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

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

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

[image ALT: link to previous section]
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria

by George Dennis

published by John Murray, Albemarle Street
London, 1848.

The text is in the public domain.


[image ALT: link to next section]

 p360  Chapter LI


[image ALT: missingALT]
Jam silvae steriles, et putres robore trunci
Assaraci pressêre domos, et templa Deorum,
Jam lassâ radice tenent, ac tota teguntur
Pergama dumetis; et jam periêre ruinae.

— Lucan.

No Etruscan site has more general interest than Chiusi. On some this centres in walls; on others, in tombs; on these, in museums; on those, in historical associations. Chiusi combines all, though not to an equal extent. Her  p361 weak point is her fortifications; but for this she makes amends by her mysterious under­ground passages. Her excavations yield as abundantly as those of Vulci, though a different roba; her museums together may rival that of Volterra; and in the extent of her necropolis, and the variety, singularity, and rich decorations of her sepulchres, she is second only to Tarquinii. As regards her painted tombs, it must be confessed that she is inferior to the city of Tarchon and Tages, and not in number merely; there is here less variety of style and subject. Nevertheless, the sepulchral paintings of Chiusi display scenes of great spirit and interest, differing in many points from those of Corneto.

The tombs of Chiusi which are kept open for the visitor's inspection are not, as at Tarquinii, on one side of the city, but lie all around it, some several miles apart; and as the country tracks are not easily travelled on foot after wet wealth, it would be well, especially for ladies, to procure beasts in the town. Another inconvenience is that each tomb has its own custode who must be dispatched expressly from Chiusi with the keys, and the visitor in his rounds runs the risk of not finding this keeper at his post at the appointed hour, and of being obliged to pass by some of the lions, or to return expressly for their inspection.

The most accessible of these painted tombs is the

Tomba del Colle Casuccini.

It lies "a short mile" to the east of Chiusi. It is hollowed in the side of a hill, and is entered by a level passage cut in the slope. At Chiusi, indeed, almost all the tombs now open are entered in this manner, instead of by a descending flight of steps, as at Corneto, Vulci, and Cervetri.

The marvels of this tomb meet you on its threshold.  p362 The entrance is closed with folding-doors, each flap being a single slab of travertine. You are startled at this unusual sort of door — still more, when you hear, what your eyes confirm, that these ponderous doors are the original doors of the tomb, still working on their hinges as when they were first raised, some twenty and odd centuries since. Hinges, strictly speaking, there are none; for the doors have one side lengthened into a pivot above and below, which pivots work in sockets made in the stone lintel and threshold; just as in the early gateways of Etruscan cities,​1 and as doors were hung in the middle ages — those of the Alhambra for instance. There can be no doubt of the antiquity of these doors; it is manifest in their very arrangement; for the lintel is a huge mass of rock buried beneath a weight of superincumbent earth; and must have been laid after the slabs were in their places; and it is obvious that none but those who committed their treasures to this sepulchre, would have taken so much labour to preserve them.​2 This was not a common mode of closing the tomb, which was generally done with one or more slabs of rock, often fitted to the doorway, and sometimes highly adorned with reliefs, as in the Grotta delle Iscrizioni at Tarquinii.3

Just outside the door a small chamber opens on either hand, probably for the freedmen or slaves of the family. The tomb itself has three chambers, two only decorated with paintings, the third unfinished. The first is the largest,​4 and has a doorway in the centre of two of its  p363 walls, opening into the other chambers; but on the third wall is a false door painted to correspond, as in the tomb of Tarquinii just mentioned. All the doors, true or false, narrow upwards, and have the usual Etruscan mouldings. The ceilings are not carved, as usual on other sites, into rafters, but coffered, as in the Grotta Cardinale at Tarquinii, in concentric squares and oblongs recessed, and painted black and red.

The paintings do not stand out forcibly, though on a white ground.​5 Beyond this, the walls have undergone no other preparation than smoothing. The rock is a sort of sandstone, which will not take a very fine surface, and therefore hardly allows of a high finish or of much force of colour.

The figures are in a band about twenty-two or three inches deep, which surrounds the chamber as a frieze. They are twenty-six in number, and are divided into two subjects, banquets and games, both having a funereal reference. On the portion of the frieze facing you as you enter, are the palaestric games. To the right of the central door is a race of three bigae. The charioteers are dressed in white scull-caps and tunics, and the reins are as usual passed round their bodies. Each pair of horses is black and red, and red and black, alternately.​6 By the side of each chariot is a tree, or what in the conventional system of the Etruscans was intended to represent such, though to our eyes it is more like a tall bullrush, or a paddle stuck into the ground, the stick being painted red, and the blade bright blue. Such trees may be intended for  p364 cypresses — cupressus funebres. The action of both men and horses is natural and easy; the latter especially, though with native peculiarities, have more spirit and freedom than any of those in the painted tombs of Tarquinii.7

To the left of the central door, are represented the games on foot. First is a pair of wrestlers, or it may be tumblers, for one is inverted with his heels in the air and his body resting on the shoulders of the other, who is kneeling.​8 They strongly resemble certain figures in the painted tombs of Egypt. An agonothete in blue pallium, and holding a wand, stands by to direct the sport. Next, a naked man, whose attitude may remind you of the celebrated dancing faun at Naples, is boxing with an imaginary opponent, to the sound of the double-pipes.​9 A female follows, dancing to the same music, and to the castanets which she rattles herself. She is draped with boddice and light transparent gown, and a chlamys or scarf on her shoulders; and in attitude as well as costume she is very like the dancing-girls in the tombs of Tarquinii.​10 Next to this group is a naked man, with crested helmet, round shield, and long wavy spear, running as if to charge the foe; or he may be practising an armed dance, such as the ancients were wont to perform.​11 The last figure is a naked  p365 man, exercising himself with halteres, or in plain English, using the dumb-bells, which, with the ancients, served the same purpose as with us.12

