Praeneste (Now Palestrina), an ancient city of Latium, on a spur of the Apennines, 23 m. E. S. E. of Rome. It is first mentioned in history in the list of cities of the Latin league given by Dionysius. Its great power, arising partly from its almost impregnable position, gave it importance in the early wars of Italy. Originally opposed to Rome, it formed an alliance with that republic about 499 B. C, but a century later became engaged in a war with it. In 380 its inhabitants marched to the gates of Rome, and were routed with great slaughter on the banks of the Allia by T. Quintius Cin-cinnatus, who took eight towns subject to Prseneste, and compelled the city to submit. In 340 Prseneste was a conspicuous member of the Latin league against Rome; but the defeat of the combined forces by L. Camillus at Pedum in 338 put an end to the war, and by the terms of the peace which followed the city was deprived of a part of its territory. It retained a nominal independence until the end of the social war, when the inhabitants received the Roman franchise. During the civil war between Marius and Sulla it was one of the chief places in the hands of the Marian party. Sulla captured it, massacred the inhabitants, demolished its fortifications, and planted a military colony on its territory.
During the empire it was a place of summer resort for the Romans, and was also much visited on account of its temple of the goddess Fortune, the seat of a favorite oracle. Its answers were made by the sortes Prcenestince, consisting of sticks of oak inscribed with ancient characters, which being shaken up, one was drawn for the person consulting the goddess. During the middle ages Prseneste was the stronghold of the Colonna family. It was taken by Pope Boniface VIII., who dismantled the fortifications and razed the buildings to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1307, and resisted an attack of Ri-enzi, but in 1436 was captured by Cardinal Vitelleschi, who in 1437 destroyed it. In 1448 it was again rebuilt by the Colonnas. In 1630 it was sold by Francesco Oolonna to Carlo Barberini, brother of Urban VIII., for 775,-000 scudi. Among the ruins of the old city many statues and other valuable remains of antiquity have been discovered, including a celebrated mosaic.