrivia) and Lucca.
The territory and its resources
The presence of saline waters, which the Romans have always been able to exploit with ingenuity, undoubtedly helped urban development, in which it is possible to identify various baths. This natural resource, along with the tranquility of the place, made Veleia a favorite holiday destination for various consuls and proconsuls from Rome, who were under the illusion, perhaps, of being able to extend their lives. In fact, it was known that among the population of Veleia, as confirmed by the last census of the emperor Vespasian (72 AD), there lived six people aged 110 and four even 120.
The urban sector of the city of Veleia is spread over a series of terraces along the “boreal slope of the knoll” of the Moria and Rovinasso mountains. The toponyms of these two peaks, which in ancient times seem to have been a single mountain, allude to a catastrophic event whose memory has unfortunately been lost in the haze of the times. This Apennine area, like many others in the Apennines, is known geologically for its tendency to landslides: many experts claim, in fact, that the decline and end of Veleia was caused by a large landslide or a series of landslides along the coast of the mountain above.
The archaeological area of Veleia
The forum, dating from the Augustan-Julian-Claudian age, extends over a plane obtained artificially by means of a massive excavation, as revealed by the readable stratification under the staircase on the eastern side. The paving, with four rainers, drained by a perimeter gutter with settling wells at the corners is well preserved. It is surrounded on three sides by a portico, dilated in ancient illusionistically by murals, on which there are shops and rooms for public use, almost all equipped with heating systems.
The whole is completed by the lowest of the terraces, formed by the accumulation of materials coming from the excavation of the slope above, contained by robust substructures, still clearly visible in the eighteenth century. Connected to the upper one by an imposing entrance with double tetrastyle elevation, inserted in the colonnade of the forum, the terrace was perhaps reserved for religious functions.
The final destination of an upward path that comes from the valley floor is the basilica that closes the complex to the south: a building with a single nave, with rectangular exedras at the ends, was the seat of the imperial cult; in fact, the twelve large Luni marble statues depicting the members of the Julio-Claudian family rose against the back wall.
To the west of the forum, recent excavations have again brought to light the remains of buildings, recognized as prior to its creation, as well as traces of its original entrance, replaced after the middle of the 1st century. AD from the monumental one located on the northern side. Upstream of the forum there are residential quarters.
The terrace on which a parish church dedicated to S. Antonino has stood since the Middle Ages probably housed a building of worship already in antiquity. Higher is placed a building, identified, already at the time of its discovery, as a water reservoir, later mistakenly interpreted – and consequently rebuilt – as an amphitheatre.
Inside the archaeological area, an Antiquarium has been set up, where casts of the Trajan’s Tabula Alimentaria and the bronze table containing the lex de Gallia Cisalpina, as well as furnishings and architectural elements relating to Roman cremation burials, are kept.