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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria

by George Dennis

published by John Murray, Albemarle Street
London, 1848.

The text is in the public domain.

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p1 Chapter I

Veii. — The City.

Hoc tunc Veii fuere: quae reliquiae? quod vestigium? — Florus.


Sic magna fuit censuque virisque
Perque decem potuit tantum dare sanguinis annos;
Nunc humilis veteres tantummodo Troja ruinas,
Et pro divitiis tumulos ostendit avorum.

Ovid. Met.

Of all the cities of Etruria, none takes so prominent a place in history as Veii. One of the earliest, nearest, and certainly the most formidable of the foes of Rome — for nearly four centuries her rival in military power, her instructress in civilisation and the arts — the southern bulwark of Etruria — the richest city of that land — the Troy of Italy — Veii excites our interest as much by the length of the struggle she maintained, and by the romantic legends attending her overthrow, as by the intimate connection of her history with Rome's earliest and most spirit-stirring days. Such was her greatness — such her magnificence — that, even after her conquest, Veii disputed with the city p2of Romulus for metropolitan honours; and, but for the eloquence of Camillus, would have arisen as Roma Nova to be the mistress of the world.1 Yet, in the time of Augustus, we are told that the city was a desolation,2 and a century later its very site is said to have been forgotten.3 Though re-colonised under the Empire, it soon again fell into utter decay, and for ages Veii was blotted from the map of Italy. But when, on the revival of letters, attention was recalled to the subject of Italian antiquities, its site became a point of dispute. Fiano, Ponzano, Martignano, and other places, found their respective advocates. Some, with Castiglioni, placed it at Civita Castellana; others, with Cluverius, at Scrofano, near Monte Musino; Zanchi at Monte Lupolo, above Baccano; while Holstenius, Nardini, and Fabretti assigned to it the site which more recent researches have determined beyond a doubt to belong to it. This is in the neighbourhood of Isola Farnese, a hamlet about eleven miles from Rome, on the right of the Via Cassia.4

The ancient road from Rome seems to have left the Via Cassia about the fifth milestone, not far from the sepulchre vulgarly, but erroneously, called that of Nero; and to have pursued a serpentine course to Veii; but this road, Sir William Gell thinks, has been little travelled since the formation of the Via Cassia (A.U. 629), yet it must have been the way to the Municipium that subsequently arose on the site. Instead of pursuing this ancient track, p3now distinguishable only to a practised eye by the sepulchres and tumuli at its side, travellers usually push on to La Storta, the first post-house from Rome, and beyond the ninth milestone on the Via Cassia. Hence it is a mile and a half to Isola by the carriage road; but the visitor, on horse or foot, may save half a mile by taking a pathway across the downs. When Isola Farnese comes into sight, let him halt awhile to admire the scene. A wide sweep of the Campagna lies before him, in this part broken into ravines or narrow glens, which, by varying the lines of the landscape, redeem it from the monotony of a plain, and by patches of wood relieve it of its usual nakedness and sterility. On a steep cliff, about a mile distant, stands the village of Isola — a village in fact, but in appearance a large château, with a few outhousesº around it. Behind it rises the long, swelling ground, which once bore the walls, temples, and palaces of Veii, but is now a bare down, partly fringed with wood, and without a single habitation on its surface. At a few miles' distance rises the conical, tufted hill of Musino, the supposed scene of ancient rites, the Eleusis, or Delphi, it may be, of Etruria. The eye is then caught by a tree-crested mound or tumulus, standing in the plain beyond the site of the city; then it stretches away to the triple paps of the Monticelli, and to Rivoli, gleaming from the dark slopes behind; and then it rises and scans the majestic chain of Apennines, bounding the horizon with their dark grey masses, and rests with delight on La Leonessa and other well-known giants of the Sabine range, all capt with snow. Oh, the beauty of that range! From whatever part of the Campagna you view it, it presents those long, sweeping outlines, those grand, towering crests — not of Alpine abruptness, but consistently with the character of the land, preserving, even when soaring highest, the p4true Italian dignity and repose — the otium cum dignitate of Nature.

Isola is a wretched hamlet of ruinous houses, with not more than thirty inhabitants. Even the palace, which belongs to the Rospigliosi family, is falling into decay, and the next generation will probably find the place uninhabited. The caverns which yawn in the cliffs around give a mysterious interest to the spot, and whet the curiosity to see the antiquities of Veii. In the little piazza are several relics of Roman domination, sculptural and inscriptive.

It is necessary to take Isola on the way to the ancient city, as the cicerone dwells there. This worthy, "Antonio Valéri at your service," is a big, burly man, swollen, you might think, with official dignity, did not his sallow cheek and haggard look betray the ravages of disease — the malaria fever, which either emaciates or bloats its victims.

He who would make the tour of Veii must not expect to see numerous monuments of the past. Scarcely one Etruscan site has fewer remains, yet few possess greater interest. Veii lives in the page of history rather than in her extant monuments; she has no Colosseum, no Parthenon, no Pyramids — scarcely a fragment even from which the antiquarian Cuvier may reconstruct her frame. The very skeleton of Veii has crumbled to dust — the city is its own sepulchre — here, si monumentum requiris — circumspice!

Yet there is no want of interest in a spot so hallowed by legend and glory. The shadow of past glory falls as solemnly on the spirit as that of temple or tower. It is something to know and feel that "here was and is" not. The senses may desire more relics to link the present to the past; but the imagination need not here be "gravelled for lack of matter."

p5 Since there are so few remains at Veii, it is hardly worth while to make the entire circuit of the city, yet there are three or four spots of interest which all should visit — the Arx — the Columbarium — the Ponte Sodo — the Painted Tomb. Beyond this there are but scattered fragments of walls — the sites of the gates, determined only by the nature of the ground — and the remains of several bridges.

I shall detail the track I took on my first visit, and the reader, with the aid of the Plan, will be enabled to trace the site of every object of interest within and around the walls of Veii.

My guide led the way into the glen which separates Isola from the ancient city, and in which stands a mill — most picturesquely situated, with the city-cliffs towering above it, and the stream sinking in a cascade into a deep gulley, overshadowed by ilex.5 Hence a path leads up to the site of one of the ancient gates. Near it are some remains of the walls, composed of small rectangular blocks of nenfro.6

The information of the guide, though he be superior in station and intelligence to the ordinary run of ciceroni on p6Etrurian sites, is not to be received with implicit faith. According to him, the mill marks the scene of the slaughter of the Fabii, that noblest and bravest of Roman families — a mere conjecture, arising, probably, from the erroneous notion that Isola was the site of their camp.7 He also points out some walling on the verge of the cliff-bound plateau that here projects into the glen, and pronounces it to be the pier of a bridge which had spanned the hollow at this spot, and communicated with a road in a narrow cleft in the hill opposite. The ruins, more probably, formed a portion of the city-walls. It is ungracious, however, to convict a man of ignorance of his own trade, and on such occasions it is ever wise to adhere to the proverb,

Odi, vede, e tace
Se vuoi viver in pace.
If in peace with your neighbour you wish to live long,
Listen, and look, but hold your tongue.

Following the line of the high ground to the east, I passed several other fragments of the ancient walls, all mere embankments, and then struck across bare down or corn-fieldsº into the heart of the city. A field, overgrown with briers, was pointed out by Antonio as the site of excavations, where were found, among other remains, the colossal statue of Tiberius, now in the Vatican, and the twelve Ionic columns of marble, which sustain the portico of the Post-office at Rome. This was probably the Forum of the Roman "Municipium Augustum Veiens," which rose on the ruins of Etrurian Veii. The columbarium, or Roman sepulchre, hard by, must have been without the limits of the municipium, which occupied but a small portion of the site of the original city; when first p7opened, it contained stuccoes and paintings in excellent preservation,8 but it is now in a state of utter ruin.

I now entered on a wide down, overrun with rank vegetation, where tall thistles and briers played no small devilry with one's lower limbs, and would deny all passage to the fair sex, save on horseback. On I struggled, passing what Antonio declared to be an ancient theatre, but what is merely a Roman tomb, till I found traces of an ancient road, slightly sunk between banks. This was the road from Rome to the municipium, and after crossing the site of the ancient city in a direct line, it fell into the Via Cassia. I traced it a long distance across the briery down, and then into a deep hollow, choked with thickets, where I came upon large polygonal blocks of basalt, such as usually compose Roman pavement.9 This was without the limits of the Etruscan city, in a narrow hollow, which separated the city from its Arx. At this spot is a fragment of the ancient walls. The road ran down the hollow towards Rome, and was probably called the Via Veientana.

