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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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 p76  Chapter IV


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Imaginare amphitheatrum . . . . quale sola rerum natura possit effingere.

Plin. Epist.

Gramineum campum, quem collibus undique curvis
Cingebant silvae; mediâque in valle theatri
Circus erat.


It was a bright but cool morning in October, when we​1 left the comfortless inn of La Storta, and set out for Sutri. The wind blew keenly in our teeth; and the rich tints of the trees wherever they appeared on the undulating plain,  p77 and the snow on the loftiest peaks of the Apennines, proved that autumn was fast giving place to winter.

The road to Florence still pursues the line of the ancient Via Cassia, of which we were unpleasantly reminded by the large blocks of basalt which had formed the ancient pavement, and were now laid at intervals by the side of the road — proh pudor! — to be Macadamised for the convenience of modern travellers. This is, alas, too often the case in the Italian States, where the spirit of utilitarianism is fully rife.​a If a relic of antiquity be convertible into cash, whether by sale or by exhibition, it meets with due attention; but when this is not the case, nobody cares to preserve it — the very terms in which it is mentioned are those of contempt — it is il pontaccio — or, le muraccia — and "worth nothing;" or, if it can be turned to any account, however base, the most hoary antiquity will avail it nought. Stones are torn from the spots they have occupied eighteen, twenty, or five-and‑twenty centuries, where they served as corroborations of history, as elucidations of national customs, as evidences of long extinct civilisation, and as landmarks to the antiquary — they are torn thence to be turned to some vile purpose of domestic or general convenience. Surely governments which profess to reverence and prize memorials of the past, should put a stop to such barbarous spoliations and perversions; or the ancient Ways will ere long be untraceable, save by the Itineraries of Antoninus and Theodosius, or by the records of modern archaeologists.

Just after leaving La Storta, a road branches to the left towards Bracciano and its Lake. It follows nearly the line of the ancient Via Clodia, which ran through Sabate, Blera, and Tuscania, to Cosa. The first station on that Way beyond Veii was Careiae, fifteen miles from Rome, now represented by the ruined and deserted village of  p78 Galera, which lies a little off the modern road. The only mention of Careiae is made by Frontinus and the Peutingerian Table, and there is no record of an Etruscan population here, yet there are said to be remains of ancient walls, and Etruscan tombs in the cliffs around.2

Two miles beyond La Storta brought us to the Osteria del Fosso, a lonely way-side inn, which has nothing remarkable, save an hostess, who, if rumour is to be credited, like the celebrated white sow of Lavinium,​b has been the mother of thirty children. The stream here crossed is that of I due Fossi, which washes the western walls of Veii. In the rocks around are traces of Etruscan tombs, part of the necropolis of that city.

Seven miles more over the bare undulating Campagna to Baccano, the ancient Ad Baccanas, a place like many others in Italy, known to us only through the Itineraries, once a Roman Mutatio,​3 and now a modern post-house, situated in a deep hollow, originally the crater of a volcano, and afterwards a lake, but drained in ancient, and most probably Etruscan times, by emissaries cut through the base of the encircling hills. At the eighteenth milestone, close to the hamlet of Baccanaccio, is one, cut through the rocky soil to the depth of about twenty feet, and very narrow, which Gell seems to think may have been formed in ancient times, but I believe it to be modern, and the work of the Chigi family, the territorial lords of Baccano.4

 p79  Nothing like the Alban Emissary, that is, a cuniculus, now exists in the hollow. On the height however towards Rome, there are several, which drain the water from an upper basin of the crater. They are carried through Monte Lupolo, a lofty part of the crater rim. Here there are also a number of holes on the upper part of the hill, said to be of great depth, and called by the peasants "pozzi," or wells; probably nothing more than shafts to the emissaries. It was these passages that were mistaken by Zanchi for the cuniculus of Camillus, and which led him to regard this as the site of ancient Veii.

The lake is now represented by a stagnant pond in the flat marshy ground at the bottom of the crater, which makes Baccano one of the most fertile spots in all Italy — in malaria. Fortunately for the landlord of La Posta, summer is not the travelling season, or his inn would boast its fair reputation in vain. This neighbourhood was in the olden time notorious for robbers, so that "Diversorium Bacchanae" passed into a proverb, says Dempster.​5 Let the traveller still be wary; though he be in no peril of assault, he may yet fall a victim to some perfidus caupo, who thirsting for foreign spoil "expects his evening prey." In the ridge of the surrounding hills are several gaps, marking the spots by which ancient roads entered the crater. On Monte Razzano, the hill above Baccano, are some ruins called, on dubious authority, Fanum Bacchi — though it is probable that the Roman mutatio derived its name from some such shrine. There is a large cave on the said Mount, which is vulgarly believed  p80 to contain hidden treasures. The view from this height is said to be finer and that from Soracte itself.6

Two miles to the north of Baccano, and to the right of the road to Florence, lies Campagnano; the first view of which, with Soracte in the back-ground, is highly picturesque. It is a place of some size and importance, compared to other villages of the Campagna, and from its site, and some caves in the neighbourhood, seems to be of Etruscan origin. A few Roman remains are to be seen in the streets.

From Campagnano a path runs eastward, first through vineyards, and then across a wide valley of corn,º to Scrofano, five miles distant. This is a small secluded village, apparently of Etruscan origin, as the cliffs around it, especially to the west, are full of tombs; among them are several columbaria.​7 It lies at the foot of Monte Musino, that curious tufted hill which is seen from every part of the Campagna, and is thought by Gell to have been the site of ancient religious rites. Musino is generally supposed to be a corruption of the Ara Mutiae, which was in the territory of Veii,​8 though some place the Ara at Belmonte, nearer  p81 the Flaminian Way.​9 This hill is conical, and is ascended by broad terraces leading spirally to the summit, on which are the remains of a large circular structure, which, Gell suggests, may have been the Altar. There is also a large cavern near the summit, reported, like that of Monte Razzano, to contain great treasures; access to which is said to be debarred by an iron grating — so far within the mountain, however, that no one can pretend to have seen it. The clump of oaks and chesnuts which tufts the hill-top, is sacred from the axe, though the wood on the slopes is cut from time to time; and the only explanation of this which I could obtain, was, that the said clump preserves Scrofano from the sea-wind, which is deemed unhealthy, and that, were it cut, the wind, instead of pursuing its course at a great elevation, would descend upon the devoted village.​10 This seems so unsatisfactory, that I cannot but regard it as a modern explanation of an ancient custom, the meaning of which has been lost in the lapse of ages and the change of religious faith. It is in all probability a relic of the ancient reverence for a sacred grove. Gell justly remarks of the artificial terraces round this hill and the building on the summit, that this extraordinary labour can only be accounted for by concluding the place was sacred. The analogy, indeed, of the winding road still extant, which led to the temple of Jupiter Latiaris on the summit of the Alban Mount, seems sufficient authority for such a conclusion. The terraces here, however, are too broad for simple roads; the lower being sixty, the upper forty feet in breadth. Gell imagines them to have been formed for the Salii, or for the augurs of Veii — the rites of the former consisting  p82 in dancing or running around the altar. Festus, he remarks, speaks of a place called Oscum, in the territory of Veii, which was a country retreat of the Roman augurs, and "no place could have been better suited to the college of augurs than Scrofano, or the neighbouring Mount Musino, where something reputed holy, and very different from anything else, certainly existed."​11 The local tradition is, that the Monte was the citadel of Veii,​12 though that city is confessed to be at least six miles distant, and it has hence received its vulgar appellation of La Fortezza; and the cave is believed to be the mouth of Camillus' cuniculus. The said cuniculus is also to be seen — so say the village oracles — at a spot two miles distant, on the way to Isola Farnese, called Monte Sorriglio (or Soviglio), in a subterranean passage, wide enough for two waggons to pass, which runs eight miles under ground to Prima Porta, on the Flaminian Way, where Camillus is pronounced to have commenced his mine. Verily, he must have been a better tunneller than Stephenson or Brunel. These things are only worthy of mention as indicative of the state of local antiquarian knowledge, which the traveller should ever mistrust.

