Capo Miseno, the legend of the name of the promontory of Bacoli

by Guido Daniele Villani

The story it tells us Capo Miseno, a promontory that watches over the Bacoli seafront, is a homogeneous mixture of legends and reality.

The "mountain" of Miseno is only 164 meters high, but despite this it is clearly visible in its majesty from all positions of the Gulf of Pozzuoli, even from the Punta di Sorrento. Its position is in fact its strong point, so much so erect a lighthouse on the south end as a reference for sailors.

Faro di Capo Miseno
The Capo Miseno lighthouse from the sea

Capo Miseno, a Latin promontory

Capo Miseno is not just any promontory: what we can admire is alone a small portion of a much larger volcanic cone that dates back to tens of thousands of years ago; its origin is deductible observing the mountain from the sea, where you can see a small part of the caldera that makes up a sort of natural amphitheater. What remains is the trademark of the Bacolese coast, with the typical trapezoidal shape it has assumed over time.

Historically the place was exploited by the Roman fleets as a bridgehead to reach the western seas: let's not forget that right here there was Classis Misenensis, the largest fleet of the Roman Empire and also of Republican Rome.

We also find numerous constructions, such as villas and cisterns dating back to Roman times. At the base of the mountain there are also the Shrine of the Augustales and the Dragonara cave.

Capo Miseno panorama
Capo Miseno from Miliscola

We knock on Virgil's door

Today Capo Miseno is particularly known for its proximity to the beaches of Bacoli and Miliscola, summer destination for a large part of the Neapolitan population and beyond; however the fame of Misenus must be sought in times thousands of years away from us, that is when Virgil he began to write the Aeneid.

From Book VI we learn about Misenus, trumpeter of Aeneas, whose skill was the object of strong envy on the part of the God Triton. The same Triton, who could not tolerate that a human could be good enough to outclass him, challenged Misenus and seeing himself overwhelmed by his talent made him sink into the sea killing him. The body he was later found by his companions, who decided to bury it on top of the promontory, that from that moment took the name of the trumpeter.

These are the verses that tell the story:
... when you arrive
in the dry lito up the stretched out arena
vider Misenus unworthily extinct;
Misenus the son of Aeolus, the herald
he was supreme and with his breath alone
mighty to arouse Mars and Bellona ...
… Followed the armor of Aeneas: because he was not stung
lower than him. It was on the sea
playing the madman with Triton competing,
when from him, what resentment he feels and disdain
(se creder dêssi), insidiously
taken down from the rock where he sat,
it was submerged in the waves. To the body around
all summoned already, bitter tears
and high screams together in gittaro;
and more than the other Aeneas
 (Virgil, Aeneid VI)

-Guido Daniele Villani

Pro Loco City of Bacoli

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