[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]
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.

[image ALT: link to next section]

p118 Chapter XXXVIII


Chi Fiesol hedificò conobbe el loco
Come gia per gli cieli ben composto.

Faccio degli Uberti.

Vites autem veteres earum urbium hodieque magnitudo ostentat moenium.

Vell. Paterculus.

The first acquaintance the traveller in Italy makes with Etruscan antiquities — the first time, it may be, that he is reminded of such a race — is generally at Fiesole. The close vicinity to Florence, and the report that some remains are to be seen there, far older than Roman days, attract the visitor to the spot. He there beholds walls of great massiveness, and a few other remains, but forms a very imperfect conception of the race that constructed them. He learns, it is true, from the skill displayed in these monuments, that the Etruscans could not have been a barbarous people; but the extent and character of their civilisation are still to him a mystery. It is not at Fiesole that this early people is to be comprehended.

Who, that has visited Florence, does not know Fiesole — the Hampstead or Highgate of the Tuscan capital — the Sunday resort of Florentine Cockneyism? Who does not know that it forms one of the most picturesque objects in the scenery around that most elegant of cities, crowning a height, three miles to the north, with its vine-shaded villas and cypress-girt convents, and rearing its tall Cathedral-tower between the two crests of the mount? Who has p119not lingered awhile on his way at Dante's mill, and, in spite of the exclusiveness of English proprietorship, who has not in imagination overleapt the walls of the Villa, hallowed by "The Hundred Tales of Love," and beheld

"Boccaccio's Garden and its faery,
The love, the joyaunce, and the gallantry!"

It may seem superfluous to give a description of Fiesole when it is to be found in every guide-book that treats of Florence; yet, as an Etruscan city, it demands some notice; and I may chance to state a few facts beyond what are found in the said publications.

As the visitor ascends the hill by the new carriage-road, he will perceive, just before reaching the town, a portion of the ancient wall climbing the steep on the right. This is a very inferior specimen in point of massiveness and preservation, to what he may see on the opposite side of the city. Let him then cross the Piazza, and take a path behind the Cathedral, which will lead him to the northern brow of the hill. Here he finds a superb remnant of the ancient fortifications, stretching away to his right, and rising to the height of twenty or thirty feet. The masonry is widely different from that of ancient sites in southern Etruria. The hard rock of which the hill is composed,1 not admitting of being worked so easily as the tufo and other soft volcanic formations of the southern plains, has been cut into blocks of various sizes, as they chanced to be split out from the quarry, but generally squared, and laid in horizontal courses. Strict regularity, however, was by no means observed. The courses vary in depth from about one foot to two or three, the average being above two; and in length also the blocks vary greatly, some being square, others as much as seven, p120eight, nine feet, and the longest twelve feet and a half. The joints, as in the walls of Pompeii, are often oblique, instead of vertical; and, in one part, there is a wedge-course, as in the bridge of Bieda,2 and the walls of Populonia, Perugia, and Todi, but without any apparent object, beyond saving the labour of squaring the blocks. It is evident, however, that the aim of the builder was regular, squared masonry, but he was fettered by his materials. In many parts where the angles of the blocks did not fit close, a portion was cut away and a small stone fitted in with great nicety, as in the most finished polygonal walling. Though the edges of the blocks have in general suffered from the weather, the joints are sometimes extremely neat and it is apparent that such was originally the character of the whole. No cement or cramping was used; the masses, as usual in these early structures, held together by their weight. The marks of the chisel on the surface of the blocks are often visible.3

This masonry is by no means so massive as that on other Etruscan sites of the same character — Volterra, Roselle, Cortona, for instance; yet, from its finish, its excellent preservation, and the height of the walls, picturesquely draped with ivy and overshadowed by oak and ash-trees, it is very imposing.

p121 The entrance of the lane, by which the visitor descends from the Piazza, marks the site of an ancient gate; and in the road below it, mixed with modern repairs, are remains of the old pavement — not of polygonal blocks, as used by the Romans, but of large rectangular flags, furrowed transversely on account of the steepness of the road. It is a style often adopted by the Greeks.4 Its dissimilarity to Roman pavement, its relation to the gate in the Etruscan walls hard by, and the large size of the blocks or flags, rendering removal a work of great difficulty, induce me to consider it of Etruscan origin, though this is the only site in Etruria where it is found.

