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Bill Thayer

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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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 p260  Chapter XVII


Some things in it you may meet with, which are out of the common road; a Duke there is, and the scene lies in Italy.

— Beaumont and Fletcher.

Another Etruscan site of great interest, but very little known, is Bieda, a village five or six miles south-west of Vetralla. It is the representative of the ancient town of Blera, of which its name is an Italian corruption.​1 Blera could not have been a place of importance, under either Etruscans or Romans. Not once is it mentioned by ancient historians, and its name only occurs in the catalogues of geographers.​2 We know that it was a small town at the commencement of the Empire;​3 that it was on the Via Clodia, between the Forum Clodii and Tuscania;​4 and there ends our knowledge of it from ancient sources. That it had an existence in Etruscan times, we learn, not from the pages of history, but from the infallible records of its extant monuments.

Bieda is best visited from Vetralla. The road for the first two miles is the highway to Corneto and Civita  p261 Vecchia. We then turned off to the left, crossed some downs by a mere bridle-path, forded a stream in the wild, deep hollow, and reached the brow of a hill, whence the village of Bieda came into view, crowning an opposite height. The scenery here was very romantic. The height of Bieda was lofty and precipitous, and as usual was a tongue of rock at the junction of two glens, which separated it from the corresponding heights of equal abruptness. These glens, or ravines, were well clothed with wood, now rich with the tints of autumn. Wood also climbed the steep cliffs — struggled for a footing among the wild masses of tufo split from their brow, and crowned in triumph the surface of the platforms above.

On descending the rocky slope, we found ourselves in the Etruscan necropolis. The slope was broken into many ledges, and the cliffs thus formed were full of caverns — sepulchre after sepulchre above, beneath, around us — some simply hollowed in the rock and entered by Egyptian door-ways, some mere niches, and others adorned with architectural façades; from the banks of the stream to the brow of the height the whole face of the hill was thus burrowed.

I had been struck at Castel d'Asso with the street-like arrangement of the tombs, at Norchia with their house-like character; but I had been unwilling to consider those features as other than accidental, and had ascribed them to the natural peculiarities of the ground. But here, I felt convinced that they were intentional, and that this assemblage of sepulchres was literally a necropolis — a city of the dead.

Here were rows of tombs, side by side, hollowed in the cliff, each with its gaping door-way; here they were in terraces, one above the other, united by flights of steps carved out of the rock; here were masses split from the  p262 precipice above, and hewn into tombs, standing out like isolated abodes — shaped, too, into the very forms of houses, with sloping roofs culminating to an apex, overhanging eaves at the gable, and a massive central beam to support the rafters. The angle of the roof, I observed, was that still usual in Italian buildings — that angle, which being just sufficient to carry off the rain, is naturally suggested in a climate where snow rarely lies a day. I have spoken only of the exterior of the tombs. On entering any one of them, the resemblance was no less striking. The broad beam carved in relief along the ceiling — the rafters, also in relief, resting on it and sinking gently on either side — the inner chamber in many, lighted by a window on each side of the door in the partition-wall, all three of the same Egyptian form — the triclinial arrangement of the rock-sarcophagi, as though the dead, as represented on their sarcophagi, were wont to recline at a banquet — these things were enough to convince me that in their sepulchres the Etruscans, in many respects, imitated their habitations, and sought to make their cemeteries as far as possible the counterparts of the cities on the opposite heights.

The cliff-bound height of Bieda at its termination is sharp as a wedge. On it stood the ancient town as well as the modern village, but they did not occupy precisely the same site; the former from the fragments of ancient wall at the verge of the precipice on both sides the height, seems to have extended to the very tip of the tongue of land; while the latter is removed almost a mile further back.

At the point of junction of the two ravines, where the streams from each also meet, is an ancient bridge, of one wide arch, based on the rocky banks of the stream, and approached by a gradually ascending causeway of masonry, which, as well as the bridge, is of tufo cut from the cliffs  p263 around.​5 The parapets have been overturned, probably by the large shrubs which flank it, insinuating their roots among the uncemented masonry, and threatening ultimately to destroy the whole structure. It is singular that the only means of approach to Bieda from this side is by this ancient bridge, which was probably on the Via Clodia.

