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

by George Dennis

published by John Murray, Albemarle Street
London, 1848.

The text is in the public domain.

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p432 Chapter LVI


Corythum, terrasque requirat



Clara fuit Sparte; magnae viguêre Mycenae;
Vile solum Sparte est; altae cecidêre Mycenae.


Traveller, thou art approaching Cortona! Dost thou reverence age — that fulness of years which, as Pliny says, "in man is venerable, in cities sacred?" Here is that which demands thy reverence. Here is that, which when the druidical marvels of thine own land were newly raised, was of hoary antiquity — that, compared to which Rome is but of yesterday — to which most other cities of ancient p433renown are fresh and green. Thou mayst have wandered far and wide through Italy — nothing hast thou seen more venerable than Cortona. Ere the days of Hector and Achilles, ere Troy itself arose — Cortona was. On that bare and lofty height, whose towered crest holds communion with the cloud, dwelt the heaven-born Dardanus, ere he left Italy to found the Trojan race; and on that mount reigned his father Corythus, and there he was laid in the tomb.1 Such is the ancient legend, and p434 p435wherefore gainsay it Away with doubts! — pay thy full tribute of homage — acceptam parce movere fidem! Hast thou respect to fallen greatness? — Yon solemn city was once the proudest and mightiest in the land, the metropolis of Etruria, and now — but enter its gates and look around.

Let not the traveller mount with baggage, and such impedimenta, directly to Cortona, thinking, in the innocence of his heart, that in a city of five thousand inhabitants, boasting of a cathedral and seven or eight churches, he will be sure of accommodation. There is but one inn within the walls, marked by the sign of Il Dragone — which monster guards no Hesperidan fruit, but serves to scare the traveller from a wretched osteria, full of all uncleanness. Let him take up his quarters in the snug hotel of Camuscía, on the high-road at the foot of the mountain.

Hence it is half an hour's walk to the town, and the ascent is steep and toilsome, scarcely to be conquered in a vehicle. Nor when the gates are reached is the labour over. There is still a long climb to the upper end of the town; for Cortona is not, like Fiesole and Volterra, spread over the summit of the mountain, but hangs suspended from its peak, down one of the slopes. Steep, winding, foot-torturing streets, rich in filth, buildings mean and squalid, with hardly a shadow of past magnificence, houses in crumbling ruin, heaps of débris, and tracts of naked rock — such is modern Cortona. Cheerless and melancholy, she seems mourning over the glories of the past.

Modern Cortona retains the site of the ancient city, which was of oblong form, and about two miles in circumference. The modern walls are in most parts based on the ancient, though at the higher end of the city the p436latter made a considerably wider circuit.2 They may be traced in fragments more or less preserved almost entirely round the city; and are composed of rectangular blocks of gate size, arranged without much regularity, though with more regard to horizontality and distinct courses than is observable in the walls of Volterra or Populonia, and often joined with great nicety, like the masonry of Fiesole. At the lower part of the city, they stretch for a long distance in an unbroken line beneath the modern fortifications.3 But the finest relic of this regular masonry at Cortona, and perhaps in all Italy, is at a spot called Terra Mozza, outside the Fortress, at the highest part of the city, where is a fragment, one hundred and twenty feet in length, composed of blocks of enormous magnitude. A portion of it is shown in the woodcut at the head of this Chapter.4

The masonry is of a grey sandstone, very like that of Fiesole, in parts flaky and brittle, but generally very hard and compact; it is sometimes hewn to a smooth surface, p437at others left with a natural face; in no part is it cemented, though the blocks are often so closely fitted together as to appear so, not admitting even a penknife to be thrust between them. The joints are often diagonal, and small pieces are inserted to fill up deficiencies, as in the walls of Fiesole, to which in every respect this masonry bears a close resemblance, though more massive, and on the whole more regular.5

These walls bear evidence of very high antiquity, certainly not inferior to those of Volterra and Fiesole. That they are as early as the Etruscan domination cannot be doubted; nay, it is probable they are of prior date, either raised by the Pelasgi and Aborigines, or by the yet earlier possessors of the land.6

But this leads us to consider the history of Cortona. First, however, let us mount to the summit of the hill, and take a seat on the cypress-shaded terrace in front of the Church of Sta Margherita. Should it be the hour of sunrise, the scene will not lose interest or beauty. A warm rosy tint ruddying the eastern sky, and extending round half the horizon, proclaims the coming day. The landscape is in deep gloom — dark mountain-tops alone are seen around. Even after the sun is up, and the rosy red has brightened into gold, the scene is purpled and obscured by the shadow of the mountains to the east. But presently a ray wakens the distant snow of Monte Cetona, and sparkles on the yet loftier peak of Amiata behind it. p438Then the dark mass of Montepulciano, rising on the further side of the whole plain, like a second Cortona, is brightened into life. Anon the towers, battlements and roof of the town at our feet are touched with gold — and ere long the fair face of the Thrasymene in the south bursts into smiles — and the beams roll over the mountain-tops in a torrent, and flood the vast plain beneath, disclosing regions of cornº and wood, of vines and olives, with many a glittering farm and village and town — a map of fertility and luxuriance, in which the eye recognizes Chiusi, La Pieve, and other familiar spots in the far southern horizon.

