A legend connects Gaeta to the ‘myth’ of the Argonauts, to Aietes the father of Medea, daughter of the sorceress Circe who fell in love with Jason. Virgilio instead connects it to Caieta, the nurse of Aeneas, buried here by the Trojan hero at that site during travel along the coast of Lazio.
Other sources cite Aiete (called Aquila), son of the sun god Helios and brother of Circe for the geographical structure of the city that resembles the head of a bird of prey.
Gaeta, prosperous for many years, went through a period of looting by Barbarians and Saracens following the fall of the Western Roman Empire and became a ‘castrum’, a fortified military garrison walled city. The earliest records of the castle date back to the sixth century.
It enjoyed a certain independence first as a Duchy of Gaeta and later, between 839 and 1140, as a Maritime Republic. From 1378 for a few years it was also the residence of the antipope Clement VII.
In 1571 the papal fleet set off from here to the battle of Lepanto and the pennant hoisted on the flagship is displayed in the Diocesan Museum.
Gaeta suffered through fourteen sieges until the 1861 when Francis II of Bourbon, surrendered and it joined the Kingdom of Italy.