[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]

 p385  Chapter LII


Poggio Gajella.

I pray you let us satisfy our eyes
With the memorials and the things of fame,
That do renown this city.

— Shakspeare.

Musaeum ante omnia.º

— Virgil

It is a notable fact that but one description of an Etruscan tomb is to be found in ancient writers; and that tomb was at Clusium — the mausoleum of Lars Porsena. It is thus described by Varro, as quoted by Pliny:—

"He was buried under the city of Clusium, in a spot where he has left a monument in rectangular masonry, each side whereof is three hundred feet wide, and fifty high, and within the square of the basement is an inextricable labyrinth, out of which no one who ventures in without a clue of thread, can ever find an exit. On that square basement stand five pyramids, four at the angles, and one in the centre, each being seventy-five feet wide at its base, and one hundred and fifty high, and all so terminating above, as to support a brazen circle and petasus, from which are hung by chains certain bells, which, when stirred by the wind, resound afar off, as was formerly the case at Dodona. Upon this circle four other pyramids are based, each rising to the height of one  p386 hundred feet. And above these, from one floor, five more pyramids, the height whereof Varro was ashamed to mention. The Etruscan fables record that it equal to that of the rest of the structure."

This description is so extravagant, that it raised doubts even in the mind of the all-credulous Pliny,​a who would not commit himself by recording, save in the very words of Varro.​1 Can we wonder that the moderns should be inclined to reject it in toto? Niebuhr regarded it as a mere dream, — "a building totally inconceivable, except as the work of magic," — no more substantial than the palace of Aladdin.2

But at the same time that we allow such an edifice as  p387 Varro describes, to be of very difficult, if not impossible construction, we should pause before we reject the statement as utterly false and fabulous. Granting these to be greatly exaggerated, the structure is not impracticable.​3 We should consider the peculiarities of its construction, and if we find an analogy between it and existing monuments, we may pronounce it to be even within the bounds of probability. A monument would hardly have been traditional, had it not been characteristic. However national vanity may have exaggerated its dimensions, or extravagantly heightened its peculiarities, it could not have conceived of something utterly foreign to its experience; any more than a Druid bard could have sung of a temple like the Parthenon, or an Athenian fable have described a palace like the Alhambra. That such was the Etruscan tradition we cannot doubt, for Varro was not the man to invent a marvellous tale, or to colour a story more highly than he received it.4

No one can doubt that a magnificent sepulchre was raised for Lars Porsena, the powerful chieftain, whose very name struck terror into Rome, and whose victorious arms, but for his own magnanimity, might have swept her  p388 from the map of Italy.​5 The site, too, of such a monument would naturally be at Clusium, his capital. That it  p389 was of extraordinary dimensions and splendour is likely enough; otherwise it would not have been

"A worthy tomb for such a worthy wight" —

the greatest Etruscan prince and hero whom history commemorates; nor would it have been thus traditionally recorded. That it had a square basement of regular masonry, supporting five pyramids, as described by the legend, is in no way improbable, seeing that just such a tomb is extant — the well-known sepulchre on the Appian Way at Albano, vulgarly called that of the Horatii and Curiatii.​6 And though this tomb be Roman and of Republican date, it shows the existence of such a style in early times; and its uniqueness also favours the antiquity of its model. Whether the analogy was carried further in this monument it is impossible to say, for its cones now support nothing but themselves, and cannot even do that without assistance. The Cucumella of Vulci, with its walled basement and pair of towers, square and conical, and its Lydian cousin, the royal sepulchre of Sardis, with its diadem of five termini, though both are circular in the basement, bear also a strong affinity to the Varronian picture.​7 For  p390 further analogies it is not necessary to seek, though Varro himself suggests one for the bells; because the superstructure is just that part of the edifice, which offered a field for the imagination of the legend-mongers.8

