1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Capri
CAPRI (anc. Capreae), an island on the S. side of the Bay of Naples, of which it commands a fine view; it forms part of the province of Naples, and is distant about 20 m. S. of the town of Naples. Pop. (1901) of the commune of Capri, 3890, of Anacapri, 2316. It divides the exits from the bay into two, the Bocca Grande, about 16 m. wide, between Capri and Ischia, and the Bocca Piccola, 3 m. wide between Capri and the extreme south-west point of the peninsula of Sorrento. It is 4 m. in length and the greatest width is 11 m., the total area being 5½ sq. m. The highest point is the Monte Solaro (1920 ft.) on the west, while at the east end the cliffs rise to a height of 900 ft. sheer from the sea. The only safe landing-place is on the north side. There are two small towns, Capri (450 ft.) and Anacapri (980 ft.), which until the construction of a carriage road in 1874 were connected only by a flight of 784 steps (the substructures of which at least are ancient). The island lacks water, and is dusty during drought, but is fertile, producing fruit, wine and olive oil; the indigenous flora comprises 800 species. The fishing industry also is important. But the prosperity of the island depends mainly upon foreign visitors (some 30,000 annually), who are attracted by the remarkable beauty of the scenery (that of the coast being especially fine), the views of the sea and of the Bay of Naples, and the purity of the air. The famous Blue Grotto, the most celebrated of the many caves in the rocky shores of the island, was known in Roman times, but lost until 1826, when it was rediscovered. Another beautiful grotto has green instead of blue refractions; the effect in both cases is due to the light entering by a small entrance.
The high land in the west of the island and the somewhat less elevated region in the east are formed of Upper Tithonian and Lower Cretaceous limestones, the latter containing Rudistes. The intervening depression, which seems to be bounded on the west by a fault, is filled to a large extent by sandstones and marls of Eocene age. A superficial layer of recent volcanic tuffs occurs in several parts of the island. The Blue Grotto is in the Tithonian limestones; it shows indications of recent changes of level.
The earliest mythical inhabitants (though some have localized the Sirens here) are the Teleboi from Acarnania under their king Telon. Neolithic remains were found in 1882 in the Grotta delle Felci, a cave on the south coast. In historical times we find the island occupied by Greeks. It subsequently fell into the hands of Neapolis, and remained so until the time of Augustus, who took it in exchange for Aenaria (Ischia) and often resided there. Tiberius, who spent the last ten years of his life at Capri, built no fewer than twelve villas there; to these the great majority of the numerous and considerable ancient remains on the island belong. All these villas can be identified with more or less certainty, the best preserved being those on the east extremity, consisting of a large number of vaulted substructures and the foundations perhaps of a pharos (lighthouse). One was known as Villa Jovis, and the other eleven were probably named after other deities. The existence of numerous ancient cisterns shows that in Roman as in modern times rain-water was largely used for lack of springs. After Tiberius’s death the island seems to have been little visited by the emperors, and we hear of it only as a place of banishment for the wife and sister of Commodus. The island, having been at first the property of Neapolis, and later of the emperors, never had upon it any community with civic rights. Even in imperial times Greek was largely spoken there, for about as many Greek as Latin inscriptions have been found. The medieval town was on the north side at the chief landing-place (Marina Grande), and to it belonged the church of S. Costanzo, an early Christian building. It was abandoned in the 15th century on account of the inroads of pirates, and the inhabitants took refuge higher up at the two towns of Capri and Anacapri.
In 1806 the island was taken by the English fleet under Sir Sidney Smith, and strongly fortified, but in 1808 it was retaken by the French under Lamarque. In 1813 it was restored to Ferdinand I. of the Two Sicilies.