In this portion of the wall open two passages, whose narrow dimensions prove them to have been nothing else but sewers, to drain the area of the city; as is usual on Etruscan sites.5 In the volcanic district such sewers are cut through the tufo cliffs on which the walls rest; but here, as in other cities of Northern Etruria, there being no cliffs, and the fortifications rising from the slope and forming a revêtement to the higher level of the city, they are made in the wall itself. So also at Volterra. Of the same character may be the apertures in the walls of the so‑called Pelasgic towns of Latium — Norba, Segni, and Alatri; but these of Faesulae are much inferior in size.6 The smaller of them has a doccia, or sill, serving as p122a spout to carry the fluid clear of the wall. The other runs in a great way in a straight line, but being too small to admit a man, it has never been fathomed. A little child was on sent in, who crawled for a considerable distance without finding the end, till his courage failed him, and he returned to the light of day.7 But the most singular feature of this sewer is, that on the wall beneath it is scratched a figure, the usual symbol among the ancients of reproductive power. It is here so slightly marked, as easily to escape the eye; it may possibly have been done by some wanton hand in more recent times, but analogy is in favour of its antiquity. That such representations were placed by the ancients on the walls of their cities, there is no lack of proof. They are found on several of the early cities of Italy and Greece, on masonry polygonal as well as regular.8

The reason of this symbol being placed in such positions is not easy to determine. Cavaliere Inghirami thought it p123might be to intimate the strength of the city, or else to show defiance of a foe,9 in accordance with the ancient gesture of contempt and defiance, still in use among the southern nations of Europe; but it seems more probably to have had the same meaning in this as in other cases, where it was used as a fascinum or charm against the effects of the evil eye.10

Follow the line of walls some hundred yards to the east — you come to an arch standing ten or twelve feet in advance of them. Here you have a structure of different character, and apparently of later date; for the masonry is much less massive than in the city walls. You will perceive that it formed part of an open gateway, or projecting tower, for there are traces of a second arch which joined this at right angles, uniting it to the wall. It is probably a Roman addition.11

Beyond this you can trace the walls in fragments, mixed with the small work of modern repairs, in a straight line p124along the brow of the hill, till in the Borgo Unto, a suburb on the east of the ancient city, you find them turn at right angles and tend southward. On your way up the hill from the Borgo Unto to S. Polinari, you cross some basaltic pavement, and just beyond it, in a portion of the wall where very massive blocks are laid on very shallow ones, you may observe the site of a gate now blocked up, but indicated by the pavement leading up to it. Beyond this is a long line of the ancient masonry, more irregular and less massive, tending westward, and terminating at some quarries; then after a wide gap you meet the wall again, and trace it down the steep to the modern road where you first descried it.12 Westward of this there are said to be some fragments below the height of San Francesco, but I never could find them, though I have traced them up the same hill on the opposite or northern side. Few will think themselves repaid for their fatigue in tracing out the entire line of walls, over the broken ground, and through the vineyards and olive-groves on the slopes; unless the visitor wish to verify for himself the extent and outline of the city, he may well rest content with seeing that part of the wall first described, which is by far the finest and best preserved portion of the whole.

The extent of the walls in their original state was not great — less than two miles in circuit.13 Faesulae was, therefore, p125much inferior in size to certain other Etruscan cities — Veii, Volaterrae, Agylla, Tarquinii, for instance. The highest crest of the hill to the north-west, where the Franciscan convent now stands, was originally the Arx; for here have been found, at various times, traces of a triple concentric wall, engirdling the height, all within the outer line of the ancient fortifications.14 Nothing of the triple wall is now to be seen. In the Church of S. Alessandro, on the same height, are some columns of cipollino, which probably belonged to a Roman temple on this spot.15

Though little of antiquity is to be seen on this height, the visitor should not fail to ascend it for the sake of its all-glorious view. No scene in Italy is better known, or has been more often described, than that "from p126the top of Fesole."º Poets, painters, philosophers, historians, and tourists, have all kindled with its inspiration. And in truth,

"Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty."