But the distinguishing feature of Porsena's tomb was the labyrinth, which alone led Pliny to mention it. Here, if in any point, we may consider the tradition to speak truth; and here, as will presently be shown, a close analogy may be traced to existing monuments. Now the labyrinth being within the basement, was in all probability underground; which may account for its not being visible in Pliny's day. The upper portion of the mention, whatever it may have been, had probably been long previously destroyed in the Gallic or Roman sieges of Clusium, and the labyrinth itself, with the sepulchral chambers, may have been completely buried beneath the ruins of the superstructure, so that even its site had been forgotten.​9 That this labyrinth, however, actually had an existence, there is no ground for doubt; such is the opinion of distinguished critics who have considered the subject.10

 p391  It is not idle then to believe that some vestiges of this labyrinth may still exist, and to expect that it may yet be brought to light. If subterranean, it was in all probability excavated in the rock, and traces of it would not easily be effaced. In truth it has often been sought, and found — in the opinion of the seekers, who have generally placed it on the site of Chiusi itself, in the subterranean passages of the garden Paolozzi, or in those beneath the city; misled perhaps by Pliny's expression, "sub urbe Clusio." But that such was its position, the general analogy of the sepulchral economy of the Etruscans forbids us to believe. It must have been outside the walls, and if it were in one of the valleys around, it would be equally "below the city."

Some years since, the attention of the antiquarian world was much drawn to the tomb of Porsena, in consequence of the discovery at Chiusi of a monument not only novel in character, but with peculiarities strikingly analogous, and in extent surpassing every other Etruscan sepulchre.

About three miles to the north-north‑east of Chiusi is a hill called Poggio Gajella, the termination of the range on which the city stands. There is nothing remarkable in the appearance of this height; it is of the yellow arenaceous earth so common in this district;​11 its crest is of the same conical form as most of the hills around, and  p392 it is covered with a light wood of oaks. There was no reason to suspect the existence of ancient sepulchres; for it was not a mere tumulus, but a hill, raised by nature, not by art. Yet it has proved to be a vast sepulchre or rather a cemetery in itself — a polyandrion — an isolated city of the dead — situated like other ancient cities on the summit of a hill — fenced around with walls and fosse, filled with the abodes of the dead, carved into the very forms, and adorned with the very decorations and furniture of those of the living, arranged in distinct terraces, and communicating by the usual network of streets and alleys.12

I know not what first induced Signor Pietro Bonci-Casuccini, the owner of the hill, to make excavations here; it may have been merely in pursuance of his long and systematic researches on his estate. But in the winter of 1839‑40 the spade was applied, and very soon brought to light the marvels of the mound.

About the base of the conical crest was unearthed a circuit of masonry, of rectangular blocks of travertine, uncemented, from two to four feet in length; and around this was a fosse three or four feet wide. Many of the blocks, removed from their original places, lie scattered at the base of the mound; but the fosse may still be traced, and will be found to mark a circumference of more than nine hundred feet.13

Above it the crest of the hill rises some forty or fifty feet, and in its slopes open the tombs, not in a single row, but in several tiers or terraces, one above the other; and  p393 not in regular or continuous order, but in groups. A single passage of great length cut into the heart of the hill, and at right angles with the girdling fosse, generally leads into a spacious antechamber, or atrium, on which open several smaller chambers, or triclinia, just as in the tombs of Caere.​14 Both atrium and triclinia are surrounded by benches of rock for the support of the bodies or of sarcophagi. The ceilings are generally flat, and coffered in recessed squares or oblongs, as in the other tombs of Chiusi, or they are carved into beams and rafters. They are painted in the usual style, and the walls also in certain chambers have painted figures, which though often almost effaced and in no case very distinct, may be traced as those of dancers or athletae, circling the apartments in a frieze, about twenty inches high.​15 The benches of rock are not left in unmeaning shapelessness; they are hewn into the form of couches, with pillows or cushions at one end, and the front moulded into seat and legs in relief — so many patterns of Etruscan furniture, more durable than the articles themselves. Many of these couches are double — made for a pair of bodies to recline side by side, as they are generally represented in the banquets painted on the walls. They prove this monument to be of a period when bodies were buried, rather than burned.16  p394 