The Arx is a table-land of no great extent, rising precipitously from the deep glens which bound it, save at the single point where a narrow ridge unites it to the city. Such a position would mark it at once as the citadel, even had it not traditionally retained its ancient designation in its modern name, Piazza d'Armi; and its juxta-position and connection with the city give it much superior claims to be so considered, than those which can be urged for the height of Isola Farnese, which is separated from the city by a wide hollow. There is also every reason to p8believe that this is the site of the earliest town. Here alone could the founder of Veii have fixed his choice. The natural strength of its position, and its size, adapted it admirably for an infant settlement. In process of time, when its population increased, it was compelled to extend its limits, and gradually embraced the whole of the adjoining table-land, which is far too extensive to have been the original site, and what was at first the whole town became eventually merely the citadel. Such was the case with Athens, Rome, Syracuse, and many other cities of antiquity. There may have been a second settlement at Isola, which may have united with that of the Arx to occupy the site of the celebrated city. Somewhat similar was the process at Rome, where the town of Romulus, confined at first to the circumscribed hill of the Palatine, united with the earlier town of the Capitoline. to extend their limits as one city over the neighbouring heights and intervening valley.

I walked round the Piazza d'Armi, and from the verge of its cliffs looked into the beautiful glen on either hand, through which, far beneath me, wound the two streams which girded in Veii, and into the broader and more beautiful hollow, through which, after uniting their waters, they flowed, once as the far-famed Crémera.10 to mingle with the Tiber. Peculiar beauty was imparted to these glens by the rich autumnal tints of the woods, which crowned the verge or clothed the base of their red and grey cliffs — the dark russet foliage of the oaks, the orange or brilliant red of the mantling vines, heightened by the contrast of the green meadows below. Scarcely a sign of cultivation met the eye — one house alone on p9the opposite cliff — no flocks or herds sprinkled the meadows beneath — it was the wild beauty of sylvan, secluded nature.

Far different was the scene that met the eye of Camillus, when he gazed from this spot after his capture of Veii.11 The flames ascending from the burning city12 — the battle and slaughter still raging — the shouts of the victors and shrieks of the vanquished — here, his victorious soldiers pressing up through the hollow ways into the city, eager for spoil — there, the wretched inhabitants flying across the open country — yon height, studded with the tents of the Roman army — the Crémera at his feet rolling reddened down the valley towards the camp of the Fabii, whose slaughter he had now so signally avenged — all these sights and sounds melted the stern warrior to tears of mingled pity and exultation. Veii, so long the rival of Rome, had fallen, and her generous conqueror mourned her downfal. Like Troy, she had held out for ten long years against a mighty beleaguering army: and like Troy she fell at last only by the clandestine introduction of an armed foe. Where force was powerless, artifice prevailed.

The story of the cuniculus, or mine of Camillus, is well known; how he carried up into the temple of Juno within the citadel — how he himself led his troops to the assault — how they overheard the Etruscan aruspex, before the altar of the goddess, declare to the king of Veii that victory would rest with him who completed the sacrifice — how they burst through the flooring, seized the entrails and bore them to Camillus, who offered them to the goddess with his own hand — how his troops swarmed in through the mine, opened the gates to their fellows, and p10obtained possession of the city.13 Verily, as Livy sapiently remarks, "It were not worth while to prove or disprove these things, which are better fitted to be set forth on a stage which delighteth in marvels, than to be received with implicit faith. In matters of such antiquity, I hold it sufficient if what seemeth truth be received as such."

I wandered round the Arx seeking some traces of this temple of Juno, which was the largest in Veii.14 The sole remains of antiquity visible, are some foundations at the edge of the plateau, opposite the city, which may possibly be those of the celebrated temple, though more probably, as Gell suggests, the substructions of towers which defended the entrance to the citadel.15 Several sepulchral monuments have been here discovered; among them one of the Tarquitian family, which produced a celebrated writer on Etruscan divination,16 and which seems from this and other inscriptions to have belonged to Veii. As none of these relics were Etruscan, they in no way militate against the view that this was the Arx, but merely show that it was without the bounds of the Roman municipium.

Of the cuniculus of Camillus no traces have been found. Not even is there a sewer, so common on most Etruscan sites, to be seen in the cliff beneath the Arx, though the dense wood which covers the eastern side of the hill may well conceal such an opening; and one cannot but regard these sewers as suggestive of the cuniculus, if it were not even a mere enlargement of one of them to admit an armed force. Researches after the cuniculus are not likely to be successful. Not that I agree with Niebuhr in doubting p11its existence;17 for though it were folly to give full credence to the legend, which even Livy and Plutarch doubted, yet there is nothing unnatural or improbable in the recorded mode of the city's capture. When a siege of ten years had proved of no avail, resort might well have been had to artifice; and the soft volcanic rock of the site offered every facility for tunnelling. But if the cuniculus were commenced in the plain at the foot of the height, it were useless to search for its mouth.

Returning into the hollow, through which runs the Via Veientana, my eye was caught by a curious flight of steps, high in the cliff on which the city stood. With some difficulty I climbed to them, and found them to be of uncemented masonry, too rude for Roman work, and similar in character to the walls of the Etruscan city; therefore, I doubt not that this was a staircase leading to a postern gate of the ancient Veii. The lower part having fallen with the cliff, these eight upper steps alone are left, and they will not remain long, for the shrubs which have interlaced their roots with the uncemented blocks, will soon precipitate them into the ravine. This curious staircase, La Scaletta, as it is called by the peasants, only came to light in 1840, in consequence of the earth which concealed it having been washed away by unusually heavy rains.

From the Arx the line of the walls ran northward, as indicated by the cliffs. I passed a few excavations in the rocks, and the sites of two gates,18 and at length reached a p12wood below which, on the banks of the stream, is a piece of broken ground, which presents some curious traces of ancient times. It is a most picturesque spot, sunk in the bosom of the woods, and strewn with masses of grey rock, in wild confusion, full of sepulchral excavations, literally honey-combed with niches; whence its appellation of "Il Colombario". In one place the rock is hollowed into a chamber of unusually small size, with room for only a single sarcophagus. The niches are of various forms. Fell thinks it "highly probable they are Etruscan, and not of Roman construction."19 Lenoir seems to be of the same opinion, but to me they have much more of a Roman character.20 The most ancient Etruscan tombs of Veii are not of a niche form, but chambers with rock-hewn couches for bodies or a sarcophagus, and containing furniture of a more archaic character than the niches.21 As Veii was deserted soon after its capture in the year of Rome 358, all its Etruscan sepulchres must have been prior to that date, and many of the niches within tombs are probably of high antiquity, as they are found to contain vases, mirrors, and other objects of a purely Etruscan character.22 But the niches in the face of these cliffs have certain peculiarities, which mark them as of Roman origin.23 Many of p13them are in the walls of rock, which flank an ancient road cut through a mass of tufo to the depth of from twelve to twenty feet. Such roads are common in the neighbourhood of Etruscan cities; several other instances occur around Veii. In this case part of the polygonal pavement is remaining with its kerb-stones, and the ruts worn by the ancient cars are visible. On the top of the rock, on one side, are remains of walls, which prove this to be the site of one of the city gates.

The road led directly from the Formello up to the gate, and had evidently crossed the stream by a bridge. This is no longer standing; and a little further up the stream, on the side opposite the city, is a piece of walling, which seems to have been the pier of the bridge.24

I continued to follow the upward course of the Formello towards the Ponte Sodo. On my left were the banks of the stream, on the inner or city side, steep, rocky, and fringed with wood — the ash, beech, and ilex springing from the grey rocks, and hanging in varied hues over the torrent. Here and there, at the verge of the steep, portions of the ancient walls peeped through the foliage. p14On my right were bare, swelling mounds, in which the mouths of caves were visible, the tombs of ancient Veii. These are now half choked with earth — it being customary for excavators to close the sepulchres as soon as they have rifled them. One tomb alone, which will be particularly described in the following chapter, now remains open. Here are also three vaults of Roman reticulated work, and another vault near them, of similar construction, just over a modern fountain.

