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

by George Dennis

published by John Murray, Albemarle Street
London, 1848.

The text is in the public domain.


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p501 Chapter XXVII

BOLSENA — VOLSINII.

— positis nemorosa inter juga Volsiniis.

Juvenal.

Vedeva Troia in cenere e 'n caverne:

O Ilión, come te basso e vile
Mostrava 'l segno che lì si discerne!

Dante.

From Pitigliano and its interesting neighbourhood I proceeded to Bolsena, entering the Papal State at Ornano, a wretched village seven or eight miles from Sorano. Passport and baggage in this case proved no impedimenta; in truth, save at Civita Vecchia, the grand portal to Rome, I have never experienced any inconvenience on entering the state, and have found the doganieri uniformly civil, often courteous, and in no way forward to exert their authority. It were ungracious to attribute their forbearance to the venality of which they are accused.

From Ornano a road runs to Acquapendente, on the highway from Florence to Rome. This has been supposed to be the Acula of Ptolemy, and the colony of the Aquenses mentioned by Pliny1 — an operation founded merely on the p502similarity of its name, which is evidently derived from the physical peculiarities of the site. Acquapendente appears to be wholly of the middle ages — no traces of the Romans, still less of the Etruscans, could I perceive on the spot.

At Ornano I chose the more direct route to Bolsena, which I had soon cause to repent, for here, as usual, the proverb was verified —

No hay atajo
Sin trabajo —
There is no short cut
Without many a rut.

The lanes through which it lay were of so many beds of stiff clay, saturated with the recent rains, so that the beasts sank knee-deep at every step, and sometimes threatened to become as permanently stationary as "my uncle Toby's Hobby-horse." Thus —

                  "I long in miry ways was foiled
And sore discomfited, from slough to slough
Plunging, and half despairing to escape,"—

till I found terra-firma again at Grotte di San Lorenzo. This is evidently an Etruscan site; the surrounding ravines contain sepulchral caves, though hardly in such numbers as to entitle the village to the name, par excellence, of Le Grotte. The red wine to which it gives its name is known at Rome among the best the State produces.2

A couple of miles further carried me to San Lorenzo Nuovo, on the highway from Florence to Rome, where "the great Volsinian mere" bursts upon the view. The road thence to Bolsena is well known, but I may mention, what cannot be learned from the guide-books, that the picturesque and deserted village of San Lorenzo Vecchio, p503about a mile distant — un miglio grasso — "a fat mile," as the natives say — occupies an Etruscan site.3

It was a glorious day when I approached Bolsena. The sky was without a cloud — the lake, its islets, and every object on its shores, were in a summer blaze of light and warmth — the olive-groves were full of half-clad labourers, gathering the unctuous harvest — myriads of water-fowl darkened the sail-less waters — my eye roved round the wide amphitheatre which forms the ancient crater, and on every hand beheld the hills from base to summit dark with variegated foliage. How then discredit the evidence of my eyes — of every sense, and admit it to be the depth of winter, ere vegetation had put forth a single bud or blossom? Yet so it was — but it was the winter of Southern climes.

Bolsena is the representative of the ancient Volsinii,4 p504one of the most ancient,5 most wealthy, and most powerful cities of Etruria,6 and without doubt one of the Twelve of the Confederation.7

The first mention we find of Volsinii in ancient writers is in the year of Rome 362 (B.C. 392), shortly after the fall of Veii, when, in conjunction with Salpinum, a neighbouring town, it took the occasion of a famine and pestilence that had desolated the Roman territory, to make hostile incursions. But these were soon checked; the Volsinienses were beaten, Livy says, with great ease, and 8,000 men laid down their arms, and were glad to purchase a truce of twenty years on humiliating terms.8

Volsinii, with the rest of the Etruscan States, took part in the war which broke out in the year 443 (B.C. 311), commencing with the siege of Sutrium,9 and after the fatal overthrow on the Vadimonian lake,10 which must have been in the territory of Volsinii, we find it stated that Publius p505Decius Mus, the Roman Consul in the year 446, took several strongholds belonging to this city.11