[image ALT: missingALT]
a Entrance from the south.
b Antechamber or vestibule.
c c Recesses.
d Door to the principal chamber.
e Circular chamber.
f Column, hewn from the rock.
g Cuniculus, or passage cut in the rock, not yet cleared out.
h Cuniculus, leading to chamber aa.
i Original mouth of the passages.
k l m Passages, varying in size, and inclination, but only large enough to admit a man on all fours. At * the original cuniculus seems to have terminated, or to have turned in another direction; the rest of it to s being narrower and more irregular.
l l Spurious mouth of the passages, opening much higher in the wall than i.
n n Cuniculi, partly unfinished, partly not yet excavated.
p Antechamber to the group of square tombs, opening to the west.
q r s t u Chambers, more or less rude, and all unpainted, with rock-hewn benches. In s are the mouths of the cuniculi m and n
w Antechamber to
v A tomb found filled with large stones.
aa Chamber, now encumbered with earth.
bb bb Recesses in its walls.
The shaded part represents the rock in which the tombs and passages are hewn.

[image ALT: An engraving of a four-footed animal, seated on its hind quarters. It has long wings curled at the tips, and a human head with a cap and long braids or tresses of hair. It is an Etruscan sphinx found at the Poggio Gaiella near Chiusi, in Tuscany (central Italy).]

Etruscan sphinx,
from the Poggio Gajella.

The most important tombs are on the lower and second tiers. On the lower, the most remarkable is one that opens to the south. It is circular, about twenty-five feet in diameter, supported in the centre by a huge column  p395 hewn from the rock, ten or eleven feet thick, rudely formed, without base or capital, but in the place of the latter there chances to occur a thin stratum of flints.​17 The tomb is much injured, retaining narrow traces of ornament, except over the entrance, where is something like a head in relief on the lintel. Some beautiful vases,​18 and the curious stone sphinxes of the Museo Casuccini were found here. Nothing is now to be seen but fragments of urns of cispo. In this circular tomb, as well as in the group of square chambers on the same level, are mysterious dark passages opening in the walls, and exciting the astonishment and curiosity of the stranger. Of these more will be said anon.

There are four other groups of tombs in this lower tier, making twenty-five chambers in all, besides two which are unfinished.

On the tier above this are several tombs, some in groups, others single; two to the south seem to have been circular. The finest group is one of five square chambers opening to the south-east, whose walls retain traces of painting, now much injured. Here were discovered articles of great beauty and value:— the magnificent vase of the Judgment of Paris, which forms the gem of the Casuccini collection,  p396 found in one hundred and twenty minute pieces, now nearly rejoined — another vase on a small bronze stand or stool, with legs like those sculptured on the couches of rock — a cinerary Roman in the form of a male statue, with a moveable head as a lid — many small articles of gold and jewellery, and some thin laminae of gold attached to the walls of one of the tombs, as though originally lining it throughout. In two of these chambers open small passages, like those in the lower tier.19

On the third and highest tier are three groups of tombs, one of which is supported by a column of rock; and here also were found articles of jewellery, and fragments of painted vases.20

The marvel and mystery of this curious hive of tombs are the dark passages, which have given rise to as much speculation as such obscurities are ever wont to excite, in works sepulchral or literary, ancient or modern, of Cheops or Coleridge. They are just large enough for a man to creep through on all fours. Here, traveller, if curious and enterprising, "you may thrust your arms up to the elbows in adventures." Enter one of the holes in the circular tomb, and take a taper, either between your teeth, or in your fore-paw, to light you in your Nebuchadnezzar-likeº progress. You will find quite a labyrinth in the heart of the mound. Here the passage makes a wide sweep or circuit, apparently at random —  p397 there it bends back on itself, and forms an inner sweep, leading again to the circular chamber — now it terminates abruptly, after a longer or shorter course, — and now, behold! it brings you to another tomb in a distant part of the hill. Observe, too, as you creep on your echoing way, that the passages sometimes rise, sometimes sink, and rarely preserve the same level; and that they occasionally swell out or contract, though generally regular and of uniform dimensions.21

