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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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Chapter XXI


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Ruine di cittadi e di castella
Stavan con gran tresor quivi sozzopra.

— Ariosto.

What sacred trophy marks the hallowed ground? . . .
The rifled urn, the violated mound.

— Byron.

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(Adapted from Knapp.)

Thayer Note: My color-coding; only the places shown in red are mentioned in the text, and linked of course.

"Vulci is a city whose very name, twenty years since, was scarcely remembered, but which now, for the enormous treasures of antiquity it has yielded, is exalted above every other city of the ancient world, not excepting even, in certain respects, Herculaneum or Pompeii."​1 Little is to be seen, it must be confessed, on its site; yet a visit to it will hardly disappoint the traveller. It lies about eighteen miles north-west of Corneto. The road, for the first eleven or twelve, or as far as Montalto, follows the line of the ancient Via Aurelia along the coast, and is the modern high-road to Leghorn; traversing a country bare and undulating, and of little scenic beauty. Montalto, the only town between Corneto and Orbetello, is a small, dull  p398 place, with no attraction beyond a comfortable inn, kept by one Cesarini, whose local knowledge may prove serviceable to the traveller. It is supposed to be the site of the Forum Aurelii, a station on the Via Aurelia.​2 At the mouth of the Fiora, on which it stands, are also a few Roman remains. On the shore, about three miles to the south, stood Regae, the site of a very ancient Pelasgic settlement, Regisvilla, whose king Maleos, or Malaeotes, the legendary inventor of the trumpet, abandoned his throne, and migrated to Athens.​3 The site is now called, from its prominent rocks, Le Murelle.4

Vulci lies near the Ponte della Badia, seven or eight miles inland from Montalto, and is accessible in a carretino, or light vehicle.​5 All this district is a desert — a desert of corn,º it is true, but almost uninhabited, so deadly is the summer-scourge of malaria. One solitary house is alone passed on the road to the Ponte della Badia, and that is a little mill, on the Timone, which is here spanned by a natural bridge, called, like that of Veii, Ponte Sodo. Beneath it is a cavern, grotesquely fretted with stalactites.

On passing the Ponte Sodo we entered on a vast treeless moor, without a sign of life, save a conical capanna of  p399 rushes, here and there rising from its surface, and a dark castle, standing in lonely pomp in the midst, nearly three miles before us. All this moor, from the other side of the Ponte Sodo, up to the castle and far beyond it, was the necropolis of Vulci; but no signs of sepulture were visible, except one lofty tumulus — the Cucumella — half-way between us and the castle. As we proceeded, however, we observed numerous pits, marking the spots where tombs had been recently opened, and partly reclosed with earth.

We alighted at the castle-gate. It is a fortress of the middle ages, and in most other lands would be a piece of antiquity. Here it is a modern work, with no interest beyond its picturesque character. It is now a Papal custom-house; and a few doganieri mount guard here over the neighbouring frontier, and take toll on the cattle and goods which cross it. The castle stands on the verge of a deep ravine, which is here spanned by a narrow bridge, fenced in with parapets so tall as to block all view. Not till I had crossed it had I any idea of its character; and then, from the slope below, it burst on me like a fresh creation. It is verily a magnificent structure, bestriding the rocky abyss like a colossus, with the Fiora fretting and foaming at a vast depth beneath.​6 But what means this extraordinary curtain of stalactites which overhangs the bridge on this side, depending in huge jagged masses from the parapet, and looking as though a vast cataract  p400 had rolled over the top of the bridge, and been petrified in its fall, ere it could reach the ground? One might almost fancy the bridge had been hewn out of the solid rock, and that the workmen had abandoned it before its completion, — like Michael Angelo's statues with unfinished extremities. How else came this rugged appendage fixed against the very top of sol lofty a structure? The only solution is — it is the result of an aqueduct in the parapet. I observed the rocks around fretted in the same manner, and then comprehended that the water flowing from the table-land of the necropolis, charged with tartaric matter, in its passage through the aqueduct had oozed out of its channel, and by the precipitation of the earthy matter it held in solution, had formed this petrified drapery to the bridge. The stalactites stand out six or seven feet from the wall, and depend to a depth of fifteen or twenty feet. Independently of their remarkable conformation, their colouring — a clear yellowish white — combines, with the grey or reddish masonry, to add to the effect of the bridge. Then the solemn castle, high on the cliff by its side, rearing its dark-red tower against the sky — the slopes clothed with the ilex and shrubs — the huge masses of rock in the hollow — the steep frowning cliffs seen through the arch — are so many accessories in keeping with the principal object, forming with it as striking and picturesque a whole as I have seen in Etruria.

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What is the date of the bridge, and by whom was it constructed? Signor Vincenzo Campanari, who first made it known to the world, took for granted that it was of Etruscan architecture;​7 but M. Lenoir, who exercised a more critical eye, entertained doubts of this. The truth is, that  p401 the bridge is of different dates. It has three projecting piers of red tufo, much weather-worn, which are obviously of earlier construction than the neat and harder nenfro masonry which encases them. Both are in the same emplecton style, like the wall of Sutri, Nepi, and Falleri; and the nenfro portion is, in part, rusticated. This style, having been adopted by the Romans, affords no decided clue to the constructors of the bridge. The return-facing of the arch, however, is of travertine, and may with certainty be referred to that people, as it possesses features in common with bridges of undoubted Roman origin — the Ponte d'Augusto at Narni, and the celebrated Pont du Gard. The aqueduct, also, I take to be Roman, simply because it passes over arches of that construction; for the skill of the Etruscans in hydraulics is so well attested, as to make it highly probable that to them were the Romans indebted for that description of structure. The tufo buttresses are very probably Etruscan, for they are evidently the piers of the original bridge; and may have been united, as Lenoir suggests, by a horizontal frame of wood-work — a plan often adopted by the Romans, in the Sublician, to wit — which subsequently gave place to the nenfro masonry of the close of the Republic, and to the arches. This seems a plausible hypothesis; and, in default of a better, I am willing to adopt it. The nenfro and travertine portions are, in any case, of Roman times, whatever be the antiquity of the tufo piers.8

The enormous masses of stalactite which drape the bridge seem to indicate a high antiquity for the whole structure;  p402 and, doubtless, they must have been the formation of centuries: yet we need not refer them to too remote a period; for, in a parallel case at Tivoli, a vault in the face of a cliff, lined with Roman reticulated work, has had its mouth blocked by an immense sheet of this fantastic formation, many tons in weight.

About a mile below the bridge, on the right bank of the Fiora, stood the ancient city of Vulci. It occupied a platform of no great elevation, and, except on the river side, not defended by inaccessible cliffs; yet it is the only height in the wide plain at all adapted to the site of a city. Its surface is now sown with corn; and, besides the usual traces of habitation in broken pottery, there is the wreck of a small temple, with cella and niches still standing, and the statues of its divinities and the columns which adorned it lying in shattered fragments around.​9 All these are of Roman, even of late times. Of the Etruscan city there are no traces, beyond portions of the walls, of tufo blocks, on the brow of the cliffs to the south and west.

The city was of no great size — not larger than Faesulae or Rusellae, or about two miles in circuit.​10 Yet, at the period of its greatest prosperity, it must have been extremely populous; for its sepulchres disclose this fact. Its vast wealth, which is learned from the same source, must have been obtained by foreign commerce; yet the position of the city, seven or eight miles from the sea, and  p403 on no navigable stream, is such as could have been chosen only by agriculturists.