Description, then, would here be needless. Yet I may remark, that with all its vastness and diversity, the scene has a simple character. All the luxuriant pomp of the Arno-vale, and the grandeur of the inclosing mountains, are but the framework, the setting-off of the picture, which is Florence, fair Florence —

"The brightest star of star-bright Italy!"

hence beheld in all her brilliancy and beauty.

Within the walls of Fiesole, there are few remains of antiquity. The principal is the Theatre, discovered and excavated in 1809 by a Prussian noble, Baron Schellersheim. It lies in a vineyard below the Cathedral, to the east. When first disinterred, it was found to have six gates or entrances in the outer circuit of wall, with twenty tiers of seats, and five flights of steps; but little of this is now to be seen, for it was soon re-covered with earth, that the pulse-consuming canons of the Cathedral might not be put on short commons of beans or artichokes. All that is now visible is a portion of the outer circuit of wall, of small stone-work — a few of the seats, of massive blocks, quarried, like those of the city-walls, from the hill itself — and a flight of steps leading down to five vaults of opus incertum and stone brick-work, called by the Fiesolani, Le Buche delle Fate, or "Dens of the Fairies;" but verily the fairies of Italy must be a gloomy race, whom

— juvat ire sub umbrâ

Desertosque videre locos,

p127 if they take up with such haunts; no way akin to the frolicsome, mischief-loving sprites, "the moonshine revellers of merry England —

"Oh these be Fancy's revellers by night!

These be the pretty genii of the flowers —

Daintily fed with honey and pure dew —

Midsummer's phantoms in her dreaming hours!"

Such dark, dank, dripping, dismal "dens" as these would freeze the heart of a Mab or a Titania.

This Theatre was long thought to be of Etruscan origin; but more extensive research into what may be called the comparative anatomy of antiquities, has determined it to be Roman.16

Near the Theatre is a half-buried arch, similar to that outside the walls, but of smaller span. It leads into a vault of opus incertum; and a little above is a second similar vault. Near the Theatre also are a few large rectangular stones beneath the surface, which have received p128the name of "the Etruscan Palace;" but to the Ciceroni on these sites no more credit should be given than to the "drab-coloured men of Pennsylvania." In the garden above the house, attached to the ground in which the Theatre lies, are some fragments of masonry, running at right angles with the city-walls below, and probably of the same origin; and hard by is an underground vault lined with small masonry, and covered with horizontal flags.

In the Borgo Unto is a curious fountain, called "Fonte Sotterra." You enter a Gothic archway, and descend a vaulted passage by a long flight of steps to a cave cut in the rock, bearing marks of the chisel on its walls. Here I was stopped by the water; but when this is at a lower level, you reach a long shapeless gallery, hewn in the rock, and ending in a little reservoir, similarly hollowed, but for what purpose is hard to say.17 Inghirami, indeed, imagined it might have been formed to catch the waters which, percolating through the ground, descended "in an eternal shower of gentle rain" into the reservoir.18 But who ever heard of such a fountain? and cui bono, when there is manifestly a spring on the spot? The water is extremely pure, supplying the whole neighbourhood, and evidently wells up from below, as its height varies at different times, little affected by rain or drought. I have found it even higher in summer than in winter, after the melting of snow and the fall of heavy rains. It very rarely happens that it sinks low enough to permit a descent to the bottom of the passage. Such an event, however, p129occurred in the autumn of that unusually hot year, 1825, and has been thought worthy of record on a tablet at the entrance.19

Inghirami regards this Fonte as an Etruscan work; but I could perceive nothing which marks such an origin.20

Only ten or twelve paces from this Fonte, a remarkable cistern or reservoir was discovered in 1832. Its walls, except on one side where a flight of steps led down into it,21 were built up with masonry, in large rectangular, rusticated blocks.22 It was roofed in by the convergence of several horizontal layers of thin stones, and the imposition of larger slabs in the centre,23 on the same principle as the celebrated Regulini-Galassi tomb at Cervetri. It was remarkable, that though undoubtedly a reservoir or fountain — for it was discovered by tracing an ancient water-channel which led from it — there were no traces of cement in the masonry. This fact, and the very ancient style of its vaulting, indicate an Etruscan origin; which is confirmed by the discovery of sundry amphorae of that character, and fragments of water-pots buried in the mud which covered the bottom. This reservoir was, unfortunately, reclosed the year after it was opened.24 It seems p130to me highly probable that this was the original fountain on this spot, and that when it no longer answered its purpose, either by falling out of repair, or by ceasing to supply wants of the population, it was covered up as it was found, and the Fonte Sotterra dug in its stead. The much greater depth of the latter favours this opinion.