In the year 460 (B.C. 294) L. Postumius Megellus, the consul, laid waste the territory of the Volsinienses, and routed their army not far from their city, leaving 2,800 of them dead on the field. In consequence of this, with Perusia and Arretium, they sought for peace, which was granted for forty years on the payment of a heavy fine.12

After this, just before the war with Pyrrhus, the Volsinienses again took up arms against Rome,13 but were defeated, together with their allies, the Vulcientes, in the year 474 (B.C. 280);14 and it would seem that they were then finally subdued.15 Yet it is difficult to reconcile their energy and love of independence shown in their being among the last people of Etruria to resist the Roman yoke, with the abject state of degradation into which, but a few years after, they had fallen, when they besought the aid of Rome to regulate their internal affairs. It seems that p506they had sunk into such an abyss of luxury and effeminacy, as to find the government of their state too irksome a task for their hands, and — unparallelled degradation! — they committed it in part to their slaves. These soon usurped the supreme power, rode rough-shod over their masters, driving them into exile, or treating them as slaves, forbidding them to assemble even at the banquet, compelling them draw up wills as they were commanded, uniting themselves by marriage with the first families, and committing other acts of unbridled license. The Romans sent an army to the assistance of the masters, and soon restored to them the dominion they had so pitifully renounced.16

We hear little more of Volsinii in ancient times. It p507was the birthplace of Sejanus, the favourite of Tiberius.17 Pliny —

Quel savio gentil che tutto seppe —

asserts that it was once consumed and utterly destroyed by a thunderbolt,18 and also that lightning was once drawn from heaven by certain sacred rites and prayers, to destroy a monster, called Volta, which was ravaging the land.19 He further states that hand-mills were invented at Volsinii, and that some turned of their own accord;20 whence it would appear that "that shrewd and knavish sprite, called Robin Goodfellow," was of Etruscan origin — a fact worthy of the attention of all Etrusco-Celtic theorists.

That Volsinii continued to exist under the Empire is evident from the mention made of it by ancient writers,21 as well as from remains discovered on the spot.

To a practised eye it is evident at a glance that the Etruscan city did not occupy the site of Bolsena. The low rock on which the medieval castle stands, is only large enough for a small fortress; and if that were the acropolis, the city must have stood on the shore of the lake, and on the slope of the long-drawn hill, which rises behind it — a position of no natural strength, and such as belonged to no city of Etruria, save those of Pelasgic origin on the coast; and which, moreover, is at variance with that of Volsinii, which was remarkable for its strength. In fact it is on record that on the conquest of that city by the Romans, it was razed to the ground, and its inhabitants were p508compelled to settle on another and probably less defensible site;22 as was the case with Falerii. This then was the origin of Bolsena, which, as is confirmed by extant remains, occupies the site of Roman, not of Etruscan, Volsinii. The latter must be sought on more elevated ground.

Some have thought that Etruscan Volsinii occupied the site of Orvieto — Urbs Vetus — "the old city," par excellence;23 others place it at Monte Fiascone,24 but there is no reason to believe it eight or nine miles from its Roman representative. More probably it stood in the neighbourhood of Bolsena; in which case it must have occupied one of the cliff-girt heights to the south-east, which are full of sepulchral caves, or the crest of the hill which overhangs the ruined amphitheatre. Chevalier Bunsen, some years since, asserted that "on a rock of difficult access, on whose slopes lies Bolsena, considerable remains of the original were to be seen;"25 but that description is vague enough to apply to any of the heights just mentioned. The uncertainty attaching to the site led me to revisit Bolsena in the summer of 1846, when I had the satisfaction of determining that the Etruscan city must have occupied the summit of the hill above the amphitheatre, the loftiest height on this side of the lake, where the ground spreads out into a table-land, extensive enough to hold a city of first-rate importance. The spot is commonly called Il Piazzano, and is the property of the Count Corza Capusavia. If this be the site referred to by Chevalier Bunsen, it has now no considerable remains to show, or they were lost to my sight in the cornº and underwood; but the soil, wherever visible, was strewn with broken p509pottery, without any admixture of marbles or more precious materials, such as commonly mark the sites of Roman cities — that bearing testimony to its early habitation. Towards the lake the ground breaks into cliffs, which, together with its great elevation, must have rendered the height difficult of access.26