In summer it is no easy matter to reach the summit of Monte Musino, on account of the dense thickets which cover its slopes. The winter is therefore to be preferred. The view it commands will repay any trouble in the ascent, which is easiest from Scrofano, whence the summit may be a mile distant. The most direct road to Scrofano from  p83 Rome is by the Via Flaminia, which must be left to the right about a mile or more beyond Borghettaccio, where a path pursues the banks of a stream up to the village. It may also be reached through Formello, either direct from the site of Veii, whence it is six miles distant, or by a path which leaves the modern Via Cassia at the Osteria di Merluzzo, near the sixteenth milestone. From this spot it is about six miles to Scrofano.

The ancient name of Scrofano is quite unknown. Its present appellation has no more dignified an origin than a sow (scrofa — possibly from an ancient family of that name),​13 as appears from the arms of the town over one of the gateways, with display that unclean animal under a figure of San Biagio, the "Protector" of the place. Almost the only relic of Roman times is a prostrate cippus of marble under the Palazzo Serraggi. Greek inscriptions have been found here, but have been carried off by the antiquaries.

Monte Musino is of volcanic formation, the lower slopes being composed of ashes and scoriae, strewed with large blocks of lava.

If the traveller visit Scrofano and Monte Musino from Baccano, he will do well to call at Campagnano for a guide, as none is to be had at the solitary post-house of Baccano; and he will find no one more serviceable than a little postino or letter-carrier, who rejoices in the name of Giuseppeº Felice, or Happy Joe.

About four miles from Baccano on the Via Cassia is Le Sette Vene, a lonely inn in the midst of an open country. It is one of the largest and most comfortable hotels between Florence and Rome, on the Siena road. Close to it is  p84 an ancient Roman bridge of a single arch, in excellent preservation.14

From Baccano, two tracks, cut in ancient times in the lip of the crater-lake, and retaining vestiges of Roman pavement, run westward to the lonesome little lakes of Stracciacappa, and Martignano (Lacus Alsietinus), and thence continue to the spacious one of Bracciano (Lacus Sabatinus); branching to the right to Trevignano and Oriolo, and to the left to Anguillara and Bracciano. The scenery of these lakes, all extinct craters, is well worth a visit from Baccano; but I could perceive no Etruscan remains.

The next place on the Via Cassia is Monterosi, which Gell says, but on doubtful authority,​15 was anciently called Rossulum. It does not seem to have been Etruscan. There are no remains of that people visible on this site, nor of the Romans, as far as I could perceive. Monterosi is commanded by a conical height, called Monte di Lucchetti, crested with some ruins of the middle ages. The view from it well repays the small difficulty of the ascent; for it commands the wide sea-like Campagna — Soracte, a rocky islet in the midst, lorded by the snow-capt Apennines — the sharp wooded peak of Rocca Romana on the one hand, and the long sweeping mass of the Ciminian on the other.

Monterosi is three miles beyond Sette Vene; it has two inns, both wretched. L'Angelo is said to be the better. Of La Posta I have had unpleasant experience, — meminisse  p85 horret! Hence there is a carriageable road following the line of the old Via Cassia to Sutri, the ancient Sutrium, seven or eight miles distant;​16 but as very inferior accommodation is to be had there, the traveller who would take more than a passing glance at that site had better drive on to Ronciglione, and visit it thence.

Soon after descending from Monterosi, and after passing a small dreary lake and crossing a stream of lava, the road divides; the right branch leading northward to Nepi, Narni and Perugia; the other, which is the Siena road, running in a direct line to Ronciglione, which, as it lies on the lower slope of the Ciminian, is visible at a considerable distance. In truth, it bears quite an imposing appearance, with its buildings stretching up the slope, and its white domes gleaming out from the wooded hill. The celebrated castle-palace of Capraruola, the chef d'oeuvre of Vignola, also adorns the slope of the Ciminian a few miles to the right.

But the beauties of Ronciglione are not to be seen from a distance. The town is romantically situated on the brink of a deep ravine, with precipitous cliffs, in which are caverns, originally sepulchres, marking the site of an Etruscan town.​17 Its memory and name, however have utterly perished. Ronciglione has very tolerable accommodation; even a choice of hotels — the Aquila Nera is the best — and the traveller will do well to make it his head-quarters for excursions to Sutri, which lies about three miles to the south. It must be confessed, however, that Sutri is to be reached thence only by a wretched country-road, which, if it resemble the ancient approaches to the town, would almost incline us to believe that the proverb ire Sutrium (to be prompt) was applied ironically.

Like most of the ancient towns in South Etruria, Sutrium stood on a plateau of rock, at the point of junction of two of the deep ravines which furrow the plain in all directions.​18 Such I have shown to be the situation of the citadel, or most ancient portion of Veii; and just in the same manner was Sutrium insulated, or united to the main-land of the plain only by a narrow neck. The extent of the town, therefore, was circumscribed; the steep cliffs which formed its natural fortifications forbad its extension into the ravines. Veii, however, crossed the narrow isthmus, and swelled out over the adjoining table-land, just as Rome soon ceased to be confined to the narrow plateau of the Palatine. But the same principle of growth seems not to have existed in Sutrium, and the town appears not to have extended beyond the limits prescribed by nature.​19 It was thus precluded from attaining the dignity of a first-rate city — from being enrolled among the Twelve of the Etruscan Confederation — yet on account of its situation and strong natural position it was a place of much importance, especially after the fall of Veii, when it was celebrated as one of "the keys and gates of Etruria;" Nepete, a town very  p87 similarly situated, being the other.​20 Indeed, Sutrium could have been little more than a fortress at any time,​21 and as such it seems to have been maintained to a late period, long after the neighbouring Etruscan cities had been destroyed.

The modern town occupies the site of the ancient, and is probably composed of the same materials. I do not mean to assert that any of the ancient Sutria tecta are remaining, though such a fact, as far as regards the foundations and shell, is not impossible; but the blocks of tufo of which the houses are constructed, may well have been hewn by Etruscan hands. Every one who knows the Italians, will admit that they would never cut fresh materials, when they had a quarry of ready-hewn stones under their hands. The columns and fragments of sculpture here and there imbedded in the walls of houses, prove that the remains of Roman Sutrium at least were thus applied. There are some fine fragments of the ancient walls on the south side of the town, and not a few sewers opening in the cliffs beneath them, similar in size and form to that at Fidenae.

