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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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p305 Chapter XLIX

SATURNIA. — SATURNIA.


[image ALT: An earthen mound, about one meter high and 4 m long, capped by a single rectangular stone slab, under which some jumbled stones can be made out. It is a prehistoric tomb in Saturnia, Tuscany (central Italy).]
ANCIENT TOMB, SATURNIA.
A few rude monuments of mountain stone
Survive; all else is swept away.

Wordsworth.

Ed io: maestro, quai son quelle genti,
Che seppellite dentro da quell' arche
Si fan sentire?

Dante.

One of the most ancient of Etruscan sites is Saturnia, which lies in the valley of the Albegna, twenty miles from the sea. It may be reached either from Orbetello or Grosseto.1

p306 The road from Orbetello runs on the left bank of the Albegna, passing through Marsiliana and Monte Merano, and is carriageable to this latter place, which is but three miles from Saturnia. Those who would take the more direct track must leave their vehicles at Marsiliana, and on horseback follow the banks of the Albegna. But this will not do after heavy rains, as the river has to be forded no less than fourteen times!

From Magliano I took the route of Scansano, a town some nine or ten miles to the north. Half way is Pereta, a small village, with a ruined castle on a height, overhanging a steep valley; and a steep ascent of some miles leads hence to Scansano. This is a town of some size, near the summit of a mountain, but with no interest beyond being the only halting-place between Grosseto and Saturnia. Inquire for the house of Domenico Bianchi — the lack of comfort will be as far as possible atoned for by civility and attention. Grosseto is sixteen or seventeen miles distant, and the road is excellent, but terminates at Scansano. For the first four miles from Grosseto it crosses the plain to Istia, a ruined village on the right bank of the Ombrone, with a double circuit of crumbling walls, telling of vanished greatness. Here the river is crossed by a ferry, but when swollen by heavy rains, it is difficult of transit. I had much ado to cross it on my way from Scansano, but on my return a few hours afterwards, it had so overstept the modesty of its nature as to rival the Tiber, nine times its volume, as the saying goes —

"Tre Ombroni fanno un Arno,
Tre Arni fanno un Tevere,
Tre Teveri fanno un Po
E tre Po di Lombardia
Fanno un Danubio di Turchia." —

and as to oblige me to leave my vehicle behind, and do p307the rest of the way on foot. For the thirteen miles hence to Scansano it is a continual ascent, through woods of oak, chesnut, and Maremma shrubs. The laurestinus, then in full bloom, and numerous flowers of varied hue and odour, gave the country the appearance of a vast shrubbery, or untrimmed garden —

"A wilderness of sweets —

Flowers of all hue and weeds of glorious feature."

But never did shrubbery or lawn command a view so magnificent as from these heights. From the headland of Troja to those of Telamone and Argentaro,

"That lovely shore of solitude and light"

lay unrolled beneath, with its bounding belt of the blue Mediterranean, studded with many a silvery islet.

From Scansano to Saturnia there are thirteen miles, which I expected to accomplish on horseback in three hours, yet six elapsed ere I reached my destination. The track is a mere bridle-path, utterly impracticable to vehicles; here, running through dense woods; there, crossing moors which the rains had converted into quagmires; and often disappearing altogether; and my guide did his best to enhance its delights by assuring me the Albegna would be too swollen to be fordable, and we must certainly retrace our steps to Scansano. However — al fin si canta la gloria — we reached the left bank of the stream, and ascended the long slope to Saturnia.

The situation of this city is most imposing. Like Cosa and Rusellae, it occupies the summit of a truncated cone; but, still more like Orvieto, it also rises in the midst of an amphitheatre of lofty mountains; and as the circuit of its walls is complete, it appears at a distance to be well inhabited. It is only on entering its gates that the desolation within is apparent.

p308 The modern Saturnia is the representative of the ancient merely in name. It occupies but a fractional part of the original area, and is a miserable "luoghettaccio," with a church and some score of hovels, and only one decent house — that of the Marchese Panciatichi Ximenes, a noble of Aragonese blood, whose family has possessed this manor for the last two hundred and fifty years. It were folly to expect an inn in such a hamlet. There is indeed what is called an osteria, but a peep within it confirmed all I had heard of its horrors, and determined me to effect a lodgement in the palace. This was no difficult matter. The fattore, or agent of the Marchese, readily agreed to accommodate me; and the heifer being offered, as Sancho would say, I was not long in fetching a rope —

Quando se diere la vaquilla
Corre con la seguilla.