It is a remarkable fact, and one which proves how limited is our acquaintance with antiquity, that though this city, from its population, wealth, and magnificence, must at some period have been among the first in Etruria, we have absolutely no account of its history in Livy, Dionysius, or any other ancient writer — nothing beyond a bare record of its existence in the catalogues of geographers.​11 The history of Vulci is chronicled in its sepulchres. Were it not for those, and the marvellous secrets they disclose, Vulci might have remained to the end of time in obscurity — its existence unheeded, its very site forgotten.12

 p404  The only event in the annals of Vulci, which has come down to us, is recorded in the Fasti Consulares, preserved in the Capitol. It is the defeat of its citizens, in concert with the Volsinienses, by T. Coruncanius, the Roman Consul in the year 474 (B.C. 280).​13 This date proves the power and importance of Vulci, that, after the disastrous defeats the Etruscans had experienced at the Vadimonian Lake, in the years 444 and 471, where the strength of the nation was completely broken, Vulci could still make head against Rome; and its conjunction with Volsinii, which at that time must have been one of the mightiest cities in Etruria, is a further evidence of its importance.​14 It is even probable that at this late period of the national independence, after Veii, Falerii, and other cities south of the Ciminian, had been conquered, Vulci took rank among the Twelve.15  p405 That it was not at its conquest destroyed, as has been supposed,​16 is proved by the Roman remains — baths, statues, inscriptions, coins — which have been here brought to light. Pliny and Ptolemy prove its existence under the empire; and coins of Constantine, Valentinian, and Gratian, show it to have stood at least as late as the fourth century after Christ.17

The name of the ancient city has been preserved traditionally; and this site has been known, from time immemorial, as the Pian di Voce.​18 Yet the Prince of Canino, Lucien Bonaparte, who owned the greater part of the necropolis, fancied this to be the site of the long-lost Vetulonia, on whose ruins rose the city of Vulci.​19 The Prince, however, who had but shallow ground for his  p406 conjecture, stood almost alone in this view; the general and better supported opinion being, that Vetulonia occupied a site on this coast more to the north.

The city of Vulci stood on lower ground than its necropolis; not so much therefore is to be seen from its site, as from the opposite cliffs, from which spot the stern grandeur of the scene is most imposing. The wide, wide moor, a drear, melancholy waste, stretches around you, no human being seen on its expanse; the dark, lonely castle rises in the midst, with the majestic bridge spanning the abyss at its side; the Fiora frets in its rocky bed far beneath your feet, and its murmurs conveyed to your ear by the tall cliffs you stand on, are the sole disturbers of the solemn stillness. Deep is the dreariness of that moor. Not the Landes of Gascony, nor the treeless plains of the Castilles, or Estremadura, surpass it in lifeless desolation. The sun gilds but brightens it not. The dark mountains, which bound it on the north and east, are less gloomy in aspect, and afford a pleasing repose to the eye wearied with wandering over its surface.

                "All is still as night!
All desolate! — Groves, temples, palaces —
Swept from the sight; and nothing visible
Amid the sulphurous vapours that exhale,
As from a land accurst, save here and there
An empty tomb, a fragment like the limb
Of some dismembered giant."

Can it be that here stood one of the wealthiest and most luxurious cities of ancient Italy — the chosen residence of the princes of Etruria? Behold the sole relics of its magnificence in the stones scattered over yon field on one side, and in the yawning graves of the vast cemetery on the other, a surer index than the crumbled city presents to the civilisation once flourishing on this site, but long  p407 since extinct — the one desolated, the other rifled — both shorn of their glory. The scene is replete with matter for melancholy reflection, deepened by the sense that the demon of malaria has here set up his throne, and rendered this once densely-peopled spot "a land accurst."

The remains of two bridges, it is said, may be traced, connecting the city with the necropolis; but none could I perceive, though it is highly probable that there was some more direct communication than the distant Ponte della Badia. Were it so, it must have been at a spot called Il Pelago, where the stream widens into a small lake or pool, and its banks lose their precipitous character.​20 It is a spot which has claims on the artist as well as the antiquary. The range of lofty cliffs, fretted with stalactites, feathered with hanging wood, and washed by the torrent, presents, in conjunction with the distant castle, the broken ground of the city, and the wild mountains, rare morsels of form and colour for the portfolio.21

In the cliffs near the Ponte is a natural cavern, scarcely worth the difficulty of the descent to it.

Twenty years ago the existence of this vast cemetery was utterly unknown. In the early part of 1828 some oxen were ploughing the land near the castle, when the ground suddenly gave way beneath them, and disclosed an Etruscan tomb with two broken vases. This led to further research, which was at first carried on unknown to the Prince of Canino, but at the close of the year he took the excavations into his own hands, and in the course of  p408 four months he brought to light more than two thousand objects of Etruscan antiquity, and all from a plot of ground of three or four acres.​22 Other excavators soon came into the field; every one who had land in the neighbourhood tilled it for this novel harvest, and all with abundant success; the Feoli, Candelori, Campanari, Fossati, — all enriched themselves and the Museums of Europe with treasures from this sepulchral mine. Since that time the Prince or his widow has annually excavated on this site, and never in vain; and the glories of ancient ceramographic art, which he thus brought to light and diffused throughout Europe, have, perhaps, made the name of Lucien Bonaparte as well known, and will, perhaps, win for him as lasting a renown as his conduct on the 19th Brumaire, or the part he played in the councils of his Imperial brother.

The necropolis embraced both banks of the Fiore. In the tract between the city and the Ponte della Badia, on the right bank, known as the tenuta Camposcale, excavations were commenced by the Campanari in 1828; and hence come most of the vases in the Vatican and the British Museum. Of the multitude of tombs here opened, few remain closed; but of these one, discovered in 1830, and called Grotta del Sole e della Luna — "Tomb of the Sun and Moon," particularly deserves attention. It has eight chambers; the walls of some are curiously adorned with panels, and the ceilings with mouldings in regular patterns, all carved from the rock, in relief, in evident imitation of wood-work. One of these ceilings has a singular fan-pattern,​23 the counterpart to which is found in  p409 two tombs at Cervetri; whence we may conclude it was no uncommon decoration of Etruscan houses. In this same tenuta, under the walls of the city, was found in 1833, a painted tomb of remarkable character, and the only one ever discovered on this site. It is now utterly destroyed, but a record of it has been preserved, and copies of its paintings now in the British Museum rescue it from oblivion.24

But it is on the other bank of the Fiora that most of the excavations have been, and are, annually made. Here, about a mile from the castle, towards the Cucumella, we came upon a gang of excavators, in the employ of the Princess of Canino; most of the necropolis on this bank of the Fiora being her property. And a pretty property it is, rendering a large per-centage to its possessor; for while her neighbours are contenting themselves with well-stocked granaries, or overflowing wine-presses, the Princess to her earlier is adding a latter harvest — the one of metaphorical, the other of literal gold, or of articles convertible into that metal. Yet, in gathering in the latter harvest, the other is not forgotten, for to lose no surface that can be sown with grain, the graves, when rifled, are re-filled with earth. On this account, excavations are carried forward only in winter. They were now just commencing for the season.