Half of the frieze in this chamber being devoted to games, the other half is pictured with the banquet. Here are five couches, each bearing a pair of figures, all males, young and beardless, half-draped, and crowned with blue chaplets. The absence of the fair sex shows this to be a symposium. Their gestures, animated and varied, betray the exhilarating influence of the rosy god. One holds a chaplet, another a flower, a third a branch, apparently of myrtle, and several have paterae, which the slaves are hastening to replenish. The whole goes forward to the music of the double-pipes. At one end of the scene stands a tripod with a large triple basin, either a wine-cooler or containing the beverage, mixed to the palates of the revellers;​13 and a slave is busied at it, replenishing wine-jugs. A second figure, who, with arm uplifted, is giving  p366 the slave directions — "Deprome, o Thaliarche, merum diotâ!" — is evidently the butler; and the patera suspended on the wall marks this corner as his pantry. Should curiosity be excited as to the costume of butlers in Italy some two or three-and twenty centuries since, I must reply that this Etruscan worthy is "in leathers," as the Spaniards say, though not in buff, chamois, or cordovan.

[image ALT: An engraving of a ladle. It is a depiction of an Etruscan ladle or simpulum, possibly for religious use.]

One of the slaves in this scene holds a long ladle — simpulum, or capidula — with a handle bent into a hook, for the purpose of suspension on the rim of the wine-vessel. Such simpula, in bronze, shown in the annexed woodcut, are occasionally found in Etruscan tombs.

The inner chamber is of smaller dimensions,​14 surrounded by a bench of rock. It has also a frieze of figures, here only fourteen inches high — a chorus of youths; one with a patera, another with a chaplet, a third with the double-pipes, and a fourth a lyre, by which they regulate the dance. All are naked, with the exception of a light chlamys on their shoulders.15

The natural interpretation of these scenes is that they represent the funeral rites of the Etruscans. Though antiquaries of great renown have attached a symbolical meaning to them, I see no reason why they should not  p367 represent the feasting, music, dances, and palaestric games, actually held in honour of the dead.​16 It is possible that they may be at once descriptive and symbolical. This is a point on which every one is at liberty to hold his own opinion.

The figures in these paintings are generally outlined with black. The colours are hardly so well preserved as in those of Tarquinii; the blues and whites are the most vivid. Yet all have been seriously injured. Let the visitor have a care as he moves through these tombs. The medium, whatever it were, with which the colours were laid on, having perished after so many ages, they now remain in mere powder on the walls, and might be effaced by a touch of the finger, or by the sweeping of a garment.

These paintings have no chiaro-scuro, no perspective, no foreshortening; the faces are always in profile; the figures sometimes unnaturally elongated; the limbs clumsy; the attitudes rigid; the drapery arranged in stiff, regular folds — all features of archaic character. Yet there are more  p368 ease and power than are usually found in connection with such signs of antiquity. They seem the work of a man who could do better things, but who either felt tomb-painting to be a degradation of his talents, or was restrained by conventionalities from the free exercise of them. These are of later date than most of the paintings of Tarquinii, yet must be of Etruscan times; they can hardly belong to the period of Roman domination, still less, as Inghirami opines, to the decadence of art.17

This tomb was discovered in May 1833, by accident, while making "bonifications" to the soil. It must have been rifled in past ages, for nothing but fragments of pottery and urns was found within it.18

Deposito de' Dei.

On the opposite side of Chiusi, and about three miles from the tomb just described, is another with paintings so strikingly similar, that on entering you are ready to abuse your guide for leading you back to what you have already seen. The resemblance is not only in subject, mode of treatment, and style of art, but individual figures are almost identical, and afford convincing proof that this tomb and the Tomba del Colle Casuccini were decorated by the same hand. Even in the plan, number, and arrangements of the chambers, these sepulchres exactly correspond. But the Deposito de' Dei has suffered more from time; the surface of the wall has flaked off largely, and the whole threatens a speedy decay.19

 p369  The frieze round the principal chamber is devoted entirely to games. Here is a race of three bigae, as in the other tomb, but drawn with more variety spirit. The steeds are springing from the ground, as in the gallop, but the middle pair is refractory, and in their rearing and plunging have broken the shaft and kicked the chariot high into the air, and the unlucky auriga, still holding reins and whip, is performing a somerset over their heads.

There is a repetition of the subjects of the Tomba del Colle, but with some variety. A female is dancing with crotala to the music of a subulo, — two pugilists are boxing with the cestus, one being the exact counterpart of the figure in the other tomb, — a naked man is performing an armed dance,​20 — another leaping with the dumb-bells, — a pair of wrestlers, or tumblers, in almost the same position, with an agonothete leaning on his staff and seeing fair play; and a pot of oil rests on a slender pole hard by, from which they may anoint their limbs.

In addition, there is a discobolus, about to cast his quoit, — a man with two long poles, which I cannot explain,​21 — a boy with two nondescript articles attached to a string​22 — four youths about to contend in a foot-race, under the directions of a paedotribe, who appears to be marking the  p370 starting-post,​23 — two men playing at ascolia, or trying to leap on to a greasy vase, over which one is tumbling unsuccessfully​24 — and a pair of figures which I can only explain as an athlete, playing at ball with a boy, i.e., making the boy his ball, à la Risley, for he has one knee to the ground, with his hand raised as if to catch the boy, whom he has tossed into the air. Hard by, are a couple of stout sticks, propt against each other, which seem to have something to do with his operations.25

