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Chapter
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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p243 Chapter XVI

NORCHIA. — ORCLE?


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THE TEMPLE-TOMBS, NORCHIA.
Quid sibi saxa cavata —
Quid pulchra volunt monumenta?

Prudentius.

There is a temple in ruin stands,
Fashioned by long-forgotten hands.

Byron.

At the same time, and by the same parties that Castel d' Asso was made known, there was brought to light another Etruscan necropolis, of even greater extent and higher interest. It lies more to the west, about fourteen miles from Viterbo, among the wooded glens which here intersect the great Etruscan plain, and in the neighbourhood of a ruined and desolate town, known by its mediaeval name of Norchia. Besides numerous rock-sculptures, similar to p244 those of Castel d'Asso, this necropolis contains two of a more remarkable character — imitations of temples, with porticoed façades and sculptured pediments, long thought to be unique in Etruria; that is, till the recent discoveries of Mr. Ainsley, at Sovana. It is a spot which should not fail to be visited by every one who feels interest in the antiquities of early Italy.

Norchia is reached with most ease from Vetralla, from which it is six or seven miles distant. The road from Viterbo to Vetralla skirts the base of the Ciminian, but has little of the picturesque beauty of that from Viterbo to Bomarzo. The village of San Martino is passed on the left, high on the slope of the mountain. At S. Ippolito, half-way between Viterbo and Vetralla, a line of low aqueduct and other remains of Roman buildings are passed, which mark the site of ancient baths,1 and probably also of a station on the Via Cassia, which, after crossing the shoulder of the Ciminian, in its way from Sutrium, and passing through Forum Cassii, hard by Vetralla, turned northward across the great plain to Volsinii. The road, for the rest of the way to Vetralla, follows the line of the ancient Cassian, fragments of which were visible a few years since.

Vetralla stands at the western base of the Ciminian, on a narrow ridge between two ravines, the usual site of an Etruscan town; and numerous grottoes in the cliffs around would seem to indicate such an origin, were it not known that it was peopled, during the middle ages, by the inhabitants of the neighbouring Forum Cassii, to which the tombs may have belonged. The antiquity of the place, on the other hand, seems implied in its name, which has been p245supposed a corruption of Vetus Aula,2 — the derivation of the former part of the word at least will hardly be gainsaid. Forum Cassii, as already stated, was a station on the Cassian Way, eleven miles from Sutri, and twelve from Aquae Passeris, lying about a mile to the E.N.E. of Vetralla, and is now marked by the church of Santa Maria in Forcassi, corrupted by the peasantry into "Filicassi." There is nothing to be seen on this spot beyond two Roman vaults, and a mass of opus incertum.3

Vetralla is a place of some importance, having 6000 inhabitants. Viterbo is celebrated for its beautiful women, but verily beauty is more rife at Vetralla —

"Uno ha la voce,
L'altro mangia la noce."

This town is forty-three miles from Rome, eleven or twelve from Sutri, nine from Viterbo, ten from Monte Romano, eighteen from Corneto, twenty-nine from Civita Vecchia, and eighteen from Toscanella. All these roads, save the last, are carriageable.

The sole interest of Vetralla, to the antiquary, consists in its being the best point whence to lionise the two Etruscan sites of Norchia and Bieda, which are each about six miles distant. Not that the inn, or osteria, for it is nothing more, of Vetralla, has very inviting quarters; but it is the best accommodation the neighbourhood for miles round can afford, and of two evils take the least, as the Spanish prince said when he lifted the lap-dog from the carriage p246and left his queen to help herself. But I may not do the place justice, for on two several years I have spent some days there in the month of November, when the weather was extremely wet or lowering; and after a long day's work, often in rain, always in mud, cold, and gloom, the want of comfort at night may have been more severely felt. I have visited it also in the height of summer, but being caught in a thunder-storm, my reminiscences of the Vetralla hostelry were not brightened. As guide to Norchia or Bieda, I can recommend a civil obliging fellow called Giacomo Zeppa, who lives hard by the osteria of Vetralla.