The origin of Cortona, it has been said, is very ancient — so remote indeed that it is necessarily involved in obscurity.7 The legend that makes it the city of Dardanus and elder sister of Troy has already been mentioned. Tradition asserts that long ere the establishment of the Etruscan State, Cortona was "great and flourishing"8 — "a memorable city of the Umbrians,"9 — and that it was taken from them by the Pelasgi and Aborigines, who used it as a bulwark against them, seeing it was well fortified, and surrounded by good pastures.10 Subsequently, with p439the rest of the land, it fell to the Etruscans,11 and under them it appears to have been a second metropolis — to have been to the interior and mountainous part of the land was Tarquinii was to the coast.12 Even under the Etruscan domination it seems like Falerii to have retained much of its Pelasgic character, for Herodotus says that in his day it was still inhabited by a Pelasgic population, speaking their peculiar language, unintelligible to the people around them, though identical with that of Placia on the Hellespont, another colony of the Pelasgi.13 Niebuhr p440suggests that Cortona may have continued distinct from the Etruscans, as he thinks Falerii was.14 But that she was included in the great Etruscan Confederation, and one of the Twelve chief cities, is unquestionable. Livy describes her as one of the "heads of Etruria," in the year of Rome 444, when with Perusia and Arretium she was forced to sue for peace.15 It is singular that this is the only record we find of Cortona during the days of Etruscan independence. She is referred to again incidentally in the Second Punic War when Hannibal marched beneath her walls and laid waste the land between the city and the Thrasymene.16 Yet when a few years later all the principal cities of Etruria sent supplies for Scipio' fleet, Cortona is not mentioned among them;17 which is not a little strange, as but a century before she had been one of the chief in the land. Yet she did not cease to exist, for we find her mentioned as a Roman colony under the Empire.18 What was her fate in the subsequent convulsions of Italy we know not, for there is a gap of a thousand years in her annals, and the history of modern Cortona commences only with the thirteenth century of our era.19

Within the walls of Cortona are but few local remains of high antiquity.20 There is a fragment of walling under the Palazzo Facchini, composed of a few large blocks, p441apparently of the same date as the city-walls.21 Another relic of Etruscan times within the walls is well worthy of the traveller' attention. It is a vault beneath the Palazzo Cecchetti, just within the gate of S. Agostino. On my begging permission to see the monument, the owner courteously proposed to show it in person. He led me into his coach-house, raised a trap-door, and descended into a wine-cellar; where I thought he was about to offer me some of the juice of his vineyards, but on looking around I perceived that I was in the very vault I was seeking.

It is of no great size, about thirteen feet in span, rather less in length, and nine in height, lined with regular masonry, uncemented, neatly cut and arranged, and in excellent preservation.22 It is so like the Deposito del Gran Duca, at Chiusi, and the Grotta di San Manno, near Perugia, that it is difficult to deny it an Etruscan origin. Analogy thus mark it as a tomb, yet its position within the ancient walls is opposed to this view, and there is nothing to determine its original purpose.23

The only other local antiquity in Cortona is a fragment of Roman opus incertum, commonly called the Baths of Bacchus, in the higher part of the town.

Cortona, for more than a century past, has been the seat of an antiquarian society, the Accademia Etrusca, which has published many volumes of arc treatises. It has formed also a Museum of Etruscan relics, found in the neighbourhood. There is little pottery here — no painted p442vases of great beauty or interest; merely the black or red ware, often with bands of small archaic figures in relief. Many little idols, or figurine, as the Italians call them, of earthenware, from four to ten inches in height, votive offerings, or more probably the Lares of the lower orders, who could not afford deities of bronze. Heads of the same material, the size of life and evidently portraits, containing the ashes of the person whose features they represent. Sundry small lamps, some of them grotesque.24

There are several small cinerary urns of terra-cotta, with toga-wrapt figures on the lids, and the usual subjects in relief.

The Museum is more rich in bronzes than in pottery. The most remarkable are — a naked figure of Jupiter Tonans, about seven or eight inches high, with an inscription on the stand in Greek letters, but unintelligible, — a female divinity with a cock on her head, and the wings of a sphinx, — many purely Egyptian idols, found in the tombs around Cortona, — the head of a negro.

There is also a considerable collection of Etruscan coins.