The banquets in this tomb are painted in the pediments over the side-doors. In each scene are three figures, males, reclining on cushions. One plays the lyre; another holds a flower; a third, a branch of olive; a fourth offers a goblet to his neighbour. In one corner a slave is busy at a mixing-vase, like that in the Tomba del Colle. In each pediment is something which may be a dog, or a saddle, or anything the imagination pleases; it seems introduced merely to fill the angle. But what is more remarkable — in each pediment one of the figures has the  p371 face of a dog; it is at least so scratched on the wall, though the colour is almost effaced.26

The only painting in the inner chamber is a hideous mask, or Gorgon's face, with tongue hanging out.​27 Here, as well as in the other two chambers, are a number of urns and other sepulchral monuments, which, however, are said not to have been found in the tomb. One of the sarcophagi has a female figure reclining on the lid, and holding a small bird in her hand — the effigy of some Etruscan Lesbia with her sparrow, her deliciae,

Quem plus Illyria oculis suis amabat;

and her mourning Catullus chose thus to immortalize her and her passion in stone.28

Among the sepulchral inscriptions there is one of bilingual character.29  p372 

Deposito delle Monache.

Not far from the sepulchre just described, is the "Tomb of the Nuns," so called, not from containing the ashes of ancient religious virgins — Etruscan civilization, so far as we can learn, never having encouraged voluntary celibacy in either sex — but from being in the grounds of the nunnery of Santo Stefano. It lies about a mile and a half from Chiusi, to the north-west, in a hollow, called Val d'Acqua. It is a vaulted chamber of small size, rudely hollowed in the rock, and unpainted; possessing no interest beyond the preservation of its monuments, just as they were discovered, with the exception of a few which have been sold. There are still ten left — two sarcophagi, for unburnt bodies; the rest, cinerary urns, of alabaster and travertine.

On one of the sarcophagi reclines a figure, nearly seven feet long; its eyes are painted black, and its drapery retains traces of colour.

One of the urns exhibits the colour yet more distinctly. The relief represents a bull goring a man in a Phrygian cap. Another man runs to his deliverance, spear in hand. A Juno stands by, holding a second bull by the nose; and she seems to be the good genius who urged the man to the rescue; just as the Virgin is often represented on modern ex votos, seizing a bull by the horn, or a runaway horse by the bridle. The robes of these figures, as well as the wings of the Juno, are of a rich red, the old Tyrian purple; and her eyes, eyebrows, hair, lips, are all coloured naturally. The sepulchral urns of this district are more generally painted than those of Volterra; but the polychrome  p373 system of the Etruscans is seen to most advantage at Cetona and Perugia.

Of the other urns, one has a wild boar hunt; another, some Etruscan legend, not easily explained;​30 a third, the figure of a panther — an uncommon device on urns. On the last reclines a figure, full of expression. Pass him not hastily; for he is called "Arnth Caule Vipina" — in which you may recognize the name of Caeles, or Caelius, Vibenna, the Etruscan chieftain who assisted Romulus against the Sabines, and gave his name to the Caelian hill.​31 From what city that illustrious warrior came to Rome, we know not;​32 though it seems probable he was from this district of Etruria. The individual whose ashes are inclosed in this urn may be presumed to be of the same illustrious race.

But this is an interloper — he is not of the family to which the sepulchre belonged, which, from the majority of the epitaphs, was evidently that of "Umrana." This is  p374 an interesting fact, for in this word we recognise the name of Umbria; and it is confirmatory of the historical record of the early relations between that country and this city of Clusium.33

This tomb was discovered in 1826, by some clairvoyant peasant, it is said, dreaming that he found a sepulchre on this spot. But the fact loses much of the marvellous when it is recollected that the discovery of tombs around Chiusi is of every-day occurrence; the neighbourhood being so full of them, that on any spot a man might select, he would probably meet with traces of ancient sepulture. But such is "the stuff that dreams are made of" in Italy, where the lower orders place implicit faith in them, and consult soothsayers and somnipatent books for the interpretation thereof. In lottery matters, dreams are the Italian's oracles. Before purchasing a ticket he tries to dream of "buoni numeri;" or if no numbers enter into his visions, the consequences of the dream determine its character, and the phantasmagoria of his somnolent hours are translatable into numerals.

Not far from the Tomba del Colle, and to the east of Chiusi, is a sepulchre called Tomba del Postino, from its proprietor, the postmaster of the town, or sometimes Tomba  p375 di Pomponini. It contains seven chambers, full of urns, the fruit of excavations made in the neighbourhood. In the cliff hard by have been discovered many urns in niches, covered with tiles.34

Beyond this on the way to the Deposito del Sovrano, you pass a slope called Campo degli Orefici, or the "Jeweller's Field," from the number of scarabaei there brought to light. For these valuable relics of ancient days, which are found much more abundantly at Chiusi than on any other Etruscan site, are very rarely the produce of her tombs,​35 or the fruit of systematic research, but

           "the unlettered ploughboy wins
The casual treasure from the furrowed soil."

Why they should be more abundant on this slope, than on any other around the town, is matter for speculative inquiry. But there can be no doubt that this branch of ancient Etruscan art was carried on extensively, if not even exclusively, at Clusium.

Not far from this are the Catacombs of the early Christians; which are too like those of Rome and its Campagna, Naples, and Syracuse, to require particular notice.

At the foot of these slopes lies the Lake of Chiusi, a piece of water about two square miles in extent, and of no great beauty, yet heightening the charms of the surrounding scenery. Though often styled the "Chiaro di Chiusi," it is the muddiest lake I have ever seen; as  p376 golden in hue as the Tiber, the Tagus, or the Guadalquivir. Its eastern shore forms the frontier, and at its southern extremity two towers frown defiance at each other, and seem to say, in words which have been applied to them as names — "Beccati questo," and "Beccati quest'altro." In the olden time the chief magistrate of Chiusi used yearly to wed this little lake with a ring, as the Doges of Venice espoused the Adriatic; yet the Chiusians had no great reason to be fond of their misnamed Chiaro, for its stagnant waters render the city unhealthy in summer, in spite of its elevation.​36 The atmosphere at that season is more impregnated with miasma; it is always "grossa," sometimes even "balorda."