Norchia lies due N.W. from Vetralla. For the first half of the way, where it traverses olive woods, the road is practicable for the rude vehicles of the country, but after that it dwindles to a mere path, or vanishes altogether as you cross the wide desert heath, or dive into the deep glens with which it is in every direction intersected. Nothing can be more dreary than this scenery, on a dull November day. The bare, treeless, trackless moor has scarcely a habitation on its vast melancholy expanse, which seems unbroken till one of its numerous ravines suddenly opens at your feet. The mountains around, which, in brighter weather, give beauty and grandeur to the scene, are lost in cloud and mist; even Monte Fiascone has shrouded his aspiring crest. In the ravines is always more or less of the picturesque; yet their silence and lonesomeness, their woods almost stript of foliage, and dripping with moisture, have a chilling effect on the traveller's spirits, little to be cheered by the sight of a flock of sheep pent in a muddy fold, or of the smoke of the shepherd's fire issuing from a neighbouring cave, suggestive of a savage comfort.

Little heeded we, however, the dulness of the weather. Hastily we threaded these glens, eager to reach the famed p247necropolis. The few tombs we did see here and there in the cliffs, served but to whet our appetite. At length we turned a corner in the glen, and lo! a grand range of monuments burst upon us. There they were — a line of sepulchres, high in the face of the cliff which forms the right-hand barrier of the glen, two or three hundred feet above the stream — an amphitheatre of tombs! for the glen here swells into that form. Were the chasms of the Colosseum closed, the slopes of its seats banked over with earth, carpeted with sward, and fringed with trees instead of bushes, and its encircling wall of masonry adorned with cornices inside as well as out, it would present a lively resemblance to this singular glen, which is the most imposing spot in the whole compass of Etruscan cemeteries.4

p249

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PLAN OF NORCHIA AND ITS NECROPOLIS.
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A Castle of the middle ages, in ruins
B Church of the same period, d°
a Gateway with tombs
b Gateway, with ancient road cut in the rock
c Tomb perforating the rock, and resembling a natural bridge
d Tomb in the cliff, with a portico
e The Temple-tombs
f Sewer in the cliffs
g Fallen mass of cornice

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	Tombs with rock-hewn façades

The eye, as it ranges along the line of corniced sepulchres, singles out one of the most remote — one, whose prominent and decorated pediment gives it, even at a distance, an unique character. We knew this must be the much-talked‑of tomb, and hastened towards it. In our way we passed huge masses of rock-cornice, split from the cliffs above, and lying low in the valley. We found what looked like one tomb at a distance, was in fact a double tomb, or rather a tomb and a half, seeing that the half of one of the pediments has fallen. The peculiarity consists in this — that while all the sepulchres around are of the severely simple style of Castel d'Asso, approximating to the Egyptian, these two are highly ornate, and of Greek character. Instead of the bold horizontal cornices p248which surmount the other tombs, here are pediments and Doric friezes, supported on columns; and, what is to be seen on the exterior of very few other Etruscan monuments, the tympana are occupied with figures in high relief. The inner wall of the portico is also adorned with bas-reliefs, at least under the remaining half of the mutilated façade.

Our first impression was the modern date of this double tomb, compared with those of archaic character around; and then we were naturally led to speculate on its origin. Who had made this his last resting-place? Was it some merchant-prince of Etruria, who had grown wealthy by commerce — or, it might be, by piracy — and who, not content with the simple sepulchres of his forefathers, obtruded among them one on the model of some temple he had seen and admired in his wanderings through Greece or Asia Minor? Was it a hero, renowned in Etruscan annals — some conqueror of Umbrians and Pelasgians — some successful opposer of that restless, quarrelsome city, that upstart bully of the Seven Hills? There, in each pediment, were figures engaged in combat — some overthrown and prostrate — others sinking to their knees, and covering their heads with their shields — one rushing forward to the assault, sword in hand — another raising a wounded warrior. All this, however, may have been the ornament of the temple from which this double-tomb was copied; or it may have had a symbolical meaning. Yet that he had been a warrior seemed certain, for in the relief within the portico were shield, mace, and sword suspended against the wall, as if to intimate that he had fought his last fight;5 and beneath was a long funeral procession. p250Could he have been a Greek, who, flying from his native land, like Demaratus of Corinth, became great and powerful in this the home of his adoption, yet with fond yearnings after his native soil, raised himself a sepulchre after the fashion of his kindred, that, though separated from them in life, he might in some sort be united with them in death? No — he must have been an Etruscan in blood and creed; for this same procession shows certain peculiarities of the Etruscan mythology — the winged genius of Death, with three other figures in long robes, bearing twisted rods — those mysterious symbols of the Etruscan Hades — conducting the souls of two warriors with funeral pomp, just as in the Typhon-tomb at Corneto.