Moreover he furnished me with a guide to the antiquities — one Domenico Lepri, whom I can recommend to future visitors.

The form of the ancient city is an irregular rhomboid, the angles facing the cardinal points. It may be rather more than two miles in circuit,2 its extent being determined by the character of the ground, which breaks into cliffs at the top of the cone. In this respect also Saturnia resembles Orb, and differs from Cosa and Rusellae, which have no cliffs. The existing fortifications were erected on the ruins of the ancient in the fifteenth century, and are evidently prior to the use of artillery.3

p309 In three spots only could I perceive remains of the original walls. The finest portion is on the south, beneath the ruined castle, and hard by the village. Here is a gateway, called Porta Romana, whether from the direction in which it opens, or from its evident antiquity, matters not. On either hand of it is polygonal masonry, precisely like that of Cosa in its smooth surface and the close "kissing" of its joints; but whether topt in the same way with horizontal courses cannot be determined, the loftiest fragment not rising above twelve feet.4 The gateway, though now arched over with the work of the middle ages, is manifestly coeval with these walls, for the masonry here running into horizontal forms as usual at angles, terminates abruptly in doorposts;5 and there are no traces of an ancient arch, the gate having been spanned, like those at Cosa and kindred sites, by a horizontal lintel of stone or wood. The pavement of the old Roman road still runs through the gate into the city.

In the eastern wall, at a spot called Il Marrucatone, just above the Campo Santo, is another fragment of polygonal masonry. Only two courses are now standing, and there may be about twenty blocks in all; and these show more tendency to regularity and horizontality than the portion at the Porta Romana.

On the opposite side of the city is a third fragment, in p310the foundations of the modern walls. Beyond this I could not perceive, near could I learn, that there were any remains of the ancient fortifications; but it is almost impossible to make the entire tour of the walls externally, on account of the dense thickets and scattered rock, which in parts forbid a near approach. Unlike Cosa, Saturnia has but these few disjecta membra left of her former might, but these suffice to attest it — ex pede Herculem.

The wide area within the walls is in summer a cornfieldºseges ubi Troja fuit; in winter a sheep-walk. Here are but few relics of the olden time. Near the Marrucatone is a singular square inclosure of artificial concrete, called Bagno Secco; but that it was anciently a Bath is very doubtful. It must be of Roman times.6

The few other antiquities are within the village. The most remarkable is a tal massive pilaster, square in front, but rounded at the back, and having a fluted half-column, engaged at one corner, and hewn out of the blocks of travertine which compose the structure. If not of more ancient date, it probably formed part of a Roman temple, rather than of an arch or gateway, as has been supposed.7

There are also sundry scattered relics — tablets — altars — cippi — statues — cornices — all of Roman times. Nothing did I perceive that could be pronounced Etruscan.8

Few ancient sites in Etruria have more natural beauties than Saturnia. Deep vallies and towering heights all around, yet variety in every quarter. Here the cliff-bound, olive-spread hill of Monte Merano; there the elm-tufted p311ridge of Scansano; and there the hoary crests of Monte Labbro and Santa Fiora. From the northern ramparts you command the whole valley of the Albegna. You see the stream bursting from a dark gorge in its escape from the regions of mountain frost; and where it is not lost behind the rock-mingled foliage on the slope, snaking its shining way joyously down the valley; and its murmurs come up with fainter sheep-bell from the echoing hollow. Whatever Saturnia be within, it has a paradise around it. If you be an artist, forget not your portfolio when you stroll around the walls. These ruins of art and nature — these crumbling walls, half-draped with ivy, clematis, and wild vines — these rugged cliffs beneath them — this chaos of crags and trees on the slope — revel among them, and declare that never have you found more captivating studies of rock, wood, and ruin!