Deposito del Gran Duca.

or "del Sovrano," is so called from lying in the property of the Crown. It is also known as the "Camera della Paccianese." It lies nearly two miles to the north-east of Chiusi, in a slope above the lake. I was startled on entering; so unexpected was the sight. Yet the walls blazed not with gorgeous colours — no Bacchanals danced before me — no revellers lay on their couches — no athletae contended in the arena. All was colourless and sombre. But the 8 was vaulted over in a perfect arch! with neat masonry of travertine;​37 and on the benches around  p377 lay the urns exactly as they were found, undisturbed for more than two thousand years. If other proof were wanting, this tomb would suffice to show that the Etruscans understood and practised the arch.38

There are here eight urns of travertine, some without recumbent figures on their lids; and none with reliefs of great interest — Gorgon's heads, winged, and snaked — sea-divinities and hippocampi — a patera between two half-moon shields; the most striking is a male riding on a panther, probably representing Bacchus. The inscriptions, which are painted in red or black, show this to be the tomb of the Peris — one of the noble families of Clusium.39

The doorway of this tomb is worthy of notice. It has a lintel of a single stone, but above that is a low, camber arch, of cuneiform blocks, springing from the masonry of the doorposts, which seems introduced to lessen the pressure of the superincumbent earth upon the lintel. The door was formed like that of the Tomba del Colle Casuccini, shown in the woodcut at the head of this chapter, but one flap is now removed, and the other no longer works on its hinges.40

This tomb was discovered in 1818. From the style of  p378 its urns, rather than from the character of its construction, it may be pronounced of no early period of Etruscan art.41

Tomba della Scimia.º

On the Poggio Renzo, or La Pellegrina, an oak-covered hill, about a mile from Chiusi to the north-east, a tomb was opened in March, 1846, with paintings of singular interest. For though the style proves them to be of very early date, the subject has features which recall the days of chivalry. I shall call it the "Monkey Tomb."

This sepulchre is entered by a deep passage sunk in the rock; in form and arrangement it bears a great resemblance to the other painted tombs, but has four chambers.​42 That in the centre is surrounded by a band of figures, thirty inches high, representing palaestric games. The only spectator is a lady, veiled, sitting beneath the shade of an umbrella, just like those of modern times, and indicative, it is probable, of her rank and dignity.​43 Her  p379 foot-stool is marked with a pair of eyes, like so many of the painted vases. Before her, is a table or couch at which stands a subulo, blowing his pipes for her amusement.

There is a race of three bigae, as in the other painted tombs, the goal being indicated by a ribbon suspended; and here stands the umpire, ready to bestow a branch on the victor. Under each chariot lies something like a bag or skin, probably of oil, the usual prize in such contests. The artist was unable to group them together, and therefore scattered them in the vacant spots of his picture. In other parts of the scene a groom is exercising a pair of horses, and a man is riding with a boy, perhaps instructing him in the manège; in both cases the riders are seated sideways, as horsemen are often represented in Etruscan monuments. The steeds are black, red, or white, and though of no desirable forms, are not deficient in spirit. Beneath one of the chariots a boy is playing with a greyhound.

The other figures are as follows:— A pair of wrestlers, in even more difficult attitudes than in the other tombs —  p380 an agonothete in blue "high-lows," seeing fair play. — A pair of pugilists, boxing with the cestus, holding one hand open for defence, the other closed for attack; their robes on a stool between them. — A man in white armour — helm, cuirass, greaves, Argolic shield, and wavy spear — probably a gladiator; his helmet has the two long cockades, so often represented on the painted vases. — A naked figure, who seems to have been hurling a long straight lance, having a looped cord attached to it, is taking a flask of oil or wine from a boy, who also offers him a bough. — A minstrel with lyre and bough. — A trumpeter with a large horn, a peculiar specimen of this instrument, which was of Etruscan invention.​44 —

[image ALT: An engraving of a long and slightly curved trumpet. It is a depiction of a lituus, normally associated with ancient Rome but here one of the rare Etruscan examples known.]

A priestess, distinguished by a string of huge brown beads, crossed on her bosom, as the female demons wear their bands, is bearing a tall candelabrum on her head. — Two dwarfs with bushy black beards — one with tutulus and chaplet, is teaching the double-pipes to a youthful subulo of fair proportions; the other, bearing a large paddle-like leaf on his shoulder, has his arm seized by an athlete, who  p381 seems to wish to instruct him in gymnastics, to which the little man naturally shows reluctance.45

Dwarfs and monkeys are associated in our minds; and so apparently in those of the Etruscans. Here, amid the athletae, sits an ape chained to a rock; from his action he seems to be taking a pinch of snuff, though the foul weed never tickled Etruscan nostrils. He has no apparent relation to the scene, and it may be that, like the dwarfs, he is introduced to fill an awkward space under the projecting lintel of a door.

It is impossible not to be struck with the mediaeval character of much of this scene. It requires no great exercise of the imagination to see a castle-yard in the days of chivalry. There is the warder with his horn, the minstrel with his lyre, the knight in armour, the nun with her rosary, the dwarfs and monkey — and even some of the other figures would not be out of place. Yet the style of art, bearing a close resemblance to that of the Grotta delle Iscrizioni at Corneto, proves this to be without a doubt the most ancient of the painted tombs of Chiusi, and at least four or five centuries before the Christian era.

Below the figures is a band of the Egyptian and Greek meander-pattern. Above them on the cornice, on each wall, is the head of a female with dishevelled hair.