But the wonder of ancient wonders in the Museum of Cortona, is a bronze lamp of such surpassing beauty and elaboration of workmanship as to throw in the shade every toreutic work yet discovered in the soil of Etruria. Were there nothing else to be seen at Cortona, this alone would demand a visit. It merits therefore a more detailed description than I have generally given to individual articles. It is circular, about twenty-three inches in diameter, hollow like a bowl, but from the centre rises a sort of conical chimney or tube, to which must have been attached a chain for its suspension. Round the rim are sixteen lamps, of classical form, fed by oil from the great p443bowl, and adorned with elegant foliage in ridge. Alternating with them are heads of the horned and bearded Bacchus. At the bottom of each lamp is a figure in relief — alternately a draped Siren with wings outspread, and a naked Satyr playing the double-pipes, or the syrinx. The bottom is hollowed in the centre, and contains a huge Gorgon's face; not such as Da Vinci painted it, with

"The melodious hue of beauty thrown

Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain,

Which humanise and harmonise the strain."

Here is no loveliness — all horror. The visiting of a fiend, with savage frown — eyes starting from their sockets in the fury of rage — a mouth stretched to its utmost, with gnashing tusks and lolling tongue — and the whole rendered yet more terrible by a wreath of serpents bristling around it. It is a libel on the fair face of Dian, to say that this hideous visiting symbolises the moon.25 In a band encircling it, are lions, leopards, wolves, and griffons, in pairs, devouring a bull, a horse, a boar, and a stag; and in an outer bad is the favourite wave-ornament, with dolphins sporting above it. Between two of the lamps was a small tablet with an Etruscan inscription, marking this as a dedicatory offering.26 The weight of the whole is said to be one hundred and seventy Tuscan pounds.27

p444 From the high decoration of the bottom of the lamp, and the comparative plain nes of the upper part, as well as from the analogy of similar monuments, there is every reason to believe that it was suspended, perhaps in a tomb, perhaps in a temple, as a sacrificial lamp; which in truth its remarkable size and beauty seem to indicate.28

The style of art proves this monument to be of no very early date, yet there is a certain archaicism about it which marks it as of ante-Roman times.29

From this monument, so beautiful in art and elaborate in decoration, we can well understand how it was that Etruscan candelabra and other works of toreutic art were so admired and prized by the Athenians, even in the days of Pericles.30 In truth, as Micali observes, in mastery of art no other Etruscan work in bronze, except the larger statues, can rival this gem.31

p445 This singular relic of Etruscan antiquity was discovered in 1840, at a spot called La Fratta, at the foot of the Mount of Cortona, on the road to Montepulciano; not in a tomb, but in a ditch, at a slight depth below the surface. The fortunate possessor is the Signora Tommasi, of Cortona, whose husband is said to have given 700 dollars to the peasants who found it.32

There are two other collections of antiquities at Cortona; one in the possession of the Venuti family, the other in the Palazzo Corazzi, though the greater part of the latter has been purchase by Holland, and is now to be seen in the Museum of Leyden.33

There is nothing more, as far as I am aware, of Etruscan interest within the walls of Cortona. I leave the traveller to his tutelar deities the Guide-books to steer him safely among the churches, the paintings, and such rocks as the sarcophagus in the Cathedral — said to be that of the Consul Flaminius, who lost his life by "the reedy Thrasymene" — on which inexperience and credulity have so often run aground; but I will resume the helm when we quit the Gate of S. Agostino, for the tombs of Cortona.

The height on which the city stands is of stratified sandstone, the same as composes the ancient walls — too hard to be easily excavated into sepulchral chambers, at least by the Etruscans, who had not the aqua-fortis tooth of the Egyptians, and rarely attempted to eat a way into anything harder than tufo or light arenaceous rocks. Here then, as at Rusellae, Cosa, and Saturnia, tombs must be looked for on the lower slopes or in the plain beneath, rather than immediately around the city-walls. Yet on p446ledges in the slopes, where accumulations of soil from the high ground made it practicable, tombs were constructed. As the soil, however, was too soft to preserve the form of a sepulchre, it was necessary to construct it of masonry, and that it might be subterranean, according to the usual porta, it was heaped over with earth. Of this description is the celebrated

Tanella di Pitagora.

or the "Cave of Pythagoras," so called from the vulgar belief that that philosopher dwelt and taught in this city, though it was at Croton in Magna Graecia, not the Croton of Etruria.

This most remarkable sepulchre stands on the slope two or three furlongs below the city. It has been known for ages to the world, but had been neglected and half buried beneath the earth, till, in the year 1834, it was re-excavated; and it now stands in all its majesty revealed to the sun, like a temple of the Druids, amid a grove of cypresses.