From this point there seem to have been anciently two roads to the town — one leading directly up to the summit of the wedge-shaped table-land, the other still in use, running beneath the cliff to the right, and sunk deep in the tufo rock. The walls between which it passes are hollowed out for the reception of the dead, not, as at Veii, in square or upright niches, which could hold only an urn or vase, but in low-arched recesses, as at Falleri, of sufficient length to contain a body, with a deep hollow for it to lie in, and a groove around it for a lid of stone or terra-cotta, apparently serving also to carry off the water which might trickle from the ground above; just as in the rock-hewn niches of Syracuse. Moreover, there are not wanting sepulchral chambers hollowed in these cliffs, nor the water-channel formed in the rock on one side to keep the road dry and clean, and free from deposits from the cliff above.

The road to Bieda creeps beneath the cliffs of the ancient town, which are honey-combed with sepulchral caverns, broken and blackened with smoke. Here and there among them tall upright openings in the cliff show the mouths of ancient sewers, and at intervals are fragments of the ancient wall along the verge of the cliff; in one spot filling a natural gap, as at Civita Castellana. The masonry  p264 is of rectangular blocks of tufo, of the size and arrangement which I have described under the name of emplecton. The ancient town certainly occupied part, perhaps the whole, of the modern village. It must have been very long and narrow, since the height on which it stood forms but a ridge — a mere spine-bone — between the parallel glens.

Bieda, like every town and village off the main roads throughout the Roman State, is a wretched place,​a "in linked squalor long drawn out," with no osteria where the traveller, who values comfort, could venture to pass the night. There is but one respectable house, and here we were stopped by the Count of S. Giorgio, who stood at the door waiting to receive us. He apologised for delaying us; but said that the presence of strangers was of so rare occurrence in this secluded village, that he could not allow us to pass without inquiring if he could be of service to us. We learned that he was from Turin, but having bought some estates in this part of Italy, he had acquired therewith the title of Duke of Bieda, the honour of magistracy, and almost feudal dominion over the inhabitants of this village and its territory. The purchase could only be effected on these terms, and on the condition of his residing six months in the year on this spot, which he regarded as a veritable exile from civilised society. He pointed out a ruin opposite, as once the palace of the Counts of Anguillara, the old feudal lords of Bieda, who, among other barbarous privileges, claimed that of forestalling every bridegroom in their domain — by insisting on which the last of these fine old Roman gentlemen, three centuries since, fell a victim to popular fury, and his mansion was destroyed. Yet much of the power of its feudal chiefs has descended to the present lord of Bieda, who told us he was almost absolute; that his will was law; that he had power over the  p265 lives and properties of his tenants, being supreme judge of both civil and criminal causes — in a country, be it remembered, where trial by jury is unknown. His rule, however, seemed based on love, rather than on fear — more akin to that of the chief of a clan than to feudal seignory, on the one hand, or to the authority of an English squire over his tenantry, on the other.

The Count courteously proposed to act as our cicerone to the antiquities of the neighbourhood, and mounted his steed to accompany us.

Our first object was an ancient bridge of three arches, which lay in the ravine to the west of the town. The Count led the way down the descent, through a narrow cleft, sunk some about twenty feet in the tufo, with a channel or furrow in the middle, so deep and narrow that the horses could scarcely put one foot before the other, yet we were obliged to adhere to the Horatian maxim, in medio tutissimus, lest our legs should be crushed against the walls of rock.

On emerging from this cleft, the triple-arched bridge stood before us. The central arch was a true semi-circle, thirty feet in span; the side arches were only ten feet wide, and stilted. All were formed of rusticated blocks, with edges so sharp and fresh that it was difficult to believe it the work of two hundred years since, much less of two thousand; but the first step I set on the bridge convinced me of its high antiquity. The central arch has been split throughout its entire length, probably by an earthquake; the blocks, being uncemented, have been much dislocated, but few have fallen. It is clear that this split occurred at an early period; for in crossing the bridge, passengers have been obliged to step clear of the gaps, which in some parts yawn from one to two feet wide, and, by treading in each other's footsteps, have worn  p266 holes far deeper than pious knees have done in the steps at A'Becket's shrine, or in the Santa Scala at Rome. They have worn a hollow pathway almost through the thick masses of rock; in some spots entirely through — a perpendicular depth of more than three feet.6

From the superior neatness of its masonry, I have no hesitation in assigning to this bridge a later date than to that on the other side of Bieda. That being of similar masonry to the town-walls, may well be of Etruscan construction. This is probably as late as the Roman domination in Etruria, yet is in the Etruscan style, and may be by Etruscan architects, like other public works in Rome and her territories, raised in the earlier ages of the City, in consequence of the system she adopted of supplying her own deficiencies in the useful and ornamental arts by the superior skill of her neighbours. It must be remembered that this part of Etruria was not conquered before the fifth century of Rome; yet the Etruscans must previously have had bridges over these streams; and that they could raise perfect arches in much earlier times the Cloaca Maxima remains to attest. These bridges have an air of greater antiquity than the two at Veii, which have been accounted Etruscan. It is probable that both were on the line of the Via Clodia, which passed through Blera on its way to Tuscania.