Here is food for the antiquary also. Some few hundred yards west of the Porta Romana he will observe among the crags of travertine which strew the slope, one upright mass about fifteen feet high, whose squared faces bear marks of the hand of man. What may have been its purpose, he is at a loss to conjecture. High at one end he will espy the remains of a flight of steps hewn in the rock, and formerly leading to the summit. Let him scramble up, and he will behold three sarcophagi or graves sunk in the level summit of the mass, each about the size of a body, having a ledge for the lid, which may have been of tiles, or more probably was a slab of rock carved into the effigy of the dead. Strange this trio must have appeared, half rising as it were from the tomb. This is a singular position for interment — unique, as far as it yet known, in Etruria.9 The natural rock is used abundantly for sepulture, p312but the tomb is either beneath, or within, the monumental façade;— here alone it is above it. For the rock itself has been carved with architectural decorations, perhaps on each face, though the southern one alone retains such traces.10 The extreme simplicity of the details seem to mark this monument as Etruscan.

No other monument could I perceive near the walls; but on the slope beneath the city to the south, and on the way to the Bagni, are several ancient tombs, similar in character but of smaller size and more ruined than those in the Pian di Palma, which I am about to describe. This spot is called La Pestiera. The necropolis of Saturnia does not lie so much on the slopes around, as at Volterra, or on the opposite heights, as at Tarquinii; but in the low grounds on the other bank of the Albegna, two miles or more from the city. This may be in great measure owing to the rocky nature of these slopes, which would not readily admit of excavation; for the early Italians always sought the easiest materials for their chisels, and never attempted the marvels in granite, porphyry, or basalt, achieved by the children of Ham.

On these slopes are traces of several Roman roads — all of the usual polygonal pavement.11

p313 As an excursion to the necropolis in the Pian di Palma demands half a day, I deferred it to the morrow. On returning to my quarters I found the fattore and his people about to sit down to their evening meal. Whether something extraordinary had been prepared on my account, I cannot say, but I am certain no English peasant sits down nightly to such a supper as this, which needed no apologies from Signor Gaspare. There was soup, beef, kid, poultry, game, and a dessert of dried fruits and cheese, all the produce of the estate — cooked in the spacious hall in which it was served, and by the labouring men, who on bringing a dish to table sat down and partook of it. It was a patriarchal and excellent meal —

Prorsus jucundè coenam produximus illam!

I was no less satisfied with the accommodation up stairs, where everything did credit to the fattore and his men; for, be it known, to all this crew of shepherds and swains there was not one

"Phyllis, Charyllis, or sweet Amaryllis" —

not "one fair spirit for a minister."

Let future visitors to Saturnia follow my example, and exchange the hostelry for the palace. No one of course can receive accommodation in this way gratis; and if the traveller pay double what he would in the osteria, he is no loser, seeing he gains comfort, preserves his skin and his temper, and retains a pleasing remembrance of the place. Happy he who in his by-road wanderings in Italy meets no worse welcome than from the sun-ruddied face and jovial smile of Signor Gaspare!

p314 Let the traveller eschew the summer months for a visit to Saturnia. In spite of its elevation the ariaccia is then most pestilent; whether arising from the sulphureous springs in its neighbourhood, or wafted from the swamps on the coast, it well-nigh desolates the spot; and when the harvest is cut hardly a soul remains within the walls.

Ere the sun had risen, I was on my way to the Piano di Palma. The track down the slope followed the line of a Roman road, probably that leading to Rusellae. The Albegna was still swollen but fordable, and about a mile beyond it I reached some ploughed fields strewn with fragments of pottery, mingled with large stones and slabs. Here lay the tombs of the ancient dwellers of Saturnia.

It may be remarked that the name attached to ancient sepulchres differs in various parts of Italy, and it is well to know the local appellation. In some places they are sepolcri — in others, though rarely, tombe — in some, ipogei — in a few, camere, or celle — in many, grotte — here they were none of these, but deposito. In truth they required a peculiar name, as they differed from anything to be seen elsewhere in Etruria. They were very numerous; piles of blocks and slabs being scattered over the plain, each bearing traces of regular arrangement, yet this was so often disturbed or almost destroyed that the original character of the monuments could only be learned from a few which remain entire, and serve as keys to the rest. They are quadrangular chambers, sunk a few feet below the surface, lined with rough slabs of rock, set upright, one on each side, and roofed over with two huge slabs resting against each other so as to form a rude penthouse; or else with a single one of enormous size, covering the whole, and laid at a slight inclination, apparently for the same purpose of carrying off the rain. Not a chisel has touched these rugged masses, which are just as broken off from p315their native rock, with their edges all shapeless and irregular; and, if their faces are somewhat smooth, it is owing to the tendency of the travertine to split in laminar forms. These are the most rude and primitive structures conceivable; such as the savage would make on inhaling his first breath of civilization, on emerging from his cave or den in the rock. Their dimensions vary from about sixteen feet square to half that size, though few are strictly of that form.12 Many are divided into two chambers or compartments for bodies, by an upright slab, on which the cover-stones rest.13 In most there is a passage, about three feet wide, and ten or twelve feet long, leading to the sepulchral chamber, and lined with slabs of inferior size and thickness.

