Picenum (Ancient Greek: Πικηνόν, Πικεντίνη) was a region of ancient Italy. The name is an exonym assigned by the Romans, who conquered and incorporated it into the Roman Republic. Picenum was the Regio V in the augustan territorial organization of Roman Italy. Picenum was also the birthplace of such Roman notables as Pompey the Great and his father Pompeius Strabo. It was situated in what is now Marche and the northern part of Abruzzo. The Piceni or Picentes were the native population of Picenum, but they were not of uniform ethnicity. They maintained a religious centre in Cupra Marittima, in honor of the goddess Cupra.

Augustus' Regio V - Picenum, from the 1911 Atlas of William R. Shepherd.

Historical geography

Picenum and the Picentes are described in some detail by the Roman geographers.


Strabo places Picenum between the Apennines and the Adriatic Sea from the mouth of the Aesis River southward to Castrum at the mouth of the Truentinus River, some 800 stadia, which is 148 km (92 mi) using 185 m/stadion. For cities he includes from north to south Ancona, Auxumum, Septempeda (San Severino Marche), Pneuentia, Potentia, Firmum Picenum with port at Castellum (Porto di Fermo), Cupra Maritima (Grottammare), Truentum on the Truentinus (Tronto) and finally Castrum Novum and Matrinum on the Matrinus (Piomba), south of Silvi in Abruzzo. This is a list of coastal communities. Strabo also mentions Adria (Atri, Italy) and Asculum Picenum (Ascoli Piceno) in the interior. The width of Picenum inland varies irregularly, he says.[1]


First settled at the beginning of the Iron Age (1200 BC  400 AD),[2] Picenum later became one of the eleven districts of Italy. The three interior towns of the region possessed an urban layout and appeared to be economically successful, so it is unknown what caused this city[which?] to decline in later years.[3] The Liburnians had colonies at the western Adriatic coast, especially in region of Picenum, from the beginning of the Iron Age. From the 9th to the 6th century there was certain koine - cultural unity in the Adriatic, with the general Liburninan seal, whose naval supremacy meant both political and economical authority in the Adriatic Sea through several centuries.

In 268 BC the consuls Appius Claudius Russus and Publius Sempronius Sophus conducted a pincer operation against Picenum. The Picentes, who were then Roman allies, had rebelled.[4] Part of the population was deported and those who were not were given Roman citizenship without the right to vote. Thus, Picenum was annexed, except for the city of Ausculum, which was considered an allied city. To keep her under control, the colony of Firmum was established nearby in 264 BC.

According to Polybius (Histories 2:21), during the consulship of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (232 BC), "the Romans divided among their citizens the territory in Gaul known as Picenum, from which they had ejected the Senones when they conquered them".

Picenum is best known for siding with Rome against Hannibal during the Punic Wars. It also became a Roman base during the Social War. Some Picentes remained loyal to Rome in the war, while others fought against them for the right of Roman citizenship.[5] All Picentes were granted full Roman citizenship after the war.

In the Edict of Diocletian, it was mentioned that the wine from Picenum was considered as the most expensive wine, together with Falerno.[6] Vinum Hadrianum was produced in Picenum,[7] in the city of Hatria or Hadria, the old name of Atri. This is also the same wine that Pliny considered as one of the highly-rated wines, along with a few others.[8]


Excavations performed in the late 19th century in Picenum give some insight into the region during the Iron Age. Excavated tombs in Novilara of the Molaroni and Servici cemeteries show that the Piceni laid bodies in the ground wrapped in garments they had worn in life.[9]

Warriors would be buried in the ground with a helmet, weapons and vessels for food and drinks. Buried beads, bone, fibulae and amber seem to demonstrate that there was an active trade in the ninth and perhaps tenth centuries on the Adriatic coast, especially in the fields of amber and beads of glass paste. In women’s graves there is a large abundance of ornaments made of bronze and iron.[10]

Origins of these items may also show that the Piceni may have looked to the south and east for development.[11]

The warrior tombs seem to show that the Piceni were a war-like people. Every man’s grave contained more or less a complete outfit of a warrior, with the most frequent weapon being a spear. Piceni swords appear to be imported from the Balkans.[12]


South Picene, written in an unusual version of the Italic alphabet, has been identified as a Sabellic language that is neither Oscan nor Umbrian.

The undeciphered North Picene, also written in a form of the Old Italic alphabet, is probably unrelated and, at present, it is generally assumed not to be an Indo-European language.

Cities of the Regio V

As reported by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, 24 cities were placed in Regio V:[13]

Cities of Regio V
Latin NameModern NameModern RegionTribù
AsculumAscoli PicenoMarcheFabia
Beregranear Civitella del Tronto or Montorio al VomanoAbruzzo
Castrum Novumnear GiulianovaAbruzzoPapiria
Castrum TruentinumMartinsicuroAbruzzo
CluanaCivitanova MarcheMarche
Cupra Maritimanear Cupra Marittima (Grottammare)MarcheVelina
Cupra Montananear Sant'Eleuterio of CupramontanaMarcheVelina
Falerionear FaleroneMarcheVelina
Firmum Picenum [14]FermoMarcheVelina
Novanaunknown, probably in the Aso valleyMarche
Pausulaenear San Claudio al Chienti, CorridoniaMarcheVelina
Planinanear San Vittore di CingoliMarcheVelina
Potentianear Santa Maria a Potenza, Porto RecanatiMarcheVelina
RicinaVilla Potenza, MacerataMarcheVelina
SeptempedaSan Severino MarcheMarcheVelina
Treanear TreiaMarcheVelina
Urbs Salvianear UrbisagliaMarcheVelina

See also


  1. Strabo & 1st AD, Book 5, Chapter 4, Sections 1-2.
  2. Vermeulen, F.: "The contribution of aerial photography and field survey to the study of urbanization in the Potenza valley.", pages 57-82. L'Annee Philologique records.
  3. Vermeulen, F.: "The contribution of aerial photography and field survey to the study of urbanization in the Potenza valley.", pages 57-82. L'Annee Philologique records.
  4. Florus, Epitome of Roman History, I.19
  5. Scullard, HH (1970), From the Gracchi to Nero, London: Methuen & Co. Ltd
  6. "The Common People of Ancient Rome, by Frank Frost Abbott". www.gutenberg.org. Retrieved 2020-03-18.
  7. Dalby, Andrew (2013-04-15). Food in the Ancient World from A to Z. Routledge. p. 171. ISBN 978-1-135-95422-2.
  8. Sandler, Merton; Pinder, Roger (2002-12-19). Wine: A Scientific Exploration. CRC Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-203-36138-2.
  9. Randall-MacIver 1927, p. 105.
  10. Randall-MacIver 1927, p. 130.
  11. Randall-MacIver 1927, p. 120.
  12. Randall-MacIver 1927, p. 122.
  13. Archeologia nelle Marche, Mario Luni, 2003, p. 136, ISBN 88-392-0744-9.
  14. Φίρμον Πικενόν, in STRABONE, Chr. estomathiae, 241 (citato in ROCCI, Vocabolario Greco-Italiano, Città di Castello, 1974, pag. 1969)


  • Strabo (1st century AD). Geographica. Check date values in: |date= (help).
  • Randall-MacIver, David (1927). The Iron Age in Italy. A Study of Those Aspects of the Early Civilizations Which Are Neither Villanovan or Etruscan. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CS1 maint: ref duplicates default (link)