The monument is now in such a state of ruin as at first sight to be hardly intelligible. The entrance is by a square-headed doorway, leading into a small chamber, surrounded by walls of massive rectangular masonry, in which sundry gaps are left for niches.34 One side of this chamber is in utter ruin. It was roofed in by five immense, long blocks,35 resting on two semicircular masses which crowned the masonry at the opposite ends of the p447chamber; forming thus a vault, which differs from ordinary ones in this, that each course of voussoirs is composed of a single block. It is not easy to say if the architect understood the principle of the arch. The blocks are of course cuneiform, or they would not fit closely, and be in harmony with the rest of the masonry. But their needless massiveness and length, and the mode in which they are supported, seem to indicate that they were not raised with a knowledge of the arch-principle. On the other hand, the semicircular blocks, on which they rest, could not have been dispensed with, without destroying the symmetry of the tomb. Of these five cover-stones, one only retains its position, and serves as the key to the whole; a second has one end still resting on the lintel of the door, the other on the ground; and the remaining three have been broken to pieces. The walls of the chamber are of immense thickness, and the whole is surrounded by a circle of masonry of the same massive description, four or five feet high, resting on a still larger basement, seventy-six feet in circumference, and now almost level with the ground.36

The chamber has been closed in the same way as the Grotta Casuccini, at Chiusi; sockets for the stone flaps of the door being visible in the lintel and threshold. The sepulchral character of the structure is manifest from the niches, of which there are eight, evidently for cinerary urns or vases. No vestige now remains of such furniture, nor is there any record of what the tomb contained when first brought to light; but in the recent excavations a great quantity of rude pottery was found around the monument. The most surprising feature is the freshness and exquisite finish of the masonry, especially of the p448interior. The slabs and blocks of sandstone seem newly brought from the quarry, and are put together, though without cement, with a neatness that might shame a modern mason. It is difficult to belong they have stood thus between two and three thousand years. The external circling wall shows the same sharpness and neatness. From the analogy of other monuments, there is no doubt that this wall was the basement to a mound of earth, forming a tumulus over the sepulchre.37

The perfection of the masonry seems to imply no high antiquity, yet the Cyclopean massiveness of the blocks, akin to those in the city walls, and above all, the simplicity of its vaulted roof, apparently prior to the invention of the arch, throw it back to a very remote period, earlier than the construction of the Cloaca Maxima, and perhaps coeval with the foundation of Rome. Nor do the sharpness and neatness of its masonry belie such an antiquity, seeing that other works of the earliest ages, as the Gate of Lions at Mycenae, and the walls of Cortona and Fiesole display no inferior skill and execution; though in this case much of the freshness is undoubtedly owing to the protection of the superincumbent earth.

I should be inclined to regard this monument as almost coeval with the walls of Cortona, and of Pelasgic origin. A slab, however, which was found near it in the late excavations, and from its precise correspondence in size, must have served to close one of the niches in the chamber, bears an inscription in Etruscan characters.38

p449 It is singular that the dimensions of this Grotta di Pitagora agree almost precisely with the multiples and divisions of the modern Tuscan braccio, which there is good reason to believe is just double the ancient Roman foot. This confirms the opinion already mentioned, that the Romans took that measure from the Etruscans, and that the modern Tuscans use the very same measures as their celebrated forefathers.39

Near this, traces of other tumuli have been discovered, in rounded basements of rock. Baldelli, who wrote in 1570, states that in his time there existed three other sepulchres, one precisely similar to this, and close to the road leading to Camuscía; a second beneath the church of S. Vincenzio; but both had been almost destroyed by a certain man who dreamed that treasure lay concealed within them; and a third on the site of the church of Sta. Maria Nova, removed to make room for that edifice.40

The said Baldelli states in his MS., which though frequently copied has never been printed, that the two last-named tombs were composed of five enormous stones, one forming each side of the quadrangle and the fifth covering it41 — precisely such as are still extant at Saturnia, and resembling the cromlechs of our own country.

Grotta Dergardi.

At the foot of the hill of Cortona, close to Camuscía, and on the road to Montepulciano, stands a large mound p450or barrow, vulgarly called Il Melone.42 This "Melon" had long been suspected of being sepulchral; and at length the proprietor, Signor Sergardi of Siena, determined to have it opened, and secured the services of Signor Alessandro François, the most experienced excavator in Tuscany. He commenced operations in the autumn of 1842, and the result was the discovery of a sepulchre of most singular character, bearing some analogy indeed to the Regulini tomb at Caere, but a strict resemblance to no other yet disclosed in the soil of Etruria. Unfortunately it had been rifled in previous ages, so that little of value was found within it; and its interest lies chiefly in its plan and construction, in which respects it remains uninjured.