At the mouth of the pit in which they were at work, sat the capo, or overseer — his gun by his side, as an in terrorem hint to keep his men to keep their hands from picking and stealing. We found them on the point of opening a tomb. The roof, as is frequently the case in the light, friable tufo, had fallen in, and the tomb was filled with earth, out of which the articles it contained had to be dug in detail. This is generally a process requiring great care  p410 and tenderness, little of which, however, was here used, for it was seen by the first objects brought to light that nothing of value was to be expected — hoc miserae plebi stabat sepulcrum. Coarse pottery of unfigured, and even of unvarnished ware, and a variety of small articles in black clay, were its only produce; but our astonishment was only equalled by our indignation when we saw the labourers dash them to the ground as they drew them forth, and crush them beneath their feet as things "cheaper than seaweed." In vain I pleaded to save some from destruction; for, though of no marketable worth, they were often of curious and elegant forms, and valuable as relics of the olden time, not to be replaced; but no, it was all roba di sciocchezza — "foolish stuff" — the capo was inexorable; his orders were to destroy immediately whatever was of no pecuniary value, and he could not allow me to carry away one of these relics which he so despised. It is lamentable that excavations should be carried on in such a spirit; with the sole view of gain, with no regard to the advancement of science. Such is too frequently the case. Yet they are occasionally conducted, as by the Cavalier Campana of Rome, by men whose views are not bounded by money-bags, but who are actuated by a genuine love and zeal for science. The man to whom the Princess had intrusted the superintendence of her scavi was "a lewd fellow of the baser sort," without education or antiquarian knowledge, though experienced, it may be, in determining the localities of tombs, and the pecuniary value of their contents. Matters were differently conducted during Lucien's lifetime, for he often personally superintended the excavations.​25 Surely the Papal government,  p411 which, in Rome and its neighbourhood, watches carefully over antiquarian researches, would not do amiss in appointing experienced men to superintend the progress of scavi also in more distant parts of the country — to note the character of the sepulchres, the nature and relative arrangement of their contents, and to prevent any improper application of the spade or pickaxe. There is no British "liberty of the subject" to interfere. As excavations are made only at one season of the year, and on few sites, such a plan would be neither difficult nor expensive; and the additional light thrown on antiquarian science would be valuable. As it is, facts, often perhaps of great importance, are now unnoticed and unrecorded. We see in the Museums of Europe, from Paris to St. Petersburgh, the produce of these Vulcian tombs, and admire the surpassing elegance of the vases and the beauty of their designs, and marvel at the extinct civilisation they indicate; but they afford us no conception of the places in which they have been preserved for so many centuries, or of their relations thereto. All this is not, of course, to be set forth in every case, yet the history of the most interesting articles should be preserved. Such a record is kept but in very few cases, where notices of remarkable tombs are given in the publications of the Archaeological Institute, and other antiquarian societies of Italy.

The excavations at Vulci, on the day I refer to, were not wholly unproductive. From an adjoining tomb, sundry painted vases of great beauty were drawn, together with several baskets-full of fragments of similar vases, which would be put together by a skilful artificer in the employ of the Princess. I learned that the contents of the adjoining tombs often differed widely in value, style, and degree of antiquity — that sepulchres of various ranks, and different  p412 periods, lay mixed indiscriminately, just as at Tarquinii, and that the same tomb sometimes contained objects of several ages, as though it had been the vault of one family through many generations.

The difference between the cemeteries of Tarquinii and Vulci is striking enough. There you have a hill studded with sepulchral mounds, and distinguishable afar off by its rugged outline; here is a vast uniform level, with scarcely an inequality on its surface — one lofty barrow alone rising from it, to mark, like the tumulus on plain of Marathon, or the lion-crested mound on that of Waterloo, that this is a field of the dead. The tombs of Vulci are sunk beneath the level surface. They are not in general of large size, and are usually of oblong form, surrounded with benches of rock, on which the dead were laid, generally without any enclosure or covering beyond their armour or habiliments. Yet some sarcophagi of great beauty and interest have been found here. The abundance of bones, and the rarity of cinerary urns or vases, may be adduced in confirmation that inhumation was more in fashion at Vulci than combustion. The doorways to the tombs are of the usual Egyptian form, and, though sunk deep beneath the soil, are often adorned with the square lintelled moulding so common at Bieda. It is calculated that more than six thousand tombs have already been opened in this necropolis.26

La Cucumella.​27

This singular tumulus, which, standing in the midst of  p413 the bare plain, is visible at the distance of many a mile, is a vast cone of earth, like Polydore's tomb — ingens aggeritur tumulo tellus — about two hundred feet in diameter, and still forty or fifty in height, though much lowered from its original altitude by time and the spade of the excavator. It was encircled at its base by a wall of masonry, which was traceable by fragments in 1830,​28 though now not a block is left. The mound was opened by the Prince of Canino, in 1829. Above this wall were found sundry small sepulchral chambers, as in the tumuli of Cervetri and Chiusi; but all are now re-closed. They were probably tombs of the dependents and slaves of the great personage or family for whom the mausoleum was erected.29

In the heart of the mound were unearthed two towers, one square, the other conical, both between thirty and forty feet in height, of horizontal, uncemented masonry, but extremely rude and irregular, and so loosely put together as to threaten a speedy fall.​30 The conical tower, appears to have been hollow; but neither this, nor the other, has, and perhaps never had, any visible entrance; and it seems probable that they served no more practical  p414 purpose than to support the figures with which the monument was crowned.31

At the foot of these towers is now a shapeless hollow; but here were found two small chambers, constructed of massive regular masonry, and with doorways of primitive style, arched over by the gradual convergence of the horizontal courses. They were approached by a long passage, leading directly into the heart of the tumulus; and here on the ground lay fragments of bronze and gold plates, very thin, and adorned with ivy and myrtle leaves. Two stone sphinxes stood guardians at the entrance of the passage, and, with sundry other quaint effigies of lions and griffons found within this tumulus, now mount guard at the palace-gate of Musignano.​32 No other furniture — sarcophagi, urns, or vases — was brought to light; whence it was evident that the tumulus had been rifled in by-gone ages. The masonry of the towers, the primitive doorways, and the character of the few articles found, tend to prove this tomb to be of very ancient date — much prior to the generality of sepulchres in this necropolis.33

