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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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 p173  Chapter X


Haec duo praeterea disjectis oppida muris.

— Virg.

Itur in agros

Dives ubi ante omnes colitur Feronia luco

Et sacer humectat fluvialia rura Capenas.

Sil. Ital.

Another Etruscan city which played a prominent part in the early history of Rome, was Capena.​1 It is first mentioned by Livy in his account of the last Veientine war, when it united with Falerii in endeavouring to assist Veii, then beleaguered by the Romans. The latter city, from her power and proximity to Rome, was the bulwark of Etruria; and it was foreseen by the neighbouring people, that should she fall, the whole land would be open to invasion.​2 Falerii and Capena, fearing they should be next attacked, made strenuous attempts to raise the siege, but finding their efforts vain, they besought the aid of the great Confederation of Etruria.​3 Now, it had so happened  p174 that the Veientes had greatly offended the Confederation, first, by acting contrary to the established custom of the land, in taking to themselves a king; and in the next place, their king had made himself personally obnoxious by interrupting the solemn games — an act amounting to sacrilege. So the Confederation had decreed that no succour should be afforded to Veii as long as she retained her king.​4 To the representatives of the Falisci and Capenates, the magnates of Etruria in conclave assembled, replied, that hitherto they had refused Veii assistance on the ground that as she had not sought counsel of them, neither must she seek succour, and that they must still withhold it, being themselves in peril from the sudden invasion of the Gauls.​5 The two allies nevertheless persisted in their efforts to raise the siege, but in vain: their lands were several times ravaged,​6 and their armies overthrown;​7 and on the fall of Veii, the fate they had anticipated, befel them. Their territories were again invaded, and though the natural strength of their cities preserved them from assault, their lands were laid waste, and the produce of their fields and orchards utterly destroyed.​8 The territory of Capena was particularly fertile,​9 and such a blow as this was more efficacious than the sword, for it compelled the citizens to sue for peace, though at the expense of their independence. A few years later (A.U. 365) the Roman citizen­ship was granted to such of the inhabitants of Veii, Falerii, and Capena, as had sided with Rome in the recent struggle; and the conquered territory was divided among them.​10 Such means did Rome employ to facilitate her conquests, and secure them more firmly to herself.

 p175  That Capena continued to exist as late as the time of Aurelian, is proved by the scattered notices in ancient writers and by inscriptions. From that time we lose sight of her. Her site probably became desolate; and her name was consequently forgotten.​11 When interest was again awakened in the antiquities of Italy, she was sought for, but long in vain. Cluver​12 placed her site at Civitella San Paolo, not far from the Tiber; Holstenius,​13 at Morlupo; while Galetti, from the evidence of inscriptions discovered on the spot,​14 has determined it to have been at Civitucola, an uninhabited hill, half-way between the two.15

This hill lies far from any high road or frequented path, and still further from any town where the traveller may find accommodation — in a part of the Campagna which is never visited by strangers, save by some adventurous antiquary, or some sportsman, led by his eagerness far away from his accustomed haunts. It was more accessible when the Via Flaminia was in use as the high-way from Rome to Civita Castellana, for it lies only four or five miles off that road. The nearest point on the present road from which it may be visited is Civita Castellana, fifteen or sixteen  p176 miles distant; and it is a long day's journey there and back, on account of the nature of the country to be traversed, which is practicable only on foot or horseback.

Let not the traveller put much faith in the capabilities of his steed, for the animals hired in these country-towns are mere beasts of burden, accustomed to carry wood, charcoal, or flour, and with difficulty are to be urged out of their usual deliberate pace. Their mouths are as tough and insensible as their hides; the whip is of little avail, and spurs are indispensable. As these are not always to be had, it would be advisable for whoever would explore the bye-roads of Italy, to add a pair to his luggage. On this excursion the traveller should leave Civita at break of day, or he runs the risk of being benighted — no agreeable thing at a good distance from quarters, in a country particularly lonely, and whose inhabitants are not too well reputed for honesty.

Domenico, my guide to Falleri, could not attend me to Capena, and sent his brother in his stead — Antonio, commonly called "Il Re," — the King — a nom de guerre which, as the eldest son, he had inherited from his father. Domenico, I learned, was having his pigs blessed. A mad dog had attacked them, and the hogs had defended themselves stoutly, rushing upon and goring him with their tusks till they trampled his dead body under their feet. They paid dearly for it, however; ten of them were bitten in the conflict, and to save them from hydrophobia Domenico had sent to the sacerdote to bless them and put the iron of San Domenico on their foreheads.