A long passage lined with masonry leads into the heart of the tumulus. For the last seven yards it widens, and is divided by a low thick wall into two parallel passages which lead to two entrances, now closed with wooden doors. The partition wall is terminated in front by a square mass of masonry, which probably served as a pedestal for a lion or a sphinx; and the passage opens, on either hand at its further end, into a small square chamber. Enter one of the wooden doors, and you are in a long passage-like tomb, communicating by a doorway with an inner chamber. The other wooden door opens into a parallel tomb precisely similar in every respect.43

The resemblance of this tomb to the Regulini at Caere will strike you immediately — not only in its passage form, but also in construction, for it is roofed over on the same p451primitive principle of the convergence of the blocks to a centre, which, before they meet, are covered by large flat slabs. The difference consists in the double passage and in the size of the masonry, which, instead of being composed of regular, massive blocks, as in the tomb of Cervetri, is here of small pieces of schistose rock, not hewn, but rudely hammer-dressed into the shape of long shallow bricks; it is equally without cement, but the clayey soil here exuding through the interstices appears like a plaster of mud. Masonry of this description is not found elsewhere in Etruscan edifices. It seems an imitation of brickwork, and belies the assertion of a celebrated architect, that this sort of roof could not be formed of that material.44 Nothing can be more unlike than this masonry and that of the Tanella di Pitagora, and at first sight you are ready to pronounce it impossible that both, little more than a mile apart, could have been raised by the same hands. Yet that this was Etruscan there can be no doubt, from the nature of its contents; and its construction proves it to be of at least equal antiquity. The character of the masonry seems here determined by local circumstances. On the hill of Cortona the rock admits of being hewn into square masses; here at its foot, it is of that hard, brittle, flaky character, which renders vain the labour of the chisel, and prompted the adoption of a species of masonry but little consistent with Etruscan habits of neatness.

These parallel tombs are paved with large flagstones, and underneath them, in the rock on which they are laid, are channels to carry off the water that might percolate the roof. The outer passages, which are now open to the p452sky, seem to have been covered in the same manner as the parallel tombs.

Though this "Melon" had been previously opened, perhaps more than once, it still contained a few pips; such as broken black pottery, a few remains in bronze and bone, and very small fragments of gold and silver. These, with everything else that has been discovered in the mound, are now to be seen at the Villa Sergardi hard by; and it is well for the traveller that he can examine them at leisure, for he is soon driven out of the tomb by the intolerable damp.

Above this tomb, in the higher part of the mound, were discovered three very small chambers, one of which was unrifled, and contained a large covered pot of bronze, embossed, and a vase of black clay like the most ancient of Caere and Veii, with a procession of archaic figures in relief. Both contained human ashes. Besides these, there were — an elegant tazza with similar reliefs — a quantity of small black ware — unguentaria of ordinary clay — and a long slab of stone, apparently part of a sarcophagus, with reliefs of very archaic style, representing a number of figures kneeling. Here also were found sundry spear-heads of iron, in one of which is a portion of the wooden shaft almost petrified; together with a hoe, a key, and part of a lock of the same metal, all much oxydised, a small sphinx of bone, and remains of heads in terra-cotta.45

This tumulus has not been half excavated, and it is believed with good reason that many more chambers lie within it. Yet, as the researches have proved so little profitable, owing to former riflings, it seems doubtful p453whether they will be continued. The "Melon" appears wholly artificial — not like the Poggio Gajella, or the Monteroni near Palo, natural heights honeycombed with sepulchral cells — and seems to have been raised over the masonry-built tombs, which stand on the very level of the plain. Another mound not far off offers a further field for excavating enterprise.

Cortona is a city of great interest. Its very high antiquity — the mystery hanging over its origin, lost in the dim perspective of remote ages — the fables connected with its early history — the problem of its mighty walls — the paucity of tombs discovered around them, and the singular character of those that stand open, — all combine to cast a charm over Cortona, a charm of mystery, which can only be fully appreciated by those who have visited the site.

The Author's Notes:

1 This is the Italian tradition. It is because Dardanus the founder of Troy was believed to have come from Cortona that Virgil (Aen. I.380) makes Aeneas say —

Italiam quaero patriam, et genus ab Jove summo.

Servius (in loc.) thus explains it, and shows that elsewhere (Aen. VII.122) Aeneas is made to say of Italy —

Hic domus, haec patria est.

cf. Aen. III.167; VII.206, et seq. The original name of Cortona was Corythus, or Corithus, so called from its heros eponymos, Coryths, the reputed father of Dardanus. The legend states that Corythus, who ruled also over other cities of Italy, was buried on this mount. His wife Electra bore a son to Jupiter, called Dardanus, who, being driven out of Italy went to Phrygia and founded Troy. Another tradition records that Dardanus, repulsed in an equestrian combat with the Aborigines, lost his helmet, and rallying his men to recover it, gained the victory; to celebrate which he built a city on the spot, and named it from his helmet — κόρυς. A third legend refers the origin of the city to Corythus, son of Paris and Oenone. Virg. Aen. III.167; VII.206‑211; IX.10; X.719; Serv. in loc. and ad Aen. I.380; III.15, 104, 170. All this belongs to the purely mythical period, and cannot be regarded as historical, yet may be received as evidence of the very remote antiquity of this city.