As the walls of Sutri are similar to those of most of the Etruscan cities in the southern or volcanic district of the land, I shall describe the peculiarity of their masonry. The blocks are arranged so as to present their ends and sides to view in alternate courses, in the style which is called by builders "old English bond," or more vulgarly, "headers and stretchers;" but as this masonry is of classic origin, I will designate it by the more appropriate term of emplecton, which was applied by the Greeks to a similar sort of masonry in use among them​22 — a term significant of the interweaving process  p88 by which the blocks were wrought into a solid wall. The dimensions of the blocks being the same, or very nearly so, in almost every specimen of this masonry extant in Etruria,​23 I will give them as a guide in future descriptions, in order that when the term emplecton is used, it may not be necessary to re-specify the dimensions. This masonry is isodomon, i.e. the courses are of equal height — about one foot eleven inches. The blocks which present their ends to the eye are generally square, though sometimes a little more or a little less in width; and the others vary slightly in length, but in general this is double the height, or three feet ten inches. It is singular that these measurements accord with the length of the modern Tuscan braccio of twenty-three inches. The same description of masonry was used extensively by the Romans, during the times of the Republic, in Latium, Sabina, and in Rome itself, and seems to have been brought to perfection in the magnificent wall of the Forum of Augustus; but that it was also used by the Etruscans is attested by certain of their tombs; so that while it is often impossible to pronounce any particular portion to be of Etruscan or Roman origin, it may safely be inferred that the style was Etruscan, imitated and adopted by the Romans.24

 p89  Sutri has four gates; one at the end of the town towards Ronciglione, another at the opposite extremity, and two on the southern side. A fifth in the northern wall is now blocked up; and it is said that this and the two on the opposite side are the original entrances, and that the two at the extremities have been formed within the last century. If so, Sutrium had the precise number of gates prescribed by the Etruscan ritual.​25 Over that at the western end the claims of the town to distinction are set forth in this inscription —


and over the porta Romana, the other modern gate, are painted the arms of the town — a man on horseback, holding three ears of corn,º — with an inscription of inferior correctness —


Now, though the village fathers should maintain that the latter epigraph is a quotation from Livy, believe them not, gentle traveller, but rather credit my assertion that there is no historic evidence of such an origin for Sutri — yea, believe as soon that Tudela, Tarragona, Tafalla, Murviedro, and other towns in Spain, were founded by Tubal-Cain, as self-flattering Iberian chroniclers would persuade you;  p90 for on no more substantial authority doth this derivation rest.26

Though Sutrium was undoubtedly an ancient Etruscan city,​27 we know nothing of its history during the time of its independence. The first mention made of it is its capture by the Romans. It is singular that, in all the notices we have of it, we find it engaged in war, not like Veii and Fidenae with the Romans, but with the Etruscans. It was taken from the latter at an early period, probably in the year 360;​28 and in 371, or seven years after the Gallic conquest of the City, it was made a Roman colony.​29 From the date of its capture, so soon after the fall of Veii, it seems probable it was one of the towns dependent on that city, like Fidenae; yet it is nowhere mentioned in such a connection.​30 It was celebrated for the fidelity to its victors, displayed in several sieges it sustained  p91 from the confederate Etruscans.​31 The first and most remarkable was in the year 365, when it was besieged, as Livy tells us, by almost the whole force of Etruria, and compelled to surrender; and the miserable inhabitants were driven out, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. As the sad train was pursuing its melancholy way on foot towards Rome, it chanced to fall in with the army of Camillus, then on his road to relieve their city, which he imagined still held out. The dictator, moved by the prayers of the princes of Sutrium, by the lamentations of the women and children, bade them dry their tears, for he would soon transfer their weepings and wailings to their foes; and well did he keep his word. That selfsame day he reached the town, which he found an easy prey, for the gates were unguarded, the walls unmanned, and the victorious Etruscans intent only on gathering the spoil. In a very short time he was master of the place; the Etruscans submitted almost without resistance, and ere night he restored the inhabitants to their homes, and reinstated them in their possessions. Thus Sutrium was taken twice in one day.​32 From the rapidity of this exploit the proverb "ire Sutrium" took its rise.​33 The gateway, now blocked up, on the northern side of the town, is pointed out as that by which Camillus entered, and from him has received the name of Porta Furia — Furius being the family name of the dictator. But such an antiquity is evidently apocryphal; for the gate as it now exists is of the middle ages, and has an arch slightly,  p92 yet decidedly, pointed.​34 It is now blocked up, and does not seem to have been used for centuries.

A few years after this, in 368, Sutrium was again taken by the Etruscans, and rescued by Camillus;​35 and on a subsequent occasion, in 443, it was long besieged by the same foes, but saved by Fabius and Roman valour.​36 Near Sutrium, too, after Fabius had returned from his expedition across the Ciminian Mount, he signally surprised the Etruscans, and slew or captured sixty thousand. Some accounts, however, place the site of this victory at Perugia.​37 Sutrium is subsequently mentioned by several ancient writers,​38 and the last intimation of its existence in classic times is given by an inscription of the time of Adrian.​39 It seems never to have lain uninhabited and desolate for centuries; for its existence can be traced through the middle ages down to our own times; nor does it appear to have changed its name or site.

On descending from the Porta Romana, we entered a glen, bounded by steep cliffs of red and grey tufo, hollowed into caves. To the right rose a most picturesque height, crowned with a thick grove of ilex. Over a door-way in the cliff we read this inscription:—


 p93  "Here stay thy step; the place is sacred to God, to the Virgin, to the repose of the departed. Pray or pass on." We did neither, but entered, and found ourselves not in an Etruscan sepulchre, but in a Christian church — a church in the heart of the rock, with three aisles, separated by square pillars left in the tufo in which the temple is excavated, and lighted by windows, also cut in the rock which forms one of the walls. It is small, low, and gloomy, but interesting on account of its singularity and antiquity, being believed by the Sutrini to have been formed by the early Christians, at a time when their worship was proscribed within the town. That it is of early date cannot be doubted; the walls of the vestibule and the ceiling of the church retain traces of frescoes of the thirteenth or fourteenth century. On the ceiling were St. John the Baptist and St. Michael; their faces cut from the rock in relief. The altar-piece was an old fresco of the Madonna and Child, which was under repair by a young artist of Sutri. This gentleman courteously pointed out to us the curiosities of the church. He took us into an adjoining cave, which served as a sacristy, and showed to us a door, which, he said, led to catacombs, supposed to communicate with those of Rome, Nepi, and Ostia, and where the early Christians were wont to take refuge from Imperial persecution, hold their religious worship, and bury their dead. There are many wild legends connected with these mysterious subterranean passages; the truth is that, though their extent has been greatly exaggerated, they are very intricate, and it is not difficult to lose oneself therein. On this account the Sutrini have blocked up the door leading to their subterranean wonders. Finding we were strangers, and had not yet seen the lions of Sutri, the young artist threw down his brush and palette, and insisted politely on doing  p94 the honours of his native town. He pointed out a cavern adjoining the vestibule of the church, now a charnel-house, full of human bones. Here, he said, the Christians had deposited their dead. The vestibule itself had evidently been an ancient tomb, and the church, in all probability, another, enlarged into its present dimensions. It is called La Madonna del Parto.

On the top of the cliff, in the face of which the church is excavated, stands the villa of the Marchese Savorelli, in a beautiful grove of ilex and cypress, which had attracted my eye on leaving the gate of Sutri. We walked through the grove to the further edge of the cliff, and lo! the amphitheatre of Sutri lay beneath us — a structure, which, from its unique character, and picturesque beauty, merits a detailed description.

Reader, imagine an epitome of the Colosseum, or of any other amphitheatre you please, with corridors, seats, and vomitories; the seats in many parts perfect, and the flights of steps particularly sharp and fresh. Imagine such an amphitheatre, smaller than such structures in general, not built up with masonry, but in its every part hewn from the solid rock, and most richly coloured — green and grey weather-tints harmonising with the natural warm red hue of the tufo; the upper edge of the whole not merely fringed with shrubs, but bristling all round with forest trees, which on one side overshadow it in a dense wood, the classical ilex mingling with the solemn cypress;— and you have the amphitheatre of Sutri. The imagination of a Claude or a Poussin could not have conceived a sylvan theatre of more picturesque character.