No tombs remain visible on this site, though a few, I believe, have been opened by Signor François.25 The hardness of the rock of which the hill is composed forbade excavating sepulchres in the slopes around the town; the only sort of tomb which would have been formed on such a site is that built up with masonry, and piled over with earth, like the Tanella di Pitagora at Cortona, or the Grotta Sergardi at Camuscia. If such there were they are no longer visible. Nothing like a tumulus could I perceive around Fiesole. Yet there are spots in the neighbourhood which one experienced in such matters has little hesitation in pronouncing to be the site of the ancient cemetery. All this district, however, is too rich in agricultural produce to admit of excavations being made.

Relics of ancient Faesulae have at various times been brought to light, within or around the walls of the city. One of the most striking is the basrelief of a warrior in the Palazzo Buonarroti, Florence, mentioned in the last chapter, whose Etruscan inscription and archaic character testify to the high antiquity of Faesulae.

In 1829, a singular discovery was made here of more than one thousand coins of Roman consuls and families;26 but none of Etruscan character.27

p131 Fiesole, though known to have been an Etruscan city, from its extant remains and the monuments at various times found on the spot, is not mentioned as such in history. This must have been owing to its remoteness from Rome, which preserved it from immediate contact with that power, probably till the final subjugation of Etruria, when it is most likely that Fiesole, with the other few towns in the northern district, finding the great cities of the Confederation had yielded to the conqueror, was induced to submit without a struggle.28

p132 The first record we find of it is in the year 529, when the Gauls, making a descent on the Roman territory, past near Faesulae, and defeated the Romans who went out against them.29 A few years after this, when Annibal, after his victory on the Trebia, entered Etruria, it was by the unusual route of Faesulae.30 The city also is represented by one of the poets as taking part in this Second Punic War, and as being renowned for its skill in augury.31 No farther record is found of it till the Social War, about ninety years B.C., when Faesulae is mentioned among the cities which suffered most severely from the terrible vengeance of Rome, being laid waste with fire and sword.32 And again, but a few years later, it had to endure the vengeance of Sylla, when to punish the city for having espoused the side of his rival, he sent to it a military colony, p133and divided its territory among his officers.33 Still later it was made the head-quarters of Catiline's conspirators, and actively espoused his cause.34 We learn from a statement of Pliny, that it must have retained the right of Roman citizenship in the reign of Augustus.35 It was besieged and taken by the troops of Belisarius, A.D. 539. At what period it gave birth to Florence, which, rather than the paltry village on the hill, must be regarded as the representative of the ancient Faesulae, is a matter of dispute; some thinking it as early as the time of Sylla, and that his colonists removed from the steep and inconvenient height to the fertile plain;36 others regarding it to have been at a later date. It is certain, however, that Florence existed as a colony under the Romans. The principal emigration from Faesulae to Florence seems to have taken place in the middle ages.

One of the attractions of Fiesole was, till of late, La Badia, a quaint old abbey at the foot of the hill, long the residence of the Cavalier Francesco Inghirami, the patriarch of Etruscan antiquaries, whose profound learning and untiring research had won him an European renown. When I had the honour of making his acquaintance he was suffering from that illness from which he never recovered; yet his mind was active as ever; even then his pen was not idle, or he relaxed it only to exchange it for the pencil. He was not only the author; he was also the printer, the publisher, and even the illustrator of his own works. It may not be generally known, that he drew with his own hand the numerous plates of all the voluminous works he p134has given to the world; and to insure accuracy, he had recourse to a most tedious process, which doubled his labour. In default of a camera-obscura, or lucida, he traced every object on an upright plane of glass, set between it and his eye, and then retraced his drawing on paper. His illustrations have thus the merit of accuracy, which in the works of some Italian antiquaries is wanting, where most essential. Inghirami it was who, with Micali, was instrumental in bringing the almost obsolete subject of Etruscan antiquities before the world. They took the dusty topic from the shelf, where since the days of Dempster, Fori, Passeri, and Lanzi it had lain; held it up to public view, till it became popular in Italy and in other lands, and was taken into favour by princes and nobles. Inghirami died at a good old age. Micali was cut off just before him; and our own countryman, Millingen, inferior to neither in usefulness or merited reputation, followed soon after. Thus goes the world, as the proverb says —

Il mondo è fatto a scarpette —
Chi se lo cava, chi se lo mette.