I have spoken of columns. None are now standing,6 but it is evident that the heavy projecting entablatures have been so supported — that of the entire tomb by four, traces of whose capitals and bases are very distinct — that of the broken one, whether by four or six it is difficult to say; more probably the latter. In neither case do they seem to have been more than plain square pillars — antae, in fact; the inner ones similar to those at the angles of the pronaos. They were all left in the rock out of which the façades are hewn, and the softness and friability of the tufo accounts for their destruction.

The entablatures at a distance seem Doric, but a nearer approach discloses peculiar features. The pediments p251terminate on each side in a volute,7 within which is a grim, grinning face with prominent teeth, a Gorgon's head, a common sepulchral decoration among the Etruscans, who viewed it as the symbol of Hades, and of its king Mantus. Over two of the three remaining volutes is something, which from below seems a shapeless mass of rock, but on closer examination proves to be a lioness — specimens of the acroteria, with which the ancients were wont to decorate their temples.8 Other peculiarities may be observed in the guttae, the triglyphs, the dentilled cornice above them, and the ornamented fascia of the pediment — all, so many Etruscan corruptions of the pure Greek style.9

The tomb whose façade is entire, is more ancient than its fellow, as is proved by the bas-relief in the portico of the latter encroaching considerably on the wall of the former. Yet with some trifling exceptions they exactly correspond.10 Indeed the sculptures in the two pediments are by some considered as relating to the same subject; what that may be, however, from the dilapidated state of the figures, it is not easy to decide. One has conjectured it to represent the contest for the body of Patroclus;11 p252another the destruction of Niobe's children;12 one has seen in it an interment,13 or games of chance, and the gladiatorial combats which the Etruscans held at their funerals,14 while a fourth, without pronouncing a definite opinion upon it, is induced by the analogy of the style to regard it as the representation of some Greek myth.15 The broken half of the pediment is not wanting to clear up the mystery — for it was discovered, half buried in the earth below, with the figures in excellent preservation, and was removed to Viterbo, where it is still to be seen in the possession of Signor Giosafat Bazzichelli, who is willing to dispose of it.16 Whatever be the subject of these sculptures, they have not the archaic Etrurian character displayed in the bas-relief beneath the portico.

The surface of this rocky wall is so much injured, that doubt must forever hang over certain parts of this relief. Thus much is clear and unequivocal — that there is first a large, circular, convex shield,17 like the aspis of the Greeks, p253and then a mace, both suspended against the wall. Next is a figure, now almost effaced, which from its large open wings must be that of a genius.18 Over this is a plumed helmet, either suspended, or worn by a figure behind the genius, and not now distinguishable.19 Another figure seems to have followed, and above it hangs by a cord a short curved sword; a second helmet succeeds, which seems to be worn by a figure; then a straight sword suspended; and three draped figures, about the size of life,20 each bearing one of the mysterious twisted rods, close the procession.21 p254What may have been represented in the former half of the relief, now utterly destroyed, it is vain to conjecture. It is clear that the ground of the whole has been originally painted red, and traces of the same colour, and of yellow, may be observed here and there about the figures; and from the same on the fallen half of the pediment, it is certain that the reliefs of both tympana and the portico — and probable that the architectural portion of the tombs also — were thus decorated. This is one among numerous proofs in tombs, sarcophagi, and urns, that the Etruscans, like the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, had a polychrome system of decorating their architecture and sculpture.

Various are the opinions of archaeologists as to the date of these monuments. All are agreed on one point, that both the architecture and sculpture are decided imitations of the Greek. They have been considered as early as Demaratus, the father of Tarquinius Priscus,22 to whose time belongs the first historical mention of the influence of Greek over Etruscan art; but the spirit and freedom of the sculptures in the pediments, certainly do not indicate a very early age; while the archaic stiffness and quaintness of the three figures which close the procession in the portico — evidently of subsequent execution — serve to show that art had not entirely thrown aside the conventional trammels of an earlier period. I think then we shall not be far from the truth in pronouncing them to belong to the the fourth or fifth century of Rome.23

p255 There are no moulded doors in the façades of these tombs, as in those adjoining and at Castel d'Asso; but the resemblance to temples is sufficiently obvious. The analogy is strengthened by a depression in the stylobate of the unbroken tomb, which seems to indicate the steps leading up to the portico. In the porticoes being Araeostyle, or having very wide intercolumniations, and in some minor particulars, these monuments may illustrate the temple of the Tuscan order, described by Vitruvius;24 but in most points the façades have more of a Greek character.25 Of the proportions and adornments of the columns nothing can now be said.