These tombs are sunk but little below the surface, because each is inclosed in a tumulus; the earth being piled around so as to conceal all but the cover-stones, which may have been also originally buried.14 In many instances p316the earth has been removed or washed away, so as to leave the structure standing above the surface. Here the eye is startled by the striking resemblance to the cromlechs of our own country. Not that one such monument is actually standing above ground in an entire state; but remove the earth from any one of those with a single cover-stone, and in the three upright slabs, with their shelving, overlapping lid, you have the exact counterpart of Kit's Cotty House, and other like familiar antiquities of Britain; and the resemblance is not only in the form, and in the unhewn masses, but even in the dimensions of the structures. We know also that many of the cromlechs or kistvaens of the British Isles have been found inclosed in barrows, sometimes with a circle of small upright slabs around them; and from analogy we may infer that all were originally so buried. Here is a further point of resemblance to these tombs of Saturnia.15 In some of the cromlechs, moreover, which are enclosed in tumuli, long passages, lined with upright slabs, and roofed in with others laid horizontally, have been found; etr the similar passages in these tombs of Saturnia were also covered in, cannot now be determined.

The shelving or dip of the cover-stone in the cairns or cromlechs has induced antiquaries to regard them as Druidical altars, formed with this inclination in order that the blood of the victims might more easily run off. But it is now generally agreed, from the remains found within them, that they are sepulchral monuments; and there can p317be no doubt that these structures of Saturnia are of that character, though nothing beyond analogy and tradition now remains to attest it. here the slope of the cover-stone is evidently to carry off the rain.

These tombs have stood for so many ages open and dismantled — the haunts of the fox, the porcupine, and unclean reptiles — that no traces of the ancient dead are now visible, beyond the broken pottery which strews the plain. At a spot called Il Puntone, west of the Pian di Palma, and nearer the banks of the Albegna, are more of these singular sepulchres. Those at La Pestiera on the south of Saturnia have already been mentioned; and it is possible that more exist on other sides of the city, but I could not ascertain the fact.

These monuments of Saturnia are particularly worthy of notice, as nothing like them is to be seen on any other site in Etruria. Similar tombs, however, have in ages past been discovered at Cortona,16 and of late years at Santa Marinella;17 but no traces of them now remain on either site. I have never seen any description of these tombs in the Pian di Palma; nor am I aware that any traveller has visited them, besides Mr. Ainsley and myself.18

To what era, and to what race, are we to attribute these tombs? Prior to the Roman conquest they must be, for that people never constructed such rude burial-places for their dead. Can we assign them to the Etruscans — to p318that race of whose care in decorating their tombs with architectural façades, or internally with painting and sculpture, we have so many proofs? If we are to regard the Regulini-Galassi tomb of Caere, with its regular, squared masonry, as of Pelasgic antiquity, surely such savagely rude structures as these cannot be of later date. Be it remembered that the masses are wholly unwrought — not even hammer-dressed but simply split off from the laminous rock; the principal difficulty lying in the transport of them to their present sites. If not of Etruscan construction, to whom can they be attributed? The prior occupants of the land, as we learn from ancient writers, were first the Umbrians or Siculi, and then the Pelasgi. As the antiquity of these monuments is connected with that of the city-walls, we will consider both, in reviewing the few notices we find of Saturnia in ancient writers.