What can these cuniculi mean? is a question every one asks, but none can satisfactorily answer. Had they been beneath a city, we should find some analogy between them and those often existing on Etruscan sites, not forgetting the Capitol and Rock Tarpeian. Had they been beneath some temple, or oracular shrine, we might see in them the secret communications by which the machinery of jugglery was carried forward; but in tombs — among the mouldering ashes of the dead, what purpose could they have served? Some have thought them part of a regularly planned labyrinth, of which the circular tomb was the centre or nucleus, formed to preserve the remains and treasure there deposited from profanation and pillage.​22 But surely they would not then make so many superfluous means of access to the chamber, when it already had a regular entrance. Moreover, the smallness of the passages — never more than three feet in height, and two in width, as small, in truth, as could well be made by the hand of man, which renders it difficult to thread them on all fours; the irregularity of their level; and the fact that one has its opening just beneath the ceiling,  p398 destroying the beauty of the walls which were painted with dancing figures, and that another actually cuts through one of the rock-hewn couches — forbid us to suppose they were designed for regular communication, or were constructed throughout on any determined system. In truth, the latter facts would seem to show that in those cases, at least, they must be of subsequent construction to the tombs. Could they then have been formed either by the burrowings of some animal, or by former plunderers of the tombs in their search for treasures?

To the first it may be safely objected that these passages are too large, and in general too regular. In one of the tombs in the upper tier, however, are certain passages too small to admit a man, and therefore in all probability formed by some animal. I learned from the peasants who dwell at the foot of the hill, that badgers have been killed here. On the roofs of several of the chambers, which I was told have been found choked with earth, I observed the marks of that animal's claws. But it is impossible to believe that these labyrinthine passages have been made by that or any other quadruped.

It is more easy to believe that they have been formed in by-gone researches for buried treasure.​23 That the tombs have been opened in past ages is evident from the state in which they were discovered, from the broken pottery and urns, and from the pieces of a vase being found in separate chambers.​24 Yet in general there is too much regularity about them, for the work of careless excavators. In one instance, indeed, in the second tier, there is a passage of very careful and curious formation, which  p399 gradually diminishes in size as it penetrates the hill, not regularly tapering, but in successive stages — magna componere parvis — like the tubes of an open telescope. From a careful examination of the cuniculi in this hill, all of which I penetrated, I cannot but regard them as generally evincing design; here and there are traces of accidental or random excavation, such as the openings into the tombs which spoil their symmetry; but these, I think, did not form part of the original construction; they must have been made by the riflers carrying on the passages which were left as cul-de‑sacs.25

What the design of this labyrinth may have been, I cannot surmise. Analogy does not assist us here. True, the Grotta della Regina at Toscanella, has somewhat kindred passages, though to a much smaller extent; but these are involved in equal obscurity; and in one of the mounds at Monteroni there were found cuniculi of this description, though leading not from the tomb, but from the grand entrance-passage.​26 There seems to be little analogy with the system of vertical shafts and horizontal ways which exists in the same tumulus at Monteroni, in the necropolis of Ferento, and in the Capitoline. There is more apparently with the subterranean passages beneath Chiusi; still more with the Buche de' Saracini at Volterra; but these are of most doubtful antiquity, origin, and purpose, and probably not sepulchral. Nor can any affinity  p400 be discovered to the catacombs of Rome, Naples, and any places in Italy and Sicily. Future researches, either by clearing out these passages where they are now blocked up, or by analogous discoveries, may possibly throw some light on the mystery.

We have now seen the existence of something very like a labyrinth in the heart of an Etruscan sepulchral tumulus, and have thus established, by analogy, the characteristic truth of Varro's description, as regards the substructions of Porsena's monument. I would, however, go no further. I would not infer, as some have done, that this tumulus of Poggio Gajella may be the very sepulchre of that hero. The circular, instead of the square basement, and the comparatively late date of its decorations and contents are opposed to such a conclusion.​27 Yet its vast extent, and the richness of its furniture, mark it as the burial-place of some of the ancient princes of Clusium; and its discovery, after so many ages of oblivion, encourages the hope that some kindred monument may yet be found, which may unhesitatingly be pronounced the original of Varro's description.28

Be this hope realised or not, the memory of Porsena and his virtues is beyond decay. It rests not on mausoleum or "star-y‑pointing pyramid," which, without that "monument more durable than brass," are frail and perishing records of human greatness; for, as an old writer observes, "to be but pyramidally extant is a fallacy in duration."