The Count declared that the bridge was an enigma, as none could perceive by what road it had anciently communicated  p267 with the town — the cleft by which we had descended not being deemed of sufficient antiquity. But to me it was plain as the cliffs that rose around me, that this very cleft had formed the ancient approach to Bieda from this side; for I had observed, almost throughout its length, traces of the water-channels recessed at the foot of its rocky walls, just above the original level of the road; and it was no less clear that the deep and narrow furrow along which we had steered with so much difficulty, had been worn by the feet of beasts through many ages, as from the narrowness of the road they had been constrained always to keep in the middle.

The scenery in the hollow is very fine. Just beyond the bridge the glen again forks and the cliffs rise to a vast height. I do not recollect a site in the volcanic district of Etruria, save Sorano in Tuscany, where the chasms are more profound, and the scenery more grand, than around Bieda.

Close to the bridge is a large cave, the cliff above which was pitted with bullet marks, which were explained by the Count:— "Every tenant of mine on returning home from the wild-boar chase, if successful, discharges his piece against this rock, I, or my minister, answer the summons by appearing on the top of the cliff and claiming the boar's thigh as my right."

Between these ancient bridges, and just below the town is a modern bridge, overhung by a ruined tower of the middle ages, and in the opposite steep is another artificial cleft in the rock — another Etruscan roadway. From this height the whole face of the slope below Bieda is seen honeycombed with caves, originally sepulchres, extending in terraces and scattered groups down to the banks of the stream. It is a very warren of tombs, used by the Biedani as hog-sties, cattle-stalls, or wine-cellars. The application  p268 to the former purposes is a very profanation, but of the latter change who shall complain? Surely it is —

"Better to hold the sparkling grape
Than nurse the earthworm's slimy brood."

At the top of the ascent we were in an undulating plain, apparently an unbroken level, with the village of Bieda in the midst. The Count pointed out the extent of his domain, which was far too large for the limited number of his tenantry. At the close of every year he assembles his vassals, as they may be called, and having determined what part of his estate to be cultivated, and having partitioned it into lots, he makes them draw for the several portions. He takes a share of the produce in lieu of rent.

On our return to the village we visited the church, in front of which stood a Roman sarcophagus with a good bas-relief, found in the neighbourhood. We were not a little surprised to see in this secluded place a genuine altar-piece of Annibale Caracciº — the Scourging of Christ. At the Count's mansion we found a handsome repast spread for us, and refusing his pressing invitation to stay the night, we groped our way in the dark to Vetralla — thus closing one of the most agreeable days of our Etruscan travel.

This was not our only visit to Bieda. We spent several days in exploring its glens, avoiding the Count's hospitality, which, however gratifying as a proof of native kindliness not often met with in Italy, would have greatly interfered with the objects we had in view in visiting the place.

[image ALT: Cross-sections of three complex moldings found in Etruscan tombs at Blera, in Viterbo province (Lazio, central Italy).]
Bieda is a site which deserves much more attention than it has yet received from antiquaries. In no Etruscan necropolis are the tombs hollowed in the face of cliffs more numerous. The glens on every side of the town abound in them, and they face every point of the compass, though here, as elsewhere, few have a northern or eastern  p269 aspect. On this account, the cliffs on the western side of the town, even under the very walls, are honey-combed with tombs, while scarcely one is to be seen on the opposite side of the glen, or in the cliffs beneath the town on the east. For variety of character the tombs of Bieda are particularly interesting. At Castel d'Asso there is much monotony; even at Norchia, with a few striking exceptions, one prevailing fashion is maintained throughout. But Bieda, without any marked peculiarities of its own, seems to unite those of many other necropoleis. Here we find tombs with architectural façades, like those of Castel d'Asso and Norchia, but in general differently moulded, and in a simpler and severer style. Here are many, as at Civita Castellana and Sutri, having a mere door-way, without any inscription or external decoration. Here are the body-niches of the same two cemeteries — the columbarium-tombs of Toscanella and Bolsena, and even something like the curious cliff-columbarium of Veii — the house-like tombs of Sovana; and certain rock-hewn isolated monuments, square or conical, of a character rarely seen elsewhere. In one instance is a bench cut out of the rock in front of a tomb — a practical "Siste viator!" which I have observed also on other sites.