Dionysius mentions Saturnia together with Agylla, Pisa, and Alsium, as one of the many towns either built by the united Pelasgi and Aborigines, or taken by them from the Siculi, the original inhabitants.19 Beyond this there is little mention of it. We learn that it was one of the Roman colonies in Etruria, that it had originally borne the name of Aurinia; that it was in the territory of Caletra, and that it was colonised in the year of Rome 571 (B.C. 183).20

Though we may not be able to accord Dionysius p319unreserved credit in his accounts of such remote periods, we may safely admit his testimony as to the great antiquity of Saturnia. The very name, the earliest appellation of Italy itself, is corroborative of this fact.21 We are therefore prepared for relics of very ancient times on this spot. Yet Micali would fain have it that its polygonal walls do not indicate a high antiquity, and probably date only from the time of the Roman colony.22 It is unnecessary to repeat what has been said in a previous chapter in refutation of his views; but what was there said in support of the antiquity and Pelasgic origin of this style of masonry,23 applies with more than usual force to Saturnia, which has the addition of historical testimony in its favour. It is enough to entertain doubts in those cases where we have no record of a definite Pelasgic origin. Where such record exists, we may take it to be authenticated by the walls, if of accordant structure, and the walls to be characterised by the tradition. Either alone may be open to suspicion, but together they substantiate each other into genuineness. In the case of Saturnia, moreover, we are particularly entitled to ascribe these walls to that people, with whom polygonal masonry was the rule, rectangular the exception, rather than to any subsequent race. For the doctrine of the material having alone determined the character of the masonry, is here utterly at fault. It is not limestone, which is said to split so readily into polygonal forms; it is travertine, which all the world knows has a horizontal cleavage. The natural superfluities of the blocks p320were not squared down as the Romans always treated this material, but cut into those angular forms which best pleased the builders.24 So much for the doctrine of constructive necessity as applied to Saturnia.

But if the walls of Saturnia be Pelasgic, can the tombs have the same origin? Their primitive rudeness would accord better with walls of unhewn Cyclopean masonry, like those above Monte Fortino, or at Civitella and Olevano, and seems hardly consistent with the highly-wrought character of the polygonal style, — it is difficult to believe that the same hands constructed both tombs and walls. Yet it may be urged in favour of a Pelasgic origin for the former, that they are very similar to ancient tombs found at Santa Marinella, on that coast which is studded with Pelasgic settlements; and the resemblance the least rude among them (those with gabled roofs) bear to the sepulchres of Paestum and of Magna Graecia generally, favours a Greek origin. They are, however, more like the structures of a ruder people, such as we may conceive the Umbri or Siculi, the earliest possessors of the land, to have been. We learn from Dionysius, that the Aborigines who joined the Pelasgi in expelling the Siculi from Etruria, had cemeteries of tumuli like this, but of the internal structure of their tombs we know nothing.25 Unfortunately we have here no furniture remaining to assist our inquiries.26 But it may be objected — if these be the sepulchres of the earlier occupants of the site, where are those of the Etruscans? It is a question which may be asked at Fiesole, Roselle, Cosa, Pisa, and many other sites, where no excavations p321have been made. Future research, either by finding some of these rude tombs intact, or by discovering others of a different character, may be expected to throw light on the subject.27

Yet this form of sepulchre can hardly be indicative of any one race in particular. The structure is so rude and simple, that it might have suggested itself to any people, and be naturally adopted in an early state of civilization. It is the very arrangement the child makes use of in building his house of cards. This simplicity accounts for the wide diffusion of such monuments over the Old World; for they are found in different climates and widely distant countries, from the mountains of Wales and Ireland to the deserts of Barbary, and from the western shores of the Iberian Peninsula to the steppes of Tartary, and the eastern coasts of Hindostan. They are found on mountains and in plains, on continents and in islands, on the sea-coast and far inland, by the river and in the desert, solitary and grouped in multitudes.28 That in certain p322instances they may be the work of the same people in different countries is not to be gainsaid,29 but there is no necessity to seek for one particular race as the constructors of these monuments, or even as the originators of the type.

I trust that this notice of the tombs of Saturnia will excite interest in this unfrequented spot, and lead to further investigation. This district of Italy is a new field to the antiquary. No excavations have been made, nor even researches for monuments above ground.30