It would be easy to pass the Ponte Sodo without observing it. It is called a bridge; but is a mere mass of rock bored for the passage of the stream. Whether wholly or partly artificial may admit of dispute. It is, however, in all probability, an Etruscan excavation — a tunnel in the rock, two hundred and forty feet long, twelve or fifteen wide, and nearly twenty high. From above, it is scarcely visible. You must view it from the banks of the stream. You at first suspect it to be of natural formation, yet there is a squareness and regularity about it which prove it artificial. The steep cliffs of tufo, yellow, grey, or white, overhung by ilex, ivy, and brushwood — the deep, dark-mouthed tunnel with a ray of sunshine, it may be, gleaming beyond — the masses of lichen-clad rock, which choke the stream — give it a charm apart from its antiquity.25

Upon this natural bridge is a shapeless mound in the midst of an ancient roadway. Gell sees in it the ruins of a square tower, but it requires a brisk imagination to perceive such traces in this overgrown mass; yet from its position, and from fragments of walling hard by, it is evident that this was the site of a double gateway.26 These p15fragments are traceable on both sides of the gate. To the left they rise high, and form the facing to an agger or embankment which extends along the verge of the slope for a considerable distance. The blocks are smaller than usual in Etruscan cities, being only sixteen inches deep, and eighteen to twenty-four in length; yet there can be little doubt that these were the once renowned fortifications — egregii muri27 — of Etruscan Veii. A portion of the wall hereabouts has been described and delineated by Gell, as being composed of immense tufo blocks, a yard in length. Again and again have I beat the bush far and wide in quest of this singular fragment of masonry, but have never been fortunate enough to stumble on it; nor have I met with any one who has seen it. Of late years the wood has been greatly cleared on this side the city, but the fragment is still sought in vain; and whether it has been torn to pieces by the peasants, or lies hid by some of the thorny brakes it is impossible to penetrate, I cannot say.

A little above the Ponte Sodo, where the ground sinks to the edge of the stream, are many troughs in the rocky banks which Gell suggests may have been used by the nymphs of Veii, to

"Wash their white garments in the days of peace."28

p16 But they raised no such fair visions in my eyes, which could see in them merely the spots whence blocks had been quarried for the construction of the walls or edifices of the city.

Though I could not discover the curious piece of masonry described by Gell, I could not be sceptical as to its existence, for here, on the left bank of the stream, was a fragment of walling with the same peculiarities, and more massive than any other I had seen at Veii. From its position with regard to the gate, which may here be traced on the city side of the stream, it had evidently formed the pier of a bridge. Its width was ten feet. The largest block was only three feet nine inches by two feet four, but this was massive in comparison with those of the city walls. The absence of cement proved its antiquity. The whole rested on three layers of long sun-burnt bricks, or tiles.29 Yet their position was no proof of the antiquity of their collocation, for they might have been inserted in aftertimes to repair the foundations, just as the massive walls of Volterra are here and there underbuilt with modern masonry. There is nothing in the material which militates against the antiquity of the structure. Bricks were used in the remotest ages, and in most parts of the world.30 The Etruscans, so skilled in pottery, must have been acquainted with their use; Arretium, one of the cities of the League, is said to have been walled with brick;31 and we know that the Veientes in particular were p17famed for their manufactures of baked earth.32 If the bricks in this masonry really formed part of the original structure, they lead one to suspect that the walls of other Etruscan cities may have been formed in part of the same materials, which, when the cities fell into decay, would have formed a quarry for the construction of villages. The destruction of Etruscan fortifications, however, in the volcanic district of the land, may be accounted for without this supposition — the small size, lightness, and facility of cleavage of the tufo blocks composing the extant fragments, must in all ages have proved a temptation to apply them to other purposes.

About three quarters of a mile above the Ponte Sodo is another bridge, called Ponte Formello, whose piers are of blocks of nenfro, undoubtedly ancient, possibly of Etruscan construction, but the existing arch is of Roman brickwork.33 The road which crosses the Formello by this bridge runs to the village of Formello and Monte Musino, six miles distant.

Cross this bridge, and following the line of the ancient walls as indicated by the nature of the ground, I presently came to a cross-road, cut through tufo banks, and leading into the city.34 It is clearly an ancient way; five-and‑thirty years ago its pavement was entire,35 but, owing to the pilferings of the peasantry, scarcely a block is now left.

The road that crosses the Formello runs direct to the Ponte dell' Isola, a bridge over the Fosso de' due Fossi, p18the stream which washed the southern walls of Veii. The distance between the bridges is about half a mile. The city walls followed the line of bank on the left, which turns off towards the Mill, while the road leads directly to the Ponte d'Isola. This is a picturesque bridge of a single arch, twenty-two feet in span.36 Antiquaries have pronounced it to be of very ancient date — "connected," says one, "with the original plan of the city."37 But to my eye it appears of no very high antiquity.

A doubt may arise as to the antiquity of these bridges at Veii, as well as of any others which claim an Etruscan origin, seeing that no stone bridge was erected at Rome before the year 575, the date of the Pons Aemilius,38 long after the subjugation of Etruria, and more than two centuries after the capture of Veii. Is it possible that the Romans, if they found such structures existing in the conquered land, could have refrained from introducing such an addition to the beauty and convenience of the City? — how could they have remained satisfied for centuries with a single bridge, and that of wood? But it must be remembered that the Tiber was one of the ramparts of Rome; that the Pons Sublicius was equivalent to a drawbridge, being so constructed as to be readily taken to pieces on an emergency; that it was maintained, in its wooden state, as a religious duty, and committed to the especial care of the priests;39 and it was not till after the p19conquest of Etruria, the downfal of Hannibal, and when all fear of a foe at the gates of the City was removed, that a permanent bridge was constructed. The Romans of that day had no need to go beyond their own walls for the model of a stone arch; they had had it for ages in the Cloaca Maxima.

From the Ponte d'Isola, a pathway leads to the mill. Here I completed the circuit of Veii. Gell calls it more than four miles in circumference, but his own map makes it of much greater area. Nibby seems nearer the truth, in calling it seven miles round, which more nearly agrees with the statement of Dionysius that Veii was equal in size to Athens,40 said to have been sixty stadia in circumference, i.e. seven miles and a half,41 or at the lower estimate of ten stadia to the mile, the common itinerary stadia of Greece, six miles in circuit. The Rome of Servius Tullius, which Dionysius also compares to Athens, was about the same extent.42

Such then is Veii — once the most powerful,43 the most wealthy city of Etruria,44 renowned for its beauty,45 its arts and refinement, which in size equalled Athens and Rome, in military force was not inferior to the latter,46 and which for its site, strong by nature and almost impregnable by art,47 and for the magnificence of its buildings p20and the superior extent and fertility of its territory, was preferred by the Romans to the Eternal City itself, even before the destruction of the latter by the Gauls,48 — now void and desolate, without one house or habitant, its temples and palaces level with the dust, and some empty sepulchres, remaining to tell the traveller that here Veii was. The plough passes over its bosom, and the shepherd pastures his flock on the waste within it. Such must it have been in the earlier years of Augustus, for Propertius pictures a similar scene of decay and desolation.

Et Veii veteres, et vos tum regna fuistis;

Et vestro posita est aurea sella foro;
Nunc intra muros pastoris buccina lenti

Cantat, et in vestris ossibus arva metunt.49

Veii, thou hadst a royal crown of old,
And in thy forum stood a throne of gold! —
Thy walls now echo but the shepherd's horn,
And o'er thine ashes waves the summer corn.º

How are we to account for this neglect? The city was certainly not destroyed by Camillus, for the superior magnificence of its public and private buildings were temptations to the Romans to desert the Seven Hills.50 But after the destruction of Rome by the Gauls Veii was abandoned, in consequence of the decree of the senate threatening with the severest punishment the Roman citizens who should remain within its walls;51 and Niebuhr's conjecture p21is perhaps not incorrect, that it was demolished to supply materials for the rebuilding of Rome,52 though the distance would preclude the transport of more than the architectural ornaments. Its desolation must have been owing either to the policy of Rome which proscribed its habitation, or to malaria;53 otherwise, a city which presented so many advantages as almost to have tempted the Romans to desert their hearths and the sepulchre of their fathers, would scarcely have been suffered to fall into decay, and remain so for nearly four centuries. The Romans most probably ceased to maintain the high cultivation of its territory, and it became unhealthy, as at the present day. This was the case with the Campagna in general, which in very early times was studded with towns, but under Roman domination became, what it has ever since remained — a desert, whose vast surface is rarely relieved by a solitary habitation.

