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Though under the suzerainty of Byzantium, Gaeta had then, like nearby ports Naples and Amalfi, a republican form of government with a dux ("duke", or commanding lord under the command of the Byzantine Exarch of Ravenna), as a strong bulwark against Saracen invasion.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.Prince Pandulf IV of Capua captured Gaeta in 1032 and deposed Duke John V, assuming the ducal and consular titles.
In the many wars for possession of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Gaeta, owing to its important strategic position, was often attacked and defended bravely.
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.
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.
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.