The external magnificence of these temple-tombs raises anticipations of a corresponding degree of adornment within. But these are soon destroyed. The tombs, which are entered as usual by narrow, steeply-descending passages, are like the plainest at Castel d'Asso — large chambers rudely hollowed in the rock, utterly devoid of ornament, and containing a double row of sarcophagi sunk in the tufo, with an economisation of space which quite dispels the notion of their being the burial-places, each of an illustrious hero or Lucumo. They are, in fact, like most of those around them, family sepulchres.

p256 Let not the traveller suppose that in these tombs he has seen all the wonders of Norchia. The glen in which are temple-tombs opens to the west on a wide area where four glens meet. Immediately opposite, as you emerge on this space, are a few fine detached tombs, almost at the foot of the cliffs. To the left, on a tongue of land which projects into the hollow between two other ravines, stands the ruined and picturesque church of Norchia, marking the site of the Etruscan town. The glen to the west of this contains very few tombs, but that on the opposite side abounds in them, especially in the cliffs facing the town, where they rise in terraces or stand in picturesque groups, half hidden by wild luxuriant foliage. A few may also be seen on the opposite side of the stream in the cliffs which are terminated by the ancient town. Altogether the monuments in this glen are very numerous — twice as many as are to be found at Castel d'Asso, and more interesting from their variety; for though in general character they resemble the tombs of that necropolis, in their details they are often dissimilar, and differ also more widely from each other.


[image ALT: Cross-sections of three complex moldings found in Etruscan tombs at Norchia, in Viterbo province (Lazio, central Italy).]
MOULDINGS OF TOMBS AT NORCHIA.26
It may suffice p257to state that the variations are observable rather in the mouldings and façades than in the open chambers or the tombs beneath. No other example is there of a temple-tomb at Norchia; yet high above the detached monuments in the open area just mentioned, is a portico recessed in the cliff. It is scarcely intelligible from below, and is rather difficult of access. It is composed of three recesses, separated by prominent pilasters rounded in front like half-columns, and having curious fluted capitals. Each recess is stuccoed, and seems to have been coloured. It is obvious that this elevated portico was not a mere tomb-stone, like the monuments around, but a sepulchre itself, each recess serving as a niche for the deposit of a sarcophagus.27 It bears a strong analogy to some Greek tombs in the island of Thera, recessed in the cliffs in a similar manner.28

The tombs at Norchia are more numerous than at Castel d'Asso. There must be at least fifty or sixty with distinct sculptured façades, besides many others in ruin. I sought in vain for one described by Orioli29 as having a trapezium cut in the rock above its façade, in all probability to represent the roof to that sort of cavaedium which Vitruvius terms displuviatum.30 Nor could I find another, said by the same antiquary to have a sphinx in prominent relief on each of the side-walls of the façade.31 It is singular that not a single instance of an Etruscan inscription has been found in this necropolis. Excavations were once commenced on this site, by Signor Desiderio of Rome, p258but nothing of value being brought to light, they were soon discontinued.

The Etruscan town of which these tombs formed the necropolis, occupied the site of the ruined church of Norchia. Its position on a sharp point of land at the junction of two glens, and in relation to the tombs around, would alone tend to indicate this. But there are also remains of the ancient gateways cut through the cliffs; though no vestiges of Etruscan walls are visible — all the ruins on the height belonging to the middle ages. The size of the ancient town was very small, scarcely larger than that at Castel d'Asso, though the number and magnificence of its sepulchres would seem to indicate a place of some importance. Its name is involved in obscurity. We know that in the ninth century it was called Orcle;32 but that such was its original appellation it is impossible to determine, as no mention is made of it by ancient writers.33 p259In its present state of utter desolation, it has charms as much for the artist as for the antiquary. Who that has visited this spot can forget the ruined church of Lombard architecture, wasting its simple beauty on the stupid gaze of the shepherd, the only frequenter of these wilds? Who that has an eye for the picturesque, can forget the tall cliffs on which it stands — here, perforated so as to form a bridge,34 there, dislocated, and cleft to their very base, — the rich red and grey tufo half-mantled with the evergreen foliage of cork, ilex, and ivy? Who can forget the deep glens around, ever wrapt in gloom, where the stillness is broken only by the murmurs of the stream, or by the shriek of the falcon — solitudes teeming with solemn memorials of a past, mysterious race — with pompous monuments mocking their very purpose; for, raised to perpetuate the memory of the dead, they still stand, while their inmates have for ages been forgotten? He who has visited it must admit, that though nameless and unchronicled, there are few sites in Etruria so interesting as this — none which more imperatively demand the attention of the antiquarian. Every visit has confirmed my conviction, that he who has seen Castel d'Asso only, can form little conception of the more varied and extensive monuments of Norchia.