After the lapse of ages the site was colonized afresh by Augustus; but the glory of Veii had departed — the new colony occupied scarcely a third owing to the extent of the ancient city, and struggled for a century for existence, till in the days of Adrian it again sunk into decay. Yet it is difficult to credit the assertion of Florus, that its very site was forgotten. "This, then, was Veii! — who now remembers its existence? What ruins? — what traces of it are left? Hardly can we credit our annals, which tell us Veii has been."54 For the inscriptions found on the spot p22prove that the colony continued at least to exist to a late period of the Roman empire.55

I have described my first walk round Veii as that which it may be advisable for the visitor to take; but many a day, and in all seasons, have I spent in wandering over the site and around the walls of this once renowned city. As no beds are to be had at Isola, I have been wont to take up my quarters at La Storta, and step over at day-break; and, with a luncheon in my pocket and a draught from the Crémera, I have not cared to return till the landscape was veiled in the purple shadows of sunset.

Every time I visit Veii I am struck with the rapid progress of destruction. The site has less to show on every succeeding year. Even masonry, such as the pier of the bridge over the Fosso di Formello, that from its massiveness might defy the pilferings of the peasantry, is torn to pieces, and the blocks removed to form walls or houses elsewhere, so that, ere long, I fear it will be said of Veii, "Her very ruins have perished" — etiam periere ruinae.

Occasionally, in my wanderings on this site, I have entered, either from curiosity or for shelter, one of the capanne scattered over the downs. These are tall, conical, thatched huts, which the shepherds make their winter abode. For in Italy, the low lands being generally unhealthy in summer, the flocks are driven to the mountains about May, and as soon as the great heats are past are brought back to the richer pastures of the plains. It is a curious sight — the interior of a capanna — and affords an agreeable diversity to the antiquity-hunter. A little p23boldness is requisite to pass through the pack of dogs, white as new-dropt lambs, but large and fierce as wolves, which, were the shepherd not at hand, would tear to pieces whoever might venture to approach the hut; but, with one of the pecoraj for a Teucer, nothing is to be feared. The capanne are of various sizes. One I entered not far from Veii was thirty or forty feet in diameter, and fully as high, propped in the centre by two rough masts, between which a hole was left in the roof for the escape of smoke. Within the door lay a large pile of lambs — any might be a hundred — killed that morning and already flayed, and a number of shepherds were busied in operating on the carcases of others; all of which were to be despatched forthwith to the Roman market. Though a fierce May sun blazed without, a huge fire roared in the middle of the hut; but this was for the sake of the ricotta, which was being made in another part of the capanna. Here stood a huge caldron, full of boiling ewes'-milk. In a warm state this curd is a delicious jelly, and has often tempted me to enter a capanna in quest of it, to the amazement of the pecoraj, to whom it is "vilior algâ". Lord of the caldron, stood a man dispensing ladles-full of the rich simmering mess to his fellows, as they brought their bowls for their morning's allowance; and he varied his occupation by pouring the same into certain small baskets; the serous parts running off through the wicker, and the residue caking as it cooled. On the same board stood the cheeses, previously made from the cream. In this hut lived twenty-five men, their nether limbs clad in goat-skins, with the hair outwards, realising the satyrs of ancient fable; but they had no nymphs to tease, nor shepherdesses to woo, and never

"sat all day
Playing on pipes of corn, and versing love
To amorous Phillida."

p24 They were a band of celibates, without the vows. In such huts they dwell all the year round, flaying lambs, or shearing sheep, living on bread, ricotta, and water, very rarely tasting meat or wine, and sleeping on shelves ranged round the hut, like berths in a ship's cabin.a Thus are the dreams of Arcadia dispelled by realities!

To revert to the early history of Veii.56 That she was one of the most ancient cities of Etruria may be inferred from the pitch of power she had attained in the time of Romulus.57 That she was one of the Twelve cities of the great Etruscan Confederation cannot be doubted. Her vast size, superior to that of every other Etruscan city whose limits can be ascertained — the great extent of her territory, and the numerous towns dependent on her58 — p25her power, opulence, and magnificence59 — would make it sufficiently evident, without the express testimony of Livy and Dionysius to the fact.60

Of the history of Veii we know no more than her contests with Rome. She is one of those numerous cities of antiquity, whose records are mere tissues of wars — bloody trails across the field of history. While regretting that our knowledge of them is confined to such events, we should remember that, had not such wars been chronicled, the very names of these cities would most probably never have come down to us. Whatever mention of Veii we find in ancient writers is as the antagonist of Rome. No less than fourteen wars with that power are on record.61 I cannot give a better summary of her history than by specifying these contests.

The First War was with Romulus, to avenge his capture of Fidenae. The Veientes, being defeated with great slaughter, obtained a peace of a hundred years, on condition of ceding to the Romans the Septem Pagi, or Seven Villages, a portion of their territory contiguous to the Tiber, and the Salt-works at the mouth of that river. This was about the year of Rome 36 or 37.62

The Second War was in aid of Fidenae, which had revolted against Tullus Hostilius. A battle was fought on the banks of the Tiber, beneath the walls of Fidenae, and the Etruscans were again put to the route. This was about the year of Rome 90.63

p26 The Third War was commenced by Ancus Martius, who attacked the Veientes with no other reason than to gratify his appetite for conquest. He defeated them on the same spot as his predecessor had done.64

Fourth War. — Two years later, the Veientes broke the truce, and made an effort to recover a number of towns, probably the Septem Pagi, which they had ceded to Romulus; but Ancus Martius defeated them again at the Salt-works, and attached these towns to the Roman territory.65

Fifth War. — The Veientes joined the rest of the Confederation against Rome, but the Etruscans were defeated by Tarquinius Priscus with great loss, and forced to sue for peace; sending to him in token of submission the Etrurian insignia of authority, which were henceforth adopted by the Romans.66

The Sixth War broke out early in the reign of Servius Tullius, or about A.U. 180. It commenced by Veii throwing off the yoke imposed on her by Tarquin; her example was followed by Caere and Tarquinii, and ultimately by the rest of the Confederation. The war continued for twenty years; and as in all this history the man, and not the lion, drew the picture, we are told that the Roman monarch was always triumphant, whether against single cities, or the united forces of Etruria.67

p27 Seventh War. — In the year 245, Veii joined Tarquinii in the attempt to replace Tarquinius Superbus on his throne. They encountered the forces of the young Republic near the Arsian Wood; Aruns, the son of Tarquin, and Brutus, the first Consul, fell by each other's hands, and the victory remained undecided. In the following night an unearthly voice, thought to be that of the god Silvanus was heard proceeding from the wood — "The Etruscans have lost one man more in the fight; the Romans are therefore victors."68 This war terminated with the celebrated march of Porsenna on Rome. Too well known are the romantic events of that campaign to need recording.

"How well Horatius kept the bridge
In the brave days of old," —

how Scaevola braved the fire, and Cloelia the water — and how the Clusian chieftain strove to emulate these deeds of heroism by his chivalrous magnanimity — are not all these things familiar to us as household words?

Eighth War. — After twenty-four years of peace, in the year 269, the consul Serv. Cornelius Cossus laid waste the territory of Veii, and at the remonstrances of the Veientes he granted them a truce for one year.69

Ninth War. — In the year 272 broke out the war in which occurred the most interesting incident in the annals of Veii. After two years spent in comparative inaction, the Etruscans marched up to the Roman camp, and dared their foes to the combat. A severe battle ensued, in which the Etruscans were routed, though Rome had never won a victory so dearly.70 In the following year (A.U. 275), the war still continuing, the Veientes at one time even p28threatening the City itself, and Rome being pressed upon at the same time by the Aequi and Volsci, an instance of patriotic devotion was called forth, such as few ages have produced. Caeso Fabius, the consul, and chief of the noblest and most powerful of Roman gentes, rose in the Senate, and said — "Well know ye, Conscript Fathers, that to keep the Veientes in check there is need of a fixed garrison, rather than of a powerful army. Look ye to our other foes; leave it to the Fabii to deal with Veii. We will engage to uphold the majesty of the Roman name. The Republic hath need of men and money elsewhere; be this war at our own cost." The next day the whole gens of the Fabii, three hundred and six in number, all of patrician blood, marched forth from Rome, the consul himself at their head, amid the admiration, the prayers, and joyful shouts of the citizens, "Go forth ye brave! Go forth to victory!" One single family to meet an entire people, the most powerful of Etruria. "Never," says Livy, "never did an army so small in number, or so great in deeds, and in the admiration of their countrymen, march through the streets of Rome."71 When they reached the Crémera, they pitched their camp on a precipice-girt hill, and further protected it by a double fosse and numerous towers. There they maintained themselves for a year against all the efforts of the Veientes to dislodge them, ravaging the lands of Veii far and wide, carrying off immense booty, and often routing the forces sent against them — till in the year 276 p29the Consul Aemilius Mamercus defeated the Veientes, and forced them to sue for peace.72