The Author's Notes:

1 It is correctly termed macigno by Dante (ut supra, page 93), a term applied to the hard sandstone formations of the offsets of the Apennines. Here it is called grauwacke by Müller, Etrusk. I p246. In some parts it is much more schistose than in others.

2 See Vol. I p263. This is seen also in the substructions of the Via Appia, near Aricia.

3 At the angles of the blocks, holes may often be observed, which have evidently been made by art, most probably, like those in the Colosseum, in the search for metal cramps, which were supposed to hold the masses together. Inghirami, however, would not admit that such cramps could ever have been suspected to exist in the ancient masonry of Fiesole, and sought to explain the holes as the result of hostile attacks on the city in the olden time. Guida di Fiesole, p55. But such reckless, destructive barbarism is necessarily ignorant and indiscriminating. A striking proof of this is seen in the temple of Jupiter Panhellinus in Aegina, where, even in the monolithic columns, the barbarians have made holes for the same purpose, at the height where they had been accustomed to find the joints of the frusta; thus unwittingly paying the highest compliment to the exquisite workmanship of the ancients. For this fact I am indebted to Mr. Edward Falkener.

4 This ribbed pavement, or cordonata, as the Italians call it, is said to be frequently met with in Cyclopean cities, in the gateways, or on the roads. Orioli, ap. Inghir. Mon. Etrusc. IV. p159. It is found at Pozzuoli, on the ascent to the Street of Tombs. I have observed it also in the ancient roads of Syracuse, but there it is the rock itself which is so furrowed. Blocks of such pavement exist on the ascent to the Acropolis of Athens; and, I believe, at Messene, also. My friend, Mr. Edward Falkener, tells me that he has remarked similar pavement at Eleusa or Sebaste in Cilicia, at Labranda in Caria, and at Termessus in Pamphylia.

Thayer's Note: When the ribbed pavement was first applied to airport runways in the late 20c, it was considered a great novelty. . . .

5 The smaller one is about four feet from the ground, twenty inches high, and fifteen wide. The other is about eight feet above ground, four or five feet high, but scarcely one in breadth.

6 The openings in the walls of these three Latin towns are large enough for (p122)a man to enter, and may have been posterns. It may be doubted if they were conduits or sewers, though that at Norba is of the usual size of Etruscan sewers — about seven feet high, and three wide. The larger of these two at Fiesole has also been thought not to be a sewer (Ann. Inst. 1835, p15); but I see no reason to doubt it.

7 Ann. Inst. 1835, p16.

8 The best known of these sites is Alatri, where the symbol tripled, and in relief, is sculptured on the lintel of the above-mentioned swere, postern, or passage, which opens in the polygonal walls of the citadel. It is also found tripled on the polygonal walls at Grottatorre, near Correse in Sabina. On the ancient walling in the Terra di Cesi, three miles from Terni, the same symbol in relief occurs in a similar position at the angle of the wall, which is here of rectangular blocks (Micali, Ant. Pop. Ital. III p7, tav. XIII); and on the ancient walls of Todi, on the Umbrian bank of the Tiber, of similar masonry, it is found in prominent relief, near the church of S. Fortunato. Ask for "il pezzo di marmo." It is also to be seen on a block at an angle of the walls of Oea, in the island of Thera, in the Aegean Sea, with the inscription τοῖς φανύλοις annexed, which has been considered a mere euphemism to assist the fascinum in averting the effects of the evil eye. The same turpicula res, as Varro (L. L. VI.97) calls it, is said to have been found on the doors of tombs at Palazzolo, the ancient Acre in Sicily, and at Castel d' Asso in Etruria, and even in the Catacombs of Naples. Ann. Inst. 1829, p65; 1841, p19.

