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The town has played a conspicuous part in military history: its fortifications date back to Roman times, and it has several traces of the period, including the 1st-century mausoleum of the Roman general Lucius Munatius Plancus at the top of the Monte Orlando.Gaeta's fortifications were extended and strengthened in the 15th century, especially throughout the history of the Kingdom of Naples (later the Two Sicilies).Around 830, it became a lordship ruled by hereditary hypati, or consuls: the first of these was Constantine (839–866), who in 847 aided Pope Leo IV in the naval fight at Ostia.At this same time (846) the episcopal see of Gaeta was founded when Constantine, Bishop of Formiae, fled thither and established his residence. They were probably violently overthrown (they disappear suddenly from history) in 866 or 867 by Docibilis I, who, looking rather to local safety, entered into treaties with the Saracens and abandoned friendly relations with the papacy.In 1038, Prince Guaimar IV of Salerno took it from him and, in 1041, established the Norman counts of Aversa, who were afterwards princes of Capua, as puppet dukes.The native dynasty made a last attempt to wrest the duchy from Guaimar in 1042 under Leo the Usurper.In 1045, the Gaetans elected their own Lombard duke, Atenulf I.His son, Atenulf II, was made to submit to the Norman Prince Richard I of Capua in 1062, when Gaeta was captured by Jordan Drengot.
Set on a promontory stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Rome and 80 km (50 mi) from Naples.
Outlying lands and castles were given away to younger sons and thus the family of the Docibili slowly declined after mid-century.
Allegedly, but improbably, from the end of the 9th century, the principality of Capua claimed Gaeta as a courtesy title for the younger son of its ruling prince.
In the mid-10th century, the De Ceremoniis of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus lists the ceremonial title "prince of Gaeta" among the protocols for letters written to foreigners.
Prince Pandulf IV of Capua captured Gaeta in 1032 and deposed Duke John V, assuming the ducal and consular titles.
Among its antiquities is the mausoleum of Lucius Munatius Plancus.