Tenth War. — In the following year, 277, the Veientes were urged by the rest of the Etruscan Confederation again to declare war against the Romans, and commenced by attacking the Fabii, who had not withdrawn from their camp. Knowing that open force was of little avail against these heroes, they had recourse to stratagem. They sent out flocks and herds, as if to pasture; and the Fabii beholding these from the height of their castle, sallied forth, eager for the spoil. As they were returning with it the Etruscans rushed from their ambush, and overwhelming them by numbers, after a long and desperate resistance, cut them to pieces, not one escaping save a boy, who lived to preserve the race and be the progenitor of Fabius Maximus.73 It was the triumph of the Persians over Leonidas and his Spartans. The slaughter of the Fabii was but the prelude to a signal victory of the Veientes over the Consul Menenius; and, had they followed up their advantage, Rome itself might have fallen into their hands. As it was, on the next day they took possession of the Janiculan, where they maintained themselves for many months, till, in the year 278, they were routed by the Roman Consuls.74 In the two following years they p30were again defeated by the Consuls P. Valerius and A. Manlius in succession, from the latter of whom they obtained a peace for forty years.75

Eleventh War. — In the year of the City 309, war again broke out between Veii and Rome.76 It seems soon to have ended, for in 312 Rome was at peace with all the world.77

Twelfth War. — In the year 316 the Fidenates threw off the yoke of Rome, and declared for Veii. Lars Tolumnius, king of the Veientes, espoused their cause and put to death the ambassadors sent by Rome to demand an explanation. The Etruscan army encountered their foes on the banks of the Tiber, below Fidenae, the scene of so many former defeats, and were again routed by the Dictator Mam. Aemilius; and their chief, Tolumnius, was slain by the sword of A. Cornelius Cossus.78 This was A.U. 317. Two years after, the allied army of Veii and Fidenae marched up to the very gates of Rome, but were routed by the Dictator A. Servilius, who captured Fidenae.79 A truce was afterwards granted to the Veientes.80

Thirteenth War. — The truce was not of long duration, for in 326 the Veientes made fresh incursions into the Roman territory; and in 328, after defeating an army sent against them, and being reinforced by the accession of the Fidenates, crossed the Tiber, and struck terror into the City of Romulus. Their course, however, was soon checked; for they were again utterly routed by Mam. Aemilius and Cornelius Cossus, on the very field of their former triumph of A.U. 317. Fidenae was taken and destroyed, and Veii obtained a truce for twenty years.81

p31 Fourteenth War. — In 347, the truce having expired, war broke out afresh and in 349 the Romans laid siege to Veii,82 a fate which would earlier have befallen her, had it not been for the great strength of her position and fortifications, which rendered her conquest almost hopeless. The Veientes were not able to procure succours from the rest of Etruria, and Rome being at peace elsewhere, was enabled to pour all her strength against her ancient foe.83 In 352 Veii obtained the assistance of the Falisci and Capenates, who saw that she was the bulwark of Etruria against Rome, and should she fall, the whole land would be open to invasion, and they, as the nearest, would be the next to suffer.84 The diversion thus created, together with dissension and dissatisfaction in the Roman camp, operated so greatly in favour of the Veientes, that at one time they had possession of the Roman lines; but they were ultimately driven out, and their allies put to the rout.85 In 356, when the siege had already endured eight years, a remarkable phenomenon occurred, which by the superstitious Italians was considered a portent of some fearful event. In the height of summer, when elsewhere the streams were running dry, the waters of the Alban Lake, without any evident cause, suddenly rose to an extraordinary height, overflowing their barrier — the crater-lip of an extinct volcano — and threatening to burst it and devastate the Campagna with floods. Sacrifices were offered up, but the gods were not appeased.86 Messengers were despatched from Rome to consult the oracle at Delphi as to the meaning of this prodigy. In the mean time, at one of the outposts of the camp before Veii, the soldiers, as often happens in such situations, fell p32to gossiping with the townsfolk instead of fighting; and one of them, a Roman centurion, who had made acquaintance with an old citizen, renowned as a soothsayer, began one day to lament the fate of his friend, seeing that when the city was taken, he would be involved in the common destruction. But the Veientine laughed thereat, saying, "Ye maintain an unprofitable war in the vain hope of taking this city of Veii, knowing not that it is revealed by the Etruscan Discipline, that when the Alban Lake shall swell, till its waters be drained off, so as not to mingle with the sea, the gods will not abandon Veii." The centurion knowing the old man to be possessed of great power of divination, pondered these words in his mind, and the next day went to him again, and under pretext of consulting him on certain signs and portents, led him far from the walls of Veii; than suddenly seizing him in his arms, bore him off to the Roman camp. Thence he was taken before the Senate, to whom he repeated his prophecy, saying that the gods would not have it concealed, for thus was it written in the books of Fate. The Senate at first distrusted this prophecy; but, on the return of the messengers from Delphi, it was confirmed by the oracle of the god — "Romans, beware of letting the water remain in the Alban Lake: take heed that it flow not to the sea in its natural channel. Draw it off, and diffuse it through your fields. Then shall ye stand victors on the walls of Veii." In consequence of this a tunnel was formed through the rocky hill, which still, as the Emissary of Albano, calls forth the admiration of the traveller; and verily it is a marvellous work for that early age — the more so, if completed, as Livy asserts, within the short space of one year.87 p33In 337 the Veientes received succour from Tarquinii,88 and their other allies of Capena and Falerii being still in the field, their prospects of deliverance were raised; more especially when in the following year their allies obtained a victory, which struck terror into the citizens of Rome, who hourly expected to see a triumphant foe beneath their walls.89 But the tables were soon turned; for Camillus, now appointed dictator, first routed the forces of the allies, and then, taking a hint, it may be, from the Alban Emissary, which was by this time completed, began to work his celebrated cuniculus, "a very great and most laborious undertaking," into the citadel of Veii. Then were the oracle and the prophecy of the soothsayer accomplished, and Veii fell,90 proving her power even in her final overthrow —

Vincere cum Veios posse laboris erat —91

"for, though beleaguered for ten long years, with more injury to her foe than to herself, she was at last overcome by stratagem, not by open force."92

It is instructive to observe how similar are the fruits of superstition in all ages, and under various religious creeds. The scene between Camillus and the statue of Juno, the patron goddess of Veii, which he wanted to remove to Rome, is precisely such as has been reported to occur in similar circumstances in more recent times. Said Camillus to the goddess, "Wilt thou go to Rome, Juno?" The image signified assent by bowing her head; and some of the bystanders asserted that they heard a soft voice whispering p34assent.93 Ancient writers frequently report such miracles — that statues broke into a sweat, grunted, rolled their eyes, and turned their heads — precisely such miracles as are related by modern enthusiasts or impostors.

The relation which the height of Isola Farnese bore to the ancient city has been the subject of much difference of opinion. Some have regarded it as the Arx of Veii, which Camillus entered through his cuniculus. That it may have been inhabited and fortified at an early period is not improbable; but there are strong reasons for believing that it was not so in the time of Camillus.94 Others, with still less probability, have considered it the site of the Castle of the Fabii.95 To me it seems evident that at the time of the conquest it was nothing more than part of the necropolis of Veii. The rock is hollowed in every direction into sepulchral caves and niches, most of them apparently Etruscan; not only in the face of its cliffs, as Nibby has asserted, but some also on the table-land above. Now it is clear that such must have been its character in the days of Camillus, for the Etruscans never inhabited nor walled in a site that had been appropriated to burial; and though it may originally have been fortified, yet once made sacred to the dead, it must ever have remained so. The principal necropolis of Veii lay on the opposite side of the church, but the Etruscans — unlike the Greeks, who, in their colonies in Italy and Sicily, formed their cemeteries to the north of their towns96 — availed themselves of any site that was convenient, and frequently, as in this case, buried their dead on several or opposite sides of their cities.