This tumulus bears a striking analogy to that of Alyattes, king of Lydia, and father of Croesus, which had a basement of huge stones, surmounted by a mound of earth. Five terminiοὺροι — stood on the summit, which were seen by Herodotus, and on them were carved inscriptions, recording the construction of the monument, and that it was raised principally by the hands of young females! The tumulus was six stadia and two plethra (3,842 ft. 8 in.)  p415 in circumference, and thirteen plethra (1,314 ft. 1 in.) in diameter.​34 As the Lydians are traditionally the colonisers of Etruria, we might à priori expect to find similar monuments in this land; assuredly, when we do find them, we may regard them as strengthening the probability of the tradition, and may assign them an early date in style, if not always in actual construction. The tumulus of Alyattes was six or seven times as large as the Cucumella, yet the affinity is not the less striking. In truth, it is in character and arrangement alone, not in size, that the former is to be regarded as a type of Lydian tombs, for Herodotus specifies this as among the marvels of the land on account of its size — ἔργον πολλὸν μέγιστον — inferior only in magnitude to the works of the Egyptians and Babylonians.​35 The five termini on the Lydian monument are not clearly and definitely described; but the inscriptions on them show an analogy to the cippi of the Etruscans and Romans; and as they could not, consistently with the rest of the monument, have been on a small scale, the probability is that they were either cones surmounting towers, or the terminations of such towers, rising above the body of the mound; a probability heightened almost to certainty by the close analogy of this and other Etruscan monuments.​36 It is a remarkable fact, that the tomb of Porsenna, at Clusium, the only Etruscan sepulchre of which we have record, bore a close affinity to the only Lydian sepulchre described by ancients — the square merely taking place of the circular; for it is said to have had "five pyramids" rising  p416 from a square base of masonry, "one at each angle, and one in the centre."​37 And the curious monument at Albano, vulgarly called the tomb of the Horatii and Curiatii,​38 has a square basement of masonry, surmounted by four cones, and a cylindrical tower in the midst. Five, indeed, seems to have been the established number of cones, pyramids, or columnar cippi, on tombs of this description; whence it has been suggested that three other towers are probably buried in the unexcavated part of the Cucumella.39

Southward from this is a much smaller mound, called La Cucumelletta, because it is a miniature edition of the other. It was opened by the Prince in 1832, and was found to contain five chambers.

Still nearer the Cucumella is a low tumulus, like the "Mausoleo" of Tarquinii, about thirty feet in diameter, and walled round with a single course of travertine blocks.  p417 It is called "La Rotonda." The cone of earth is now levelled to the top of the masonry.​40 There is a trench and rampart around it, as in the conical rock-hewn tomb of Bieda. The chamber is now choked with earth; but in it were found vases of great beauty.

Another tumulus, on the right bank of the Fiora, near the site of the ancient city, was opened by Campanari, in 1835. In the middle of the chamber, stretched on the ground, lay the skeleton of a warrior, with helm on his head, ring on his finger, and a confused mass of broken a rusted weapons at his feet. Against the wall of the tomb, depending from a nail, which, from rust, could hardly support it, hung a large bronze shield, lined with wood. An elegant bronze vase and a tripod were also there, but no pottery. In an adjoining corner, however, where articles of jewellery, strewed on the ground, indicated a female occupant, there were some beautiful painted vases.41

These warrior-tombs are not uncommon, scattered indiscriminately among those of men of peace. In some are found arms of various descriptions, the iron generally much oxydized, the helmets frequently bearing marks of the battle-fray, in "good old blows" of sword or lance, and sometimes circled with chaplets of ivy, myrtle, or oak-leaves, in pure gold, of the most delicate and exquisite workman­ship; as if to show that the departed had fallen in the moment of victory, or, it may be, to typify the state of triumphant bliss into which his spirit had entered. Not always are there remains of the corpse itself. When the soil is unusually dry, bones may be found, even in a perfect state; but it more often happens that, on the rocky bier, lie the helmet, breastplate, greaves, signet-ring, weapons — or, if it be a female, the necklace, ear-rings,  p418 bracelets, and other ornaments, each in its relative place; but the body they once encased or adorned, has left not a vestige behind. In two of the warrior-tombs of this necropolis, as also on other sites, the bones of a horse and dog have been found by the side of those of the man;​42 whence we may infer that the Etruscan believed in a future state of existence for the brute creation,

"And thought, admitted to that equal sky
His faithful dog would bear him company;"

a doctrine held by the civilised nations of antiquity, as well as by "the poor Indian;" for Virgil pictures the souls in Elysium as practising equitation and Homer mentions the sacrifice of horses and household dogs at the pyre of Patrocles.43

Among the tombs on this site was that of a young child, whose skeleton was found surrounded by a number of toys, and small articles of pottery, elegantly painted. The sepulchre was intact, when discovered.44

Among the tombs, in that part of the necropolis to the south, called the Campo Morto, are scattered here and there sundry square areas paved with large flags, and surrounded by walls of regular masonry. Professor Gerhard imagines that they may have served for the religious ceremonies connected with interment;​45 but it seems quite as probable that they were ustrinae, or spots appropriated to the burning of the dead, which, though not a common  p419 custom with the Etruscan inhabitants of Vulci, must have prevailed among its Roman possessors.46

Grotta d'Iside.

One of the most remarkable tombs discovered in Etruria was opened in 1840, in a part of this necropolis called Polledrara, to the west of the Ponte Sodo. It was second in interest and importance only to the Regulini-Galassi tomb of Cervetri; for, besides objects of native art, of very high antiquity, anterior to all Hellenic influence, it contained articles purely and unequivocally Egyptian, attesting the very early intercourse between Etruria and Egypt. This tomb had nothing remarkable in its construction; it was hollowed beneath the surface, like the other tombs of Vulci, and had an antechamber and three  p420 inner chambers. From the character of its contents, it received the name of the "Tomb of Isis;" but it was the sepulchre of two ladies of rank, whose effigies are still in existence, though nearly three thousand years may have elapsed since their decease.

The tomb is now reclosed, but its contents are carefully preserved and kept together. Till recently they were in the possession of the Prince of Canino, son of Lucien Bonaparte, but have now passed into the hands of Dr. Emil Braun, Secretary of the Archaeological Institute of Rome, where I have often seen them. All have a strong Egyptian or oriental character; but with the exception of those evidently imported from the banks of the Nile, they are Etruscan imitations of Egyptian art, with the native stamp more or less strongly marked. The genuine Egyptian articles consist of six ostrich-eggs,​47 one painted with winged sphinxes, very like that on the walls of the Grotta Campana, at Veii;​48 four carved with figures in very low  p421 relief — griffons and other chimaeras, or wild beasts fighting or devouring their prey; and the sixth with a warrior in his biga, attended by another chariot, and four horsemen, carved in the same manner on the shell. The eggs have holes in them, as if for suspension, and bring to mind the great rock's egg of the Arabian Nights; or, rather, recall the fact of ostrich-eggs being suspended in mosques at the present day.

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No less genuinely Egyptian are five vases of greenish ware, varnished, flat-sided like powder-flasks, and with hieroglyphics round the edge.​49 But three alabastra, terminating above in female busts, with hands on the bosoms, are imitations of Egyptian articles; so also are two unguent-pots, in the shape of small sitting figures of Isis,​50 and a vase with many colours, which is unique in Etruscan pottery — the ground being dark-grey, and the figures black, red, blue, yellow, and white. So Egyptian-like are the chariots, and the procession of females painted on this vase, that the general observer would at once take it for an importation; yet the learned have pronounced it Egyptian only in character, and native in execution, though of most archaic style and early date.​51 Other vases were also found here, of somewhat similar style, but with less variety of colour, and less Egyptian in character.

The effigies of the two ladies differ in material, as well as taste. One is a full-length figure of marble, two feet nine inches high, clad in a long chiton, reaching to her feet, and over it a sort of dressing-gown open in front, and clasped at the waist, sandals on her feet, but no ornaments  p422 beyond those with which nature honoured her head — two long tresses being left on each side of her face to fall to her bosom, just such as are cherished now-a‑days by misses in their teens; and her "back-hair" being braided into a number of tails, clubbed together at the end. What magic power may have lain in her eyes, we know not, as they have been taken from their sockets, probably being of some precious material. Nor can we compliment her on her form, which is stiff and masculine, though such may have passed for elegant among the daughters of Ham, to whom she bears a striking resemblance. The annexed woodcut gives a front and back view of this fair Etruscan.