The inner chamber has only two figures painted — one on each side-wall. They are boys; one holding a flask of wine or oil; the other a bill-hooked lance. Like the outer chamber this has a sepulchral couch hewn from the rock; but in one corner a square mass is left, which would hardly be intelligible, were not the arm of a chair painted on the wall above it, indicating its analogy to the curule chairs in the tombs of Cervetri.​46 The arm in this case  p382 represents a spotted snake, a proof among many others, that the Etruscans, like other nations of antiquity, were wont to introduce imitations of animal life into their furniture. Above the seat, the wall is painted to represent drapery.

In the square coffer in the ceiling are painted four ivy leaves, alternating with as many Syrens, each with long dishevelled hair, hands to her bosom as if beating it in grief, and two pair of wings, like the Cherubim of the Jews.

The sexes of the figures in this tomb are as usual distinguished by their colour; the males being a strong red, the females white. Many were first scratched in, then drawn with strong black outlines, and filled up with colour. Some show that the artist made many attempts before he could draw the form to his satisfaction.47

Hard by the "Tomb of the Monkey," a remarkable circular well or shaft has been recently discovered, sunk to a great depth in the hill, and having windows at intervals opening into tombs, of which there are supposed to be several stories, but the well has not yet fully been excavated. The absence of niches in its walls seems to mark it as a means of ventilation rather than of entrance to the tombs.

On the hill-slope below the Tomba della Scimia, is a tomb recently opened, which contains the only Etruscan inscription yet discovered on this site, graven or painted on the rock. It is cut over a large body-niche in the inner chamber, as in the tomb by the Ponte Terrano, at Civita Castellana. The inscription is legible, but does not appear to be a proper name.

Tomba d'Orfeo e d'Euridice.

About a mile or more to the west of Chiusi, at a spot called I Pianacci, is another painted tomb, opened a few years since, and now from neglect and humidity almost destroyed.​48 It has three chambers, two of them with painted walls. In one, a man, with a light pallium on his shoulders, is playing the lyre in the midst of a group of dancers; one of whom is a female. Antiquaries of high credit think to see in this scene Orpheus fetching Eurydice from the shades; and the inclination of the two figures towards each other, and the outstretched arms of the female, would seem to favour this opinion. In this case, the other dancers might represent souls attracted and animated by the magic of his lyre. But I doubt if this be the real purport of the scene, for there is no other instance of a mythological subject being depicted on the walls of a tomb. It more probably represents the ordinary dance at the funeral rites. Trees, more freely drawn than usual, alternate with the figures.

The other chamber contains festive scenes — males reclining at the banquet, a subulo playing the pipes, and a mixing-jar, with a satyr painted on it, standing on the ground. Here were also the funeral games, as indicated by a figure with a lance, and another with dumb-bells; but the surface of the wall has been so much injured, that little is now distinguishable. It is evident, however, that in point of design, this tomb has a decided superiority to every other yet discovered at Chiusi.

The paintings in this and the Tomba della Scimia have  p384 never been described, as far as I am ware; but they have been copied, and will shortly be published by the Archaeological Institute of Rome.

In a hill near the Poggio Gajella, called Poggio Paccianesi, or del Vescovo, because it is episcopal property, is a to be with seven chambers, arranged like atrium and triclinia, some of which bear traces of paintings; but little is now to be distinguished beyond a pair of parti-coloured lions in one of the pediments. As the tomb is often flooded, these lions may be left unbearded by those who have seen the other painted tombs. Here were found the beautiful vases, now in the possession of the Bishop of Chiusi.

The novel wonders of the Poggio Gajella demand a separate chapter.



Among the Etruscan families mentioned in the sepulchral inscriptions of Chiusi and its neighbourhood, are the following; many of which are well known in their Roman form:—

Achni, Alphna, Ani, Aphune, Apluni, Arini, Arntni, Atina. Cae, Caina, Camarina, Carcu, Carpna, Carna, Causlini, Cenci, Clauca or Clauce, Creice, Crisu, Cucuma, Cumeruni, Cutlisna. Larcna or Larcne, Latini, Lautni. Marcni, Matausna. Papasa, Patislana, Peris, Perna, Pethna, Pherini, Phulne, Phuphle, Plauti, Presnti, Purna, Pursna, Pulphna, Pumpu. Reicna, Remzana, Resna. Satna, Seiati, Seianti, Sentinati, Sethna, Sethre, Spaluria, Stenia. Tanasa, Tetina, Titi, Thesnti, Thurmna, Tlesna, Trepu, Tulus, Tuna, Tutna. Umrana, Umria, Urinati or Vrinati. Varna, Vecnati, Velsi, Velthurus, Vensi, Veti, Vipi, Vipina, Vusine.

The Author's Notes:

1 Ut supra, pp150, 153.

2 This ancient doorway is shown in the woodcut at the head of this Chapter. The door is 4 ft. 4 in. high, and each leaf or flap is about 18 inches wide, and more than 4 thick. The depth of the architraves is 16 inches. The iron handles are a modern addition.

3 With the exception of one tomb in this necropolis, no longer to be seen (Bull. Inst. 1840, p3), this is the only instance known of an Etruscan tomb preserving its door, still working as it was raised.

4 The dimensions of this chamber are 14 ft. 2 inches by 10 ft. 2 inches; the (p363)height to the cornice is 6 ft. 8 in., and about 7 ft. 5 in. to the central beam; which runs transversely and is 2½ ft. broad.

5 This chamber is peculiar in being whitened. In most of the tombs of Chiusi, the colours are laid on no other ground than the natural rock, which is of a yellowish grey hue.

6 The red horses have black hoofs and blue tails; the black have blue hoofs.

7 The whole race-scene is very like one on a relief in the Museo Casuccini; but the latter is more stiff and archaic, and the chariots are trigae instead of bigae. Ut supra, p339. Micali, Mon. Ined. tav. XXIV.2.