The Author's Notes:

1 These baths have been supposed the Aquae Passeris of antiquity (Westphal, Ann. Inst. 1830, p19), but it has been shown that Bacucco, between Viterbo and Montefiascone, puts in superior claims to that honour.

2 Cluver. Ital. Ant. II. p561.

3 Dempster (Etrur. Reg. II. p161) conjectures that the Arsian Wood, where a great battle was fought between the first Consuls of Rome and the banished Tarquins at the head of an Etruscan force, was in the neighbourhood of Vetralla; but this is an error, for Livy expressly states it was in the Roman territory (II.6, 7), and it was not till long after the Tarquins that the Romans achieved the passage of the Ciminian.

4 It is said by Lenoir, (Annali dell' Instit. 1832, p291), that the slope from the base of the tombs down to the banks of the stream was cut into steps, about two feet and a half high. I did not perceive any traces of them; but if they existed they must have greatly increased the resemblance of the glen to an amphitheatre.

5 It was the custom of the Greeks and Romans, on retiring from active life, to dedicate to the gods the instruments of their craft or profession. Thus Horace (Od. III.26) proposed to suspend his arms and lyre on the wall of the temple of Venus. The temple-form of this tomb is suggestive of such an expedition; though, on the other hand, it was not uncommon to indicate on the sepulchre itself the profession of the deceased by the representation of his implements or tools, or by scenes descriptive of his mode of life. A well-known but curious instance of this is seen in the baker's tomb at the Porta Maggiore of Rome, and another in the cutler's monument in the Galleria Lapidaria of the Vatican. Another, more analogous to this Norchian sepulchre, is seen on a vase, described by Millingen (Peintures de Vases Grecs, pl. XIX), where within an aedicula or shrine stands the figure of the deceased, with his shield and greaves suspended above his head.

6 The pillar at the right-hand angle of the entire tomb was standing when Orioli first visited these monuments. Ann. Inst. 1833, p36.

7 The pediments to these tombs prove them to be imitations of temples, or of very distinguished houses — if we may judge from the analogy of the Romans, among whom pediments were such marks of dignity, that Cicero says (de Orat. III.46) if you could build in heaven, where you have no showers to fear, yet you would never seem to have attained dignity without a pediment. Julius Caesar, as a great mark of distinction, was allowed a pediment to his house. Flor. IV.2; cf. Cic. Phil. II.43.

8 Lions were symbolic guardians of sepulchres; and as such are often found at the entrances of tombs, or painted within them over the doorway — and are sometimes found in a similar position as acroteria to porticos, as in a temple-like sarcophagus of Chiusi, which bears a bas-relief of a death-bed scene. Micali, Mon. Ined. tav. XXII. See chap. II of this work, page 49.

9 The guttae are inverted, having the points downwards, and they are only three in number. The triglyphs are without the half-channels on their outer edges, as prescribed by Vitruvius (IV.3. 5), and are therefore more properly diglyphs.

10 The pediment is rather higher in the older tomb. This has no guttae like the other. The portico is loftier in the imperfect monument.

11 Gerhard, Bull. dell' Inst. 1831, p84.

12 Abeken, Bull. dell' Inst. 1839, p42.

13 Orioli ap. Inghir. Mon. Etr., IV., p205. He afterwards adopted Professor Gerhard's suggestion, that it may represent a simple combat without reference to any particular myth or individuals. Ann. Inst. 1833, p53.

14 Orioli, Annal. dell' Inst. 1833, pp5, 55. Abeken, loc. cit.

15 Urlichs, Bull. Inst. 1839, p45. The attitudes of the figures alone — and in some cases not even this — are distinguishable. All the details which would give character and meaning are effaced.