The Author's Notes:

1 Plin. N. H. XXXVI.18,4.— Namque et Italicum (labyrinthum) dici convenit, quem fecit sibi Porsenna rex Etruriae sepulcri causâ, simul ut externorum regum vanitas quoque ab Italis superetur. Sed cum excedat omnia fabulositas, utemur ipsius M. Varronis in expositione ejus verbis: Sepultus est, inquit, sub urbe Clusio; in quo loco monumentum reliquit lapide quadrato: singula latera pedum lata tricenûm, alta quinquagenûm; inque basi quadratâ intus labyrinthum inextricabilem; quo si quis improperet sine glomere lini, exitum invenire nequeat. Supra id quadratum pyramides stant quinque, quatuor in angulis, in medio una: in imo latae pedum quinûm septuagenûm, altae centum quinquagenûm: ita fastigatae, ut in summo orbis aeneus et petasus unus omnibus sit impositus, ex quo pendeant exapta catenis tintinnabula, quae vento agitata, longe sonitus referant, ut Dodonae olim factum. Supra quem orbem quatuor pyramides insuper, singulae exstant altae pedum centenûm. Supra quas uno solo quinque pyramides; quarum altitudinem Varronem puduit adjicere. Fabulae Etruscae tradunt eandem fuisse, quam totius operis: adeo vesana dementia quaesisse gloriam impendio nulli profuturo. Praeterea fatigasse regni vires, ut tamen laus major artificis esset.º

2 Niebuhr, I. pp130, 551. Engl. trans. Letronne (Ann. Instit. 1829, pp386‑395) thinks it nothing more than the fragment of an Etruscan epic, preserved in the religious and poetical traditions of the country. So also Orioli, who puts on it a mystic interpretation. Ann. Inst. 1833, p43. Hirt (Geschichte der Baukunst I., p249) according to Müller, maintains on this subject a prudent reserve. The Duc de Luynes, however, and Quatremère de Quincy believed the whole tale literally, and have attempted to restore the monument from the description. Ann. Inst. 1829, p304‑9. Mon. Ined. Inst. I., tav. XIII. Canina has also made a restoration of this monument. Archit. Ant. Seg. Sec. tav. XLIX. The worthy father Angelo Cortenovis wrote a treatise to prove it was nothing else than a huge electrifying machine.

3 Müller (Etrusk. IV.2. 1) is of opinion that the lower part with the labyrinth really existed, and that the upper, though greatly exaggerated, was not the mere offspring of fancy.

4 Müller (Etrusk. IV.2. 1) is of opinion that Varro must have seen a portion of the monument he describes — "he would hardly have gathered such precise statements from mere hearsay; yet the upper part, from what point upwards is uncertain, was merely pictured to him by the inhabitants of the city." Niebuhr (I. p130), however, thinks Varro took his description from the Etruscan books. Orioli (ap. Inghir. Mon. Etrus. IV.p167) thinks Varro's picture must have been not only consistent with the Etruscan style of Achaea, but drawn from a real object, just as the palaces of Ariosto's and Tasso's imagination had evidently their originals in Italy. And Abeken (Mittelitalien, p246) considers it, in its fundamental conditions, to be thoroughly national, and in accordance with other edifices of the land.

5 Lars is an Etruscan praenomen, supposed to be significant of rank and dignity, as Etruscan princes seem always to have had this name — Lars Porsena, Lars Tolumnius — a title of honour, equivalent to dominus. Müller, Etrusk. I p405. The fact of its being the appellation also of the household deities of the Etruscans favours this view. Yet the frequent occurrences of this name, or its varieties, "Lart," or "Larth," in sepulchral inscriptions, seems to deprive it of any peculiar dignity, and to show that it was used indiscriminately. Perhaps the distinction drawn by the grammarians is correct — that Lar, Laris, was significant of deity, and Lars, Lartis, was the Etruscan praenomen. The Romans, however, who took both from the Etruscans, seem to have used them indifferently. Müller, I. p408. Thus we find a Lar Herminius, consul in the year 306. Liv. III.65. The old patrician gens Lartia derived its name from Lars, just as many other gentile names were formed from praenomina. Lars is supposed by Lanzi (II. p203) to signify divus, but it is more generally believed to be equivalent to "lord;" and it is even maintain that English word is derived from the Etruscan. Some take Lars to be of Pelasgic origin, from the analogy of Larissa, daughter of Pelasgus; and others seek its source in the Phoenician. However that be, it can at least, with all its derivatives, be traced with certainty to the Etruscan.