I requested an explanation.

Saint Domenick, it seems, was once on a time on his travels, when his horse dropped a shoe. He stopped at the first farrier's he came to, and had it replaced. The farrier asked for payment. The saint-errant was as  p177 astonished as the knight of La Mancha could have been at so monstrous a demand; but with less courtesy he said to his horse, "Give him back the shoe." Whereupon the obedient animal flung out his heels, and with a blow on the forehead laid the farrier dead. Domenico in his simplicity could not perceive that the farrier was at least as worthy of his hire as the priest, to whom he had paid three pauls for saying a benediction over his hogs, and branding their foreheads with the mark of a horse-shoe.

For the first five miles the road was the modern Via Flaminia, which after crossing the Treia, ascends to the level of the Campagna, and continues through a country but partially wooded and cultivated, yet not without beauty, to the foot of Soracte.​a The mountain itself is sufficient to obviate all tedium on the ride. At first it presents the form of a dark wedge or cone, the end towards you being densely clothed with wood; but as you approach it lengthens out gradually, peak after peak disclosing itself, till it presents a totally different aspect — a long serrated ridge, rising at first in bright green slopes from the plain, then darkening above with a belt of olive-groves, and terminating in a bald crest of grey rock, jagged and craggy, its peaks capt with white convents, which sparkle in the sun like jewels on a diadem. The whole mass reminded me of Gibraltar; it is about the same length — more than three miles — it rises to about the same height above the plain​16 — it has the same pyramidal form when foreshortened, a similar line of jagged peaks. There is not the stern savage grandeur of the  p178 Andalucian Rock; but the true Italian grace and ease of outline — still the beautiful though verging on the wild.

At the Romitorio, a hamlet of a few ruined houses, I left the Via Flaminia, and striking across some fields and through a wood, ascended, by wretched tracks saturated with rain, to the olive-groves which belt the mountain. The view on the ascent is magnificent — the vast expanse of the wild, almost uninhabited, Campagna at my feet — here dark with wood, from which the towers of a few towns arose at wide intervals — there sweeping away in league after league of bare down or heath — the double-headed mass of the Ciminian on the right — the more distant Alban on the other hand — the sharp wooded peak of Rocca Romana between them — the varied effects of light and shade, of cloud and sunshine, as storms arose from time to time and crossed the scene, darkening and shrouding a portion of the landscape, which presently came forth laughing in brilliant sunshine; while the lowering cloud moved on, blotting out one object after another on which the eye but a moment before had been resting with delight.

On emerging from the wood, Sant Oreste was seen before us, situated on a bare elevated shoulder of the mountain. From the rocky ridge leading to the village a new scene comes into view. A richly wooded valley lies beneath, with the Tiber winding through it; and the Apennines rise away far to the south till they sink all faint and grey into the Latin valley, at the steep of Palestrina.

The rock of which the mountain is composed here starts up in bold crags on every side; it is a sort of limestone, called from its colour "palombino;" it is not however of dove-colour alone, but is to be found of various shades of grey, and sometimes almost white. Among these crags  p179 a path winds up to the summit of the mountain. Here the traveller will find a colony of recluses, and the several churches of Sta. Lucia, La Madonna delle Grazie, Sant Antonio, and San Silvestro. The latter stands on the central and highest peak of the mountain, and is supposed by Gell and Nibby to occupy the site of the ancient temple of Apollo, to which deity Soracte was sacred.​17 It can boast of no small antiquity itself, having been founded in A.D. 746, by Carloman, son of Charles Martel, and uncle of the celebrated Charlemagne, in honour of the saint whose name it bears. If anything could reconcile me to the life of a recluse it would be a residence in such a situation as this — commanding one of the most magnificent views in this all-glorious land.18