From Saturnia you may proceed to Pitigliano, Sovana, and Sorano. There is a carriage-road to those places from Monte Merano, only three miles from Saturnia. On p323the way to it you pass the Bagni, a spring of sulphureous water, like the Bulicame near Viterbo, which falls in a cascade, encrusting the cliffs with a many-hued deposit. The table-land on which Monte Merano stands is strewn with pottery, which may possibly mark the Etruscan necropolis of Saturnia. Three miles beyond is Manciano, on a height commanding one of those glorious and varied panoramas which give such a charm to Italy. Here you are on the very frontier between the Tuscan and Roman States. The Maremma, its well-known headlands, the isle-studded deep, Saturnia in the vale of the Albegna, at the foot of Monte Amiata — are all in the Grand Duchy; while the Patrimony of St. Peter greets you in the vast Etruscan plain, with the Ponte della Badia, the towers of Montalto and Corneto, the Monti di Canino, and many other familiar objects on its wide surface, which is bounded by the dark-crested Ciminian, and the distant Apennines, a range of icy peaks all burnished with gold — sublime as the Alps from the Jura.31

Beyond Manciano, on the descent to the Fiora, some tombs and sepulchral niches in the cliffs, and fragments of pottery on the slopes, proclaim the site of an Etruscan town.32 I could make no researches here, as the sun was on the horizon as I passed, and I had no opportunity of returning to the spot; but it seemed to me that the town must have stood on the cliff-bound height, now crested with a castle in ruins. It may be remembered, however, p324that Caletra stood somewhere in this district, for Saturnia was in its territory.33 The Fiora has here the same character as at Vulci — a rapid stream overhung by lofty cliffs, half draped with wood. The rocks are of the same formation — dark red or brown tufo, overlaid with a stratum of white travertine, like a wedding cake with its top-crust of sugar; but as the plums are not visible till the cake has been cut, so you can only see the soft volcanic rock, where the hard aqueous deposit which covers it has been broken away.


The Author's Notes:

1 Saturnia is about 28 miles from Cosa, 13 from Scansano, nearly 30 from Grosseto, 11 or 12 from Pitigliano by the direct track through Sovana, but 16 or 17 by the high road through Manciano.

2 Sir R. C. Hoare calls the circuit three miles (Classical Tour, I. p52), but that is certainly an overstatement. It can scarcely be the two miles and a half which Santi ascribes to it. Viaggio, p88, cited by Müller, I.3, 3. I have never seen a plan of Saturnia, and regret that I did not measure it myself.

3 In a few parts are remains of Roman work — opus incertum and reticulatum — the repairs of the still earlier fortifications.

4 The blocks here are not of great size. Two of the largest I found to be respectively — 5 ft. 7 in. in length, by 4 ft. 7 in. high; and 4 ft. 7 in. long, by 3 ft. 2 in. high. A view of this fragment of the walls of Saturnia is give in Ann. Inst. 1831, tav. d'Agg. E.

5 It must have been the horizontality in the doorposts that led Repetti to speak of this masonry as composed "of great blocks of squared macigno." If he had not given the date of his visit I should have doubted that he had ever been at Saturnia. It is surprising that the peculiar character of this masonry, so decidedly polygonal, could have escaped his eye. His inaccuracy in describing it as macigno must also be attributed to want of observation; and his opinion that it is "rather Roman than Etruscan," can therefore have little weight. See Repetti, V. p206.

6 It has only two courses, each 2 feet high, but the blocks are 20 feet in length. It forms a square of 49 feet.

7 Hoare, Class. Tour, I. p52.

8 In front of the Marchese's house stand two large altars of travertine, with very long inscriptions, so defaced as to be scarcely legible, but I could perceive them to be of the time of Marcus Aurelius. On the opposite side of the Piazza is a Roman sepulchral monument. There are other inscriptions built into the wall of the church.

9 In the island of Thera in the Greek archipelago, there are several such isolated rocks with sarcophagi sunk in them. Professor Ross calls them θῆκαι (p312)λατόμηται. Ann. Inst. 1841, pp16, 19. Mon. Ined. Inst. III. tav. XXVI. I have observed them also in the necropolis of Syracuse.

10 Here are two pilasters with square abaci, of most simple character, supporting an architrave, which is divided in the middle by a sort of chimney — the whole in very low relief, forming indeed but a panelling to the smooth face of the rock. No traces of figures or of inscriptions are visible, and from the hardness of the travertine, which would preserve any such works of the chisel committed to it far better than the tufo or sandstone of which most Etruscan monuments are hewn, it seems probable that there were none.