Porsena is often called King of Clusium or of Etruria. Pliny (II.5), however, seems to call him King of Volsinii. He was properly chief Lucumo of Clusium, and "King of Etruria" only in virtue of commanding the forces of the Confederation.

The name is spelt both Porsena and Porsenna, but in any case, thinks Niebuhr (I. pp500, 541), the penultimate is long, from the analogy of other Etruscan gentile names — Vibenna, Ergenna, Perpenna, Spurinna; and he pronounces Martial (I.22; XIV.98) guilty of a "decided blunder" in shortening the penultimate. Mr. Macaulay, in his admirable "Lays of Ancient Rome" (p44), questions the right of Niebuhr or any other modern to pronounce on the quantity of a word which "Martial" must have uttered a hundred times before he left school;" and cites Horace (Epod. XVI.4) and Silius Italicus (VIII.391, 480) in corroboration of that poet. Compare Sil. Ital. X.484. The following prose-writers, though their authority cannot affect the quantity, also spell it "Porsena." —​b Liv. II.9; Cicero, pro Sext. 21; Flor. I.10; Val. Max. III.2. 2; Tacit. Hist. III.72. On the other hand there is the great authority of Virgil (Aen. VIII.646) —

Nec non Tarquinium ejectum Porsenna jubebat;

followed by Claudian (in Eutrop. I.444)

Quaesiit, et tantum fluvio Porsenna remotus —

by Pliny (II.54; XXXIV13, 39; XXXVI.19), and Seneca (Epist. 66; Benef. V.16), for the lengthening of the penultimate — Porsenna; Plutarch (Publicola) also has Πορσήνας, and Dionysius (lib. V) Πορσῖνος. Servius (ad Aen. VIII.646) indeed asserts that Virgil added an n for the sake of the metre, as the penultimate is short. Now, though Mr. Macaulay was at liberty to adopt either mode, I believe him to be right in his choice of Porsĕna; not on account of Servius' assertion, or because the authority of Horace, Martial, and (p389)Silius Italicus outweighs that of Virgil and Claudian, but because it is more agreeable to the genius of the Etruscan language, which gives us "Pursna," as its equivalent (ut supra, p377); and just so the "Ceicna" of the Etruscans was written Caecina or Caecinna, by the Romans.

6 In that instance, however, there are cones, not pyramids, but the latter word is thought by some to have had a generic application to anything having the tapering form of a flame. Canina (Ann. Inst. 1837, 2 p56) objects to this on the authority of Cicero (Nat. Deor. II.18); who, however, merely shows that the pyramid had a specific form, distinct from the cone; a fact not to be questioned. Tombs with square basements of large size, either for mounds of earth, or for the support of pyramids or cones, like that of Albano, are still extant at Cervetri. Ut supra, p59.

7 The cippi so commonly found in Etruscan tombs, in the form of truncated cones on square pedestals — sometimes several rising from one basement — bear much analogy to the pyramids of the Clusian legend, still more to the tomb at Albano.

8 Dr. Braun points out the analogy existing between the far-projecting roofs of Etruscan houses — as we know them from the imitations in cinerary urns — and the petasus, which Varro describes as resting on the lower tier of pyramids. Laberinto di Porsenna, comparato coi sepolcri di Poggio Gajella, p3. He gives a plate of such an urn, of fetid lime-stone, found at Chiusi, in the shape of a house, with an overhanging roof, "whose singular aspect recalls to every one who has regarded such monuments with an experienced eye, the peculiarities of the tomb of Porsenna" (op. cit. tav. VI. a. cf. Abeken, Mittelital. taf. III.6; Bull. Inst. 1840, p150.)