Thayer's Note: With all the walking I've done in Umbria — I've lived two months in Todi and have seen the old walls below Cesi — you'd think I would have seen these phallic symbols, but I haven't. (For those armed with good local maps, the one near Cesi is in the place named after them "le Pitture", "the depictions".) Here on the other hand is the carving on the Via Flaminia just S of Narni, in the same general area; period and motive unknown, but, as Dennis says, probably apotropaic. The protecting wire gives an approximate scale:

[image ALT: A close‑up of a patch of stone cliff, protected by chicken wire, on which two interlocking phalluses are engraved. It is a prehistoric rock carving near Narni, Umbria (central Italy).]

9 Guida di Fiesole, p53.

10 The occurrence of this symbol on the walls of Pelasgic cities may be explained by the worship that ancient people paid to the phallic Hermes. It was they who introduced it into Athens, and the rest of Greece, and also into Samothrace (Herod. II.51, confirmed by the coins of Lemnos and Imbros, says Müller, Etrusk. einl. 2, e); and probably also with the mysterious rites of the Cabiri, into Etruria and other parts of Italy. Yet the worship of this symbol was by no means confined to the classic nations of antiquity. It seems to have prevailed also among the nations of the far East; and recent researches lead us to conclude that it held even among the early people of the New World. Stephens' Yucatan, I. pp181, 434. Not to dwell on this subject, I may remark that as the ancients were wont to place these satyrica signa in their gardens and houses, to avert the effects of the envious eye (Plin. XIX.19, 1), so they may well have been placed on the walls of a city to protect its inhabitants. The philosophical idea which they symbolise will also account for their use as sepulchral emblems; some remarkable instances of which are to be seen at Chiusi.

11 The arch is 10 feet high, nearly as much in span, and about 3 feet in depth. The ancient wall to which it was attached is in this part destroyed, and its place supplied by modern masonry. This double gateway resembles those of Volterra and Cosa, except that it is here without the line of walls. Inghirami suggests that a tower may have been raised over it.

12 There are said on this side of the city to be traces of a gate, which, from one of the lintels still standing, must have been of Egyptian form, narrowing upwards, like the doorways of the Etruscan tombs. Ann. Instit. 1835, p14.

13 So says Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. II p209), who classes it with Rusellae, Populonia and Cosa; but the plans of the said cities which he attaches to his work, give widely different measurements, Faesulae being much superior in size to last two, but smaller than the first. In fact his plan represents it as about 8800 feet in circumference, or just 1⅔ English mile. Niebuhr (I. p121, Eng. trans.) was therefore misinformed when he said that the walls, theatre, and other ruins of Faesulae display a greatness not inferior to that of any other Etruscan city. He inclines (p125)on this account to rank it among the Twelve. And so also Müller, Etrusk. II.1, 2. But on this score, there are other towns in Etruria which might compete with it for that honour.

The early writers on the antiquities of Italy — Raffael Maffei, Biondi, Alberti, for instance — also took Faesulae for one of the Twelve; even Dempster (Etrur. Reg. II. pp41, 73) held this opinion. She was probably dependent on Volaterrae or Arretium.

Müller (I.3, 3) cites Faesulae as an instance of the quadrangular form, which was usually given to Etruscan cities, and thence copied in the original city of Romulus — Roma quadrata — a custom built on religious usages. Dion. Hal. I p75; Plutarch, Romul. 10; Festus, v. Quadrata; Solinus, Polyh. cap. II; cf.  Varro, Ling. Lat. V.143; Müller, III.6, 7.

14 Inghirami, Guida di Fiesole, p38. It is said, that at each angle of the outer square circuit, remains of a tower were discovered, besides two larger ones in the central enclosure; and the numerous openings in these concentric walls gave a faint idea of a labyrinth.

This inner line of wall is not of frequent occurrence in Etruscan towns; more common, however, in the northern than southern district. The same may be said of double heights, or arces, within the city-walls, of which Faesulae presents a specimen. The only instances I remember in southern Etruria are at Fidenae and perhaps at Tarquinii; but this is explained by the level character of that volcanic region.