It is generally believed that Corythus was really the ancient name of Cortona, but Müller (Etrusk., IV.4, 5) questions this, and thinks that it is a mere Greek tradition, arbitrarily referred to that city. Yet there can be no doubt that it was so regarded by the Romans. Besides the evidence of Virgil and his commentator, the identity is made perfectly clear in a passage of Silius Italicus (V.122) which Niebuhr (I. p33) pronounced decisive —

Poenus nunc occupet altos

Arreti muros, Corythi nunc diruat arcem?

Hinc Clusina petat? postremo ad moenia Romae, &c.

The poet uses the ancient name for the sake of the verse, as elsewhere (IV.721) —

sedemque ab origine prisci

Sacratam Corythi.

There is no reason to believe that it was retained to Annibal's time, to which the poem refers, much less to his own.

2 Micali's Plan (Ant. Pop. Ital. tav. VI) makes Cortona about 10,000 feet in circumference, but taking into account the wider circuit of the ancient walls round the Fortress, which he has not indicated, the city cannot have been less than two miles round. Thus it would be scarcely larger than Rusellae, and among the smallest of the cities of the Confederation.

3 The finest portions at this end are about Porta Colonia on the north of the city, where the blocks are from 9 to 13 feet in length by more than 3 feet in height, hewn to a smooth surface and very neatly joined; and about Porta S. Domenico on the south, where they measure 12 or 14 feet by 2. One, at the height of ten or twelve feet from the ground, is 10 feet by 5. Just within the Porta Montanina are several, 10 or 12 feet in length, but more shallow than usual.

4 In one part it rises to the height of seven courses, or about 25 feet high, but the general height is about 15 or 16 feet, which is that of the fragment delineated. The blocks vary from 2 ft. 6 in. to 5 ft. in height, and from 6 or 7 feet to 11 or 12 in length; and sometimes are as much or more in depth, as the smallest end is seen in the face of the wall. Here as at Volterra and Rusellae, the smallest blocks are often below, as if to fill up the inequalities of the ground, and make a basement for the larger.

5 The principal variety observable is within the Porta Montanina, where the blocks are very long and shallow, with smaller pieces in the interstices. Here the line of the ancient wall was rather within that of the modern, as shown in the Plan.

6 According to Dionysius (I. p16), the city was well fortified in the time of the Umbri, and the Pelasgi only took it from them by a sudden assault. Lepsius regards the existing walls as the work of the Pelasgi (Tyrrhen. Pelas. p10); and there can be little doubt that they have that antiquity. Cf. Müller, Etrusk. I.3, 1.

7 This obscurity is increased by the different names by which the city was known — Corytus, Croton, Crotona, Cyrtonion, Creston, Gotynaea, Cothernia, or Cortona. The latter name, if we may believe Dionysius (I. p21) was only given when the city was made a Roman colony, not long before his day, taking the place of the old appellation, Croton. Of Corythus, we have already spoken. Cyrtonios or Cyrtonion is the name used by Polybius (III.82) and Stephanus of Byzantine. Creston is found only in Herodotus, and will be further mentioned presently. Cortynaea is used by Lycophron (Cass. 806), and by Theopompus (ap. Tzetz. ad Lycoph. loc. cit.), who records a tradition that Ulysses, called by the Etruscans, Nanos (cf. Lycoph. 1244; Tzetzes in loc.), sailed to Etruria, took up his abode at Gortynaea, and there died. This says Müller is the Hellenised form of Cortona, for no other Etruscan city can be here intended. Etrusk. IV.4, 1.

8 Dion. Hal. I p16.

9 Dion. Hal. I p20.

10 Dion. Hal. I p16. cf. Hellanicus of Lesbos ap. eund. I. p22. The Pelasgic character of Cortona is also intimated by the legend, which represents Jasius son of Corythus, king (p439)of this city, settling in Samothrace, when his brother Dardanus founded Troy. Serv. ad Aen. III.15, 167; VII.207.

11 Dion. Hal. I p16.

12 This would seem to be implied by the designation of it by Silius Italicus (VIII.474) "superbi Tarchontis domus." Stephanus of Byzantine (v. Κρότων) calls it "the metropolis of Etruria, and the third city of Italy." Lepsius is of opinion that this is also proved by its coins, for that the entire system of Etruscan, indeed of ancient Italian coinage, proceeds from Cortona. Tyrrhen. Pelasg. p10.