Whatever Isola may anciently have been, it was connected p35with the city by a road; that which still runs from it to the mill. The tufo through which this is cut presents some remarkable features, being composed of very thin strata of calcined vegetable matter, alternating with earthy layers, showing the regular and rapidly intermittent action of some neighbouring volcano — the crater lake of Baccano or of Bracciano. The bed formed by an igneous deposit had been covered with vegetation, which had been reduced to charcoal by a subsequent eruption, and buried beneath another shower of earthy matter, which in its turn served for a hotbed to a second crop of vegetation. That these eruptions occurred at very short intervals is apparent, I think, from the thinness of the charcoal layers.97 The whole mass is very friable, and this softness of the rock precluded the formation of a water-trough on one side, as is frequently seen in Etruscan roads, to carry off the water from above; so here small pipes of earthenware were thrust through the soft tufo in one of the cliffs, and may be traced for some distance down the hill.98

To see the Ponte Sodo, the Columbario, and the Painted Tomb, which are within a short distance of each other, will not occupy more than two hours; the Arx, lying in another direction, will require another hour; and the entire circuit of the city, including the above lions, can hardly be accomplished in less than four or five. Antonio Valeri will provide asses, if required, — possibly saddles. Visitors should bring their own provender with them, which they can eat in his house or garden — or better still on the sunny turf, in some spot where they may feast at p36once their eyes and mouths — or, their stock failing, Antonio will provide refreshment, which may be eaten without alarm, in spite of the suspicion expressed by a recent writer that Isola is a sort of Cannibal Island, and that the traveller is in danger of a Pelopidan banquet.99 All fear of bandits, suggested in the same quarter, may be dispensed with, and "mounted contadini, covered with togas and armed with long iron-shod poles," may be encountered without trepidation, as honest drovers in quest of cattle.

Veii is of such easy access that no visitor to Rome should fail to make an excursion thither. It is not more than a couple of hours' drive from the gates, and though there be little of interest on the road beyond views of the all-glorious Campagna, and though the site of the ancient city be well-nigh denuded of its ruins, yet the intense interest of a spot, so renowned in history, —

"And where the antique fame of stout Camill
Doth ever live —"

and the tomb now open with its marvellous paintings and strange furniture, which carry the mind back with realising force to the earliest days of Rome, render a trip to the site of Veii, one of the most delightful excursions in the neighbourhood of the Eternal City.


Note I. — The Mine of Camillus.

Niebuhr (II p481, Eng. trans.) rejects the account, given by Livy, of the capture of Veii: first, as bearing too close a resemblance to the siege and taking of Troy, to be authentic; next, because "in the whole history of ancient military operations we shall scarcely find an authentic instance of a town taken in the same manner." He thinks that the legend of the cuniculus arose out of a tradition of a mine of the ordinary character, by which a portion of the walls was overthrown; because the besiegers would never have resorted to the arduous labour of forming a cuniculus into the heart of the city, "when, by merely firing the timbers, by which, at all events, the walls must have been propt, they might have made a breach." Now, though, as Niebuhr clearly shows, there are many circumstances attending the capture, of too marvellous a character to be admitted as authentic history, with all deference to that the great man, I must venture to differ from him, when he questions the formation of the cuniculus. The fact is stated, not only by Livy, (V.21), but by Plutarch (Camil.), Diodorus, (XIV., p307), Florus (I.12), and by Zonaras, (Ann. VII.21), though Dionysius in relating the fact of the capture is silent as to the means, (Excerp. Mai, XII.12). The capture of Fidenae by means of a similar mine, (Liv. IV.22), Niebuhr thinks not a bit better attested than that of Veii; but Dionysius mentions a similar capture of Fidenae, as early as the reign of Ancus Marcius, (III., p180); and Livy records the taking of Nequinum or Narnia in a similar manner, in long subsequent times, (X.10). When Niebuhr states that the walls of Veii might have been breached by firing the timbers of the mine, it is most evident that he had not visited the site, and wrote in perfect ignorance of its character. Such a remark would apply to a town built in a plain, or on a slight elevation; but in a case where the citadel stood on a cliff, nearly two hundred feet above the valley, (if Isola were the Arx, the height was yet greater), it is obviously inapplicable; and this Niebuhr, in fact, admits, by stating that "in Latium, where the strength of the towns arose from the steep rock on which they were built, there was no opportunity of mining." The Citadel of Veii was in a precisely similar category. His argument, then, against the cuniculus of Camillus falls p38to the ground, because founded on a total misconception of the true situation of Veii.

His error is the more surprising as he had the testimony of Dionysius, (II., p116) that Veii "stood on a lofty and cliff-bound rock." Holstenius, who regarded Isola Farnese as the Arx of Veii, speaks of the cuniculus of Camillus being "manifestly apparent" in his day (Adnot. ad Cluv., p54), but he probably mistook for it some sewer which opened low in the cliff. Nibby (III., p424) confesses his inability to discover it, but inclines to place it on the road from Isola towards Rome. Gell indicates a spot in the valley below the Piazza d'Armi, which he considers likely to have been chosen. If at the base of this height, any perpendicular shafts — pozzi, as the peasants call them — were discovered, and if these, when cleared out, were found to communicate with a horizontal passage, this I think would be likely enough to prove the cuniculus.

Note II. — Sepulchral Niches, and Modes of Sepulture.

These rocks at Veii, with faces full of sepulchral niches, are unique in Etruria, but have their counterpart at Syracuse, and other cemeteries of Sicily; the only other instance in Italy that I know is on the Via Appia, just beyond Albano. Tombs full of niches are abundant in Etruria, and as they are almost always found in exposed situations, rifled of all their furniture, it is difficult to pronounce on their antiquity. Their similarity to the columbaria of the Romans, is suggestive of such an origin, while the want of the olla hole, already mentioned, and the fact of being hollowed in the rock, instead of being constructed with masonry, distinguish them from the Roman columbaria. It is not improbable that these pigeon-holed tombs of Etruria are of native origin, and that the Romans, as Cav. Canina opines, (Bull. Inst. 1841, 18), thence derived their idea of the columbaria, most likely from those of Veii, the nearest city of Etruria. By some the pigeon-holed tombs in Etruscan cemeteries are regarded as of late date, indicating a period when burning had superseded burial. Micali, (Mon. Ined., pp163, 370), who is of this opinion, thinks all such tombs on this site posterior to the fall of Veii. Yet combustion was of far higher antiquity. The Greeks, in the earliest times, certainly buried their dead; such was the custom in the time of Cecrops, and of fable, (Cic. de Leg. II. capp. 22, 25), yet in Homeric times burning was practised, as in the case of Patroclus and of Hector. That mode, however, was probably confined to the wealthy, for the expense of the pyre, as we find it described by Homer, (Il. XXIII.164, et seq.; XXIV.784, et seq.), and by Virgil, (Aen. XI.72, et seq.), must p39have put it out of the reach of community. Zoega (de Obel. IV., p270, et seq.) is of opinion that cremation was adopted for convenience sake, because the burnt ashes occupied less room, were less subject to putrefaction, and especially, were more easily transported, and quotes Homer (Il. VII.334) in corroboration of his opinion. Philosophic notions of purification or of resolving the frame into its original element, may have had to do with the practice of burning. Both methods seem to have been practised coevally. (See Becker's Charicles. Excurs. sc. IX., and the authorities he cites.) Cinerary urns, however, are rarely found in the Greek tombs of Magna Graecia or Sicily. De Jorio, a practised excavator, says burial among the Greeks was to burning as ten to one — among the Romans as one to ten (Metodo per frugare i Sepolcri, p28, cf. Serradifalco, Ant. di Sic. IV.197).

The practice of the Romans also in the earliest times was to bury, not burn their dead, (Plin. Nat. Hist. VII.55), the latter mode having been adopted only when it was found that in protracted wars the dead were disinterred. Yet burning seems also to have been in vogue in the time of Numa, who, as he wished to be interred, was obliged to forbid his body to be burned, (Plut. Numa). Perhaps the latter custom had reference only to great men. Ovid represents the body of Remus as burnt, (Fast. IV.853‑6). In the early times of the Republic, interment was the general mode; burning, however, seems to have gradually come into use — the Twelve Tables speak of both (Cic. de Leg. II.23) — yet certain families long adhered to the more ancient mode, the Cornelian gens for instance, the first member of which that was burnt was Sylla the Dictator, who, having dishonoured the corpse of Marius, feared retaliation on his own remains (Plin. l.c. Cic. de Leg. II.22). Burning, at first confined to heroes, or the wealthy, became general under the Empire, but at length fell out of fashion, and was principally applied to the corpses of freedmen and slaves, and in the fourth century after Christ was wholly superseded by burial. Macrob. Sat. VII.7.