15 On this height was discovered in 1814 the only instance known of the favissae attached to temples (see the Chapter on Rome); but after a few months they were reclosed, and are no longer to be seen. Inghir. loc. cit. p40. Müller (Etrusk. IV.2. 5) who cites Del Rosso (Giorn. Arcad.º III. p113) describes them as "round chambers lined with masonry and contracting upwards" — i.e., like the tholi of the Greeks, the Treasuries of Atreus and Minyas, and the lower prison of the Tullianum at Rome.

16 Niebuhr, however, has thrown the weight of his great name into the opposite scale, and has said, "That this theatre was built before the time of Sylla is indubitable; its size and magnificence are far beyond the scale of a Roman military colony; and how could such a colony have wished for anything but an amphitheatre?" (I. p135, Eng. trans.) It may be remarked that Faesulae must have fallen under Roman domination with the rest of Etruria two centuries before Sylla's time; and that other towns of Etruria which received military colonies, such as Veii, Falerii, and Luna, had theatres, as we learn from local remains or from inscriptions, even where, as in the first two cases, we can find no vestiges or record of amphitheatres. Niebuhr elsewhere (III. p311) asserts that "the theatre of Faesulae is in the grandest Etruscan style." Müller also thinks it was "probably of old Etruscan construction" (II. p241). Inferior men, it may be, but better antiquaries, have decided, however, to the contrary. Indeed these great men lose much of their authority when they treat matters within the province rather of the practical antiquary than of the historian. Their want of personal acquaintance with localities and monuments, or of opportunities of extensive comparison of styles of construction and of art, leads them at times into misstatements of facts, or to erroneous opinions, which, under more favourable circumstances, they would never have uttered, or with the candour of great minds, they would have been most ready to renounce.

17 You first reach, says Inghirami, a large hollow like a quarry, the floor of which slopes in two ways towards another entrance, in which commences a gallery of great length, but not regular throughout, and sinking from north to south, following the upper slope of the mount. Its length is 150 French feet, if the plans given of it be correct, and its entire inclination from the threshold of the entrance to the bottom of the steep passage is about 50 feet.

18 Guida di Fiesole, p56.

19 "Memorial. — Of this vast cistern, hollowed in the solid rock, and sloping down from the entrance a distance of 75 braccia (144 feet English), Luigi di Giuliano Ruggieri was the first, to his astonishment, to discover the bottom dry, the 16th October, 1825; and in memorial thereof he has set up this stone. Pay respect to the water."

20 The walls at the entrance of the passage are of small stones uncemented, but of later date; some large blocks mixed with them may be of Etruscan hewing. The hollowing in the living rock is certainly an Etruscan, rather than a Roman feature.

21 The steps had subsequently been rendered useless by a huge slab being laid across the opening to them.

22 Inghirami mentions having seen other remains of similar rusticated work among the ruins of Fiesole. Ann. Instit. 1835, p9.

23 A similar vaulting was found in an Etruscan crypt at Castellina del Chianti. Ann. Inst. loc. cit.

24 Full particulars of this reservoir have been given by Cav. Inghirami and Professor Pasqui, in the Annals of the Institute, 1835, pp8‑18; whence the above account is taken.

25 Inghirami (Mon. Etrus. I p14) speaks of cinerary urns found at Fiesole, which had not human figures recumbent on the lids as usual.

26 An account of them was published by Caval. Zannoni in 1830. See also Bull. Inst. 1829, p211; 1830, p205. There were 70 lbs. weight of silver denarii — Inghirami says 100 lbs. — all coined prior to the defeat of Catiline, 63 years B.C. Guida di Fiesole, p17.