The coins attributed to Cortona are the most simple of all ancient Italian money. All twelve sides of the series, from the as to the uncia, bear one uniform type — a wheel. There is no legend to mark these coins as belonging to any particular city, but marchi and Tessieri see in the wheel the symbol of Cortona, whose original name they take to have been "Rutun" (instead of K-rutun) — à rotâ — and setting all history aside, they regard it as a colony of the Rutuli, who had a similar device on their coins. Aes Grave del Museo Kircheriano, cl. III. tav. III. Professor Lepsius, though condemning this explanation as erroneous, assents to the attribution of these coins to Cortona, and agrees with the worthy Jesuits in regarding Cortona as a most ancient mint, and as the metropolis of five other coining cities, which have a wheel on one side only. Ann. Inst. 1841, pp103, 109; Verbreit. d. Ital. Münzsyst. pp58, 69. See also Bull. Inst. 1839, p123.— Melchiorri; 1842, p126.— Genarelli. Abeken (Mittelitalien, p286) does not consider the wheel, or the other devices on Etruscan coins, to mark any particular sites, and he regards the distribution of these coins to a metropolis and its dependencies to be quite arbitrary.

13 Herod. I.57. Herodotus's statement is repeated by Dionysius (I. p23), but with this difference that in the text of Herodotus the city is called Creston, in that of Dionysius, Croton. That they were identical is maintained by Niebuhr (I. p34, n89), by Cluver (II p574), and Mannert (Geog. p418); but opposed by Müller (Etrusk. einl. 2, 10), by Lepsius (Ueber die Tyrrhenischen Pelasger in Etrurien, pp18 et seq.), and by Mr Grote (History of Greece, II. p348). Müller and Lepsius consider Herodotus to refer to a Creston in Thrace, beyond Mount Athos. It is not possible here to state the arguments on both sides. They will (p440)be found in the above named works, especially in that of Lepsius.

14 Niebuhr, I. p119.

15 Liv. IX.37. Cluver (II p575) takes Cortona to have been the site of the great rout of the Gauls in the year 529, instead of Colonia, as Frontinus (Strat. I.2, 7) has it. But Polybius (II.27) states that that battle was fought near Telamon. Ut supra, pp246, 259.

16 Polyb. III.82; Liv. XXII.4.

17 Liv. XXVIII.45.

18 Dion. Hal. I p21; Plin. III.8. She is mentioned also by Ptolemy, Geog. p72.

19 Repetti, I. p812.

20 There is said to have been a large piece of Etruscan walling under the Spedale Maggiore, forming the base of a vault; another fragment behind the Palazzo Passerini; and a third outside the gate of the Borgo S. Vincenzo. These were all destroyed however at the end of the seventeenth century. Inghirami, Mon. Etrus. IV.p71.

21 Inghirami speaks of a fragment, 21 feet long, and 32 feet high, in the foundations of the Palazzo Laparelli, in the Piazza S. Andrea. Mon. Etrus. IV p77. I sought it in vain.

22 The blocks are of the local sandstone, or macigno, as it is called. They vary from 3 to nearly 7 feet in length, and are 15 inches in height.

23 It may have an affinity to the subterranean, tomb-like chamber within the walls of Tarquinii. Vol. I. p385. The floor is the bare rock; the back wall of the vault has been pulled down to enlarge its dimensions. Abeken regards it as undoubtedly a sepulchre. Ann. Inst. 1841, p39; Mittelitalien, p250.

24 One is formed like a face, with a hole in the nose, by which to suspend it, and other holes in the forehead and chin, for the wicks.

25 This is a well-known Orphic doctrine. Epigenes, ap. Clem. Alex. Strom. V. p676, ed. Potter. The serpents also are supposed to be emblems of the lunar changes. Ann. Inst. 1842, p57.

26 The inscription is not very legible. Some of the letters are peculiar; but one word, "inscvil," marks it as a dedicatory gift. It is in all probability intended for "Tinscvil," the word which is inscribed on the Chimaera in the Florence Gallery, on the Griffon at Leyden, on a bronze dog in the possession of Sr.º Coletellini of Cortona, and also on a small pedestal in this same museum. Ann. Inst. 1842, p62. Micali, Mon. Ined. p80. Inscriptions like this, attached to monuments, are not of unfrequent occurrence. It was the custom to attach them to gifts, as now-a‑days it is with us to write the name of the giver and gifted, in a presented book.

