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Tomba Romana

The Torricone of Castelnuovo


[image ALT: A very ruined pile of stone and brick held together with mortar, about 5 m high and 2 m square, encased in pipe scaffolding, by the side of a two-lane road in front of a small modern apartment house. It is a view of the remains of a Roman tomb at Castelnuovo near Assisi, Umbria (central Italy).]

The Roman tomb at Castelnuovo di Assisi: view from the W.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

The ruin you see on this page, locally known as the Torricone, is obviously not one of the world's great Roman tombs; and the care lavished on its restoration and protection was making it even harder to read when I passed by in the spring of 2004. It sits on what is now the little road from Cannara, about 4½ km behind us, to S. Maria degli Angeli, about 2 km ahead of us, and has given its more formal name to the cross-street: that apartment house is on the "Via della Tomba Romana".

At any rate, what we have left is the core of a structure that must have been faced in brick or maybe marble; the core is of loose brick, tile, and stone rubble drowned in mortar, what archaeologists call opus caementicium (close-up). To get a better idea of the edifice as a whole, we'll have to wait for it to be fully restored and the barriers removed: maybe some of the cladding is left toward the base, plus maybe we'll be able to see what might be an archway of some kind, and to get a sense whether this was a small square or cylindrical tower-tomb or, conceivably, part of a larger structure.

Even without seeing it, though, our tomb has one unexpected feature of interest: its altitude, at 205 m above sea‑level.

Today the entire swath of land west of the highway from Trevi to Bastia is a plain as flat as a board, if ever so gently sloping, with many small rivers kept in check between levees (a plain, alas, that is also rather dull, in rapid development and subject to increasingly foul smogs); the reason is that in Antiquity, it was all underwater, forming the Lacus Umber. Now the level of this old lake is hard to gauge, of course, but is thought by some to have been around 215‑220 m above sea‑level in the area at the foot of Trevi, about 20 km SE of the Torricone (Trevi de Planu by Tiziana Ravagli et al., G.A.L. Valle Umbra, Trevi, 2001 suggests 219 m); yet here we are somewhat below that.

On the other hand, Bastia Umbra, about 5 km NW of here, altitude 201 m, is also thought to have been above water in Antiquity, on an island in the lake. Now I like to think that water forms a flat surface, and that we ought to be able to plot the exact outline of the lake. Nothing, however, is ever quite that simple, and for now I'll visualize a long arm of wide swampy river flowing northwest at an easy slope of about one meter per kilometer.


[image ALT: A very ruined pile of stone and brick held together with mortar, about 5 m high and 2 m square, encased in pipe scaffolding, by the side of a two-lane road in front of a small modern apartment house. It is a view of the remains of a Roman tomb at Castelnuovo near Assisi, Umbria (central Italy).]

View from the N; not much more informative, I'm afraid.


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Page updated: 31 May 09