Sant Oreste is a wretched village, with steep, foul streets and mean houses — without any accommodation for the stranger. I was at once impressed with the conviction that it must have been an Etruscan site. Its situation is too strong by nature to have been neglected, and is just such as would have been chosen for a city in the northern part of Etruria; the plateau rising just as high above the plain as those of Cosa, Rusellae and Saturnia. At the foot of the steep and rocky hill on which the village stands  p180 I found confirmation of my opinion in a number of tombs in cliffs of tufo. I did not observe any remains of ancient walls on the height, but if they were of tufo — as is most probable, since that sort of rock is hewn with so much facility, that notwithstanding the transport of the blocks up the hill, there would have been less labour than in preparing the hard limestone close at hand​19 — they may have been destroyed for the sake of materials to construct the houses of the village. What may have been the name of the Etruscan town which occupied this site is not easy to determine; but I am inclined to agree with Nibby in regarding it as Feronia, which Strabo says was situated under Soracte, and its name seems to be preserved in that of Felonica, a fountain at the foot of this hill, on the road to Civitella di San Paolo.20

At or near Feronia was a celebrated temple to the goddess of that name, which, like many ancient shrines, stood in a thick grove — Lucus Feroniae.​21 She seems  p181 to have been identical with Proserpine,​22 and was worshipped by the Sabines, and Latins, as well as by the Etruscans.​23 Hither, on yearly festivals, pilgrims resorted in great numbers from the surrounding country, many to perform vows and offer sacrifice — and those who were possessed with the spirit of the goddess, walked with naked feet over heaps of burning coal and ashes, without receiving injury​24 — and many merchants, artisans, and husbandmen, taking advantage of the concourse, brought their goods hither for sale, so that the market or fair held here was more splendid than any other in Italy.​25 From the numerous first-fruits, and other gifts offered to the goddess, her shrine became renowned for its riches, and was decorated with abundance of gold and silver.​26 But it was despoiled by Hannibal on his march through Italy.​27 It was however maintained till the fall of paganism in the fourth century. That the temple itself stood on a height  p182 seems probable from the fact, mentioned by Livy, of its being struck by lightning.28

In a geological point of view, Soracte is interesting. It is a mass of limestone rising out of the volcanic plain, not resting, as Gell supposes, on a basis of tufo. One of those convulsions of the earth, which ejected from the neighbouring craters the matter which constitutes the surface of the Campagna, upheaved this huge mass of limestone, and either drove it through the superincumbent beds of tufo; or, what is more probable, upraised it previous to the volcanic disturbances of this district, when the Campagna lay beneath the waters of the ocean.29

Sant Oreste is about eight miles from Civita Castellana, or about half way from that town to the site of Capena. On journeying this latter half of the road, I learned two things, by which future travellers would do well to profit — first, not to attempt to cross a desolate country without a competent guide, especially on Sundays or fête-days, when there are no labourers or shepherds in the fields; secondly, to look well to the horses they hire, to ascertain before starting that they have been fed, and, if need be, to carry provender for them.

Antonio, my guide, had never been beyond Sant Oreste, but the road I wished to take was pointed out to us so  p183 clearly by some people of that town, that it seemed impossible to miss it. But among the lanes and hollows at the foot of Soracte we were soon at fault — took a wrong path — wandered about for an hour over newly-ploughed land, swampy from recent rains — at length found the right path — lost it again immediately on a trackless down — and then, like Dante, found ourselves at the middle of the journey in a dark and savage wood. No poet, — "od ombra od uomo certo" — nor any other being, came to our assistance, for not a sign of humanity was in sight; and, to crown our difficulties, one of the horses sunk from exhaustion, owing to want of food. Remembering the proverb, "sacco vuoto non regge in piede," — "an empty sack will not stand upright," — we transferred what store of refreshments we had brought for our own use to our horses' stomachs, and quietly awaited their time. Patience — no easy virtue when the rain was coming down in deluging showers — at length overcame all difficulties, and we found ourselves in the right track, on the banks of the Grammiccia, which led us to the site of Capena.30

The city crowned a hill of some elevation, rising steeply from the valley, and whose highest point is now crested with some ruins, called the church of San Martino; by which name the spot is known among the peasantry, and not by that of Civitucola, as I had been led by former writers to suppose. The latter appellation is one assigned to the spot by some documents of the middle ages. The whole declivity was frosted over with the blossom of the wild pear-trees which cover its face. Through these I had to climb by sheep-tracks, slippery with the rain. The ruins just mentioned are the only remains on the height on which the city stood. They are of opus incertum, and probably  p184 formed part of a villa of Imperial times, which may subsequently have been converted into a Christian chapel. That a city originally stood here there are unequivocal proofs in the broken pottery which thickly strews the hill. It occupied an elevated ridge on one side of a deep hollow, which Gell supposes to be an extinct crater,​31 and which is now called Il Lago.