[image ALT: An engraving of a blind door composed defined by a simple rectangular molding. It is the façade of an Etruscan tomb at Blera in the Latium (central Italy).]
In cornices there is a great variety at Bieda. One struck me as very peculiar; it had no rounded mouldings, but three distinct fasciae, retreating one above the other, and though  p270 not ornamental, its simplicity and massiveness made it very imposing. It is shown above, in fig. 3. The moulded door, which frequently occurs on the façades, is in no instance like those of Castel d'Asso and Norchia, but invariably as in the annexed woodcut. In most instances this is a mere moulding, or pseudo-door; in others, a real one; in others again it forms a framework to a small niche, which must have contained an urn or vase, probably with the ashes of the deceased.

These door-mouldings are very common in Etruria. On some sites, Cervetri, Toscanella, Vulci, and Chiusi, for instance, they are found, not on the face of cliffs as here, but on the entrances to sepulchres, many feet below the surface; and sometimes within the tombs themselves. They are also often found on cinerary urns, of house or temple shape. The form is very like Doric, particularly as it is seen at Bieda; it is found also in Greek monuments of Italy and Sicily,​7 but whether of Greek or Etruscan origin, is not easy to determine. Whether it be the representation of the ordinary door, or a mere sepulchral ornament, with or without a symbolical meaning, has been questioned. I have no doubt of the former, not only because it is found on urns and tombs which are evident representations of houses, but on account of the high  p271 probability that these rows and streets of sepulchres were designed to image forth the buildings in the city opposite.

Among the sepulchral varieties of Bieda, two claim particular notice. One of these, which lies in the glen to the east of the town, is a cone of rock, hewn into steps, or a series of circular bases, tapering upwards. Of these, four only now remain, and the cone is truncated, but whether this were its original form, it is not easy to say.​8 Like the conical tombs of Vulci and Tarquinii, it was probably surmounted by a sphinx, lion, pine-cone, or some other funereal emblem, or by a cippus. The rock around it is cut into a trench and rampart. Within the cone is the sepulchre, which is double-chambered, entered by a level passage — not lying beneath the surface as in the conical tombs of Tarquinii. There is a monument at Vulci very similar to this rock-hewn tumulus of Bieda.

[image ALT: missingALT]

The other tomb to which I have referred, retains some traces of colour on its walls — the only instance of this  p272 among the multitudinous sepulchres of Bieda. It is also remarkable for being supported in its centre by a column, with base, capital, and abacus, of simple character. Whatever figures may have been painted on its walls, are now obliterated; but ribands of various hues, and the Greek wave-ornament, can be distinguished through the soot from the shepherd's fires, which thickly coats the walls.

The tombs of Bieda present no great variety in their interiors. They are usually surrounded by benches of rock, about about two feet and a half from the ground; sometimes merely for the support of sarcophagi, but more frequently hollowed out for the reception of bodies. The fronts of these benches are adorned with pilasters, often in imitation of the legs of a banqueting-couch, which the bench itself is designed to resemble. The niches hollowed in the cliffs are usually for entire bodies, whence it may be inferred that the custom of burning the dead was not prevalent on this site. Double-chambered tombs are by no means rare, though no instances of many chambers did I perceive.

In one of our excursions to Bieda, we varied the route by passing through San Giovanni di Bieda, a wretched village two or three miles from the former place. It is utterly devoid of interest, with no antiquities in its neighbourhood.9

Bieda, it has been said, was on the Via Clodia, or Claudia. This Way parted from the Cassian a few miles from Rome, ran by Ad Careias, or Galera, to Sabate on the  p273 Lacus Sabatinus, and through Forum Clodii, Blera, and Tuscania to Cosa, where it fell into the Aurelian.​10 Sabate is not mentioned as an Etruscan town, but it was probably of this antiquity.​11 It is thought to have occupied a site near Bracciano, though no vestige of it is now extant.​12 The Forum Clodii is supposed to have been at Oriuolo, but no remains could I perceive there, beyond fragments of the ancient road. Between this and Bieda stands the ruined town or castle of Ischia, perhaps one of the Novem Pagi of antiquity, which are thought to have lain in this neighbourhood.13