Apart from its natural charms, this amphitheatre has peculiar interest, as being perhaps the type of all those celebrated structures raised by Imperial Rome, even of the Colosseum itself. We have historical evidence that  p95 Rome derived her theatrical exhibitions from Etruria. Livy tells us that the ludi scenici, "a new thing for a warlike people, who had hitherto known only the games of the circus," were introduced into Rome in the year 390, in order to appease the wrath of the gods for a pestilence then desolating the city — the same, by the way, which carried off Furius Camillus; and that ludiones were sent for from Etruria who acted to the sound of the pipe, in the Tuscan fashion. He adds, that they were also called "histrioneshister, in the Etruscan tongue, being equivalent to ludio in the Latin.​40 All this is corroborated by Valerius Maximus; and Tertullian makes it appear that the very name of these sports was indicative of their Etruscan origin.​41 The Roman theatres of that day must have been temporary structures of wood, the first permanent theatre being that erected by Pompey A.U.C. 699, which still exists in Rome. We also learn from Livy that the Circus Maximus was built by Tarquinius Priscus, the first of the Etruscan dynasty of Rome, who sent for race-horses and pugilists to Etruria,​42 where such and kindred games must have been common, as they are represented on the walls of many of the painted tombs, and on sarcophagi, funeral urns, and vases. We have historical evidence also, that the gladiatorial combats of the Romans had an Etruscan origin.​43 Therefore, though we find no express  p96 mention of circi, theatres and amphitheatre in use among the Etruscans, we may fairly infer their existence. There is strong ground for the presumption that the edifices they used were copied by the Romans, as well as the performances;​44 and if a building of this description be discovered in Etruria, it may well, primâ facie, urge a claim to be considered Etruscan.​45 Though some authorities of weight regard it as of Roman construction and of Imperial times, to me this amphitheatre of Sutri seems to have characteristics of an earlier origin. I would not refer it to the remote days of Etruscan independence, but to a period before national peculiarities in art and manners had been overlaid and well-nigh obliterated by the crushing mass of the world-wide Empire. It were possible to be mistaken in its architecture (I should say, its carving), though it corresponds closely with that of the neighbouring tombs  p97 excavated in the rock — in the cornice of the podium which surrounds the arena — in the doors in the same, narrower above than below, though all seem to favour an Etruscan origin; but its mode of construction is decidedly un-Roman, and peculiarly Etruscan; while the irregularity of the structure — the seats and passages being accommodated to the natural surface of the rock — and above all its singular, nay rustic, simplicity, distinguish it widely from the amphitheatres of the Romans.46

This curious relic of antiquity is an ellipse — the arena being, according to my measurement, one hundred and sixty-four feet in length, and one hundred and thirty-two in its greatest breadth.​47 The doors in the podium open into a vaulted corridor which surrounds the arena. This corridor, with its doors, is of very rare occurrence found elsewhere, I believe, only at Capua and Syracuse.​48 Above the podium rise the benches; at the interval of every four or five is a praecinctio, or encircling passage, for the convenience of spectators in reaching their seats. There are several of these praecinctiones, and also a broad corridor above the whole, running round the upper edge of the structure; but such is the irregularity and want of  p98 uniformity throughout, that their number and disposition in few parts correspond. Above the upper corridor, on that side of the amphitheatre, which is overhung by the garden Savorelli, rises a wall of rock, with slender half-columns in relief on its face, and a cornice above, but both so ruined or concealed by the bushes which clothe the rock, as to make it difficult to perceive their distinctive character. In the same wall or cliff are several niches, some upright, high enough for a man to stand in; others evidently of a sepulchral character, of the usual form and size of those in which bodies were interred. The upright ones, being elevated above the level of the praecinctio, seemed to me, at first, intended to hold the statues of the gods, in whose honour the games were held.​49 Such a thing was unknown, I believe, in Roman amphitheatres; but I remember something like it in several Spanish bull-rings — a chapel of the Virgin in a similar position, in the very roof of the gallery, before which the matador kneels on entering the arena, to beg her protection and aid in his encounter with the bull. The long niches, on the other hand, have clearly no connexion with the amphitheatre, but are of much subsequent formation, for in almost every instance they have broken through the  p99 half-columns, and destroyed the decorations of the amphitheatre, proving this to have fallen into decay before those niches were formed, which are probably the work of the early Christians.

Another peculiarity in this amphitheatre is a number of recesses, about half-way up the slope of the seats. There are twelve in all, at regular intervals, but three are vomitories, and the rest are alcoves slightly arched over, and containing each a seat of rock, wide enough for two or three persons. They seem to have some reference to the municipal economy of Sutri, and were probably intended for the magnates of the town.​50 At the southern end is a vomitory on either side of the principal entrance; at the northern, on one side only of the gateway. The latter vomitory is now a great gap in the rock, having lost the flight of steps within it, which must have been supplied with wood or masonry. The other vomitories are perfect. They have grooves or channels along their walls to carry off the water that might percolate through the porous tufo;​51 and similar channels are to be seen in other parts of the amphitheatre, and furnish an argument for its  p100 Etruscan origin; as this is a feature frequently observed in the rock-hewn sepulchres and roads of Etruria. The sharpness of the steps in some parts is surprising, but this is explained by the fact of this amphitheatre, only within the last ten or twelve years, having been cleared of the rubbish which had choked and the trees which had covered it for centuries, so that its existence was unknown to Dempster, Gori, Buonarroti, and the early writers on Etruscan antiquities.​52 We are indebted for its excavation to the antiquarian zeal of the Marquis Savorelli, its present proprietor. Its worst foe seems to have been Nature, for there are still several huge stumps of trees, remains of its forest-covering, splitting the tufo with their roots, which are too deeply imbedded to be eradicated.

The exterior of this structure exhibits no "arches upon arches," no corridors upon corridors — it is in keeping with the simplicity and picturesque character of the interior. Cliffs of red tufo in all the ruggedness of nature, coloured with white and grey lichens, hung with a drapery of ivy or shrubs, and crowned with a circling diadem of trees, with the never-to‑be‑forgotten group of ilices and cypresses on the table-land above — Sutri itself, at a little distance on another rocky height, the road running up to its open gate, and its church-spire shooting high above the mass of buildings — the deep dark glens around, with their yawning sepulchral caverns, dashing the scene with a shade of mystery and gloom.

A little down the road, beyond the amphitheatre, is a range of tufo cliffs, hollowed into sepulchral caverns; some remarkable for their sculptured fronts. Owing to the friable nature of the rock, not one of these façades remains in a perfect state; but there are traces of pediments, pilasters, and half-columns, with arches in relief, and fragments  p101 of mouldings of a simple character. In their interiors there is considerable variety. Some are small and shallow, others very deep and spacious; some have flat ceilings, others are vaulted over, now with a perfect, now with a depressed arch; and some have simple cornices in relief surrounding the chamber. In some there are benches of rock for the support of sarcophagi; in others these benches are hollowed out to receive the same, or the body alone — and in many are semicircular cavities recessed in the walls for a similar purpose. All these features are Etruscan characteristics, but most of these sepulchres bear traces of an after appropriation to Roman burial, in small upright niches, similar to those in Roman columbaria. There is the same variety of form as in those in the rocks at Veii, and like them, these contain sunken holes for the ollae, of which there are from two to six in each niche. In one instance the niches are separated by small Doric-like pilasters, also hewn out of the tufo. What principally distinguishes them from the other niches of a more probable Etruscan character is that the latter have a groove running round the back of the recess and opening in two holes in front — just such grooved recesses as are to be found in many other Etruscan cemeteries. The façades of many of these tombs have similar grooves, which sometimes form a sort of graven pediment over the doorway. Some of these sepulchres are coated throughout with stucco — walls, ceiling, and even floor; but this appears a more recent addition. Many other tombs are found in the glens around Sutri; some of them columbaria.