The vestiges of the Etruscan greatness of Volsinii are few indeed. Her walls, so mighty and strong,27 are level with the dust; not a relic of her temples and palaces — not a torso of the multitude of statues which once adorned the city — is now to be seen. Beyond the broken pottery, and a few caves in the cliffs below, now hardly to be recognised as tombs,28 nothing is left to indicate the existence of this once powerful and opulent city of Etruria, —

"High towers, faire temples, goodly theaters,
Strong walls, rich porches, princelie pallaces,
Large streetes, brave houses, sacred sepulchres,
Sure gates, sweete gardens, stately galleries,
Wrought with faire pillours and fine imageries;
All those (O pitie!) now are turn'd to dust,
And overgrowne with black oblivion's rust."

In Roman remains Bolsena is not deficient. Just without the Florence gate stand the ruins of a temple, vulgarly called Tempio di Norzia, but on no other authority than that Nortia, the Fortune of Etruscan mythology, is known to have had a shrine at Volsinii.29 The temple of this goddess seems to have been of peculiar sanctity, for p510it was made the national calendar — a nail being driven into it every year, as into the temple of Jove on the Capitol of Rome.30 That temple being Etruscan, most probably stood on the site of the ancient city. The ruins in question are undoubtedly Roman, being of opus incertum alternating in layers with brickwork. Roman also are the sepulchral tablets and cippi, arranged in front of the said gate, though among them may be recognised the Etruscan p511names of Caecina and Vibenna. But a bas-relief of a siege seems to belong to an earlier period and style of art.31

From the ruined temple a Roman road of basaltic pavement leads in a direct line up the hill. It probably ran to the ancient town on the site of Orvieto, and is still the path to the amphitheatre, or as the natives term it, La Piazza del Mercatello, — a small structure, in utter ruin and of little interest. The construction is so palpably Roman, that it is difficult to understand how it could have been taken for Etruscan. It occupies an elevated site about a mile from the town, and is surrounded by vineyards and chestnut-groves. In fact Juvenal's picture of Volsinii, "placed among wooded hills," is as applicable as ever, for all the slopes behind Bolsena are densely clothed — olives below, and chestnuts above. Another Roman road, running eastward, and probably leading to Balneum Regis, now Bagnaréa, may be traced on the heights above the Franciscan Convent, near the new road to Orvieto.32

Though the vestiges of the city and of the amphitheatre may not tempt him, let not the traveller neglect to ascend these heights, for the sake of the magnificent view they command. The lake, broad and bright as an archangel's shield — its islets, once ever changing place and form at the breath of Aeolus or the caprice of popular tradition, p512but now two fixed spots of beauty on its fair surface — Valentano glittering on the dusky heights opposite, —

"Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear" —

Marta nestling beneath its bold headland — the broad cestus of verdure girdling the lake, — all these and more distant features of beauty are seen over the slopes of olives and vines, of figs and chestnuts, and over the caverned cliffs which rise around the castled-crag of Bolsena.

Other Roman remains have been discovered at Bolsena;33 and in front of the church of Santa Cristina are sundry column-shafts of blue and red granite, and an oval marble sarcophagus with reliefs of the triumph of Bacchus. Altars, cippi, votive and sepulchral tablets here and there meet the eye in the streets.