The lake of Bracciano (Lacus Sabatinus), like every other in this district of Italy, is the crater of an extinct volcano. It is more than twenty miles in circuit, and though without islands, or other very striking features, is not deficient in beauty. I retain pleasurable reminiscences of a midsummer ramble on its shores. My path ran first over flats of corn,º then falling beneath the sickle — next it led through avenues of mulberries, whitening the ground with their showered fruit, while the whole strip of shore was covered  p274 with the richest tessellation of wheat, hemp, maize, flax, melons, artichokes, overshadowed by vines, olives, figs, and other fruit trees, intermingling with that "gracious prodigality of Nature," which almost dispenses with labour in these sunny climes — and then it passed wrecks of Roman luxury at Vicarello,​14 and climbed the heights above, where cultivation ceases, and those forest aristocrats, the oak, the beech, and the chestnut, hold undisputed sway. From this height the eye revels over the broad blue lake, the mirror of Italian heavens, —

"It was the azure time of June,
When the skies are deep in the stainless noon —"

reflecting also, on one shore, the cliff-perched towns of Anguillara and Bracciano — the latter conspicuous by the square, turretted mass of its feudal castle — and on the other, the crumbling tower of Trevignano,​15 backed by the green mountain-pyramid of Rocca Romana. But the glassy depths of the lake do not merely mirror remains of the olden time, for on its banks, it is said,

"— as the fisherman strays,

When the clear cold eve's declining,
He sees the round towers of other days,

In the wave beneath him shining."​16

The Author's Notes:

1 When l in Latin words follows a consonant, the Italians are wont to change it into i; as from clarus, planus, flamma, they make chiaro, piano, fiamma; and r is sometimes changed into d, as rarus into rado, porphyrites into porfido. Blera must have been called Phlera, or Phlere by the Etruscans, since they had no b in their language. Ann. Instit. 1833, p19; 1834, p180.

2 Strabo, V.p226, ed. Casaub.; Ptolem. Geog. p72, ed. Bertii; Plin. Nat. His. III.8.

3 Strabo classes it among the πολίχναι συχναὶ of Etruria.

Thayer's Note: V.2.9.

4 Tab. Peuting. See page 273.

5 In order to accommodate the masonry to the ascent of the road, a course of wedge-like form is introduced, which gives a slight rising towards the arch. Similar wedge courses I have observed in the walls of several Etruscan and Umbrian cities — Populonia, Fiesole, Perugia, Todi — and this feature is also to be seen in the substructions of the Appian Way, near Aricia.

6 The bridge is of tufo, usually soft, flaky or friable, but here of a peculiarly close, hard character, as is shown by the remarkable sharpness of the rustications. And it must be observed that for ages the bridge must have been impassable to beasts, for the same earthquake that split the arch caused the outer part of it on one side to fall; this, however, having been repaired during the middle ages, as the masonry attests, all further necessity of following the foot-worn track was obviated, yet the bridge was still scarcely practicable for beasts. It is evident that the hollow pathway has been worn wholly by human feet, and prior to the repairs of the bridge in the middle ages.

7 At Cefalù, the ancient Cephalaedium, in Sicily (vide Mon. Ined. dell' Inst. tom. I. tav. 29, and Ann. Inst. 1831, p270‑287, Dr. Nott), where it is found in connection with Cyclopean masonry, — and at Canosa, the ancient Canusium, in Apulia, in a tomb of four chambers in every respect extremely like the Etruscan, discovered in 1828. The architrave, however, is by no means so heavy in this as in the Etruscan tombs, but more like the Doric. This tomb is remarkable for having two false windows painted on one wall — on each side a doorway. Ann. Inst. 1832, p285‑9, and Mon. Ined. Inst. I. tav. XLIII. Real windows so situated are not uncommon in Etruscan tombs, and occur most frequently at Cervetri, Bieda, and Chiusi.

8 It has been suggested that sepulchres of this form may have been imitations of the funeral pyre. (Ann. Inst., 1832, p275.)