No remains of walls could I find, save at the western angle, overhanging the Lago, where a few blocks mark the foundations; but on the slopes beneath, to the south and east, many blocks lie scattered about.​32 The form of the city, however, is easily traced by the pottery, and character of the ground: it was long and narrow, especially so in the centre of its length, near the ruins of San Martino. Its circumference can hardly have been a mile and a half, and this marks it as of very inferior importance. The highest part was to the west, and there, in all probability, was the Arx. I observed the sites of three gates, — one at the eastern, one at the western extremity, and one to the south, where the land narrows opposite the ruin. By this gate alone vehicles could have reached the city, so steep are the cliffs and slopes around it. After making the tour of Capena, it is easy to comprehend how the Roman armies several times entered the territory, and laid it waste, but never attacked the town. It was as elevated as Falerii, and could on no side be approached on level ground.

I could perceive no tombs in the cliffs around or beneath the city, and one only in the low ground, to the north.

 p185  The view from the height of Capena is wildly beautiful. The deep hollow on the south, with its green carpet: the steep hills overhanging it, dark with wood — perhaps the groves celebrated by Virgil:​33 the bare swelling ground to the north, with Soracte towering above: the snow-capt Apennines in the eastern horizon: the deep silence, the seclusion; the absence of human habitations (not even a shepherd's hut) within the sphere of vision, save the distant town of Sant Oreste, scarcely distinguishable from the grey rock on which it stands;— it is a scene of more singular desolation than belongs to the site of any other Etruscan city in this district of the land.

A visit to this spot will scarcely repay the traveller for the difficulty of reaching it; that is, as far as the extant antiquities are concerned. But the scenery on the way is delightful, especially between San Martino and Rignano, about seven miles distant, which road I took on my return. It is a mere mule-track, and passes over very rough ground. Now it descends into ravines picturesque with cliff and wood, and an overshot mill, it may be, in the hollow — now pursues the level of the plain, commanding glorious views of Soracte, with a changing, but ever beautiful foreground of glen, heath, wood, or corn-land.º On the approach to Rignano, the view is particularly fine; for beneath the town opens a wide ravine which seems to stretch up to the very base of Soracte, its cliffs overhung with wood, and a pretty convent nestling in its bosom. Around Rignano the land presents a singular stratification of white and grey rock — the white, which is called "cappellaccio," is a sort of friable  p186 tufo; the grey, with which it alternates, is a sandstone, in very thin layers.

Rignano is a miserable town; tolerably flourishing, it is said, when the Via Flaminia, on which it stands, was the high road to Rome, but now rapidly falling into decay. It is evidently a Roman site, for altars, cippi, fragments of statues and cornices, and other traces of that people, abound in the streets. There is also a curious relic of the middle ages, a primitive cannon, made like a barrel, with staves of iron hooped at intervals, and with rings attached to serve as handles. It is the counterpart of one I have seen, I think in the armoury of Madrid. Rignano lays claims to be the birthplace of the infamous Caesar Borgia.

No one who values comfort will care to remain long at the osteria of Rignano. Woe betide the man who is compelled to pass a night within its walls. To avoid the companion­ship of squalid monks and disgusting cripples, who were ever forcing their sores on my notice, I resolved to push on for Civita, though it was almost dark, and there were still nine miles before our jaded beasts. By the time we reached the Romitorio, Soracte loomed an indistinct mass against the sky. Near this my guide pointed out a tree by the road-side, in which when a boy he had taken refuge from the wolves. He was returning from Rignano one winter's night, when the ground was covered with snow. On reaching this spot he heard their howlings in the wood by the road-side. They seemed to scent him, for he had barely time to climb the tree when it was surrounded by a dozen yelling demons, whose eyes, he said, shone with "the fire of hell." The tree was then but a sapling, and bent fearfully with his weight; so that he was in dread lest it should break and precipitate him among them. After a time of terrible suspense he was left alone,  p187 and at break of day ventured to descend, and with the protection of the Virgin reached Civita in safety. At that time the wood was very thick on Soracte, and afforded shelter to multitudes of wolves and bears which were wont to ravage the Campagna for miles around. About twenty years since the wood was cut, and the wild beasts disappeared with it, and retired to the Apennines.