16 A plate of it, with the rest of the relief, is given in the Mon. Ined. Inst. I. tav. XLVIII.

17 Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1833, p38) thinks there was originally a boss of metal in the centre of the shield, but there are no longer any traces of such an ornament. In the rock-hewn temple-tombs of Phrygia, bossed shields are found in the architraves or pediments. See Steuart's Lydia and Phrygia. Those represented on Etruscan monuments have very seldom a boss, and are a perfect circle, like the Argolic shields and the ἀσπίδες εὐκύκλοι of the Homeric heroes; and that such was the form of the Etruscan shield we learn from Diodorus (Eclog. lib. XXIII.3), who says the Romans at first used a square shield, but exchanged it for the aspis of the Etruscans. Similar shields are found also sculptured on tombs in Pamphylia, as well as on city-walls. See Fellows' Asia Minor, pp175, 192, where Ezek. xxvii. 11, is cited in illustration. They were also suspended by the Greeks in their sepulchres; as in the pyramid between Argos and Epidaurus, described by Pausanias (II.25). From the frequency of them painted or sculptured in the tombs of Cervetri, they seem to have had a votive meaning among the Etruscans, as well as among the Greeks and Romans. The latter people used to emblazon them with the portraits of their ancestors or with their heroic deeds. If we may believe Pliny (XXXV.3), Appius Claudius, consul in the year of Rome 259 (B.C. 495), was the first to dedicate shields so emblazoned.

18 The existence of such a figure has been denied, (Urlichs, Bull. dell' Inst. 1839, p45); but one wing is most distinct. There is a corresponding arched ridge where the other wing ought to be. Orioli (Ann. dell' Inst. 1833, p53) thinks it represents Venus Libitina, the goddess who presided over funerals. It is certainly a female, for the prominence of the bosom is still evident. I could perceive no traces of an ugly-faced demon, such as Dr. Urlichs fancied he discovered, and which "bears a most manifest resemblance to the Charon of the Etruscans."

19 Orioli (loc. cit., p38) says the two helmets are suspended.

20 It is probable that these draped figures are intended for souls. Similar curved swords are represented on several Etruscan monuments — e.g. the Grotta Querciola at Corneto. A curved steel sword, with the sharp edge on the inner side, as in a scythe, found in an Etruscan tomb, is in the possession of Cav. Campana of Rome.

21 Such rods as these have been found represented on only one other Etruscan monument, the Typhon-tomb of Tarquinii, and are there borne in a procession very similar to this. Their precise meaning is unknown. Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1834, p161) suggests that they may be either funalia, links used at funerals, made of papyrus or rope twisted and covered with wax or pitch, (Virg. Aen. I.731; Serv. in loco), and which the Greeks called scolaces (Isidor. Orig. XX.10); or that may have an affinity to the sacred and golden bough — fatalis virga — torn from the grove of Proserpine, and borne by Aeneas into hell as a gift to that goddess. Virg. Aen. VI.136 et seq.; 406 et seq.; 636 et seq.; Ovid. Met. XIV.114 et seq. Perhaps what Servius (ad Aen. VI.136) says of the mystic Pythagorean meaning in the letter Υ, which figures the course of human life, and of its relation to a forked bough, may bear on the twisted rods of this monument. Urlichs (Bull. Inst. 1839, p45) suggests that they may be magisterial rods. It is possible they are emblems of supplication; as Orestes sat at the altar with a topmost branch of olive wound round with much wool. Aeschyl. Eumen. 43.

22 Lenoir, Ann. Inst. 1832, p294.

23 This is the opinion held by Orioli, the first describer of these monuments (ap. Inghir. Mon. Etrus. IV.p207). Gerhard sees no rigidity in the reliefs of the pediments such as might be expected in the midst of others of so very ancient a character; and thinks the design shows rather the decadence than infancy of art; yet seems to consider them as prior to the Roman conquest of Etruria (Bull. dell' Inst. 1831, pp84, 89). Dr. Urlichs views them as of a subsequent period (Bull. dell' Inst. 1839, p45). Their similarity to the reliefs of the sarcophagi and urns is noticed by several writers.

