CUMAE, an ancient city on the west coast of Campania, Italy, about 12 m. W. of Neapolis, on a volcanic eminence, over looking the plain traversed by the Volturno.
Strabo calls it (Gr. Kv s,) the oldest of the Greek colonies on the mainland of Italy or in Sicily. We find it in 721 B.C. founding Zancle (Messina) in Sicily, jointly with Chalcis; and it extended its power gradually over the coast of the gulf of Puteoli and the harbours of the promontory of Misenum. Puteoli itself (under the name Dicaearchia) was probably founded by Cumae. In the seventh century, according to the legends, Parthenope, whither the demos of Cumae had taken refuge after an unsuccessful rising against the aristocracy, was attacked by the latter and destroyed, but soon rebuilt under the name of Neapolis (New City, the present Naples) (q.v.). The most fertile portion of the Cam panian plain was also under its dominion; the name "fossa Graeca" still lingered on in 205 B.C. to testify to its ancient limits. Cumae was now at the height of its power, and many fine coins testify to its prosperity. In 524 B.C. it was the object of a joint but unsuccessful attack by the Etruscans of Capua, the Daunians of the district of Nola, and the Aurunci of the Mons Massicus. A renewed Etruscan attack was repelled with the help of Hiero of Syracuse, who in the battle of Cumae of 474 B.C. drove the Etruscan fleet from the sea, and broke their power in Cam pania. The Samnites finally destroyed the Etruscan supremacy by the capture of Capua in the latter half of the fifth century (see CAPUA; CAMPANIA), and the Greeks of Cumae were over whelmed by the same invasion. The beautiful series of Greek coins from the town now ended, and Oscan became its language (though in many respects the Greek character of the town sur vived) until about 18o B.C. when the Cumaeans addressed to Rome a request that they might be allowed to use Latin for public purposes. Cumae had already come under the supremacy of Rome, about 34o, as Capua did, and was governed after 318 by the prae f ecti Capuam Cumas. In the Hannibalic wars it re mained faithful to Rome. Under the empire it was a quiet country town, in contrast to the gay and fashionable Baiae, which, however, with the lacus Avernus and lacus Lucrinus, formed a part of its territory. Cicero's villa on the east bank of the latter, for example, which he called the Academia, was also known as Cumanum. In the Gothic wars the acropolis of Cumae was, except for Naples, the only fortified town in Campania, and it retained its military importance until it was destroyed by the Neapolitans in 1205, since which time it has been deserted.
The acropolis hill (269 ft. above sea-level), a mass of trachyte which has broken through the surrounding tufa, lies hardly loo yd. from the low sandy shore. It is traversed by caves, which are famous in legend as the seat of the oracle of the Cumaean Sibyl, and a vaulted corridor leading to a large rectangular fore court has been found, from which the oracular cave itself will no doubt be reached when the excavations are completed. The acropolis has only one approach, on the south-east ; on all other sides it falls away steeply. Remains of fortifications of all ages run round the edge of the hill ; some of the original Greek work, in finely hewn rectangular tufa blocks, exists on the east. The mediaeval line follows the ancient, except on the north-east, where it takes in a larger area. Within the acropolis stood the temple of Apollo, the remains of which, restored in Roman times, stand on the eastern and lower summit.
There are also various remains of buildings of the imperial period, and these are far more frequent on the site of the lower town (now occupied by vineyards) which lies below the acropolis to the south. The line of the city walls can be traced both on the east and on the west, though the remains on the east are in significant, and on the west (the seaward side) only the scarping of the hill remains. To the south of the town, just outside the wall, is the amphitheatre. To the north of it is the point where the roads from Liternum (the Via Domitiana running along the sandy coast), Capua (a branch of the Via Campana), Misenum and Puteoli meet. The last passes through the Acro Felice, an arch of brick-faced concrete 63 ft. high which spans a cutting through the Monte Grillo, made by Domitian to shorten the course of the road, which had hitherto run farther north. The Grotto della Pace leads to the shores of Avernus. On the east side of Cumae are considerable remains of the Roman period. The cemeteries of Cumae extended on all sides of the ancient city, except towards the sea, but the most important lay on the north, between this temple and the Lago di Licola. Pre-Hellenic (ninth to eighth centuries B.c.) Greek, Samnite and Roman graves have produced many important objects, now in various museums. See D. Randall Maclver, The Iron Age in Italy (Oxford, 1927), 16o sqq. (especially for the geometric pottery found here).