The wolves of Soracte were celebrated in ancient times. Servius relates that sacrifices were once being offered on this mount to Pluto, when some wolves rushed in, seized the smoking entrails from the altar, and bore them away to a cave, which emitted pestiferous vapours.​34 The shepherds pursued them thither, but were arrested by these fumes. A pestilence was the consequence. They consulted the oracle, and received for answer that the plague would be staid when they imitated wolves, i.e., led a life of rapine. So they became robbers by divine right. Hence they were called Hirpini Sorani, or Pluto's Wolves, from hirpus, which signified a wolf in the Sabine tongue, and Soranus, another name for Dis Pater.​35 It was the descendants of these  p188 Hirpini, or Hirpi, as they are otherwise called, who made the animal sacrifice to the god of the mountain, and performed the marvellous feat of walking bare-footed over live coals.​36 This asbestic exploit seems to have continued in fashion to a late period; at least to the third century of our era, for Solinus speaks of it as existing in his day. Varro suspected jugglery, and would allow nothing marvellous in it, for he says they rubbed their soles with a certain medicament.37

Wolves are not the only beasts for which Soracte was renowned. There was a race of wild goats — caprae ferae — perhaps roe-bucks, on the mountain, which, like magnified fleas, could leap more than sixty feet at a bound! Well done, old Cato!38

At Sommavilla, a village on the Sabine side of the Tiber, opposite Soracte, tombs have been found containing vases and other furniture, extremely like those of Etruria.39

The Author's Notes:

1 Capena is evidently a name of Etruscan origin. A tomb of the family of "Capeni," or "Capenia," was discovered at Perugia in 1843 (Vermigl. Scavi Perugini, p9). Beside which, among Etruscan family names, we meet with "Capnas" (Verm. Isc. Perug. I. p226) and "Capevani," which Lanzi (II. p371) thinks a derivation from Capena by the omission of the digamma. In the tomb of the Cilnii, the name "Caupna" occurs, which has probably the same derivation; and "Carpna" is found on a sepulchral tile at Chiusi (Mus. Chius. II p109). Stephanus calls this town Capinna.

2 Liv. V.8.

3 Liv. V.17. From an obscure and mutilated passage of Cato (ap. Serv. Aen. VII.697), it seems that Capena was a colony of Veii sent out, as Niebuhr (I. p120) interprets it, by the vow of a sacred spring, (cf. Müller, Etrusk. einl. II.14). This would be an additional reason for her eagerness to assist the latter in her need.

4 Liv. V.1.

5 Liv. V.17.

6 Liv. V.12‑14.

7 Liv. V. 13, 19.

8 Liv. V.24.

9 Cicero pro Flac. XXIX.

10 Liv. VI.4. Those of Capena were formed into a new tribe, called Stellatina. Festus, s. voce. cf. Liv. VI.5.

11 Nibby, Dintorni di Roma. voce Capena.

12 Cluv. I. p549.

13 Adnot. ad Cluv., p62.

14 Galetti, Sopra il Sito di Capena, p4‑23. One of these inscriptions is at Morlupo, another in the church of S. Oreste, and a third in that of S. Silvestro, on the summit of Soracte. cf. Gruter, p189. 5. and 466. 6. Fabretti, p109.

15 Cramer, I. p231; Nibby, loc. cit. Gell, I. p263. Some misled by the resemblance of the name, have fancied it occupied the site of Canapina on the southern slope of the Ciminian. Dempster (Et. Reg. II. p179) made the blunder, as others had done before him, of placing it in Latium, on the Appian Way, because the Porta Capena of Rome opened on that road, as Servius (Aen. VII.697) had said:— Porta Capena juxta Capenos est. There can be little doubt that the Gate derived its name, not from Capena, which lay in the opposite direction, but from Capua, and that the termination is but the early Latin adjectival form, as we know it to have been the Etruscan. Frontinus indeed (de Aquaed., p27) says the Via Appia led — a portâ Capena usque ad Capuam; and Dionysius (VIII., p483) calls the gate πύλη Καπυίνη.