Though so little is to be seen of the Etruscan age of Volsinii, at the call of the pickaxe and shovel the earth yields her hidden treasures. The site has been too much neglected by the excavator, for though some attempts have been made of late years, they have not been to that extent which a place so renowned for antiquity, wealth, and luxury demands.34

A chapter on Bolsena would not be complete without a word on its miracles. The Santa Cristina, to whom the church is dedicated, was a virgin-martyr, who was cast into the lake by "the bewildered Pagans of old time," and though she touched the bottom, as is proved by the prints of her feet on the rocks, which remain to this day to confound the unbeliever, she would not drown, but p513came safe to land. Her body was preserved in her church till some pilgrims committed a pious fraud and smuggled it off to Palermo.a But this is not the celebrated "Miracle of Bolsena," which has made the name of this pretty town known from Chili to Japan, wherever the Roman Pontiff has power or advocates, or the genius of Raffaelle worshippers. That event occurred in this same church of Santa Cristina, some six centuries since, when a priest, performing the mass, entertained doubts of the real presence — doubts not even expressed — but blood forthwith burst from the wafer, and left its stains on the altar and marble floor, where they may be seen at this day — screened, however, from heretical scrutiny.

It remains to be said that the modern representative of this ancient greatness is a poverty-stricken town of some 1700 souls.b Being on the high road to Rome, and a post-station, it has an inn — the Aquila d' Oro — which trumpets its own praises as to the convenience it can afford in the matters of apartments, stabling &c., and promises the traveller "most excellent entertainment." Le parole son femine, i fatti maschi — "words are feminine, deeds masculine," saith the proverb; or as the Spaniards express it —

Del dicho al hecho
Hay gran trecho, —

therefore put not your faith in the Boniface of Bolsena.35


The Author's Notes:

1 Ptolem. Geog. p72, ed. Bert. Plin. N. H. III.8 Aquenses, cognomine Taurini. Dempster (de Etruria Regali, II. p342) held this opinion. But Cluver (Ital. Ant. II. p570) shows that the Acula of Ptolemy was no other than the Ad Aquileia of the Peutingerian Table, the first stage from Florentia on the road to Clusium. And the Aquae Tauri of Pliny were in the mountains, three miles from Centumcellae, or Civita Vecchia, as says Rutilius (I.249), —

Nosse juvat Tauri dictas de nomine thermas,

Nec mora difficilis millibus ire tribus.

They are now called Bagni di Ferrata.

2 If the Lago Mezzano be the Lacus Statoniensis, this may be the very wine famed of old as the Statonian (Plin. N. H. XIV.8. 5), for the lake is but six or seven miles distant.

3 In the cliffs around and beneath the walls are many caves, originally sepulchres. This cannot have been anciently a town. Its circumscribed area, not larger than that of a small castle, rather indicates it as one of the strongholds — castella — which Volsinii possessed. Liv. IX.41.

4 Volsinii must have been called Volsina by the Etruscans, or perhaps Velsuna, as it would appear from coins. If the first, it had anciently the same appellation as Bologna — Felsina. Velsi, or Velsina, was a common family name, often found on sepulchral inscriptions. The change of the Etruscan e into the Latin o was frequent — Volumnius for Velimnas in the celebrated tomb of Perugia, for instance. The two letters, indeed, were interchangeable among the Romans, who had originally benus for bonus, delor for dolor, &c., which holds also among their Iberian descendants, who have bueno, duelo, &c. The original name of Volsinii may well have been Velsuna, as we find "Volsonianus" in an inscription found near Viterbo, referring to places in the neighbourhood. Ann. Inst. 1829, p175. Propertius (IV. eleg. 2, 4) has Volsanus, though in some editions written Volsinius. But the name of Vulsine has also been found; and at Bolsena itself (Lanzi, II. p406); and Vuisina,º or Vusina, occurs several times in the Lecne Tomb, near Siena. Lanzi, II. p361. There is a gold coin, with the type of woman's head and a dog, and the legend "Velsu" in Etruscan letters, which Sestini has assigned to Velia or Felsina (Bologna), but which Müller (Etrusk. I p334) attributes to Volsinii (Velsine or Velsune); and he thinks that many copper coins that have been referred to Volterra, or Bettona, more properly belong to Volsinii. Chev. Bunsen (Bull. Inst. 1833, p97) considers this conjecture of Müller's, as to the gold coin, to (p504)be most happy. Passeri (de Etrus. Funere, p102, ap. Gori Mus. Etrus. III) accounts for the absence of coins of Volsinii, by a passage of Livy (X.37), which states that the Romans exacted a large tribute from the city. It is difficult to believe him to be serious.