None of these open sepulchres remain in a perfect state. The Spaniards have a proverb —

La puerta abierta al diablo tienta, —

"An open door tempts the devil to enter." Such  p102 has been the fate of these sepulchres — in all ages they have been misapplied. The Romans, both Pagan and Christian, introduced their own dead. In the dark and turbulent ages succeeding the fall of the Empire, they were probably inhabited by a semi-barbarous peasantry, or served as the lurking-places of banditti; and now they are frequently used as wine-cellars, hog-sties, or cattle-stalls, and their sarcophagi converted into bins, mangers, or watering-troughs.

Beyond the sculptured tombs, in a field by the road-side, I found a sepulchre differing from any I had yet entered. It was divided into several chambers, all with recesses sunk in their walls to contain bodies, with or without sarcophagi — in tiers of shelves one above the other, just like the berths in a steamer's cabin. Such an arrangement is often observed in the catacombs of Italy and Sicily, and would lead one to suspect these tombs to have had a Christian origin, were it not also found in connection with Etruscan inscriptions at Civita Castellana, and Cervetri.

Some distance beyond, in a thick wood, is a cave called the Grotta d'Orlando, a personage, who, like his Satanic Majesty, has often a finger in many things mysterious in nature or art — at least in the southern countries of Europe. He it was who cleft the Pyrenees with one stroke of his sword, Durandal, with the same ease with which he had been wont to cleave the Saracens from crown to seat. This may have been an Etruscan tomb, of two chambers, the outer and larger supported by a square pillar. But what has this to do with Orlando? Tradition represents that here, while on his way to Rome in the army of Charlemagne, as having lured away some maid or matron of Sutri, and concealed her in this cave, which would scarcely tempt an Aeneas and Dido at present, whatever may have been its former attractions. On the same cliff  p103 with the Villa Savorelli is a ruin, pointed out as the house in which Charlemagne took up his abode, when on his way to Rome, to succour Adrian I, but it is evidently of much later date. Nor is Orlando the only hero of former times of whom Sutri has to boast. She lays claim to the nativity of that much execrated character, Pontius Pilate, and a house is still shown as the identical one in which he was born; though the building is obviously of the middle ages.

There are many curious legends hanging about this old town of Sutri. At the angle of a house in the main street is an ass's or sheep's head of stone, minus the ears, which, like the Moorish statues in the vaults of the Alhambra, is believed to have been placed there as the guardian of hidden treasure. Not that any stores of wealth have yet been brought to light — no — for no one has yet been able to determine on what spot the eyes of this mysterious ass are fixed; but its existence is not the less implicitly believed, and not by the vulgar only. Our artist friend who accompanied us round Sutri, and his father, who is one of the principal inhabitants, had jointly made researches for the said treasure. Thinking they had discovered the direction of the asinine regards, they hired an opposite house, commenced delving into its foundations, and doubted not to have found the object of their search, had they not been stopped by the authorities, who, wishing to keep the spoils to themselves, had forbidden all private speculation in this line. He had made however more profitable excavations. He had opened several tombs in the ground above the sculptured cliffs, and had brought to light vases, bronzes, and other valuable relics, a detailed description of which I could not obtain. Sutri has been so little explored, that it is probable great treasures of antiquity are yet to be found in its neighbourhood. The  p104 tombs hollowed in the face of the cliff have of course been rifled ages since, as soon as they ceased to be sacred in the eyes of the inhabitants — but those below the surface, with no external indications, have in some cases escaped the researches of former plunderers. It is among these alone that antiquarian treasures are to be expected.

There is a cavern of great dimensions, but of natural formation, in the glen to the west of the town, at the mouth of which is a church called La Madonna della Grotta, "Beatae Mariae Virgini de Crypta dicatum." The cave is extremely picturesque, its roof being stalactited with pendent ferns — but finding it pre-occupied by herds of swine, I would not venture to disturb them, nor the legions of bloodthirsty demons who usually possess them.

The traveller will find no inn at Sutri; and even for refreshment he must be dependent on the good-will of some private townsman, who will dress him a meal for a consideration. I am told that clean beds and tolerable accommodation may be had at the house of a butcher, hight Severino Francocchi. For a guide to the localities, I would recommend a good-tempered lad of the name of Felice Acosta, detto il Ciorciaro.

The Via Cassia runs beyond Sutri through a long wooded ravine to Capranica, another Etruscan site with a few tombs and sewers, but nothing of extraordinary interest. It is now a place of more importance than Sutri, however, having 3000 inhabitants​c — excellent fruit and wine, or the renown thereof, which is much the same — mineral waters beneficial in disorders of the kidneys, bladder, and spleen, (ask for the Fonte Carbonari, as the spring is dubbed by the peasantry, instead of Carbonato)º — and what is of more importance to the traveller, possessing a hospitium in the house of a butcher, Pietro Ferri, where, if he will  p105 not find comfort, he may be sure of its best substitute, unbounded civility and readiness to oblige. The women here wear the skirt of their gowns over their heads for a veil, like Teresa Panza and other Manchegas, and being very brightly arrayed, are always picturesque. I could perceive no Roman remains at Capranica, the ancient name of which has not come down to us. It is three miles distant from Sutri, eight or more from Vetralla also on the Via Cassia, three from Bassano, four from Ronciglione, and nine from Oriuolo. On this latter road I found in several spots remains of Roman pavement, and about half-way from Oriuolo, or near Agliola, I observed a long portion of the road entire, running directly between the two towns, and probably a cross road connecting the Claudian and Cassian Ways. The church of St. Vincenzo, on a height above Bassano, is a conspicuous object in this district, and is the great shrine of the neighbourhood, where, on the first fortnight in November, a general "perdono" is dispensed, and the country folks flock in thousands to obtain remission.

Beyond Capranica, some three or four miles, and a little off the road to the left, are the ruins of Vicus Matrini, a station on the Via Cassia,​53 still retaining its ancient name, but having little to show beyond a few crumbling towers and sepulchres, all of Roman date; and a mile or so beyond is a way-side osteria, called Le Capannaccie, which has sundry relics from the said ancient station embedded in its walls. This is the highest point of the road, which here crosses the shoulder of the Ciminian, but its rise is so gradual as to be scarcely perceptible. The first part of the road from Capranica passes through shady lanes, orchards, and vineyards; then it traverses wide tracts of  p106 corn-land — the most wearisome and unpleasant scenery to the summer traveller, when the sun's glare is reflected with intolerable, sickening intensity from the ever-restless, ever-dazzling surface. He who has crossed the torrid plains of the Castilles, La Mancha, or Estremadura, under a dog-day sun, will readily confess that segetes are laetae only in poetry or to the eye of the proprietor. A gradual descent of four miles, mostly through orchards, leads to Vetralla, on the verge of the great central plain of Etruria, which here bursts upon the view. The road from Rome to this place, a distance of forty-three miles, follows as near as may be the line of the ancient Via Cassia. It is still carriageable throughout; indeed, a "diligence" runs to Vetralla once or twice a week, professedly in nine hours, which are increased indefinitely at the convenience of the driver.


