An ancient city of Latium, Italy, analogous geographically with the modern city of Palestrina, 23 miles east of Rome. Praeneste was built on a spur of the Apennines, and commanded respect due to its strong fortifications and the natural strength of the hill. There are various legends as to its origin, including a mention of Ulysses, which is unsupported.

The earliest graves of Praeneste have produced fine objects of metal and ivory, which prove that Praeneste had achieved a considerable degree of civilization as early as the 7th century B.C. At this time the city was probably under the control of Alba Longa, the chief city of the Latin League. Praeneste’s first mention in history occurs in 499 B.C., when, according to Livy, it withdrew from the Latin League and formed an alliance with Rome. After Rome’s weakening by Gallic invasions, Praeneste switched sides again, and rejoined its former allies against Rome. This struggle, called the Latin War, culminated in 338 B.C. with Praeneste being defeated by Cincinnatus of Rome. Praeneste subsequently lost large portions of its territory. After that defeat it remained an ally of Rome, although not a close one.

Judging from the works of art of the period from 338 B.C. to 90 B.C., Praeneste seems to have been a prosperous town. The nuts, fruits and roses of Praeneste were famous, and amongst the finest in Italy. But, in 82 B.C, strife returned to Praeneste in the form of civil war. The Sullans, under Sulla, blockaded Marius in the town. Upon its capture, Marius slew himself, and the Sullans went on to massacre the entire male population. Praeneste was repopulated by the Sullans, and became a military colony. This did not last, however, probably owing to the obvious extravagance of the colony, and from its elevated situation. Eventually Praeneste became a favorite summer resort of the wealthy Romans, who were said to ridicule its inhabitants for their rough manners and their odd Latin dialect. As far as fashionable places, Horace ranked Praeneste just below Tibur and the Alban Hills. Among the famous Romans who built villas in Praeneste were Augustus, Tiberius, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Pliny the younger and Symmachus.

Praeneste was famed for the oracles of the Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia, a great multi-terraced temple.

At some point Praeneste changed its name to Palestrina; certainly before 313 A.D., when the Council of Rome records a Secundus, Bishop of Palestrina, in attendance.

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