11 Sir R. C. Hoare traced five of these roads — running from Saturnia towards Rome, Monte Argentaro, Rusellae, Siena, and Chiusi, respectively. The first, which issues from the Porta Romana, is almost perfect for some distance down the slope. This must be the Via Clodia. See Vol. I. p463. The second, which led down the valley of the Albegna, I traced by its kerb-stones on the ascent from Scansano. (p313)That to Rusellae is also very traceable; and I observed some vestiges of that running eastward; but that to the north, which probably led from the Porta di Montagna, I did not perceive.

12 I add the dimensions of some that I measured:— 16 feet long by somewhat less in width — 14 feet by 11½ — 14 feet by 7½ — 11 feet by 6½ — 9½ feet by 6 — 9 feet by 8 — 8 feet by 6½. All the tombs were about 5 or 6 feet high within. It should be borne in mind that as each side is composed generally of a single slab, so the dimensions of the tombs indicate those also of the slabs, except as regards the cover-stones, which lap over about a foot each way and are therefore so much larger. When single, these cover-stones are of great size — one 16 feet by 12 — another 16 feet by 10½ — and a third 10½ feet by 9½. In some few instances where the tomb is very large there are two slabs on one side, and the interstices between them, as they are not cut to fit, are filled with small stones and fragments of rock. One tomb indeed was lined entirely with small stones rudely put together, very like the solitary sepulchre I have described as existing at Rusellae, but of ruder construction. Ut supra, p254.

13 This is shown in the woodcut at the head of this Chapter. It is in general about two-thirds of the tomb in length, i.e., when placed longitudinally, for it is sometimes, though rarely, set transversely, in which case it is shaped above into a gable to support the cover-stones. This partition-slab is generally set rather obliquely. Some tombs are even divided into three compartments, one at the end and one on each side, with a passage between them, just as in so many of the rock-hewn sepulchres of Etruria. But these are rare.

14 See the woodcut at the head of (p316)this Chapter, which represents one of these tombs with a single cover-stone, 16 or 18 feet each way, and about 1 foot in thickness. The tumuli, as far as it is possible to ascertain, were about 25 or 30 feet in diameter. Mr. Ainsley remarked one which appeared to have been quadrangular.

15 I observed only one instance of a tumulus encircled by small slabs; but it is probable that the custom was general; the small size of these slabs offering a temptation to the peasantry to remove them.

16 Baldelli, MS. quoted by Gori, Mus. Etrus. III. pp75‑6, and Inghirami, Mon. Etrus. IV.p72.

17 Ut supra, page 8.

18 Sir R. C. Hoare merely states that "several subterraneous grottos are still open in the neighbouring fields, but there is great reason to suppose that many more exist undiscovered, for in various spots the water suddenly disappears after hard rains." Classical Tour, I. p52. But he does not appear to have seen them, or he must have been struck by their peculiar character. Repetti (V. p207) only mentions those on the slope beneath Saturnia, towards the Bagni, and describes them simply as "fosse coperte da lastroni di travertino," containing human bones and nothing else.

19 Dion. Hal. I p16. It may be thought by some that Dionysius referred to the original town on the site of Rome — "Saturnia, ubi nunc Roma est" (Plin. III.9) — but it is evident that this town of Etruria was intended, as all the other places mentioned are in this land, and are said by him to have been afterwards conquered by the Etruscans.

20 Plin. III.8.— "Saturnini qui ante Aurinini vocabantur." It is also mentioned as a colony by Ptolemy (p72, ed. Bert.), and a praefectura by Festus (v. Praefecturae). The Etruscan family-name of "Sauturine," or "Sauturini" (Vermigl. Iscriz. Perug. I. pp267, 313), seems to bear some relation to Saturnia.

21 Liv. XXXIX.55.

22 Ant. Pop. Ital. I pp144, 196. Micali's objection is mere supposition — "forse" — "si può credere" — "potrebb' essere" — or assertion; the only argument he uses is the high finish of the masonry, an argument which, if it have any force, will apply to all similar masonry wherever found — in Italy, Greece, or Asia Minor; though we are well assured that in many instances walls of this description were raised in very remote times, prior to the invention of the arch.

23 Ut supra, pages 279‑286.

24 It has been asserted that polygonal masonry was never formed of travertine (Memor. Inst. III. p90), but this is contradicted by these walls of Saturnia.

25 Dion. Hal. I p12.

26 The articles found in a similar tomb at Cortona, as far as can be gathered from the description of Baldelli (ut supra, p317), seem to mark it as Etruscan.