If we cannot say of this lady, that

                "A very shower
Of beauty was her earthly dower,"

no more can we declare her companion to be —

"A lovely lady, garmented with light
From her own beauty."

She had her bust taken in bronze, and being of vainer  p423 mood than her fellow, and less modest withal, had it represented bare, taking care to put on her best necklace — and a gorgeous one it must have been, though in wretched taste, stiffening her neck like a warrior's gorget — and to have her hair carefully arranged and curled when she sat to the artist. And she seems to have had a broad gold frontlet, for such an ornament, embossed with figures, was found in the tomb. Then she affected modesty, and with a gilt bird in her hand, thought to make herself more engaging. Yet posterity, whom she intended to enchant, will hardly accord this Etruscan Lesbia credit for great charms; and will be apt to exclaim with Juvenal, denouncing bedizened dowagers —

Intolerabilius nihil est quam femina dives.

The pedestal is in keeping with the bust, being richly adorned with figures of lions, sphinxes, and chariots. The antiquity of this bust is proved, not only by its style, but by its workman­ship; not being cast, but formed of thin plates of bronze, hammered into shape, and finished with the chisel — the earliest mode of Etruscan toreutics.52

In the same tomb were found two oblong bronze cars, on four wheels, and with a horse's fore-quarters springing from each angle. They must have been for fumigation,  p424 and may have been dragged about the tomb to dispel the effluvium, on the occasion of the funeral feast, or the annual parentalia, and were probably equivalent to the focolari, so common in the tombs of Chiusi. There were also found sundry quaint vessels in bronze, with some tripods and a lamp — all of mere funeral use, being too thin and fragile to have served domestic purposes — a spoon of bone, and some plates and vessels of alabaster, which were probably used at the funeral feast, and left as usual in the tomb together with an abundance of the green paste, of which the Egyptians made necklaces and bracelets to adorn their mummies.53

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On the painted pottery, found at Vulci, it were needless to expatiate. Every Museum in Europe proclaims its beauty, and through it, the name of Vulci, never much noised in classic times, and well nigh forgotten for two thousand years, has become immortal, and acquired a wider renown than it ever possessed during the period of the city's existence. Vulci has none of the tall black ware with figures in relief, which is peculiar to Chiusi and its neighbourhood; but of painted vases there is every variety — from the earliest, quaintest efforts, through every grade of excellence, to the highest triumphs of Hellenic ceramographic art. Of the early, so‑called Doric, pottery, little is found at Vulci; nor of the Perfect style, which is  p425 predominant at Nola, is there so great an abundance here; the great mass of Vulcian vases being of the Attic style — of that severe and archaic design, which is always connected with black figures on a yellow ground.​54 The best vases of Vulci, in the chaste simplicity of their style, closely resemble those of Nola and Sicily; yet there are characteristic shades of difference, in form and design, which can be detected by a practised eye. On this site, more than on any other in Etruria, have been found those singularº vases painted with eyes, so common also in Sicily, the meaning of which continues to perplex antiquaries. Specimens of them are given at the head of this and the following chapter — the former, a cylix, or drinking bowl, in the possession of the Marquess of Northampton; the latter, a scene copied from an amphora in the British Museum.

To enter into further details of the vases of Vulci would be here unadvisable; for a description of them would be almost identical with that of the painted pottery of Etruria. It would not be too much to assert that nine-tenths of the Etruscan painted vases, that have been  p426 brought to light, are from this site. The extraordinary multitude of these vases, bearing Greek subjects, of Greek design, and with Greek inscriptions — the names of the potter and painter being also recorded as Greeks — has suggested the idea that Vulci must have been a Greek colony,​55 or that a portion of its inhabitants were of that nation, living in a state of isopolity with the Etruscans.​56 But these views are opposed by the fact that nothing found on this site, but the painted vases, is Greek; the tombs and all their other contents are unequivocally Etruscan. On this site it is that the very few vases, bearing Etruscan inscriptions and subjects, have been found.57

Although thousands on thousands of painted vases have been redeemed from oblivion, this cemetery still yields richer harvest than any other in Etruria. No site has been so well worked by the excavator — none has so well repaid him; yet it seems far from exhausted. Nor is it rich in vases alone. Bronzes of various descriptions, mirrors with beautiful designs, vessels, tripods, candelabra, weapons — are proportionally abundant, and maintain the same relative excellence to the pottery. That exquisite cista, or casket, with a relief of a combat between Greeks and Amazons, now in the Gregorian Museum, and which yields not in beauty to any one of those very rare relics  p427 of ancient taste and genius, was found at Vulci. No site yields more superb and delicate articles in gold and jewellery — as the Cabinets of the Vatican, and of Cavaliere Campana can testify; none more numerous relics in bone — spoons, needles, dice, to wit — or more beautiful specimens of variegated glass.58  p428 


NoteThe Painted Tomb at Vulci.

This tomb, when opened, was in a very dilapidated state; much of the surface of the wall had fallen, and the external air speedily affected the remainder. Signor Campanari, who discovered the tomb, made an attempt to detach the fast perishing painting from the damp, crumbling walls; but, at the very commencement of the process, the stucco, rotted by the humidity of twenty centuries, gave way, and the painting fell in pieces at his feet. He had previously, however, had a copy made of it, which is now in the British Museum, in the "Bronze Room," on the right hand wall; and engravings of the same have been published in Mon. Ined. Instit. II. tav. 53, 54. Descriptions have also been written in Bull. Inst. 1833, pp78‑80 — Kestner; Ann. Inst. 1838, pp249‑252 — Sec. Campanari. From these sources I obtain the following description.

On the outer wall of the tomb, on one side of the door, stood the figure of Charun, or as the inscription attached styles him, "Charu," with hideous visage, leaning on his hammer, and placed there as guardian of the sepulchre. Within, on the inner or opposite wall, sat, on an elegant curule chair or throne, a king in Tyrian purple, with crown on his head, and long sceptre in his hand, tipt by a lotus-flower. Before him stood his queen, in long chiton or tunic, mantle, and veil. This pair is, with great probability, supposed to represent the king and queen of Hades, Pluto and Proserpine, or, as the Etruscans called them, "Mantus and Mania." Behind the throne stood three draped male figures, whose venerable aspect seemed to mark them as the three judges of the dead — Minoa, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus. On either hand was a procession of figures, of both sexes, going towards the throne, who are supposed to be souls proceeding to judgment; but there was nothing in dress, appearance, or attributes, to mark them as of the lower world. The group on each side the throne was very similar; in fact, it has been considered the same family — in one case going to judgment, in the other entering the abodes of the blessed. But this was not clearly set forth.  p429 The figures were as large as life, except Charun, who was but half the size.

The style of art was more modern than in any of the tombs of Tarquinii, not even excepting those of the Cardinal and Pompeys. These figures were quite Roman in character, and could hardly be earlier than the frescoes of Pompeii, which they resembled in freedom of design, truth and nature of the attitudes, and mastery over those difficulties which in every land attend the early stages of art. Yet the Charun who stood sentinel over this tomb was in a very different and far earlier style, with all the conventional quaintness of the Etruscan pencil. So that while he determined the Etruscan and early origin of this sepulchre, the other figures proved it to have been used in the days of Roman domination. Another feature of late date was a massive column of peperino, supporting the ceiling in the centre, and with a remarkable capital of the composite order, having heads, male and female, between the volutes. Signor Campanari removed this to Toscanella, where it is still to be seen in his garden, (see the engraving at page 451) and a copy of it in wood is placed in the British Museum.