With the Etruscans it is difficult to pronounce whether inhumation or adustion was the earlier, as instances of both together are found in tombs of very remote antiquity. With them, as with the Greeks and Romans, in later periods of their history, both methods seem to have been adopted contemporaneously. In certain sites, however, one or the other mode was the more prevalent. The antiquity of cremation is confirmed by archaeological researches — by the cinerary hut-urns of Albano, which both analogy, and the position in which they were found, indicate to be of very ancient date — and by the very archaic character of some of the "ash-chests" and pottery found in Etruscan tombs. p40

Note III. — The Ponte Sodo.

Gell (II., p238) thinks that the deep hollow through which the Formello here flows was not its original bed, but that it made a détour round the foot of the ascent, and was brought for additional security nearer the high ground on which the city stands. I could see no traces of a former channel. The sinking of so deep a hollow, (which bears no artificial character), would be a most arduous undertaking and scarcely worth the labour, when the natural bed of the stream, though a little more distant, supposing it to have been as Gell conjectures, might have been enlarged and fortified. Yet an examination of the tunnel favours Gell's view, or I should be rather inclined to believe in the natural character of the hollow, by which the stream approaches the Ponte Sodo, and to think that there was a natural channel through the rock enlarged by art to obviate the disastrous consequences of winter floods.

Nibby (III., p432) calls the Ponte Sodo 70 feet long. He could not have measured it, as I have, by wading through it. It is not cut with nicety, though it is possible that the original surface of the rock has been injured by the rush of water through the tunnel, for the stream at times swells to a torrent, filling the entire channel, as is proved by several trunks of trees lodged in clefts of the rock close to the roof. So Ovid (Fast. II.205) speaks of the Cremera rapax, because

Turbidus hibernis ille fluebat aquis.

There are two oblong shafts in the ceiling, with niches cut in them at intervals as a means of descent from above, precisely such shafts as are seen in the tombs of Civita Castellana and Falleri. Here they must have been formed for the sake of carrying on the work in several places at once. There is a third at the upper entrance to the tunnel, the not connected with it, as it is sunk into a sewer which crosses the mouth of the tunnel diagonally, showing the latter to have been of subsequent formation to the system of drainage in the city, and tending to confirm Gell's opinion, that the river originally made a détour to the left. Gell, who had not much acquaintance with Etruscan cities, seems to have mistaken the sewer for an aqueduct, and the shafts for wells by which the citizens drew water (II., p331). At this same end of the tunnel, the roof is cut into a regular gable form, and is of much greater elevation than the rest; it is continued thus only for thirty or forty feet, as if the original plan had been abandoned. This Ponte has been confounded by some with the Ponte Sodo in the vicinity of Vulci — p41Sodo, or solid, being a term commonly applied to natural bridges, or to such as in their massive character resemble them.

Note IV. — Veii one of the Twelve.

Cluverius (II., p532), Niebuhr (I., p118), Müller (II., 1, 2), Micali (I., p140), all regard Veii as one of the Twelve principal cities of Etruria. It is implied by Livy (II., 6), and Dionysius (V., p288) when it united with Tarquinii, the metropolis of Etruria, in assisting Tarquinius Superbus to recover his throne. Again, where the example of Veii, in throwing off the yoke of Servius Tullius, is followed by Caere and Tarquinii, (Dion. Hal., IV., p231), undoubtedly cities of the Confederation; and, more clearly, where Tullius grants peace to the Twelve Cities, but mulcts the aforesaid three, which commenced the revolt, and instigated the rest to war against the Romans. It is most decidedly shown by Dionysius (Frag. Mai, XII.13), when he calls it "a great and flourishing city, not the least part of Etruria;" and also (VI., p398), when he calls Veii and Tarquinii "the two most illustrious cities of Etruria;" and again (IX., p577), when he says that the Veientes, having made peace with Rome, "the eleven Etruscan people who were not parties to this peace having convened a council of the nation, accused the Veientes, because they had made peace without consulting the rest." It is also clearly shown by Livy (V.1), in that the king of the Veientes was disappointed because another was chosen by the suffrages of the Twelve Cities to be high-priest of the nation, in preference to himself. Livy elsewhere (IV.23) states, that Veii and Falerii sent ambassadors to the Twelve people, to demand a council of the nation, at the Voltumnae Fanum. This might, at first sight, be interpreted as indicating these two cities as not of the Twelve; but on further consideration it will be seen that the term "Twelve Cities" was a common, or, as Müller (II.1, 2, n20) calls it, "a standing expression," and is not opposed to the idea of the two cities being included. They sought for a convention of the Twelve, of which they formed a part. Had it not been so they could scarcely have acted an independent part: the cities to which they were subject would have made the demand. When, at a later date, Capena joined Falerii in a similar request, (Liv. V.17), it should be remembered that Veii was then closely beleaguered, and Capena being her colony, might aptly act as her representative. Where Livy mentions the Twelve Cities, after the fall of Veii, (VII.21), it can only mean that the number being a fixed one, in each of the three divisions of Etruria, like the Thirty Cities of Latium, p42and the Twelve of the Achaean League, the place of the city that was separated was immediately supplied by another (Niebuhr, I., p119). But, were all these historical proofs wanting to show Veii to have been one of the Twelve, her large size, as determined by existing remains — an extent second to that of no other Etruscan city — would be evidence enough.

Note V. — Isola Farnese not the Arx of Veii.

Though at first view it would seem that a site so strongly fortified by nature as the rock of Isola would naturally have been chosen for a citadel, yet there is good ground for rejecting the supposition. Its isolation — separated as it is from the city by a broad glen of considerable depth, and communicating with it only by the road which runs up obliquely from the mill — is strongly opposed to the idea. Nibby, indeed, who regards Isola as the Arx, takes a hint from Holstenius (Adnot. ad Cluv., p54), and thinks it may have been connected with the city by means of a covered way between parallel walls, as Athens was with the Piraeus; but no traces of such a structure are visible, and it probably never existed save in the worthy Professor's imagination. Livy (V.21) makes it clear that the Arx adjoined the city, for, on the former being captured by Camillus, the latter immediately fell into his hands, which could not have been the case had Isola been the Arx, for its possession by an enemy, in those days of non-artillery, would have proved an annoyance, but could have barely affected the safety of the city. There is every reason to believe, as already shown, that Isola was only a portion of the necropolis. If nothing more than Roman columbaria, and Roman funeral inscriptions, had been found on the spot, there would be room for doubt, seeing that sepulchral remains of that nation have also been found on the Piazza d'Armi, the true Arx, as well as within the walls of Etruscan Veii; which, however, only shows the small size of the Roman municipium. But the numerous Etruscan tombs on the height of Isola, and the absence of every trace of Etruscan sepulture on that of the Piazza d'Armi, seem alone, independently of the argument to be drawn from their position, to afford a strong confirmation of the opinion that the latter, and not Isola, was the Arx of Veii.

Note VI. — Isola not the Castle of the Fabii.

