Cumae, Dicaearchia (Roman Puteoli), and Neapolis were pre-eminent in antiquity and fame. There Romans first encountered Greek civilization directly, in cities set along an indented shoreline amid volcanic craters, sulphurous soil, and mineral springs. This portion of the coast, say both Polybius and Strabo, was known familiarly as the “Crater”; it was the gulf which, bounded on the northwest by Cape Misenum, and on the south by Cape Athenaeum, forms the Bay of Naples.
Around the “Crater” were the Campi Phlegraei of forbidding aspect, associated in myth and legend with gigantomachy, the workshops of Vulcan, and the dark approaches to the infernal regions. But by Cicero’s day the coast glittered with luxurious villas of the Roman upper classes; he calls the region cratera illum delicatum – “the Bay of Luxury.”


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