Note I. — Emplecton Masonry.

AM aware that this interpretation of emplecton differs from that generally adopted, especially by Italian writers on ancient architecture, who take it to be descriptive of masonry formed of two fronts of squared blocks, with the intervening space filled with rubbish and mortar; thus forming "three crusts," as Vitruvius says, "two of facings, and a middle one of stuffing." This, however, was the mode employed by the Romans, as an expeditious substitute for the more solid construction of the Greeks, as Vitruvius (II.8) expressly asserts; but the application of the term emplecton to it, was evidently an abuse. The Italians err in taking the word to be significant of filling in, stuffing, as though it were derived from εμπίπλημι or ἐμπλήθω, to fill up, instead of ἐμπλέκω, to weave in — a word expressive of the peculiar arrangement of the blocks. Marini, however, in his recent edition of Vitruvius (Rome, 1836, I., p97) commits the error of rendering ἐμπλέκω by impleo. Orsini, in his Dictionary of Vitruvius, makes emplecton to mean "something full or to be  p107 filled." Baldus, in his Lexicon, makes the same blunder, which De Laetus, in his, quarrels with, but does not correct, though he quotes Salmasius (Exercit., Plin., p1231), who comes nearer the mark, and acknowledges its derivation from πλέκω; but only perceives an analogy with the dressing of women's hair, where the outside is made smooth, but the inside remains rough, as this masonry is described. Cav. Canina also (Arch. Ant. V., p130) explains emplecton as signifying the stuffed masonry above mentioned, but thinks it applicable to constructions of small stones like bricks (VIII., p104). This stuffed masonry was used extensively by the Romans, especially in small work, and it was even employed by the Greeks on a larger scale, as the remains of their cities testify. It may be seen also in part of the Cyclopean walls of Arpinum, and even in the Etruscan ones of Volterra. Pliny (Nat. Hist., XXXVI.51) says it was called diamictond, i.e. mixt-work. The Greeks, however, sometimes, as at Paestum, Syracuse, and elsewhere in Sicily, bound the facings of their walls together by solid masonry. So Pliny remarks, in his description of emplecton, though he says, where it was not possible they built as with bricks, which evidently means, as bricks were used in facings merely, the rest being filled in with rubbish. The point aimed at, according to the same writer, seems to have been to lay the blocks so that their centres should fall immediately over the joinings of those below them.

Vitruvius, however, is the best authority for the application of emplecton to solid masonry, for, after mentioning it as descriptive of a style used by the Greeks, and after distinguishing the Roman variety, he says, "Graeci vero non ita; sed plana (coria) collocantes et longitudines chororum alternis coagmentis in crassitudinem instruentes, non media farciunt, sed e suis frontatis perpetuum et in unam crassitudinem parietem consolidant. Praeterea interponunt singulos perpetuâ crassitudine utrâque parte frontatos, quos διατόνους appellant, qui maxime religando confirmant parietum soliditatem." This is a just description of the walls of Falleri, which, not being mere embankments, display the blocks in some parts "stretching through" from side to side. I would not assert that the term emplecton should be confined to this sort of masonry. It is also applicable to that where the diatoni or cross blocks, instead of occurring in alternate courses, and continuously, are found only from time to time; it is applicable, in short, to any masonry where the principle of interweaving is preserved. Canina himself applies it to this masonry where it occurs in the substructions of the Appian Way, only, however, because, in this instance, the middle of the wall is filled in with rubble (Ann. Inst. 1837, II. p52). The masonry he describes as a variety of opus quadratum (Arch. Ant. V., p118), a fact, which nobody can deny.

 p108  There are difficulties, I own, in this passage of Vitruvius, descriptive of the Greek masonry; in fact, the text is generally admitted to be corrupt, as the variety of readings prove; but it is still clear that the term emplecton, however misapplied by the Romans, or their descendants, was properly confined by the Greeks to masonry, of which an interweaving of the blocks was the principle. The analogy to brick work, indicated by Vitruvius (cf. II.3), is confirmatory of this. See Abeken's Mittelitalien, p151.

The Author's Notes:

1 When the plural number is used it refers to my friend Mr. Ainsley, in whose company my most interesting excursions in Etruria have been made, and who is himself engaged in preparing for publication an artistic work on Etruscan Tombs.

2 Front. de Aquaed. II., p48. Gell, II. v. Galeria. Nibby (II., p92) cannot date any part of the walls earlier than the eleventh century after Christ.

3 Mentioned in the Itineraries of Antoninus and Theodosius as on the Via Cassia, twenty-one miles from Rome. The lake is said by Nibby to be seven miles in circumference.

4 I followed it for some distance, and found that after receiving one or two streamlets, it loses altogether its artificial character, and so continues till it finds a natural vent from the crater at Madonna del Sorbo, three miles to the east of Baccano, where it forms one of the sources of the Crémera. I observed other deep clefts opening upon it, and running towards the mountains in the same quarter; but, as they all sink towards the lake, they cannot be emissaries: they are either natural clefts, or they have been sunk for roads.

5 De Etrur. Reg. II., p161. Dempster conjectures that in this neighbourhood may have been the Maesian wood, said by Livy (I.33) to have been in the territory of Veii; but from the connexion in which it is mentioned, it would seem rather to have been near the mouth of the Tiber, on its right bank. Holsten. ad Cluver., p56.

6 Westphal's Römis. Kamp., p150. From the hills of Baccano, the Guide-books say that travellers coming from Florence get their first view of Rome. There it is, indeed, distinctly seen in the distant Campagna, with the air-hung dome of the Vatican gleaming prominently in the sun. But it is still visible from the Monte Cimino above Ronciglione, a distance of forty miles, or twice as far as Baccano.

7 Gell (II., p236) says, "Appearances render it highly probable that Scrofano was once a species of necropolis, either on account of reputed sanctity, or as belonging to the fundus of a noble family;" but the grottoes around have nothing remarkable in character, nor are they more numerous than would consort with the necropolis of a little Etruscan town, as this must have been.

8 Plin. II.98. Dempster (Etr. Reg. II.140), thinks it should have been spelt "Murciae," Murcia or Murtia being another name for the Etruscan Venus. Murtiam enim deam amoris volunt, says Tertullian (de Spect. cap. VIII); Pliny (XV.36) seems to derive the name from the myrtle, which was sacred to that Goddess, — ara vetus fuit Veneri Myrteae, quam nunc Murciam vocant. According to Pliny (II.98)º the soil at Arae Murtiae was so peculiarly tenacious, that whatever was thrust in could not be extracted. Nardini (Veio Antico, p260) asserts that the same phenomenon is to be observed on the slopes of Monte Musino.

Thayer's Note: The divinity may well be the same as that whose altar was eventually absorbed into the Circus Maximus within the walls of Rome, about 15 km distant: see the article Murcia in Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

9 Westphal. Röm. Kamp., p135.

10 Gell (I., p166) gives another version of this belief.

11 Gell, II., p238.

12 This tradition is probably owing to the recorded opinion of Cluverius (Ital. Ant., II., p530), that Scrofano was the site of ancient Veii. Such traditions originate with the priests, who often dabble in antiquarian matters, though rarely to the advancement of science, being too much swayed by local prejudices, — and their dictum is naturally received as fact by their flocks. Who, indeed, should gainsay it? "In a nation of blind, the one-eyed man is king," says the Spanish proverb.