5 Zonar. Annal. VIII.7.

6 Plin. N. H. II.53; Val. Max. IX.1; Flor. I.21; Liv. X.37; cf. Plin. XXXIV.16.

7 Livy (loc. cit.) ranks it with Arretium and Perusia, as among the "capita Etruriae;" and Valerius Maximus also (loc. cit.) so designates it. Pliny (II.54), however, speaks of Porsenna as king of Volsinii, which might be interpreted into a dependence on Chiusi, but perhaps indicates merely a connection. Müller (Etrusk. einl. 2, 17) is of opinion that after the fall of Tarquinii, Volsinii was probably the mightiest state of Etruria.

8 Liv. V.31, 32; Diod. XIV p319, ed. Rhod. The latter writer states that the battle was fought at Gurasium, which Cluver (II p557) regards as a corruption of some better known name. Niebuhr (III. p274) says it is clear, from the feeble way in which the war of 368 was carried on, that it was the enterprise of Volsinii alone. But this city is not mentioned by Livy (VI.9, 10), who records the events of that war.

Müller (Etrusk. einl. 2. 15 n124) thinks that the Solonium mentioned by Dionysius (III. p104) as an Etruscan city, whence a Lucumo, probably Caeles Vibenna, came to the assistance of Romulus, was Volsinii. Cluver (II p454, 473), however, thinks Vetulonium is here the true reading; while others would have it Populonium.

9 Liv. IX.32.

10 Liv. IX.39.

11 Liv. IX.41; Diodorus (XX. p781) merely says that the Romans took a castle called Caprium, or as some readings have it, Caerium.

12 Liv. X.37.

13 Epitome of Liv. XI.

14 See the Fasti Consulares in the Capitol —

. . . . . VNCANIVS.TI.F.TI.N.COS.ANN.CDLXXIII.

. . VLSINIENSIBVS.ET.VVLCIENTIB.K.FEBR.

Pliny (N. H. XXXIV.16) states that Metrodorus Scepsius, a Greek writer greatly prejudiced against the Romans, had asserted that Volsinii was attacked for the sake of two thousand statues it contained.

15 The conquest which the Fasti Consulares record, in the year 489, must refer to the subjugation of the revolted slaves —

M.FVLVIVS.Q.F.M.N.FLACCVS.AN.CDXXCIX.
COS.DE.VVLSINIENSIBVS.K.NOV.

Aurelius Victor (de Viris Illust. XXXVII) — "App. Claudius Caudex, victis Vulsiniensibus" — must refer to the same event; for Zonaras expressly asserts that Volsinienses on that occasion called in the Romans, as being already their allies — ἔνσπονδοι γάρ ἢσαν αὐτῶν;º which seems most consistent with probability; for it is only the sense of security consequent on an alliance with, or dependence on Rome, that can explain their sudden fall into such depths of luxury. Therefore, the reduction of this people to the Roman yoke must have been earlier; and as there is no mention of any intervening contest, it is most probable that that of 474 was the final one.

16 So the story is related by Valerius Maximus, IX.1; Florus, I.21; Zonaras, Ann. VIII.7; Orosius, IV.5; A. Victor, in Decio Mure. This event was just before the first Punic war, according to Zonaras and Florus; and as the latter states that the Romans on this occasion were commanded by Q. Fabius Gurges, it probably occurred in 489, when he was consul. Zonaras says that Q. Fabius and Aemilius were consuls, but this must be an error for Mamilius — L. Mamilius Vitulus, who shared the consulate with Gurges. It must be this event which is referred to in the Epitome of the XVI. Book of Livy — res contra Poenos et Vulsinios prospere gestas continet. Aurelius Victor erroneously states that the Volsinian slaves were subdued by Decius Mus, but he, that is the third of his name, was slain in 475, in the Tarentine War (Cic. Tusc. Quaest. I.37; De Fin. II.19); and Victor seems to have confounded this subjugation of the slaves with the war of conquest against Volsinii, fifteen years previous. Cluver (II p558) falls into a similar error.