9 Gell has stated that there are tombs at this spot with genuine Etruscan mouldings, but it is evident that he had never visited it, since he places it "on the road between Vetralla and Viterbo" (Topography of Rome, I. p209), whereas it is three miles on the other side of Vetralla. The fact is that it is not a site which would have been chosen by the Etruscans for a town, as it stands on the verge of a wide plateau, far too extensive to have been included within walls.

10 The Peutingerian Table gives the stations on this road as follows:—

Ad Sextum VI
Carcias VIIII
Ad Nonas VIIII
Sabate XII
Foro Clodo
Blera XVI
Tuscana VIIII
Materno XII
Saturnia XVIII
Succosa VIII

The nine miles attached to Ad Nonas are superfluous, for without them the distances of Sabate and Blera from Rome are nearly correct. From Bieda to Toscanella, there are many more than nine miles. The VIIII may be a miscopy of XIIII, which is nearer the truth.

11 The earliest mention of Sabate is after the fall of Veii and Falerii, when the conquered territory was given to the Etruscans who had favoured Rome in the contest, and four new tribes, one called Sabatina, were formed. Liv. VI.4, 5. Fest. v. Sabatina.

12 The ruins which Holstenius (ad Cluver, p44) and Westphal (Römische Kampagne, p156) point out as those of Sabate, at a spot more than a mile beyond Bracciano, near S. Marciano or S. Liberato, Nibby (I. p325) shows to be the remains of a Roman villa of the early empire; and he agrees with Cluver (II p534) in thinking that Sabate was the town mentioned by Sotion as engulfed by the lake.

13 Plin. III.8. Westphal (loc. cit. p157) thinks the Novem Pagi are represented by the neighbouring sites of Viano, Ischia, Agliola, Barberano, &c.

14 Here are remains of ancient villas and baths, — whence the name, Bagni di Vicarello.​b

15 Nibby (III. p287) thinks this the site of an Etruscan town, from a fragment of ancient masonry, outside the gate on the road to Bracciano. It escaped my observation; but the site is un-Etruscan.

16 Sotion (de Mir. Font.) says a town was swallowed up by this lake, as by the Ciminian, and that many foundations, and temples, and an abundance of statues might be seen in its clear depths. The fish and wild-fowl for which this, with other lakes of Etruria, was anciently renowned (Strabo, V.p226; Columella, de Re Rust. VIII.16), have not deserted it, nor do reeds and rushes cease to fringe its banks; but the papyrus is no longer among them. The Sabatia stagna of Silius Italicus (VIII.492) probably included also the neighbouring lakelets of Martignano and Stracciacappa.

Thayer's Notes:

a the Roman State: Not the ancient Roman empire is meant here, but the Pontifical State as it was in the 19c when Dennis wrote.

This is as good a place as any to point out that although in this dismal view of conditions in the Papal States there lurks a good deal of English anti-Catholicism, in fact those parts of Italy ruled by the Popes really were rather poorer. The best of pontiffs were otherworldly; the worst viewed the state they were supposed to govern merely as a store of wealth to pillage for their families: and the result was the same — an impoverished tract of Italy where resentment festered and where even today it is markedly easier for the Left than the Right to win elections. At the same time, as in other traditionally poor regions of Europe, far fewer ancient churches and monuments were destroyed in the name of progress and renovation: so that it is in such regions that today's visitor finds the best Romanesque churches and the most picturesque villages, which in turn, for the descendants of the Pope's subjects, converts to tourist revenue.

More to the point, perhaps, is that this same mechanism whereby it is the poorest places that continue best preserved — also applies, generally speaking, to the monuments of the Etruscans. Wherever Etruscan yielded to Roman civilization without a break in continuity, there we have almost no remains of the former; but wherever the Romans destroyed and abandoned, there is where today's visitor will find the best Etruscan sites: so that of many of the great Etruscan cities we have nothing, whereas in the area nearest Rome, Etruscan vestiges abound.

To summarize for the young student: archaeologists are fond of saying that the best thing for an ancient city is to be suddenly destroyed and burned to the ground, then abandoned: to which one might add that the next best is to be taken over by a string of bad popes.

b Vicarello: this little town is now much more famous for the find (in 1859, shortly after Dennis wrote) of 4 small silver vases or cups, each of which is engraved with a list of towns and mileages from Gades — the modern Cadiz in Spain — to Rome. The Vicarello Cups are thus one of the very few contemporary Roman itineraries to have come down to us, and of great value in establishing or confirming ancient topography.

Page updated: 30 Apr 20