Thayer's Note: Much more modern work has been done on the site. For the most recent, those with access to JSTOR can read An Archaeological Survey of Capena (La Civitucola, provincia di Roma) by Simon Keay et al., Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 74 (2006), pp. 73‑118.

16 Gibraltar is about 1500 feet above the sea. Soracte, according to Nibby, is 2150 French feet; according to Gell (II.250), 2270 French feet in height. Westphal calls it 2200 feet. But the plain from which Soracte is viewed, being considerably elevated above the level of the sea, the heights of the two mountains appear nearly equal.

17 Sacrum Phoebo Soracte. — Sil. Ital. VIII.494. Sancti custos Soracti Apollo, — Virg. Aen. XI.785. See also Sil. Ital. V.179 et seq. — VII.662; Plin. VII.2; Solinus, Polyhist. II, p15. Nibby fancies the name of the Mount was Pelasgic, and suggested Σωρὸς-ἀκτὴ as its derivation.

18 "From S. Silvestro," says Gell, "the Tyber, with its numerous windings, is seen issuing from the woody hills beyond Magliano of Sabina, and its course may be clearly distinguished as it flows between the territory of the Capenates and the plains below Nerola, Monte Libretti, Moricone, and Mounts Pennecchio and Gennaro. The high citadel of Palestrina, the range of Lepinus, Monte Albano, and, in short, the whole Campagna di Roma, are also visible. In another direction are the castle and lake of Bracciano, and the peak of Rocca Romana; and in another, the beautiful villages of Fara, Farfa, Filacciano, Torrita, Nazzano, Civitella di San Paolo, and the site of Capena, with the valley of the Grammiccia below." — II. p253.

19 This was done at Tivoli, whose walls are volcanic (Gell, II. p272), though the rocks are travertine and limestone; and also at Segni, where a gate and a portion of the walls are of tufo, though the rest are formed of the natural limestone of the hill on which the city stands. The palombino of Soracte was quarried by the Romans, and is classed by Vitruvius (II.7) with travertine, as a stone of moderate hardness, a mean between tufo and silex or lava.

20 Nibby, II. p108; Strab. V. p226. Gell (voce Feronia) thinks, quite unnecessarily, it seems to me, that this Felonica is "the site of the temple, grove, and fountain of Feronia." Holstenius (Adnot. ad Cluver. p60) also placed Feronia in the plain about a mile from S. Oreste, where he said there were extensive remains of a town. The site he referred to is probably the same as that indicated by Westphal (Römis. Kamp. p136), as occupied by an unimportant ruin, and vulgarly called the site of Feronia. It lies between the Flaminian and the mountain.

21 Liv. I.30, XXVI.11, XXVII.4; Sil. Ital. XIII.83; Plin. III.8; Strabo (loc. cit.) calls Feronia a city, and says the Grove was on the same spot. This must not be confounded with the other Lucus Feroniae in the north of Etruria near Luca, which Ptolemy (Geog. p72 ed. Bert.) places among the "inland colonies" of that land — still less with the Temple of Feronia mentioned by Virgil (Aen. VII.800) as situated in a green grove — viridi gaudens Feronia luco — which was near Terracina and the Circaean promontory. It is also to this latter shrine and the fountain attached to it that Horace refers on his journey to Brundusium (Sat. I.5. 24).

22 Dion. Hal. III., p173. According to Servius (Aen. VII.799) Juno, as a virgin, was also called Feronia. Servius elsewhere (VIII.564) calls her the goddess of freedmen, who, in her temple at Terracina, placed a pileus, or felt scull-cap, on their shaven crowns. Here also was a stone bench, inscribed with these words: "Benemeriti servi sedeant, surgent liberi."º

23 Dion. Hal. l.c.; Liv. XXVI.11. Varro (de Ling. Lat., V.74), says she was a Sabine goddess — Feronia, Minerva, Novensides, a Sabinis.

24 Strab. V., p226. The same is related of the shrine of Apollo on this mountain. Plin. VII.2; Solinus, II, p15; Virgil Aen. XI.785 et seq.; Sil. Ital. V.177 et seq.