In all the above-cited accounts, the insurgents at Volsinii are called slaves — servi, οἰκέται — but Niebuhr pronounces them to have been not domestic slaves, but serfs — the governed class in the feudal system of Etruria. On this view, the mystery of the reported sudden fall into luxury vanishes; for it was by the aid of the serfs that Volsinii had previously been enabled to maintain, almost single-handed, so long and obstinate a struggle with Rome, and "for the defenders of their common home," as Niebuhr remarks, "to become citizens was a matter of course." The great historian of Rome considers the fact to amount to no more than that the serfs obtained, by force, physical or moral, the franchise, seats in the senate, and the rights of intermarriage and inheritance, and that all colouring superadded must be attributed to party hatred, or to the foolish exaggerations of Greek writers. Hist. Rome, I. p124; III. p546.

17 Tacit. Ann. IV.1; VI.8.

18 Plin. II.53. cf. Tertul., Apolog. XL; de Pallio, II.

19 Plin. II.54.

20 Plin. XXXVI.29.

21 Niebuhr (III. p547) says that it disappeared from the number of Etruscan towns, because it is not found among those which supported the undertaking of Scipio. Liv. XXVIII.45. But it is subsequently mentioned by Tacitus (loc. cit.), Strabo (V. p226), who refers to it as one of the principal cities of Etruria in his day, Ptolemy (Geog. p72, ed. Bert.), and Pliny (III.8).

22 Zonaras, Annal. VIII.7.

23 Müller, Etrusk. I p451; Orioli, Nouv. Ann. Inst. 1836, p50.

24 Abeken, Mittelitalien, p34.

25 Bull. Inst. 1833, p96. He strenuously combats Müller's notion of Volsinii being at Orvieto.

26 These cliffs, from below, look in parts extremely like masonry. Can it be these that the Chevalier mistook for the city-walls?

27 Zonar. Ann. VIII.7 — ρειχος ὀχυρώτατον.

28 These sepulchres are not such as to tax the traveller's time or attention, being formless, defaced, and tenanted by hogs or mendicants. A few are columbaria, as at Toscanella, Sorano, Pitigliano.

29 Liv. VII.3; Tertull. Apologet. 24; ad Nationes, II.8; Juvenal (X.74) implies the same, by supposing Nursia, as he calls this goddess, to favour Sejanus, who was born at Volsinii. She is also mentioned as the goddess of this city, in a Latin votive inscription, given by Fabretti (X. p742) —

Nortia te veneror lare cretus Volsiniensi;

who gives a second inscription —

Magnae Deae Nortiae.

cf. Gori, Mus. Etrus. II. pp17, 303. Gerhard (Gottheiten der Etrusker) regards Nortia as nearly allied to Minerva. Gori thinks that a marble statue of a female with a child, and an Etruscan inscription on her left arm, which appears to be votive, found at Volterra, and now in the museum of that city, represents Nortia. Gerhard, however, (Gottheiten der Etrusker, pp39, 60), regards this statue as that of Ilithyia, the goddess of Pyrgi.

