The Seiano cave in Coroglio, the masterpiece of Roman engineering

by Federico Quagliuolo

It is difficult to describe the feeling that the Seiano cave gives after having covered the last meter of the very long tunnel. It is one of masterpieces of Roman engineering most beautiful in Italy, despite being a simple tunnel excavated in the rock of Posillipo.
It is in fact just over a kilometer long and connects Coroglio with a small open space on the sea which, otherwise, would have had no other land access.

Represents a little the soul of the ancient Romans: where there is no road, it is created. And, when you build it, you make it last forever, for to remember the greatness of the empire to all future generations.

Her important dimensions (almost 1km!) e the elegance of the structure have fascinated many tourists foreigners: it is said that he stayed in here stuck really Arthur Conan Doyle, which he wanted to explore on his own the small cavities which are located on the sides of the cave, thinking they were further passages.
In fact even those details were wanted: it is holes for the passage of air.

Grotta di Seiano

The Grotta di Seiano is the superstar of military engineering

The first tunnel was ordered by Marco Vipsanio Agrippa, the strategist of August, and made by tunnel superstar: Lucio Cocceio Aucto, one of the military engineers most famous of ancient Rome. He was originally from Cuma and bear his signature on Portus Iulius, which is the port of Pozzuoli which was one of the most important in Italy, and a good part of the Roman tunnels of Campania: from the Grotta di Cocceio and the Crypta Romana in Cuma arriving at the Crypta Neapolitan, the only access road to Fuorigrotta from Mergellina for about 2000 years, and ours Seiano cave.
It was probably also the author of the Pantheon in Rome.

On the Cocceio's life very little is known beyond the data reported by Strabo. Some scholars question his very existence or the attribution of works related to him. What is certain is that the brilliant mind who built those works he made them so well to be guaranteed still today a perfect state of use. After two thousand years.

The cave took the name of "Grotta di Seiano" because, several years later, the emperor Tiberius ordered enlargement and accommodation of the tunnel made initially by Cocceio.

Parco archeologico grotta di Seiano
The Archaeological Park - Photograph by Margherita Chiaramonte

A luxury villa

The Romans knew how to deal with the luxury, there is no denying it. Once, at the end of the Seiano cave, there was a beautiful complex of noble buildings with a open air theater and panoramic terraces overlooking the bay of Trentaremi, with the panorama of the Gulf of Naples, and on the other on the gulf of Pozzuoli, with Nisida and the sunsets that enchant the heart.

On the other hand, the area was chosen by others connoisseurs: the freedman Publio Vedio Pollione who wanted to spend his old age in Neapolis, enjoying one hefty pension after a life of savings and jobs. It is said it was a most cruel man and the legends related to him are set on the Gaiola. Nearby there is also the School of Virgil, where it is said that the poet-magician from Mantua gathered his disciples to make complesse alchemy.

Grotta di Seiano anni 30
The cave in the 1930s

The cave of Seiano and Schopenhauer

The German philosopher ended up among the many illustrious guests who visited the Grotta di Seiano Arthur Schopenhauer during his visit to Bourbon Naples.
After centuries of neglect, in fact, Ferdinand II of Bourbon ordered the restoration of the Grotta di Seiano, effectively transforming it into a tourist monument. The result? It became a destination for visits by many foreigners and so it was until World War II, when it was transformed as anti-aircraft shelter.

Schopenhauer I dedicate a very important passage of his philosophical work to the "Grotta di Posillipo". He talks about it in the "Will in nature”And explains how a person enter the cave and goes deeper and deeper into the darkness and then, once arrived in the darkest place, begins to find that the path becomes more and more clear. It is also a reference to the myth of Plato's cave. In Schopenhauer's case, however, Man is not a slave to the world of shadows, but is capable, through the will, of return to reality. To follow in full the philosophical reasoning, we refer to the link in the website.

Today the cave is part of the Pausilypon Archaeological Park and, after years of neglect and neglect, it is can be visited upon reservation.

-Federico Quagliuolo


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