24 Vitruv. IV. cap. 7 cf. III.3. Lenoir (Ann. Inst. 1832, p290) points out the correspondence of these façades with the Araeostyle temples of the Etruscans — barycae,º barycephalae, humiles, latae. When I speak, in the text, of the resemblance to temples, I refer to the apparent character of these tombs, for it is possible that they are imitations of mere houses; seeing that the Etruscans are known to have had porticoes to their abodes, which they so constructed to free themselves from the confusion and annoyance of crowds of attendants. Diod. Sic. V p316.

25 The Cavaliere del Rosso is said to have proved that the dimensions of these tombs are on the scale of the Greek cubit. Ann. Inst. 1833, p56. Their general dimensions may be learned from the woodcut at p243, by the figures under the portico, which are nearly the size of life; but to be more explicit, — the length of the broken façade is 15 ft. 6 in., of the entire one, 25 ft. 6 in. The portico is about 9 ft. high, and projects 4 ft. The height of the entablature is 8 ft. 6 in., and of the entire façade, 17 ft. 6 in., exclusive of the stylobate, which averages about 5 ft. in height.

26 The mouldings of Fig. 1 are most common at this site. Those of Figs. 2 and 3 are varieties. Those also most common at Castel d'Asso (see Figs. 1 and 2 in the wood-cut at page 241) are to be found at Norchia, but less frequently.

27 This view is confirmed by the size of the recesses, 7 ft. wide, and 2½ deep. The shafts of the pilasters are about 2 ft. thick, and their capitals are 1 ft. 5 in. in height.

28 Mon. Ined. Inst. III. tav. 25, 3. Ann. Inst. 1841, p17 — Ross.

29 Ap. Inghir. Mon. Etrus. IV.p199, tav. XLII.2. Ann. Inst. 1833, p30.

30 Vitruv. VI.3.

31 Annali dell' Inst. 1833, p29. So also Lenoir (Ann. Inst. 1832, p295), who speaks of but one, a colossal sphinx, cut in the rock among the tombs.

32 In an epistle of Leo IV, "to the good man the Bishop of Toscanella," given by Orioli (Annali dell' Inst. 1833, p20), which, singularly enough, mentions the "petra ficta" without the city — most probably referring to the temple-tombs. In the same letter are also mentioned "cava scamerata" and "cava caprilis" — i.e. a cave with chambers, and one where goats are kept.

33 Orioli (loc. cit. p22) is of opinion that it is identical with Nyrtia, mentioned by the ancient scholiast on Juvenal (X.74) as a town, the birth-place of Sejanus, giving its name to or deriving it from the goddess Nurtia or Fortuna, spoken of by the Satirist in the text. Abeken (Mittelital. pp35, 255) follows this opinion. But seeing that it was called Orcle as early as the ninth century, it is quite as probable that it derived its name from Hercules, who was worshipped by the Etruscans as Ercle — just as Minerva gave her name to Athens, and Neptune his to Posidonia or Paestum. Orioli also suggests it may be from Orcus, as Mantua was so called from Mantus. Possibly it may be derived from no deity, but have some relation to the name Orchius, which we find in the time of the Roman Republic — a tribune of that name, in the year 573, having proposed a sumptuary law — from him called "Lex Orchia" — to regulate the number of guests at banquets. Macrob. Saturn. III.17.º Festus, v. Obsonitavere and Percunctatum.

Orcle was partly deserted in early times on account of the unhealthiness of the site, and the emigrants removed to Vitorchiano (Vicus Orclanus), whither in 1435, under the pontificate of Eugene IV, the rest of the inhabitants removed, and the town was destroyed. Orioli, Ann. Instit. 1833, p21

Orioli lays claim to the discovery of this site — and he may have been the first who made known its monuments — but it was indicated as Etruscan a century before his time by Mariani (De Etrur. Metrop. p46, compare his map), who speaks of "Horchia. Sic appellabatur dea Etruscorum ibi culta. Norchiam nunc dicunt, ut Nannium pro Annio, Nannam pro Anna."

34 The bridge is formed by the inner wall of a tomb having been broken through, where the ridge of cliff is very narrow. Orioli (Ann. Inst. 1833, p20) says there is an ancient Roman bridge of regular masonry, over the Biedano, below the town; but I did not perceive it. He also mentions a road cut in the rock, and called the "Cava Buja," on whose wall is carved this inscription:—

C. CLODIVS
THALPIVS
S. P. XXXX.

which he confesses he did not himself see. The only instance of a rock-hewn road is near the natural bridge, and it is now choked with fallen masses of rock.


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