It is surprising that Isola should ever have been mistaken for the Castle of the Fabii. The objection raised by Gell, that it is not on the Crémera, scarcely seems valid, for who is to pronounce with certainty which of the two confluents bore the ancient name? It seems incredible, however, that p43the band of the Fabii should have been allowed to take up a position at so short a distance from Veii, overlooking its very walls, and that they should have succeeded in raising a fortress, and strengthening it with a double fosse and numerous towers (Dion. Hal. IX., p573). Dionysius says they fixed their camp on an abrupt and precipice-girt height on the banks of the Crémera which is not far distant from the city of Veii; an expression which will scarcely apply to the stream at its very feet, which separates it from the hill of Isola, hardly two arrow-shoots from the walls. Ovid, (Fast. II.205), as well as Dionysius, seems to imply that their camp was between Veii and Rome, and Livy (II.49) seems strongly to indicate a similar position, when he says, that they were on the frontier between the Etruscan and Roman territories, protecting the one from foes, and devastating the other; and again more decidedly, when he asserts that the Veientes, on attacking the castle of the Fabii, were driven back by the Roman legions to Saxa Rubra, some miles distant, and it is evident that had Isola been the Castellum Fabiorum, the nearest place of refuge for the Veientes would have been their own city, and it is not to be believed that they could not have reached some one of its many gates even though attacked in flank by the Roman horse, as Livy states. The site fixed on for the Fabian camp by Nibby and Gell, but first indicated by Nardini (Veio Antico, p180), is on the right bank of the Crémera, near its junction with the Tiber, on the steep heights above the Osteria della Valchetta, and overhanging to Flaminian Way, about half-way between Veii and Rome, on which height are still remains of ancient buildings, though not of a style which can be referred to so early a period. The Fabii could not have chosen a more favourable spot than this for holding the Veientes in check, because it dominated the whole valley of the Crémera, then the boundary, as Livy implies, between the Roman and Etruscan territories, protected the former from incursions, and also held in check the Fidenates, should they have rebelled and attempted to form a junction with their kinsmen of Veii.

p44 The ruins on the summit of this height are of late Roman and of mediaeval times — there is not a fragment that can be referred to the Republican era; only in the face of the cliff is a sewer cut in the rock, like those on Etruscan sites, showing the spot to have been inhabited at an earlier period than the extant remains would testify. On the height on the opposite side of the glen, are some Roman ruins of opus incertum, of prior antiquity.

Neither of these eminences then has more than situation to advance as a claim to be considered the site of the "Praesidium Cremerae." The distance, six miles, seems to me too great, and I should be inclined to look for the Castle higher up the Crémera.

The Author's Notes:

1 Liv. V.51‑55.

2 Propert. IV. Eleg. x. 29.

3 Florus, I.12.

4 This agrees with the distance indicated by Dionysius (II. p116, ed. Sylburg), who says Veii is 100 stadia from Rome, or more than twelve miles, the distances being anciently reckoned from the Forum. The Peutingerian Table also gives twelve miles as the distance. Livy (V.4) speaks of it in round terms as "within the twentieth milestone, almost in sight of the City." Eutropius, a notorious blunderer, calls the distance eighteen miles (I.17).

Thayer's Note: Eutropius may well be a notorious blunderer on other counts, but numbers are among the items in ancient manuscripts most corrupted in the course of their transmission, and the fault probably lies with his copyists. The figure in the online version of Eutropius linked to is twelve miles; whether because it was emended by modern editors or because it is the reading of a manuscript not known to Dennis, I cannot say.

5 These cliffs have been supposed by Nibby (Analisi de' Dintorni di Roma, III., voce Veii) to have been the Tarpeian Rock of Veii, whence criminals were cast headlong. It is a pure conjecture, without the slightest foundation, — there are twenty other spots which would have served the purpose quite as well. We do not even know that this was an Etruscan mode of punishment.

6 A volcanic stone, a species of tufo, distinguished from the ordinary red or yellow sorts of the Campagna by its colour, a dark grey, and by its superior hardness and compactness — a difference said to be owing to its having cooled more slowly and uninterruptedly. Abeken, Mittelitalien, p16.

Orioli (Annuali dell' Instituto Archeologico, 1834, p170) imagines nenfro to be an ancient Etruscan word, which has survived the lapse of ages, and that it had some analogy with nefrendes (see Festus) from the peculiarity of the stone, and that the Etruscans called it nuphrum — Nuphruna being an Etruscan family (Vermiglioli, Iscrizioni Perugine, I. p155, 160). The same name also exists in the epitaphs of the celebrated Grotta Volunni of Perugia.

7 The Fabii were slaughtered on a height, not in a valley. Liv. II.50; Dionys. IX. p579.

8 Nibby, loc. cit.

9 The gate which existed at this spot is styled the Porta Romana by Gell, and the Gate of Fidenae by Nibby. There was another gate on the southern side of the city, with the Piazza d'Armi and the Mill — perhaps a third.

10 Now generally called La Valca by the peasantry. The larger and more northerly stream is the Fosso di Formello, the other the Fosso de' due Fossi.

11 Plut. Camil. Dionys. Frag. Mai. XII.13.

12 The city was not consumed, but Livy (V.21) seems to imply that the Roman soldiers set it on fire.

13 Liv. loc. cit.; Plut. Camil.; Flor. I.12.

14 Plut. Camil. It was probably united, as usual in Etruscan cities, with those of Jupiter and Minerva. Serv. Aen. I.426.

15 Ann. Inst. 1830, p119.

16 Plin. N. H. I. lib. II.; Macrob. Saturn. III.7 cf. V.2. 16.º

17 II.481, et seq. (Engl. transl.) See Note I. in the Appendix to this chapter.

18 The first in a hollow not far from the Arx, Gell calls the Gate of Fidenae (Rome, &c., II.321); the road from the second ran past the Tumulus of Vaccareccia towards Pietra Pertusa, a remarkable cut through a rock near the Via Flaminia and four miles from Veii. The rock presents the appearance of an island rising out of a plain, which seems to have been originally a lake (Gell, Memor. Instit. I.13). There was a "Pertunsa Pietra," on the Flaminian Way, mentioned by Aurelius Victor (Vespas.) but this seems to have been in Umbria, and is now called Il Furlo or Il Sasso Forato, in the mountains south of Urbino. See Cramer's Ancient Italy, I p260.

Thayer's Note: The second Pietra Pertusa is the famous road tunnel constructed by Vespasian, in replacement of an earlier one, actually traversed by the Flaminia. As Dennis says, it is in the Gola del Furlo, and was indeed in what the Romans called Umbria. It is now in Pesaro e Urbino province, not in the modern region called Umbria, but in the Marche. See this page for further details and a good photo.

19 Rome, &c., II. p324. The reason he assigns for this opinion is that they are outside the city; but this is no test, as the Romans were never known to form their columbaria within city walls.

20 Ann. Inst. 1832, p262, 278.

21 Bull. dell' Inst. 1840, p13, — 1841, p18.

22 See the Appendix, Note II.

23 Many of these niches are very like those in Roman columbaria. Others, on the contrary, are rather Etruscan in form. The smaller ones served to hold lamps, perfume vases, cinerary urns, or votive offerings, and those of elongated form contained the bodies of the dead. They are also found in the rocks by the roadsides in the neighbourhood of Etruscan cities, but in no instance in such variety as here. Though admitting certain of these niches to be Etruscan in external form, were I to regard their internal arrangement alone, I should pronounce them all to be Roman, and belonging to the Municipium of Veii. Every one of them has a hole sunk within it for an olla or cinerary pot, as in the Roman columbaria. Now in all the pigeon-holed tombs I have seen in Etruscan cemeteries, not one instance of the olla have I observed, save here and at Sutri — and this leads me to regard it as peculiarly a Roman characteristic. The Romans may here have copied the forms of niches they found in other cemeteries of the Etruscans, or, if these niches were originally constructed by the latter people, they have since been adapted by the former to their own peculiar mode of sepulture, as appears to have been the case at Sutri, by the formation of the olla-hole within them. Abeken (Mittelital. 258 also regards these niches as Roman from the evidence of the inscriptions found on the spot.

24 It is 20 feet wide, now only about 5 or 6 feet high, of small blocks of tufo, cemented, and much more neat and modern in appearance than the usual Etruscan masonry. Yet it is unlike late Roman work, and somewhat resembles the remains of the agger of Servius Tullius, in the gardens of Sallust at Rome. The niche observed in it has been cut subsequently. Nothing remains of the opposite pier.

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64 Dion. Hal. III p181; Liv. I.33.

65 Dion Hal. (l.c.)

66 Dion. Hal. III p193, 195; Flor. I.5. Niebuhr (I. p379) justly questions the truth of the tradition of the entire conquest of Etruria by Tarquin, which is not noticed by Livy or Cicero; yet thinks the union of Rome with Etruria may be seen in it. It seems not improbable that this conquest was an invention of the old annalists, to account for the introduction of the Etruscan symbols of royalty — the twelve lictors with their fasces, the golden crown, the ivory chair, the purple robe, the eagled sceptre — which were traditionally adopted about this time. But it were as reasonable to account for their introduction by the accession of an Etruscan prince, Tarquin, to the Roman throne.

67 Dion. Hal. IV.p231; Liv. I.42.

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Thayer's Note:

a sleeping on shelves ranged round the hut, like berths in a ship's cabin: or possibly more to the point, very much like the stone shelves for the dead in an Etruscan tomb.

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