27 Etruscan coins of Faesulae, though (p131)not yet, I believe, found on the spot, are not unknown. Specimens which were found at Caere and Vulci are preserved in the British Museum, in the Kircherian Museum, and the Campana collection at Rome. They are silver, having on the obverse the figure of a winged Gorgon, in a long tunic, with her tongue lolling out, holding a serpent in each hand, and in the act of running, — on the reverse, something, which may be part of a wheel, and the inscription "PHESU," in Etruscan characters. The Duc de Luynes ascribes these coins to Faesulae; so also Capranesi, Ann. Inst. 1840, pp203‑7, tav. d' agg. P. n1. But Cavedoni, of Modena, considers the inscription to have reference not to the place of coinage, but to the Fury or Fate on the obverse, and explains it as Αἶσα, or Fate, here written with a digamma prefixed. Bull. Inst. 1842, p156. Αἶσοι, we are told by Hesychius, were "gods among the Etruscans;" and "Aesar," we know to be the Etruscan word for "god." Dio Cass. LVI.29; Sueton. Aug. 97. It has been suggested that Aesar may be but the Greek word adopted, and with an Etruscan termination. Lanzi considers the name Faesulae — written Φαισοῦλαι by the Greeks — to be derived from Αἶσοι, with the addition of the digamma (II. p444). But why refer to Hellenic sources for Etruscan etymologies — a system which, even in Lanzi's hands, has proved so unsuccessful and unsatisfactory? It is more probable that the Etruscan form, with which we are not acquainted, was a compound with the initial "Vel," so often occurring in Etruscan proper names. The gold coin, with the Etruscan legend "Velsu," which Sestini assigned to Felsina (Bologna), but Müller referred to Volsinii (see Vol. I p503) — may it not be proper to Faesulae? Millingen, however, considered it of a barbarous people, or a counterfeit. Num. Anc. Ital. p171.

28 The name is found in Florus (I.11), but it is manifest from the connexion that Faesulae is not the true reading; for the historian is relating in his most terse and spirited manner, the arduous contest Rome maintained in the first years of the Republic with the Latin cities around her. "Cora (quis credat?) et Algidum terrori fuerunt; Satricum atque Corniculum provinciae. De Verulis et Bovillis pudet; sed triumphavimus. &c." "Cora (who would believe it?) and Algidum were a terror to us; Satricum and Corniculum were like remote provinces. Of Verulae and Bovillae I am ashamed to speak — yet we did triumph. Tibur, now a suburban abode, and (p132)Praeneste, a delightful summer retreat, were not assailed till vows had been offered in the Capitol. Then Faesulae was what Carrae has been of late — the grove of Aricia was as dreaded as the Hercynian forest — Fregellae was then our Gesoriacum, the Tiber our Euphrates." A glance at the passage shows that "Faesulae" is here out of place. A city so remote from Rome and of Etruscan origin, could not have been referred to among the neighbouring Latin cities. The true reading must either be Fidenae, which, though Etruscan, was on the left bank of the Tiber, or more probably Aesula, a town near Tibur. Horat. Od. III.29, 6.

Thayer's Note: Here's the geographical argument in map form (for Dennis's Aesula modern scholars are in agreement that we should read Aefula):

Faesulae is the outlier, marked [a map marker]; Aefula and Fidenae are marked [a map marker]; Rome is [a map marker].

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

29 Polyb. II.25. Mannert (Geog. p396), however, thinks that it cannot be the city near Florence to which Polybius alludes, but some other town of the same name, which he would place to the west of Chiusi, and south of the Ombrone. Cluver (II p509) does not think this the earliest mention made of Faesulae, for he considers the Castula, said by Diodorus (XX. p773) to have been taken from the Etruscans in the year 444, to be a mere corruption of Faesulae.

30 Polyb. III.82; cf. Liv. XXII.3.

31 Sil. Ital. VIII.478 —

Affuit et sacris interpres fulminis alis,

A goddess named Ancharia was worshipped here, says Tertullian (Apolog. 24; ad Nationes, II.8), which has been confirmed by inscriptions. Müller, II. p62, who cites Reinesius, Cl. II.23, and Gori, Inscr. II. p77 cf. p88. This fact establishes the correct reading to be "Faesulanorum Ancharia," and not "Aesculanorum," as some copies have it. The Etruscan family-name of "Ancari," not unfrequently met with at Chiusi and Perugia, and also found at Montalcino (see page 140, of this volume) has doubtless a relation to the name of this goddess. See Müller, I. p421.

32 Flor. III.18.

33 Cicero, in Catil. II.9; III.6; pro Murenâ, 24.

34 Sallust. Bell. Cat. 24, 27, 30, 43; Appian. Bell. Civ. II.3; Cicero, pro Murenâ, 24.

35 Plin. VII.11. Pliny (III.8) and Ptolemy (Geog. p72) mention Faesulae among the inland colonies of Etruria.

36 Inghirami, Guida di Fiesole, p24.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 6 Jun 09