8 For illustrations of Etruscan tumblers see Micali, Ital. av. Rom. tav. LVI.

9 This figure seems at first to be beating nothing but the air with his hands, and time with his feet; but that he is a pugilist is rendered evident by a precisely similar figure in the Deposito de' Dei, who has an opponent. He has no cestus, though one fist is closed. Mus. Chius. tav. CLXXXII.

10 See Vol. I. pp275, 289.

11 That the Etruscans had armed dances is proved by other monuments, especially by a silver gilt vessel in very archaic style found at Chiusi. Dempster, I. tab. 78; Inghir. Mon. Etrus. III. tav. XXII. Müller (Etrusk. IV.1, 7) is of opinion that the Etruscan histriones, who formed an essential part of the pageantry of the circus, danced armed, because they are compared by Valerius (p365)Maximus (II.4, 3) to the Curetes. And the armed dances of the Salii in honour of Mars, which according to one tradition (Serv. ad Aen. VIII.285) were of Veientine institution, Müller would refer to an Etruscan origin. The figure, however, in this painted tomb of Chiusi, can have no relation to the Salii, who danced in purple robes, with brass belts, helmets, swords, and bucklers of a peculiar form, described by Plutarch (Numa), and represented on a singular Etruscan gem in the Uffizj Gallery at Florence. Ut supra, p106.

12 Mart. VII.67, 5 —

gravesque draucis

Halteras facili rotat lacerto —

cf. XIV.49; Juv. Sat. VI.421; Seneca, Epist. XV.4; LVI; Pollux, X, c17.º Seneca says they were of lead. Those represented in this tomb are nearly of the form now in use, but on the painted vases, as on some in the British Museum, they are represented flat, of an oval form, with a hole for the insertion of the hand (Bull. Inst. 1836, p29), as they are described by Pausanias (V.25) who, however, speaks of their handles as attached, like those by which shields were grasped.

13 This basin seems to answer the purpose of the crater, or ordinary mixing-bowl. A similar basin and tripod is shown on a bas-relief from Chiusi, representing the funeral feast and dances, in very archaic style, now in the possession of Thomas Blayds, Esq., of Englefield Green (Micali, Mon. Ined. p140, tav. 23); and also on a singular sarcophagus recently discovered at Perugia. Mon. Ined. Inst. IV. tav. 32.

14 About 9 ft. 10 in. by 7 ft. 9 in.; and it is 7 ft. 8 in. high.

15 This chlamys may be introduced merely for the sake of the colour; as it varies — red, black, blue, and white, in succession. For variety's sake also, these figures are made to alternate with trees, all painted black, both stems and foliage, and not paddle-shaped, like those in the outer chamber, but branching out with more nature and freedom than usual in Etruscan tombs. One of these figures, not being painted red like the rest, must be intended for a woman. They have all been carelessly scratched in before being coloured; and the artist has not always adhered to his outline, which in some cases has evidently been retouched. This chorus is very like one existing in the inner chamber of the Mercareccia tomb at Corneto. Vol. I. p362, n7.

16 I may add to what has been stated elsewhere (Vol. I. p296), that Inghirami regards such scenes as "an apotheosis of virtuous souls" — i.e., that the figures in these scenes do not represent the survivors, thus expressing their sorrow for the dead, but symbolise the souls of the departed, thus depicted in the enjoyment of sensual pleasures, because the ancients had no other way of representing the delights of Elysium. In truth, some of them considered that the highest reward the gods could bestow on the virtuous in another life was an eternity of intoxication. Musaeus, ap. Plat. Repub. II. p363, ed. Steph. Inghirami thinks such an interpretation the more appropriate to the scenes in this tomb, because the usual tables for food being wanting, the figures are drinking, not eating; and souls in bliss would be served with nectar alone. Ann. Inst. 1835, p22. But this difference merely indicates a drinking-bout instead of a regular meal — a symposium, not a deipnon. In either case it may be a funeral feast, in its late, rather than early stage. In the trees of the dancing-scene in the inner chamber, he sees the "fortunata nemora," and the "luci opaci" of the Elysian regions (Virg. Aen. VI.639, 673), and further quotes Virgil (Aen. VI.647) to prove the orthodoxy of the lyre in this scene.

17 Ann. Inst. 1835, p26.

18 Illustrations of the scenes in this tomb are given in the Museo Chiusino, tav. 181‑185. For further notices see Ann. Inst. 1835, p19, et seq. — Inghirami.

19 This tomb receives its name from the family in whose ground it lay. Since its discovery in 1826, it has passed into the hands of Signor Felice Giulietti of Chiusi. It lies about two miles from the city, to the north-west, (p369)in a hill, from which it has received the second name of Tomba del Poggio al Moro. Chevalier Kestner describes it under the name of Grotta delle Monache. Ann. Inst. 1829, p116.

20 It is possible that this figure is intending to be hurling his lance, If so there are depicted in this tomb all the games of the Pentathlon, or Quinquertium, viz. leaping (here with dumb-bells) — the foot-race — casting the discus — hurling the spear — and wrestling.

21 Chevalier Kestner (Ann. Inst. 1829, p118) calls it a damaged figure, and does not attempt to describe it; nor does Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. III p110), though he represents this man (tav. 70) as holding a long curved pole. Inghirami (Mus. Chius. II. tav. 125) more correctly divides this into two sticks, which he takes for darts.

22 Kestner (loc. cit.) takes these articles for quoits; but to me they seemed more like unguent-pots, such as are sometimes represented tied by ribbons to candelabra (ut supra, p37), and as have been discovered in Etruscan tombs. Bull. Inst. 1832, p194.

23 The meaning of these figures has been doubted by Inghirami (Mus. Chius. II p132 tav. 131), because one of these youths has a stick in his hand; but the subject is obvious.