This sepulchre seems to represent the lower world, — Charun mounts guard at the entrance, the king of Hades sits on his throne within; but the absence of Furies, or of Genii and Junones, essentially distinguish this from the infernal scenes in the Pompey and Cardinal tombs of Tarquinii. The absence of the characteristic features of the Etruscan mythology, may perhaps be accounted for by regarding these paintings as the sepulchral decorations of some Roman colonist of Vulci — a view favoured by the style of art.

The Author's Notes:

1 Dr. Braun. Ann. Inst. 1842, p39.

2 Cluver. II. p485; Mannert, however, (Geog. p370), places Forum Aurelii at Castellaccio, near the mouth of the Arrone, half-way between the Fiora and the Marta; a site more in accordance with the Peutingerian Table. See page 388. The Fiora is the Armenita of the Table, and the Arnine of the Maritime Itinerary. Some singular Etruscan monuments have been found in the neighbourhood of Montalto of late years (Micali, Mon. Ined. p195, tav. XXXIV; p403, tav. LIX.).

3 Strab. V. p225; Lactant. ad Stat. Theb. IV.224. Müller (Etrusk. einl. 2, 6) thinks he derived this name from the headland of Malea in Laconia. Regisvilla is probably a Roman corruption of the more ancient name of Regae, which afterwards came again into use. Welcker (cited by Gerhard, Ann. Inst. 1831, p205) derives it from ῥηγαί, clefts, which is indicative of its situation.

4 Holsten. Annot. ad Cluver. p34; Westphal, Ann. Inst. 1830, p30.

5 There are two roads from Montalto to Vulci, but practicable for light vehicles. The shorter runs on the right bank of the Fiora, but the other on the left bank is preferable. This it is which is described in the text. It is also marked in the Map.

6 The height of the arch above the stream is said to be 96 French feet, and its span 62 feet. The width of the bridge is only 10 feet, and its entire length 243 feet. Ann. Inst. 1832, p261. There is a second arch, only 15 in span, formed merely to lighten and strengthen the long wall of masonry on the right bank. It has a draped figure in relief on its key-stone. There is a third arch, still smaller, close under the castle, but perforating, but merely recessed in the structure. Being on the southern side of the bridge, it is not shown in the annexed lithograph. A view of the bridge from the other side is given in Mon. Ined. Inst. I. tav. 41.

7 Ann. Inst. 1829, p195.

8 These piers are merely encased, not connected with the rest of the structure. Lenoir points out an analogy, as regards these tufo piers, between this bridge and the Ponte Nonno, on the Via Praenestina, near the site of Gabii, which is known to be of high antiquity. Ann. Inst. 1832, p261. Westphal (Ann. Inst. 1830, p40) takes the Ponte della Badia to be Roman, from its similarity to other bridges of that construction.

9 From the variety in these fragments, in size, style, and material, it would seem that several public buildings had occupied this site — all, however, of the low Empire. For notices of the remains on the site of the city, see Bull. Inst. 1835, p177; 1836, p36; and 1835, p122; where an account is given of an ancient furnace, containing fragments of pottery — suggesting, to some extent, the native manufacture of the vases.

10 Micali, Ant. Pop. Ital. I p147. Some have thought it once spread over the adjacent heights. The Prince of Canino imagined it to have occupied both banks of the river, and that its two parts, thus divided, were connected by bridges. Museum Etrusque, p16.

11 Pliny (III.8) mentions its inhabitants as — Volcentini, cognomine Etrusci — and states that Cosa was in their territory — Cossa Volcientium. Ptolemy (p72, ed. Bert.) calls it Οὐόλκοι, and Stephanus says — Ὄλκιον, a city of Etruria; according to Polybius, VI., the name of its people was Ὀλκιῆται and Ὀλκιεῖς." Gerhard (Ann. Inst. 1831, pp107, 215) thinks the name of Greek origin, and from ὁλκοὶ (as ὁλκοὶ νεῶν — Herod. II.154); but what it can have to do with ships it is difficult to perceive. There is no need of so far-fetched an origin; for the genuine Etruscan character of the word is evident at a glance. Its initial syllable places it in the same category with Volaterrae, Volsinii, Voltumnae Fanum, Felsina, Falerii, and the names of numerous Etruscan families — some of which bear a close analogy, as Velcia, Velscia, Phelces or Phelcia, Velchei, Velchnas, Velczna, Velzina. Passeri, ap. Gori, Mus. Etr. III. p103‑110; Lanzi, Sagg. II pp311, 383, 384, 445; Vermiglioli, Iscriz. Perug. I. pp72, 208, 245, 275, 298. The M. Fulcinius of Tarquinii, whom Cicero (pro Caecina, IV) speaks of as owner of an estate near Castellum Axia, seems also to have derived his name from Vulci.

There is a curious passage in a Latin Christian writer, which refers to this city — "Regnatoris in populi Capitolio quis est hominum, qui ignoret Toli (Oli?) esse sepulcrum Vulcentani," &c. Arnob. adv. Nat. VI.7. Arnobius says that the head found in digging the foundations of the Capitol, from which that temple and hill took its name — caput Oli, vel Toli, — was that of a native of Vulci, to whom there was a mysterious story attaching. Cf. Serv. ad Aen. VIII.345; Dion. Hal. IV.p257; Plin. XXVIII.4. See Orioli's comments on this passage of Arnobius, Ann. Inst. 132, p31 et seq.

12 Gerhard (Ann. Inst. 1831, p101) is inclined to date the foundation of Vulci after the battle of Cuma, or about the year of Rome 278; but, I think, without adequate reason. His arguments are, the silence of ancient writers, the close vicinity of Tarquinii and Regisvilla, the former of which he imagines began to decline in power about that period, leaving Vulci to rise into importance. But if Cosa, as some suppose from Pliny's mention of it, were a (p404)colony of Vulci, the latter must have existed in very early times.

The similarity between the names of Volci or Vulci, and Volsci or Vulsci (sic Cato, ap. Priscian. V.12; VI.8), is very apparent. But what real connection existed is not so easy to determine. We know that the land of the Volsci, as well as all Campania, was at one period subject to the Etruscans (Cato, ap. Serv. ad Aen. XI.567; and Georg. II.533; Strab. V. p242; Polyb. II.17, 1); and thence Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. I p149) infers that a colony of Volsci may have settled at Vulci during that domination. But I incline rather to the opinion of Niebuhr (I., p120, cf. p70), who thinks, from the mention by Livy (XXVII.15), of a people bearing almost the same name, the Volcentes, in connection with the Lucani and Hirpini, that there is substantial ground for conjecturing that the Vulcientes were not Etruscans, but an earlier people, who had kept their ground against those invaders; or, in other words, that the Etruscans, by their conquest, separated two portions of the same primitive Italian race — just as the Gaels of Scotland were widely severed from their Celtic brethren of Gaul by the Roman and Teutonic conquests of Britain. If Niebuhr (I. p72) be correct in supposing a close affinity between the names and races of the Falisci and Volsci, the same must also exist between the Falisci and Vulci.