27 The quantity of coarse broken pottery strewn over the plain, hints the character of their contents; but Repetti (V. p207) says that in the similar tombs on the other side of Saturnia, already mentioned, were found human bones alone, anyone any articles of sculpture, or urns, fictile vases, and the usual furniture of Etruscan tombs. "Di tempi incerti è una specie di Camposanto che ci fu indicato ne' campi sotto il poggio e presso il Bagno di Saturnia, dove furono trovate delle ossa umane dentro fosse coperte da lastroni di travertino, senza alcun oggetto di scultura, senza urne, senza vasi di terraglie e cose simili, facili a scuoprirsi nei sepolcreti di etrusco nome." If the peasantry may be credited, the bones found here were of gigantic proportions. The very similar tombs near Santa Marinella contained articles like those found in the earliest sepulchres of Etruria, of very archaic character — some even purely Egyptian.

28 How numerous these monuments are in the British Isles is well known. They are found also on the continent of Europe, particularly in the north of France; and also in the Spanish Peninsula, though to what extent they exist there is unknown, as the antiquities of that land have been little investigated. (See Borrow's Bible in Spain, Chapter VII) On the shores of the Mediterranean they are particularly abundant. Besides the other two sites in Etruria, they are found in Sardinia and the Balearics; and it may not be generally known that they exist (p322)in abundance in the Regency of Tunis, anciently the territory of Carthage, as I learn from the notes and sketches of Mr. Catherwood, who has penetrated far into that unexplored region, and possesses artistic records of its monuments of such value and interest as to demand publication. From these documents I learn that the tombs of the African desert exactly accord in construction and measurements with the better-known monuments of this character. The three sites on which he found them were, Sidi Boosi, to the north-east of Hydrah, Welled Ayar, and Lheys. At the first place they were particularly numerous. I am not aware that any have been discovered in Greece, but in Asia they are not wanting. Captains Irby and Mangles describe a group of them on the banks of the Jordan. Holy Land, p99. Colon. Libr. edit. They are said also to have been found among the mountains of the Caucasus, and on the steppes of Tartary; and recent researches have brought them to light in the Presidency of Madras. For in a letter read at the Asiatic Society, January 17th, 1846, Captain Newbold stated that near Chittoor in North Arcot, he had seen a square mile of ground covered with such monuments, mostly opened and destroyed by the natives for the sake of the blocks which composed them, yet a few remained entire to testify to the character of the rest. In them were found sarcophagi, with the bones of the dead, and pottery of red and black ware. They were here paved with a large slab, and entered by a circular hole in one of the upright slabs, which formed the walls.

29 In the British Isles and in France they are probably of Celtic construction. In the Peninsula and the isles of the Mediterranean they may be of Punic origin, like those in the territory of Carthage; though those of Sardinia and Etruria are more probably the work of the Tyrrhene-Pelasgi.

30 On a hill three miles to the E.S.E. of Saturnia are some ruins, called Le Murelle. I had no opportunity of visiting them, but from the description I received I doubt not they are Roman concamerationes, probably the remains of a villa. On other spots in the neighbourhood, there are said to be ruins.

31 From Manciano a road leads southward to Montalto and Corneto. There is also a track to the Ponte della Badia. The traveller who would make an excursion from Corneto to Cosa and Saturnia will have no difficulty in crossing the frontier. It used to be necessary to have the passport visé at Montalto, but under the proposed system of an Italian Customs' Union, that may probably be dispensed with.

32 It has been already stated that Campanari has made slight excavations in this neighbourhood. Vol. I. p474.

33 Liv. XXXIX.55. It will be observed that Livy does not speak of a town of this name, merely of an ager — "Saturnia colonia civium Romanorum in agrum Caletranum est deducta;" and from this, and more clearly from Pliny's notice (III.8) — "oppidorum veterum nomina retinent agri Crustuminus, Caletranus" — it appears that the Etruscan town had ceased to exist before Imperial times — a fact which may assist researches for its site. It has been already observed (ut supra, p297), that Repetti suggests for Caletra a site in the neighbourhood of Magliano, and some would identify it with the newly found city between that village and the sea; but there is no reason to suppose from the only two notices we have of Caletra, that it was ever of such importance as that site would indicate, which corresponds with far more probability to the ancient Vetulonia.


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