1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Surrentum
SURRENTUM (mod. Sorrento, q.v.), an ancient town of Campania, Italy, situated on the N. side of the promontory which forms the S.E. extremity of the Bay of Naples. The legends indicate a close connexion between Lipara and Surrentum, as though the latter had been a colony of the former; and even through the Imperial period Surrentum remained largely Greek. Before the Roman supremacy it was one of the towns subject to Nuceria, and shared its fortunes up to the Social War; it seems to have joined in the revolt of 90 B.C. like Stabiae; and was reduced to obedience in the following year, when it seems to have received a colony. Its prosperity dates from the imperial period, when Capreae was a favourite residence of Augustus and Tiberius. Numerous sepulchral inscriptions of Imperial slaves and freedmen have been found at Surrentum. An inscription shows that Titus in the year after the earthquake of A.D. 79 restored the horologium of the town and its architectural decoration. A similar restoration of an unknown building in Naples in the same year is recorded in an inscription from the last-named town (cf. A. Sogliano in Notizie degli Scavi, 1901, p. 363). The most important temples of Surrentum were those of Athena and of the Sirens (the latter the only one in the Greek world in historic times); the former gave its name to the promontory. In antiquity Surrentum was famous for its wine (oranges and lemons which are now so much cultivated there not having been introduced into Italy in antiquity), its fish, and its red Campanian vases; the discovery of coins of Massilia, Gaul and the Balearic Islands here indicates the extensive trade which it carried on. The position of Surrentum was very secure, it being protected by deep gorges, except for a distance of 300 yds. on the south-west where it was defended by walls, the line of which is necessarily followed by those of the modern town. The arrangement of the modern streets preserves that of the ancient town, and the disposition of the walled paths which divide the plain to the east seems to date in like manner from Roman times. No ruins are now preserved in the town itself, but there are many remains in the villa quarter to the east of the town on the road to Stabiae, of which traces still exist, running much higher than the modern road, across the mountain; the site of one of the largest (possibly belonging to the Imperial house) is now occupied by the Hotel Victoria, under the terrace of which a small theatre was found in 1855; an ancient rock-cut tunnel descends hence to the shore. Remains of other villas may be seen, but the most important ruin is the reservoir of the (subterranean) aqueducts just outside the town on the east, which had no less than twenty-seven chambers, each about 90 ft. by 20 ft. Greek and Oscan tombs have also been found. Another suburb lay below the town and on the proinontory on the west of it; under the Hotel Sirena are substructions and a rock-hewn tunnel. To the north-west on the Capo di Sorrento is another villa, the so-called Bagni della Regina Giovanna, with baths, and in the bay to the south-west was the villa of Pollius Felix, the friend of Statius, which he describes in Silvae ii. 2, of which remains still exist. Farther west again are villas, as far as the temple of Athena on the promontory named after her at the extremity of the peninsula (now Punta Campanella). Neither of this nor of the famous temple of the Sirens are any traces existing.
See J. Beloch, Campanien, p. 252 sqq. (2nd ed., Breslau, 1890). (T. As.)