PICENUM, a district of ancient Italy, situated between the Apennines and the Adriatic, bounded N. by the Senones and S. by the Vestini. The inhabitants were, according to tradition, an offshoot of the Sabines. Strabo (v. 4, i) gives the story of their migration, led by a woodpecker (picus), a bird sacred to Mars, from which they derived their name Picentini (cf. Dion. Hal. i. 14, 5), just as the Hirpini derived theirs from liirpus, a wolf. The district was conquered by the Romans early in the 3rd century B.C. and the whole territory was divided up among Latin-speaking settlers by the Lex Flaminia in 232 B.C. Hence we have very scanty records of any non-Latin Language that may have been spoken in the district before the 3rd century. Besides the problematic inscriptions from Belmonte, Nereto and Cupra Maritima (see SABELLIC), we have one or two Latin inscriptions (probably of the 2nd or even the 1st century B.C.) which contain certain forms showing a distinct affinity with the dialect of Iguvium (cf. the name PaSdi= Latin Pacidii). Hence there seems some ground for believing that the population which the Romans dispossessed, or held in subjection, really spoke a dialect very much like that of their neighbours in Umbria.
For inscriptions, see R. S. Conway, The Italic Dialects, p. 449, where the place-names and personal names of the district will also be found; see further, Livy, Epit. xv.; B. V. Head, Historia numorum, p. 19. (R. S. C.)
It was in Picenum, at Asculum, that the Social War broke out in 90 B.C. At the end of the war the district became connected with Pompeius Strabo, and his son Pompey the Great threw into the scale on the side of Sulla, in 83 B.C., all the influence he possessed there, and hoped to make it a base against Caesar's legions in 49 B.C. Under Augustus it formed the fifth region of Italy, and included twenty-three independent communities, of which five, Ancona, Firmum, Asculum, Hadria and Interamnia, were coloniae. It was reached from Rome by the Via Salaria, and its branch the Via Caecilia. It was also on a branch leading from the Via Flaminia at Nuceria Camellaria to Septempeda. There were also communications from north to south; a road led from Asculum to Urbs Salvia and Ancona, another from Asculum and Firmum and the coast, another from Urbs Salvia to Potentia, while finally along the whole line of the coast there ran a prolongation of the Via Flaminia, the name of which is not known to us.
At the end of the 2nd century A.D. the north-eastern portion of Umbria was divided from the rest and acquired the name Flaminia, from the high road. For the time it remained united with Umbria for administrative purposes, but passed to Picenum at latest in the time of Constantine, and acquired the name of Flaminia et Picenum Annonarium, the main portion of Picenum being distinguished as Suburbicarium. In an inscription of A.D. 309 Ravenna is actually spoken of as the chief town of Picenum. When the exarchate of Ravenna was founded the part of Picenum Annonarium near the sea became the Pentapolis Maritima, which included the five cities of Ariminum, Pisaurum, Fanum Fortunae, Sena Gallica and Ancona. The exarchate was seized by Luitprand in 727, and Ravenna itself was taken by Aistulf in 752. In the next year, however, the Emperor Pippin took it from him and handed it over to the pope, a grant confirmed by his son Charlemagne. (T. As.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)