25 Dion. Hal. III., p173; cf. Liv. I.30.

26 Liv. XXVI.11; Sil. Ital. XIII.84, et seq.

27 Liv. l.c.; Sil. Ital. l.c. Cramer, however (Ancient Italy, I p232, 309), opines that the temple Hannibal rifled was one to the same goddess at Eretum in Sabina, and quotes Fabretti (Insc. Ant. p452) who states that inscriptions have been found near Eretum, which mention a temple to Feronia at that place. Livy, however, records a tradition that Hannibal spoiled this said shrine in the ager Capenatis, on his road from Reate to Rome, "turning out of his way from Eretum," which he must certainly have done, if Monte Rotondo be the site of Eretum, as there is every reason to believe. See Cluver. II p667. The battle of Eretum, in which the Sabines were defeated by Tullus Hostilius, was the consequence of that people having laid violent hands on some Romans, at the fair of Fanum Feroniae. Dion. Hal. loc. cit. cf. Liv. I.30.

28 Liv. XXXIII.26. Cluver (II p549) places the site of this temple at Fiano, six or seven miles to the southward, in which name he fancies he can trace the "Feroniae fanum" of antiquity; but Fiano is now generally supposed to be the representative of the ancient Flavinium mentioned by Virgil (Aen. VII.696; Serv. in loco). Silius Italicus (VIII.492) calls it "Flavina." At Nepi, in the Piazza, is an inscription referring to the shrine of Feronia:

D . S . D . D

29 Abeken (Mittelital. p16) seems to regard it as of earlier formation than the surrounding tufo, and thinks it was probably once an island in the midst of the sea.

30 The stream itself seems to have been anciently called Capenas. Sil. Ital. XIII.85. It is now sometimes called Fosso di San Martino.

31 Gell, I. p263.

32 Gell states that the walls may be traced by their foundations round the summit of the hill; but either he was deceived by the natural breaks of the tufo rock, which at a little distance may be easily mistaken for masonry, or the blocks since his time have been carried off by the peasantry.

33 Lucosque Capenos. — Aen. VII.697. But the groves here referred to may with equal probability be those around the shrine of Feronia, which was in the Ager Capenatis. Liv. XXVI.11, XXVII.4, XXXIII.26. Cato also mentions — lucus Capenatis (ap. Priscian. IV. p36, ed. Ald.).

34 On the eastern side of the mountain, near the church of Santa Romana, is a cave, with deep fissures near it, called Le Voragini, which emit foul vapours. Hence the fable related by Servius must have taken its rise. Pliny (II.95) seems to refer to these fissures, but says the vapours were fatal to birds alone. But elsewhere (XXXI.19) he cites Varro as saying that fatal effects were produced by a fountain on all birds which tasted of it. To this spring, Vitruvius (VIII.3. 17) seems also to allude; though he places it — agro Falisco via Campanâ in campo Corneto. This fountain, Nibby (III. p112) thinks is represented by the Acqua Forte, in the plain between Soracte and the Tiber, about two miles from Ponzano.

35 Serv. Aen. XI.785; cf. VII.696. Festus (voce Irpini) and Strabo (V. p250) say the Irpini were a colony of Samnites, and were so called from Irpus, their leader, which word signified a wolf in the Samnite tongue. The Samnites, be it remembered, were of the Sabine race. Varro de L. L. VII.29. Servius says the mountain was sacred to the Manes, but this is contrary to the testimony of other ancient writers, who concur in stating that it was sacred to Apollo. It seems probable that the singular inscription in Latin characters, said to have been found at Falerii, which Müller (Etrusk. einl. I.14) shows to be in the Umbrian language, from its similarity to the Eugubian Tables, had some reference to these Irpini of Soracte. It runs thus — lerpirior · santirpior · dvir · for · foveer · dertier · dierir · votir · farer · vef · naratv · vef · poni · sirtir. Lanzi (Sagg. II p541) proposes an amended reading. It is inscribed on a bas-relief which contains the figure of Apollo, and of a female called "Clatra."

36 Plin. Nat. Hist., VII.2; Varro ap. Serv., Aen. XI.787. Solinus Polyh. II. p15. See p181, note 9.

37 Varro, loc. cit.

38 Cato ap. Varron. Re Rust. II. cap. 3.

39 For an account of these discoveries, see Bull. Inst. 1836, p172, Dr. Braun; Bull. 1837, p65; p70‑73, Braun; p209‑213, Fossati; Bull. 1838, p71.

Thayer's Note:

a For my own experience of Mount Soratte, much briefer but with a good photo, see this passage of my diary.

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Page updated: 26 May 18