13 The Fasti, which follow the Catonian aera, have it 473.

See Gruter, p296.

14 Müller, Etrusk. einl. 2, 17; II.1, 2.

15 This view, which is favoured by the immense treasures of its necropolis, is almost established by a monument discovered a few years since at Cervetri, and now preserved in the Lateran Museum. It is a bas-relief, which seems to have formed one side of a marble throne. On it are three separate figures, each with the (p405)name of a people of Etruria attached — Vetulonenses — . . .centani — and Tarquinienses. The middle word can have been no other than Vulcentani; there is just room for the three initial letters in the space where the inscription is defaced. It seems highly probable that the names of the Twelve people of Etruria, and their several devices, were recorded on this monument. Bull. Inst. 1840, p92 (Canina); Ann. Inst. 1842, pp37‑40 (Braun), and tav. d'Agg. C. Even Annio of Viterbo makes a guess at this eminence of Vulci, and in his Comments on his Catonis Origines, calls "Volcen" one of the Twelve.

16 Bull. Inst. 1831, p168 — Gerhard.

17 Bull. Inst. 1835, pp121, 177. Tombs purely Roman have also been discovered, and some even of Christian date, as is proved by inscriptions — "Pax cum sanctis" — "Pax cum angelis." One of these Christian tombs had remains of paintings on its walls. Inscriptions, proving Vulci to have existed under the Empire, are given by Gruter, pp301, 447, 1.

18 Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. I p147) claims the merit of having first pointed out this as the site of Vulci, forgetting or not knowing that Holstenius (Annot. ad Cluver. p40) more than a century before, had mentioned this as the Piano di Volci — the site of the ancient Vulci. All doubt of its identity has now been removed by the discovery of Latin inscriptions on the spot (Bull. Inst. 1835, pp11, 121), some of which are now in the Gregorian Museum at the Vatican.

19 Ann. Inst. 1829, pp188‑192; Mus. Etr. pp13, 163, et seq. He was followed by Valeriani (Mus. Chius. I p68). His opinion was based principally on an inscription on a vase found in this necropolis — ΦΙΘΛΟΗΟΧΕΙ, written against a figure in a Bacchic scene. Panofka (Bull. Inst. 1829, p140) translates this ὑθλον ὄχει — "he conducts the follies (of Bacchus); but Gerhard and Raoul-Rochette more plausibly interpret it ἆθλον ὄχει — "he bears off the prize." Bull. Inst. 1830, p187; Ann. Inst. 1831, p186.

20 The Prince of Canino asserts the existence of two bridges in ruins (Ann. Inst. 1829, p192); Westphal, however, (Ann. Inst. 1830, p40) speaks of the remains of one only, more than a mile below the Ponte della Badia, which agrees with the position of Il Pelago.

21 It is said that fragments of an ancient chariot of bronze have been discovered at the foot of these cliffs, and it is supposed, from the bones of horses near it, that it had been drawn over the precipice. I give this as a mere report, which I have not been able to verify.

22 Museum Etrusque, p12.

23 This pattern is given in Mon. Ined. Inst. I., tav. XLI., together with the plan and sections of this tomb. According to Lenoir (Ann. Inst. 1832, p266) it is in the style of the carvings of the spherical vaults of Philibert de Lorme. The moulding round one of the doors, besides being of the usual Etruscan form, is painted with red and black ribands, diagonally, so often seen in Egyptian door-mouldings.

24 For a description of it see the Appendix to this chapter.

25 Gerhard (Bull. Inst. 1831, p88) complains of the incivility and vandalism of most of the excavators at Vulci, making a particular exception in favour of the Prince. Chevalier Bunsen (Ann. Inst. 1834, p85) pronounces the same (p411)condemnation. The mercenary character and barbarism of Italian excavators are notorious, and prompt one to cry — Desine scrutari quod tegit ossa solum!

26 Micali, Mon. Ined. p361.

27 Cucumella — probably à cacumine — is the term commonly applied in Central Italy to a mound, hillock, or barrow. This Vulcian tumulus is called the Cucumella, par excellence, as there is no other on this site to rival it. Cacume, evidently from the Latin, is also applied to sharp heights — as Monte Cacume, a conical peak in the Lepino range above the Latin Valley. There may be some affinity to the Etruscan, for we find the proper name of "Laris Cucuma," on a tile in the Pasquini collection at Chiusi. Mus. Chius. II p124.

28 Micali, Ant. Pop. Ital. III p94.

29 Micali (Mon. Ined. p361) regards the tumulus as a mark of distinction and dignity. It may be in this case, but can hardly be so at Tarquinii and Caere, where the tumuli are most abundant. Knapp (Ann. Inst. 1832, p280) accounts for the general adoption of the tumulus on certain sites, by the inferior hardness and compactness of the rock in which the tombs were excavated. But this notion, which seems to have sprung from a comparison of Tarquinii and Vulci alone, is quite upset by a more extended view of Etruscan cemeteries. For in the soft friable arenaceous earth of Chiusi and its neighbourhood, tumuli are never found, whereas at Cervetri, where the tufo is as hard as on any other site, they are most numerous. The reason of this peculiarity certainly does not lie in a constructive necessity.

30 Gerhard (Bull. Inst. 1829, p51) accounts for the rudeness of this masonry by supposing it to have been faced, probably with metal, as marble was not used by the Etruscans. This supposition is quite unnecessary, for the towers were not intended to be seen, but were always buried in the earth.

31 According to Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. p148) several sphinxes were found on the summit of the towers, and it may be presumed that they were for the external decoration of the tumulus.

32 Ann. Inst. 1832, p273. For illustrations, see Mon. Ined. Inst. I. tav. XLI.

33 For an account of the opening of this tumulus, see Bull. Inst. 1829, p50, et seq. (Gerhard); and Micali, loc. cit. III. p94. For a plate of this monument, see Mon. Ined. Inst. I., tav. 41, 2. and Micali, loc. cit. tav. LXII., who represents the square tower with a door.

34 Herod. I.93.

35 In the same necropolis of Sardis are numerous other tumuli, much inferior in size to that of Alyattes, and called by the Turks "The Thousand and One Hills." See Chapter XVIII. p353.

36 When writing the above, I was not aware that anything remained on the tumulus of Alyattes to determine this fact; but I perceive that Steuart (Monuments of Lydia and Phrygia, p4) states that "on its summit may still be perceived the remains of a pavement of one of the pillars which decorated this gigantic mound."

37 Varro, ap. Plin. XXXVI.19, 4.

38 It is supposed by Ligorio, Volpi, and Venuti, to be the sepulchre of Pompey the Great, erected hereabouts by his wife Cornelia — Plut. Pompeius, ad finem. To this opinion Canina is also inclined — Ann. Inst. 1837, 2, p57. Others regard it as the tomb of Aruns, son of Porsenna, who fell at Aricia, contending with the Greeks of Cuma. Piranesi first started this opinion, and is supported in it by Nibby, Gell, and the Duc de Luynes, Ann. Inst. 1829, p309. But there is no valid reason for regarding it as of very early date, or of Etruscan construction, as some have conjectured (Letronne, Ann. Inst. 1829, p391; Orioli, ap. Inghir. Mon. Etr. IV.p168). The basement was faced with emplecton masonry, now destroyed by the recent repairs, but above this, where the original structure is disclosed, it is seen to be of opus incertum, in strata alternating with courses of masonry. This stamps it as Roman no instance of such a construction having been found in genuine Etruscan monuments. The mouldings also, as Canina observes, mark the latter days of the Republic. It must be a Roman tomb, in imitation of those in use in the early days of Italy; whether of Pompey, or of some other wealthy Roman, is a matter of mere conjecture. The opinion that it is the tomb of Pompey, however, derives strength from the fact that his family seems to have been Etruscan, as shown in the account of the Grotta Pompej in Corneto; and also from the remains, hard by the tomb, of an extensive Roman villa, which may have belonged to him, as he is known to have possessed one near Alba. Plut. Pomp. ad fin.