13 Nibby (III. p77) records an etymology, which, as he says, "is not to be despised;" certainly not, if Monte Musino were hallowed ground — Scrofano, à sacro fano.

Thayer's Note: In the note that immediately precedes this one, Dennis rightly warns us against boosterism, only to turn around here and lean somewhat to this fantastic etymology.

The careful reader, though, will have noticed that there is not a shred of hard evidence that this place was in any way a holy shrine. In addition, a toponym *Sacrum fanum is most improbable, since the stress accent on the a in Sácrum (or Sácro) makes it very unlikely that that vowel should drop out. An origin from scrofa seems more plausible. The arms of the town should not be taken as an argument, since such punning arms almost invariably derive from the names of towns and not vice-versa. The name of the town of Montone in Umbria, for example, is clearly due to it being on a "big hill" — but the arms show a sheep; such arms are often just mnemonics or popular etymologies. In short, the origin of the name Scrofano is unknown.

With no more evidence, but on I think better phonetic grounds, I would expect either *strophan-; or *scorfan-, *scar(o)fan-, *scor(o)fan-; the former is given some slight plausibility by the Greek inscriptions which Dennis goes on to mention; and the latter by the existence today of the family name Scorofano, and maybe the most likely, of a Mt. Scarafano in the Abruzzo.

In 1928, under the combined baneful effects of local boosterism and Fascist pretensions to restoring the great imperial Rome, the town of Scrofano was officially renamed Sacrofano.

14 It is said to mark the line of the Via Amerina, which branched from the Via Cassia at Ad Baccanas, and ran northwards to Todi and Perugia; but from the direction of the bridge, N.W. and S.E., it would seem rather to have been in the line of the Via Cassia.

15 I can find none but that of the fragments of the Antonine Itinerary published by Annio of Viterbo, and now known to be a forgery. It was called Mons Rossulus in a Papal bull of 1203 (Nibby, II. p359); but this does not prove it of classical antiquity.

16 The distance of Sutrium from Rome was thirty-three miles.

Itinerary of
Roma   Roma  
    Ad Sextum VI
    Veios VI
Baccanas XXI Vacanas IX
Sutrio XII Sutrio XII
    Vico Matrini (VII)
Forum Cassi XI Foro Cassii IV

Its present distance is thirty-two, but the measurement is taken from the modern gate, a mile from the Forum, whence the distances were anciently calculated.

17 "Not far from Capraruola," says Bonarroti (Michael Angelo's nephew), "I saw an Etruscan inscription in letters almost three feet high, carved in the rock, through which the road to Sutri (as I understood) is cut, but on account of the loftiness of the site distrusting my copy, I do not venture to give it," p98, ap. Dempst. II.

18 The ground in the neighbourhood of Sutri is much broken, and some parts answer to the description given by Livy (IX.35) — aspreta saxa stratis.

19 Nibby thinks the ancient city was not confined to the single hill it now occupies. (Dintorni di Roma, voce Sutrium.)

20 Claustra portaeque Etruriae, Liv. VI.9; IX.32.

21 Plutarch (Camil.) calls it "a flourishing and wealthy town," εὐδαίμονα καὶ πλούσιαν πόλιν.

22 Vitruv. II., VIII. 7. For further remarks on emplecton masonry, see Appendix.

23 The only exceptions I know are at Cervetri, where the dimensions are smaller.

24 The Roman masonry of this description, especially on the other side of the Tiber, is often of inferior dimensions, as in the Porta Romana of Segni, where the courses are only eighteen inches deep, and the porta Cassamaro of Ferentino, where they are still less — from fourteen to seventeen inches. The specimens in Etruria are much more uniform. Mr. Bunbury, in his new edition of Sir William Gell's Rome, (p328), questions whether these walls of Sutri, or in fact any masonry of this description found on Etruscan sites, be of Etruscan construction — asserting that "it is certain that it is not found in any Etruscan cities of undoubted antiquity;" and referring it always to the Romans. True it is that the walls of Falleri, which he cites, were built by a Roman colony in this style (see the two woodcuts in Chap. VII); but what can be said to the masonry of precisely the same character and dimensions, which may be traced in fragments around the heights of Civita Castellana, marking out the periphery of a city which is now universally admitted to be no other than the Etruscan Falerii, — destroyed, be it remembered, on its conquest? How is it that in no case in Etruria is this masonry found based on a different description, as though it were Roman repairs of earlier fortifications, but is always found at the very foundations, and often in positions where the walls must have been completely secure from the contingencies of warfare? And what can be said to its existence in connection with Etruscan tombs at Cervetri, if it were not employed by the Etruscans as well as Romans?

25 Servius (Aen. I.426) says no Etruscan city was deemed perfect that had less than three gates.

26 The only shadow of authority — and it is but a shadow — for such an origin is derived from the "Catonis Origines" of Annio of Viterbo, that "most impudent trifler and nefarious impostor," as Cluverius justly styles him, but whose forgeries long passed as genuine. Here we find, "Sutrium à Pelasgis conditum, ab insigni grano dictum." Annio comments on this: "It is so called from Suto (σῖτος?), which signifies corn, and Tribus — that is corn tripled, or three ears of corn, which Sutri takes as her device." Sutrium is probably the Etruscan appellation Latinized. We find "Sutrinas" and "Suthrina" in Etruscan inscriptions (Vermigl. Iscriz. Perug. I pp174, 256), which Vermiglioli thinks refer to this town, though evidently proper names. Orioli also (Ann. Inst. 1833, p51) and Lanzi (II. p482) think there is some relation between the name of this town, and "Suthi," which so often occurs in Etruscan inscriptions; and likely enough. "Sautri" also is met with (Verm. I. p255). Lanzi's guess, that it may be derived from Σωτηρία, is scarcely worth recording.

27 Steph. Byzant. voce Σούτριον.

28 Diodorus (XIV p311, ed. Rhod.) states that the Romans attacked it in this year.

29 Vell. Paterc. I.14. Cluverius (Ital. Antiq. p556) thinks it probable that Velleius wrote Satricum, and not Sutrium. It must have been one of the colonies of the Triumvirate, for it is called in an inscription in the church Colonia Julia Sutrina (Gruter,º 302, 1). Festus (voc. Municipium) speaks of it as a municipium.

30 Müller's Etrusker, II.2, 1. The passage in Livy (XXVI.34), "in Veiente, aut Sutrino, Nepesinove agro," can only refer to the contiguity of the lands.

31 Its fidelity to Rome was probably in great measure owing to its small size. The garrison or military colony sent thither by the Romans may have out-numbered the Etruscan inhabitants, so as to remove both the opportunity and general wish to rebel, which could not be the case in towns of larger size and population, such as Fidenae.

32 Liv. VI.3; Plut. Camil.; Diod. Sic. XIV p325.

33 Plautus, Cas. Act. III., sc. I.10. Festus (voce Sutrium) assigns this origin to the proverb.

34 It is strange that Nibby could have been led to consider this gate of ancient construction. I believe it dates merely from the eleventh century.

35 Liv. VI.9.

36 Liv. IX. 32, 33, 35. Diodor. XX. pp772‑3.

37 Liv. IX.37.

38 Strabo, V.p226; Liv. X.14; XXVI.34; XXVII.9; XXIX.15; Sil. Ital. VIII.493; Appian. B. C.V.31; Festus voce Municipium; Plin. III.8; Ptol. Geog. p72, ed. Bert.; Font. de Colon.; Tertullian (Apolog. 24) mentions a goddess Hostia, or as some editions have it, Nortia, worshipped at Sutrium. Müller (Etrusk. III.3, 7) would read it, Horta.