27 Bull. Inst. 1840, p165. Cf. Micali, Mon. Ined. p78.

28 It is a lychnus, such as were hung from the ceilings of palaces or temples (Virg. Aen. I.726; Plin. XXXIV.8), and as have been found also suspended in sepulchres — even in Etruscan ones, as in the Tomb of the Volumnii, at Perugia. Micali (Mon. Ined., p78) thinks it a sepulchral monument — a funeral offering to the great god of the infernal regions, consecrated by some lady of illustrious race, as the inscription seems to shows. He suggests that it may have hung in the chamber, where the funeral feast was wont to be celebrated, as well as the annual inferiae or parentalia. The use of sepulchral lamps by the ancients is well known, and gave rise, in the middle ages, to strange notions of perpetual fire; for it was asserted that some were found still burning in the tombs, though fifteen or twenty centuries had elapsed since they were lighted. It seems, however, that lamps were sometimes kept burning in sepulchres long after the interment. Micali cites an extract from Modestinus (leg. 44, Maevia D. . de Manumiss. testam.), which shows that a certain Roman gave freedom to his slaves at his death, on condition of their keeping a light burning in his sepulchres: "Saccus servus meus et Eutychia et Hiene ancillae meae omnes sub hâc conditione liberi sunto, ut monumento meo alternis mensibus lucernam accendant, et solemnia mortis peragant."

Thayer's Note: for the most famous case of a lamp purportedly still found burning, see this very detailed treatment of Olybius' Lamp, with further links to archaeological reports of various kinds, and other webpages on the subject. The careful reader will note that if credulity there is, it is that of the Renaissance — an age far more given over to superstition and magic than the Middle Ages.

29 Micali (Mon. Ined. p75) says truly that it is of a style between the celebrated Wolf of the Capitol, and the Chimaera and Orator of the Florentine Gallery; but he would refer it to the sixth or seventh century of Rome, which, according to the standard of the painted pottery, would be too late a date. I should rather say the fifth century, or the close of Etruscan independence.

30 Pherecrates, ap. Athen. XV. c13, p700; Critias, ap. eund., I. c22, p28.

31 Micali, Mon. Ined. p75.

32 For illustrations and notices of this lamp see Micali, Monumenti Inediti, pp72, et seq. tav. IX. X; Bull. Inst. 1840, p164 (Fabroni); Ann. Inst. 1842, p53, et seq. (Abeken); 1843, p354 (Braun); Mon. Ined. Instit. III. tav. XLI. XLII.

33 For a description of the Etruscan monuments in that Museum see Bull. Inst. 1840, pp97‑104 (Janssen).

34 The doorway is 5 ft. 8 in. high, by 3 ft. 6 in. wide. The chamber is only 8 ft. 6 in. by 6 ft. 6 in. Gori (Mus. Etrus. III. p75, cl. II tav. 2) describes this tomb as if it had another entrance by a subterranean passage. What he mistook for such has been proved to be the entrance to another tomb. Bull. Inst. 1834, p197. — Castellani.

35 These cover-stones are about 10 ft. long, 3 ft. wide, and 22 in. thick. The weight of one of them has been estimated at 10,000 lbs. Bull. Inst. loc. cit.

36 The circling wall terminates above in a plain fascia — only a small portion of it is standing — the space between it and the walls of the chamber is filled with earth. For illustrations of this monument see Gori, Mus. Etrus. III. cl. II tab. II; Inghirami, Mon. Etrus. IV. tav. XI; Abeken, Mittelitalien, taf. V.3.

37 Abeken (Ann. Inst. 1841, p37) thinks this tumulus was a cone like those of Tarquinii, but truncated; and states that a square abacus, topt by a ball of stone, similar to what may be seen at the Museo Casuccini at Chiusi, had been found near the monument, as if it had originally surmounted it.

38 For this inscription see Ann. Instit. 1841, p37. In Latin letters it would run thus, —

V . CUSU . CR . L. APA

It is now in the Museum of the Academy.

39 Bull. Inst. 1834, p198. Ut supra, p376, n8.

40 In this last tomb was found a large earthenware pot, containing a bronze vase, beautifully chiselled, with a smaller vase of the same metal within it, holding the ashes of the deceased; besides sundry weapons, much pottery, and many sepulchral lamps. This record is valuable, as throwing light on the character of the analogous tombs of Saturnia.

41 Baldelli, ap. Gori, III. pp75, 76; ap. Inghirami, Mon. Etr. IV.p72.

42 This mound is about 640 ft. in circumference, and 46 feet high.

43 The outer chambers are 14 ft. long, by 8 ft. wide; the inner, only 11 ft. in length. In the inner wall of one of these tombs is a hole, through which you can look into another chamber not yet opened.

44 Canina, Cere Antica, p67. The bricks, or rather stones, in this case, are kept in their places by the weight of the superincumbent earth.

45 A detailed description of this tomb and its contents, together with illustrations, has been published by Sr.º Melchiore Missirini, Siena, 1843. For an account of the excavations see also Bull. Inst. 1843, pp33, 49.

Page updated: 2 Dec 12