39 Ann. Inst. 1832, p273 — Lenoir. I doubt this. There may be one or two more, but from the position of the disclosed towers in the mound, there can hardly have been five originally.

40 Ann. Inst. 1832, p277. Mon. Ined. Inst. I., tav. 41, 3.

41 Bull. Inst. 1835, p203, et seq. Burial in armour was a Carian custom. Thuc. I.8.

42 Bull. Instit. loc. cit.

43 Virg. Aen. VI.655; Hom. Il. XXIII.171‑4. Lucian (de Luctu, p810, ed. Bourd.) says that horses and concubines were sometimes slain at the funeral pile, and clothes were cast on it, or buried with the defunct, as though he would use and enjoy such things in the other world as he had been wont in this.

44 Ann. Inst. 1835, pp114‑118. Among the pottery was an olpe or jug, with the painting of an Etruscan portico, having a door like those in the Grotta delle Iscrizioni at Corneto, but with two snakes on the panels, and a Doric frieze above, surmounted by a swan, and two lions, one at each extremity.

45 Bull. Instit. 1829, p4.

46 The ustrina or ustrinum differed from the bustum or τύμβος, in being the place where the corpse was burnt alone, where in the bustum it was also buried. The best specimen of an ustrina extant is that large quadrangle on the Via Appia about four or five miles from Rome, which Gell took to be the Campus Sacer Horatiorum, mentioned by Martial (III. epig. 47. 3). A detailed description of it is given by Fabretti (Inscrip. Ant. III. p230).

47 Imitations of ostrich eggs, in terra cotta, have been found in the tombs of Vulci (Micali, Mon. Ined. p57), which seems to indicate that they were of funereal application, and that the demand was greater than the supply. Yet the eggs of smaller birds, imitated in that material, have also been found in this necropolis. Ann. Inst. 1843, p351. We know that the eggs of the ostrich were sometimes used as vases by the ancients. Plin. X.1. Hen's eggs are often found in tombs, not only in Etruria, but in Greece and her colonies in Magna Graecia, and are sometimes enclosed in vases. In a tumulus in the territory of Kertch-Emikolski, in the Crimea, on the site of an ancient Greek colony, a silver vase was found, containing two eggs, which fell to pieces on being touched. Ann. Inst. 1840, p18. They are not always so fragile, for many museums in Italy contain specimens of this singular sepulchral furniture. Whether mere relics of the funeral feast, or intentionally left in the tomb with the wine, honey, milk, &c., as food for the Manes, or for some purely symbolical purpose, it is not easy to determine. The signification of fertility, ordinarily attached to eggs, can hardly apply to a sepulchre. The egg was more probably, in this case, an emblem of resurrection. It was used by both Greeks and Romans in lustrations. (Lucian. Diog. et Poll. p114, ed. Bourd; Juven. Sat. VI.518). By the latter people it was sometimes supposed to possess strange efficacy for Livia Augusta, when pregnant with the Emperor Tiberius, in order that her child might prove a male, hatched an egg in her own bosom. Plin. X.76.​a

48 See the woodcut at page 419. The painting of these eggs is probably Etruscan, for the Egyptians did not represent the sphinx with wings.

49 One of these is shown in the woodcut at page 419. The hieroglyphics have been deciphered. Bull. Inst. 1841, p111 — Ungarelli. Vases of precisely similar character, found in Egyptian tombs, are to be seen in the British Museum.

50 A woodcut of one of these is given at the end of this chapter. It is about six inches high.

51 Micali, Mon. Ined.p39, tav. IV.1. But the myth here represented — Theseus and the Minotaur — is purely Hellenic.

52 The earliest works of the Greeks in bronze were probably so formed, for we know that the most ancient statue in bronze — that of Jupiter on the Acropolis of Sparta — was wrought in separate pieces, nailed together (Pausan. III.17); and so on the revival of the arts in the 14th century of our era, says Micali (Mon. Ined. p52), the earliest statues in this material, as that of Boniface VIII in Bologna, erected in 1301, were formed of plates.

53 For an account of the articles in this tomb, see Bull. Inst. 1839, pp71‑73 — Urlichs; Micali, Mon. Ined. pp37‑71, tav. IV‑VIII; Ann. Inst. 1843, p350, et seq. — Braun.

54 A comparison of the pottery found at Vulci and Tarquinii is greatly in favour of the former. The subjoined table shows the comparative per centage of each description of vases.


Painted vases, with figures (i.e., the two best classes)



Painted vases, with animals (i.e., the Egyptian style)



Painted vases, with mere ornaments



Plain, uncoloured ware



Black ware, with reliefs



Ditto, varnished


Ditto, unvarnished





The average produce of excavations on this site is said to be thirty times greater than at Tarquinii. At Vulci virgin-tombs are to the rest as 1 to 90. In eight months of excavation, Fossati found but three intact, containing painted vases, though more than twenty with ordinary black ware. Ann. Inst. 1829, p128.

The painted vases of Vulci are considered to belong to a period not earlier than the 74th Olympiad (484 B.C.), nor later than the 124th (284 B.C.), or between the third and fifth centuries of Rome — an opinion founded on the forms of the vases, the subjects represented, and on palaeographic evidences. Gerhard, Bull. Inst. 1831, p167.

55 Gerhard, Ann. Inst. 1831, pp106, 107. He subsequently (Bull. Inst. 1832, pp76, 78) rejected this hypothesis in favour of that of an isopolity of Greeks and Etruscans. Welcker (cited in Ann. Inst. 1834, pp43, 285) thinks this colony was one of potters, living as a separate body for ages, preserving their peculiarities of religion and rites.

56 Ann. Inst. 1834, p45.

57 The fullest account of the vases of Vulci will be found in Gerhard's "Rapporto Vulcente," Ann. Inst. 1831. See also some admirable papers, by Chev. Bunsen, Ann. Inst. 1834, pp40‑86, Opinions of Müller, Boeckh, Panofka, and Gerhard, on various points connected with this subject will also be found in Bull. Inst. 1832, pp65‑104. But every work on ancient vases, that has appeared during the last twenty years, treats more or less of the pottery of Vulci.

58 For notices of some of the beautiful works in bronze and jewellery found on this site, see the records of the Institute. Ann. Inst. 1834, pp243‑264; 1842, pp62‑67; Bull. Inst. 1834, p10; 1835, p120; 1836, p145; p169; 1837, p130; 1839, p72; 1840, pp49‑60; p123.

Thayer's Note:

a Livia hatched an egg — Pliny: The story is also told by Suetonius (Tib. 14).

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