24 It was not generally vases, but leathern bottles — ἀσκοὶ — that were used in this sport; or goat-skins filled with wind, and greased, as Virgil (Georg. II.384) describes them —

Mollibus in pratis unctos saluere per utres.

See also Pollux, IX. cap. 7.º This was an amusement also of the Athenians, and it was of Bacchic character, for the goat whose skin furnished the sport had previously been sacrificed to the jolly god. The skin became the prize of him who succeeded in keeping his footing on it. Schol. Aristoph. Plut. 1129. It was an amusement much akin to the greasy pole and flitch of bacon of our own rustic fairs and merry-makings. From the action of hopping in this game, the term came to be applied to hopping on any occasion. Aristoph. loc. cit.; Pollux, II c4. Inghirami (Mus. Chius. tav. 124) fancied the man stumbling over the vase, was gathering dust! — more than enough, no doubt — and that the vase itself contained dust with which to strew the arena.

25 Micali (Ant. Pop. Ital. III p110) designates this game, "il salto del cavalletto," formed by two sticks balanced. These may represent the spring-board, by which the boy is thrown into the air.

26 A painted tomb, very like the two just described, was opened as long since as 1734, in a hill near Poggio Montolli, about a mile from Chiusi. It has been long reclosed, but a record of it is preserved by Fori (Mus. Etrus. III. pp84‑7, cl. II. tav. 6), who shows us a pair of wrestlers in the same singular positions — a pair of pugilists, with an oil-pot on a column hard by — the agonothete with his rod, and with a tutulus, or high-peaked cap — a subulo with double-pipes, — a bearded dwarf — a charioteer in his biga, followed by a man with a palm-branch in token of victory — a recumbent figure with a patera, to indicate the banquet, though Gori takes it for the soul of the deceased — and two men, with rods and something twisted round them, which seems to be a serpent, as in the Grotta delle Bighe of Corneto; but Gori takes these figures to be centurions with their vites. Other figures of huntsmen, dogs, and wild beasts, all prostrate in the midst of a wood, together with two other chariots, were seen in this tomb when first opened, but they soon faded from its walls.

27 Micali, Ant. Pop. Ital. tav. CII.4.

28 In a tomb near this, Signor Luccioli discovered, in 1839, about a hundred vases of the black relieved ware, all glued together in a mass by the sandy earth, and in the centre was a painted tazza in the best style. Bull. Inst. 1840, pp5, 61, 153.

29 The Etruscan inscription in Latin letters would run thus, VEL. VENZILEAL. PHNALISLE. The Roman epitaph is


Here again it will be observed that the names do not seem to correspond, the "Velus" of the Etruscan, as in the other bilingual inscription, given at page 354, being rendered by "Caius" in the Latin. Yet Kellermann seems to regard them as referring to one and the same (p372)individual. Bull. Inst. 1833, pp49, 51.

This tomb is illustrated and described by Micali, Ant. Pop. Ital. tav. 69, 70. III. pp108‑111; Inghirami, Mus. Chius. tav. 122‑133; Kestner, Ann. Inst. 1829, pp116‑120.

30 It is illustrated in the Museo Chiusino, tav. 212. Inghirami (op. cit. II. p206) suggests that it may represent the Theban Brothers; but there is nothing in the scene to favour this view. A warrior, fallen from his horse, is supported by a comrade; a figure with Phrygian cap, and a torch in hand, probably a genius, seizes the bridle. A warrior stands opposite. Chaplets are suspended behind, and a column supporting a vase stands in one corner.

31 The bronze tablet found at Lyons, containing a fragment of an oration by the Emperor Claudius, represents him as the chieftain and friend of Mastarna, afterwards Servius Tullius. Gruter, p502.

32 Festus (v. Tuscum Vicum), who chops his name in half, and makes two brothers out of it, seems to hint at Veii; but the word is imperfect — "entes" only remaining. Müller (Etrusk. I p117) would read it "Volcientes," because of the neighbourhood of Volsinii, to which city he would refer the hero. The Lucumo, whom Dionysius (II. p104) represents as coming to the assistance of Romulus, "from Solonium, a city of the Etruscans," both Müller and Niebuhr identify with Caeles Vibenna; but as no such city is mentioned by any other writer, it is probable that the text is corrupt; though whether we should read "Vetulonium," as Cluver (II pp454, 473) imagines, or "Volsinium," as Müller opines, or "Populonium," as Casaubon and others would have it, it is not easy to determine. The name of Vibenna — Vipi, Vipina, Vipinanas — has been found on sepulchral inscriptions also at Toscanella, Volsinii, and Perugia.

33 The last syllable of Umrana is but the usual augmentative, as from Titi is formed Titine, from Pumpu, Pumpuni, from Vipi, Vipina. On an urn in the Museo Casuccini the very word Umbria, expressed as well as it can be in the Etruscan, which has no B, occurs as a family-name — "Lartha Umria Puia." From the known relation between Camars or Clusium, and the Camertes of Umbria (ut supra, p328) we might expect to find traces of that connection in the names of families, which, among the Etruscans, as among other nations, were often derived from regions, cities, rivers, &c.; and the discovery of a family-name of this character at Chiusi is corroborative of the historical record. It may be further observed that the appellation Livy (IX.36) attaches to the foreign kindred of the Clusians, — "Camertes Umbri," has its equivalent in this tomb, for in one of the epitaphs the names are coupled together — "Phastia Umranei Cumerunasa" — which, divested of the adventitious terminations, would be — Umra Cumere.

34 Near this, a tomb was discovered in 1837, having two figures of the Etruscan Charun, as large as life, and armed with hammers as if to guard the sepulchre against violation. Ann. Inst. 1837, 2, p258. Unfortunately this tomb has been reclosed.