30 Liv. loc. cit. Livy does not state it from his own knowledge, but on the assertion of one Cincius, a cautious authority for such monuments. This custom was, without doubt, introduced into Rome from Etruria, for it had existed from the time of the kings — a nail being annually driven into the wall of the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus — and falling at length into disuse, was revived in the year of Rome 391 (B.C. 363), for the sake of staying a pestilence; when, strange enough, a dictator was chosen simply for the sake of driving the nail! This was the case also on subsequent occasions. Liv. VIII.18; IX.28. The custom, as Livy confesses, savoured of a semi-barbarous age — quia rarae per ea tempora literae erant — yet was preserved, from some superstitious notion of its efficacy — not merely as a curious relic of the olden time, as the Lord Mayor of London counts hobnails on the Exchequer-table on the day of his installation. The nail evidently had a symbolic meaning with the Etruscans, implying the fixed decree of fate; for on a well-known mirror, found at Perugia, it is represented in the hand of the Etruscan winged Fate — Athrpa, or Atropos — who is about to drive a nail with a hammer, to indicate the predetermined death of Meleager — Meliacr — and of Adonis. Inghir. Mon. Etrus. II. tav. 62, p550. Vermiglioli, Iscriz. Perug. I. p49. Gerhard, Etrusk. Spiegel, taf. CLXXVI. Müller (Etrusk. IV.7, 6) shows that "Athrpa" is but the Nortia of the Etruscans, with a Hellenised appellation. The same symbolical idea of the nail was adopted by the Romans; and clavo trabali fixum was a proverbial saying, signifying what was unalterably fixed by Fate or Fortune. Cic. in Verr. VI.21; Petron. Satyr. 75. Horace's (Od. I.35, 17) picture of Necessity, the companion of Fortune, bearing such nails in her hand, which he also terms adamantine (Od. III.24), is well known.

31 It is illustrated by Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. III p88, tav. LVIII.5) but better by Adami (Storia di Volseno, p133), who calls it "the sacrifice of the Arvales." Adami describes and delineates many other remains of temples, palaces, baths, sepulchres — all Roman — existing in his day — about a century since — in the neighbourhood of Bolsena.

32 On this road, just above the convent, are some singular sections of earth, showing Roman masonry and opus incertum, with a layer of broken pottery above it, eight or ten feet below the present surface; the superincumbent earth having been washed down from the hill above. This shows how much caution is necessary in determining ancient sites from extant remains, when the ground, as in this case, is commanded by higher, contiguous land. The surface may present no vestige of former habitation.

33 Baths, with leaden pipes, stamped with "Neronis Caesaris Aug.;" and a chamber frescoed in the style of Pompeii. Bull. Inst. 1837, p188; 1838, p6.

34 The most recent excavations were made, a few years since, by a lady, whose name and nation I could not learn. She did not confine her operations to the mainland, but made scavi also in the island of Martana. I could not ascertain the result; but the speedy discontinuance implied no great success.

35 The notice put forth from this inn for the attraction of travellers, was thus ludicrously translated in the handbill, for the benefit of Englishmen:— "Inn of the Gold's Eagle. Noble travellers who shall pass by this way, or in stage-coach, or by post-chaise, they shall find in this inn of the very well-arranged rooms, stables, coach-houses, and horses for making the mountain of. At length they shall be very well contented of all they shall desire."

Thayer's Note (speaking as a professional translator, but mostly as a human being): If there were downright error or ambiguity, it would be good to bring such a translation to the attention of the innkeeper — privately, with suggested changes. But the translation, though awkward, is completely comprehensible, and bespeaks a friendly attempt to accommodate an insular nation long known for its disdain of foreign languages: for Dennis to paste it into his otherwise excellent work, merely by way of entertainment, does not show him at his best.


Thayer's Notes:

a Her much reduced remains currently lie in a silver casket in her church at S. Cristina Gela, about 30 km S of the city of Palermo. The parish once had a website — now vanished — with a life of the saint and a photo of the casket, and recounting that in the 8c her remains were moved to the Isola Martana in Lake Bolsena "for safekeeping", but did not address how she came from there to Palermo. It did state that when her sarcophagus was found in 1880 under the church of S. Cristina Gela, it was found to be broken in a manner consistent with "the tradition of the theft that had occurred in previous centuries".

b The 2003 census figures give the official population of Bolsena as 4104 (a decrease of 62 people since the year 2000) for the entire comune, that is, the town proper and the township around it.


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Page updated: 12 Nov 12