39 Nibby voce Sutrium.

40 Liv. VII.2.

41 Val. Max. II.4. 3; Tertul. de Spectac. V; Appian (de Reb. Punic. LXVI) says the Ludiones were so called because the Etruscans were colonists from Lydia.

42 Liv. I.35; cf. Dionys. Hal. III. p200. Herodotus (I.167) mentions the institution of such games at Agylla. Valerius Maximus (l.c.), on the other hand, states that the Circensian games were first celebrated by Romulus, under the name of Consualia. Dionys. II. p100; Virg. Aen. VIII.636. It seems probable that the Ludi Circenses, introduced by Tarquin, were a new form of the original Consualia of Romulus. Boxing to the sound of the flute is said by Eratosthenes (ap. Athen. IV c13) to be an Etruscan custom.

43 Nicolaus, a peripatetic philosopher of Damascus, ap. Athen. IV.13, p153, ed. Casaub. In confirmation of which we may mention that the name Lanista, which was given to the superintendent or trainer of the Roman gladiators, was an Etruscan word (Isid. Orig. X., 159).º Müller (Etrusk. IV.1, 10) is of opinion that the origin of the custom of gladiatorial combats at funerals should be referred to the Etruscans; "at least such a sanguinary mode of appeasing the dead must have appeared a very suitable oblation to the Manes among a people who so long retained human sacrifices."

44 The existence of theatres is very strongly implied by the passage of Nicolaus Damascenus above cited, who says, "The Romans held their gladiatorial spectacles not only at public festivals and in theatres, receiving the custom from the Etruscans, but also at their banquets."

45 As we know there was no amphitheatre erected in Rome before the time of Caesar, when C. Curio constructed one of wood, in separate halves, which could be brought together into an amphitheatre, or swung round at pleasure into two distinct theatres (Plin. Nat. Hist., XXXVI.24, 8); and as we know that the first stone building of this description was erected by Statilius Taurus in the reign of Augustus (Dio Cass. LI.23; Sueton. Aug. 29), and that the Colosseum, and all the other amphitheatres extant, were constructed during the empire;— the question naturally arises, How, if this and similar edifices previously existed in Etruscan cities, there were none erected at Rome, or in her territories, before the time of Caesar? The Romans had had most of the games of the amphitheatre for ages previous. We may justly conclude, then, that there was a fashion in these things; for until the amphitheatre was introduced, the Romans were content to hold their wild-beast fights and naumachiae in the Circus, and their gladiatorial combats in the forum, at the banquet, or at the funeral pyre.

Thayer's Note: Leaving the contested Etruscan theory aside, if you've stumbled across this, the way one does on the Web, but are really looking for more complete general information, you should see the following detailed articles in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, and in each case follow all the links there: Amphitheatre Circus Naumachia Theatre

46 Micali (Ant. Pop. It. I. p145) thinks it Etruscan; Nibby (voce Sutri) considers it of the time of Augustus; Canina thinks it of Roman construction, for such is the character of the architectural details; but an argument drawn from this source, as will be shown in Chapter VII, is not conclusive. The only other amphitheatres I know, which are rock-hewn, are those of Syracuse and Dorchester, the former but very partially.

47 This agrees very closely with Nibby's measurement of 222 palms in length and 180 in breadth. Micali is in error when he calls the circumference of this amphitheatre "one thousand paces," for its diameter the longest way of the ellipse, from gate to gate, is little more than 250 feet, so that its circumference cannot be 1000 feet, much less paces. The word "passi" may, however, be a misprint for "palmi." (loc. cit.)

48 The podium, or parapet, now rises only three or four feet above the ground, but the arena has not been cleared out to its original level. The corridor that surrounds it is between five and six feet high, and the same in width. Similar doors in the podium are also found in a stadium at Ephesus.

49 Nibby conjectures these to have been for the designatores, or persons whose office it was to assign posts to the spectators; in other words, masters of the ceremonies. But Plautus (Paen. prol. 19) seems to intimate, as indeed it is more natural to suppose, that the designatores walked about, and handed people to their seats, instead of shouting to them from a fixed station on the top of the building. If it were a theatre instead of an amphitheatre, we might suspect them to be for the ἠχεῖα or brazen pots which were used for throwing out the voice, though Vitruvius tells us (V.5) that these were placed among the seats of the theatre; but there could have been no need of this in an amphitheatre, where all appealed to the eye, nothing to the ear. In the theatre of Taormina, in Sicily, there are niches in a similar situation, which have been supposed by some to be for ἠχεῖα, by others for ornament alone (Serradifalco, Antich. Sicil., V. p43); but this is on the supposition that they are too small for statues, which is not the case, as I can testify.

50 The number twelve may perhaps not be without a meaning, as there were twelve cities in each of the three divisions of Etruria. The only parallel instance is in the theatre of Catania, in Sicily, which is said to have four similar recesses (Serrad. Antich. Sicil. V. p13), but the structure is so choked with modern buildings that I could not perceive them. "Till the year 558 of Rome, the senators had always mingled indiscriminately with the people at public spectacles. But Atilius Serranus and L. Scribonius, aediles, followed the suggestion of the elder Africanus, and set aside this custom by appointing separate places to the senators and the people, which estranged the minds of the populace, and greatly injured Scipio in their esteem" (Val. Max. II.4. 2; Liv. XXXIV.54). Augustus assigned to every rank and each sex a distinct place at the public shows (Suet. Aug. 44).

51 They are seven or eight feet high at the mouth, and the same in width, with a well-formed arch; but within the passage the arch is depressed, almost like that of the later Gothic. They contain flights of steps separated by landing-places. The entrance-passage is hewn into the form of a regular vault, sixteen or seventeen feet high, and about the same in width. Its length is sixty-eight feet, which is here the thickness of the rock out of which the structure is hewn.

52 It is simply mentioned by Müller (Etrusk. II p241, n49).

53 Mentioned in the Peutingerian Table. See page 85.

Thayer's Notes:

a in the Italian States utilitarianism is rife: Coming from an Englishman, the remark is utterly unfair. Roman roads in England suffered the same fate, except that England being more advanced, it happened earlier, in the 17th and 18th centuries. That may have been before Dennis was born, but he ought to have known better: the attrition of Roman roads in the interest of improving the modern road network is widely attested in contemporary English writers.

Mind you, wherever this was done, Dennis is at the same time quite right: it was a shame. I hear some of you say, "Ah, but that's progress!" — well yes, but it didn't have to be. With the advent of the fast automobile in the mid‑20c, most of these improved roads, often overlying a sad jumble of Roman antiquities, have often been abandoned in favour of superhighways which, following essentially aerodynamic rather than cultural dictates, had to be built from scratch: so that those new roads to which so much antiquity was irretrievably sacrificed were pretty much useless in the long run. They are now barely travelled back roads, good for hikers and bicyclists.

b celebrated white sow of Lavinium: Virg. Aen. VIII.43; and see this explanatory page. Dennis's comparison is most unflattering, though.

c 3000 inhabitants: The 2000 census gives the official population of Capranica as 5561 for the entire comune, that is, the town proper and the township around it.

d Pliny says it was called diamicton: The modern editor emends that to diatonicon, very likely based on the reading in Vitruvius given here a few lines further on, and the general sense, precisely, of Dennis's note.

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