35 Bull. Inst. 1829, p13. Other articles of jewellery, however, are discovered in the tombs of Chiusi, such as acorns of gold, and chaplets of laurel or other leaves in the same metal, like those of Vulci. Bull. Inst. 1829, p180; 1840, pp2, 61.

36 Chiusi stands nearly 500 feet above the lake, and about 1300 above the level of the sea.

37 The masonry is not massive, the courses being from 10 to 18 inches high, and the blocks varying from 2½ to 3½ feet in length. It is entirely without cement. The tomb is 12 ft. 6 in. long, by 9 ft. 9 in. wide, which is consequently the span of the vault. The height is 7 feet 11 inches.

It has been asserted that the measurements of this tomb correspond throughout with the multiples and divisions of the Tuscan braccia, which is known to be just double the ancient Roman foot; and it is hence fairly inferred that the Romans took that measure from the Etruscans, and that it has descended unaltered to the modern inhabitants of Tuscany. See the observations of the architect Del Rosso, appended to Vermiglioli's (p377)description of this tomb, Perugia, 1819. I have often been struck with this same accordance, on measuring ancient masonry and tombs in Etruria with the Tuscany braccio. It may be observed in several of these sepulchres at Chiusi. What other instance can be shown of a standard measure being handed down unchanged through so many ages?

38 Though now in the slope of the hill, it is probable that this tomb was originally built up as an independent structure, and then covered with earth — a method adopted, it would seem, because the ground in this part was too loose and friable to admit of a tomb being excavated.

39 One of the males, called "Au. Pursna. Peris. Pumpual," must have been of the illustrious race of Porsena by a mother of the great Etruscan family of Pumpus, or Pompeius. The other males are called "Au. Pulphna. Peris. Au. Seiantial." — "Lth. Peris. Matausnal." — "La. Pulphna. La." . . . The females are "Thana. Arntnei. Perisalisa." — "Thana. Arinei. Perisalisai."

40 The door is six feet high, and about half as wide.

41 A tomb very similar to this in every respect was opened in 1839, in the Vigna Grande, about three quarters of a mile to the south of Chiusi. It was, however, of larger dimensions. It contained eight urns, which showed it to be the family-vault of the "Pherini." The door was perfect, of two leaves of travertine, working just like that of the Tomba del Colle; and each leaf had had a handle of bronze, which was broken off. Bull. Inst. 1840, pp2, 3. Signor Ciofi, in his "Vista ai Sepolcri presso Chiusi," speaks of this tomb as if it were still open; but in neither of my visits to Chiusi have I seen it, and I was told that it had been reclosed with earth.

Mr. Steuart describes a tomb near Afghan Khiu, in Phrygia, very similar to this in construction, though nearly double the size; and he assigns to it a very high antiquity. Monuments of Lydia and Phrygia, p5.

42 The fourth chamber opens in the side-wall, where there is merely a false door in the other painted tombs, already described. The ceilings here are similarly coffered. The first or outer chamber is 16½ ft. wide, by 13½ deep. The inner one is 11½ ft. by 9½ ft. These two only are painted. The remains of nails in the walls of these chambers.

43 Umbrellas and parasols, be it remembered, are as old as the sun and rain. Though of modern introduction into this country, they were well-known in the olden time. In the East the umbrella has been used from time immemorial, though chiefly by the great; and proud is the oriental despot, (p379)who can style himself, "Brother of the Sun and Moon, and Lord of the Umbrella." Assyrian monarchs stood beneath its shade while receiving homage from their vanquished foes; and Lycian princes sat under such shelter while directing the siege of a hostile city; as the reliefs recently brought from the ruins of Nineveh, and the coast of Lydia, and now in the British Museum, satisfactorily attest. The proudest trophy of the Gallic arms in Africa was the umbrella of Abd-el‑Kader, till he himself shared its fate; though he was soon avenged by his victor being compelled to abandon his in a far ignobler manner. Umbrellas preserved the complexion of "the fair-cheeked" Helen, and sheltered many a fair one of Greece and Rome from Phoebus' gaze, as we learn from ancient vases, bas-reliefs, and paintings. They were borne by the men, as well as by the Maids of Athens in the days of Pericles (Aristoph. Equit. 1345; Thesmoph. 830; Aves, 1508, 1549); and Roman gallants were wont to hold them over their mistresses. Ovid. Art. Amat. II.209. In this tomb we have proof, the first prof, that they were used in Etruria also. Yet though an umbrella often shadowed the rich cheek of Cleopatra, and softened the glow of Aspasia's charms, in London, the centre of modern civilization, not a century since, Jonas Hanway was ridiculed for carrying one through the streets.

44 It is not the round trumpet or cornu represented on the urns of Volterra (ut supra, p188), but curved like a pedum, or lituus; and it must be of that sort designated by the latter name. See Vol. I. p312. The curved part is support by cross bars, and at the extremity is a ring for suspension. The trumpet represented above was found at Vulci, and is now in the Gregorian Museum at Rome; it is the only specimen I remember to have seen of an Etruscan trumpet, and its exact counterpart is not to be found on any native monument, — painting or sculpture. It is about four feet in length.

45 Some of these athletae have leathern pads to their knees and heels.

46 Ut supra, pp34, 59.

47 Near this tomb, another was opened at the same time, having three chambers, one of which was painted with the scene of a hare-hunt, a novel subject in Etruscan tombs. The style of art was very inferior, and the walls much dilapidated, so that it was not thought worthy of being kept open for public inspection, and was therefore reclosed with earth.

48 This tomb has not been placed under lock and key, and will therefore soon cease to be worthy of a visit. It does not come into the cicerone's list of lions, and will not be shown unless especially demanded. One Monni, a restorer of vases at Chiusi, knows its whereabouts.

Page updated: 16 Mar 18