9 Abeken remarks with justice, that if the monument had been entirely of masonry, it could not possibly have utterly disappeared, especially so early as Pliny's time; and thinks it was more probably a hill or mound like the Capitoline area of Rome. Ann. Inst. 1841, p34; Mittelitalien, p245. In this case, when the surrounding masonry was removed, the rest of the monument would soon lose its artificial character and sink into a natural mound; yet to all the external adornments of the tomb might have perished, the labyrinth, being hollowed in the rock, must have remained.

10 Niebuhr, struck with the extravagance of Varro's description, condemned it at once as fabulous, which as an historian he was justified in doing. It is (p391)the province of the antiquary to view the details and consider how far they are supported by reason and analogy. Müller, therefore, makes a decided distinction between the upper and lower part of the structure, and is of opinion, not only that the latter had an existence, but that it was still extant in the days of Varro. Etrusker, IV.2, 1. So also think Thiersch (Abhandlung der Münchner Akademie, I. p415) and Abeken (Ann. Instit. 1841, p33; Mittelitalien, p244) who cites him.

11 Gruner calls this rock a volcanic nenfro, but it is decidedly of aqueous deposition, often containing oyster-shells, and other marine substances. It isº compact when moist, but extremely friable when dry; and like chalk, it has occasional layers of flint.

12 Conical mounds or isolated rocks of other forms, full of sepulchres, are not uncommon in Asia Minor. Mr. Steuart speaks of one at Dogan-lû, in Phrygia (Lydia and Phrygia, p11), and Sir Charles Fellows describes and illustrates one at Pinara in Lycia. Fellows' Lycia, p139.

13 Abeken (Ann. Inst. 1841, p31) says 285 mètres,º which are equal to 938 feet English.º A similar wall and fosse have been found encircling tombs at Sta Marinella and Selva la Rocca; and a fosse is cut in the rock round a tumulus at Bieda. See Vol. I. p271.

14 The antechamber still more nearly resembles an atrium, inasmuch as the roof has in most instances fallen in, leaving it open to the sky.

15 The principal of these paintings are in a group of tombs to the right of the circular tomb, marked e in the Plan. They are of very simple character, of two colours only, red and black, and in an archaic style. See Bull. Inst. 1841, p10.

16 The doors of these tombs are all moulded in the usual Etruscan form, with an overhanging square-headed lintel.

17 The entrance to this tomb is by a broad passage, or rather chamber, with large recesses on either hand, indicated in the Plan.

18 For an account of these vases, some of which were in the archaic Etruscan style, others of the best Greek art, see Bull. Inst. 1840, p128.— Feuerbach. At the entrance to the round chamber was found part of a winged lion, of cispo, in the most severely archaic style; and such, it is thought, must have surrounded this tumulus in great numbers, as at the Cucumella, of Vulci. Bull. Inst. 1841, p9.

19 The longest of these passages extends to 35 braccia, or 67 feet, and is not yet fully cleared out. Another passage, which is nearly 3 feet square, runs some distance in a straight line into the rock, and then meets a third, at right angles, which is still full of earth.

20 As the tombs on this upper tier are inferior to those below them, Abeken suggests that they may have been for the slaves or dependents of the family. Ann. Inst. 1841, p32. But the meanest tombs are at the base of the mound. Some have seen in these a fourth tier, though they can hardly be said to be on a different level from the principal groups.

21 For plans of the several stories in this tumulus, and for illustrations of the articles found in the tombs, see the beautiful work of Dr. Braun cited above. The plans and plates are by M. Gruner, the well-known artist. The plan given at page 394 is from that work.

22 Feuerbach, Bull. Inst. 1841, p8.

23 This was Abeken's more digested opinion (Mittelital. p244), and that of Micali also (Mon. Ined. p365).

24 The gold and jewellery discovered must have been overlooked by the first riflers, as is sometimes the case — articles of great value being found occasionally among the loose earth.

25 The passage which connects the circular chamber with the group to the west, narrows very suddenly as it approaches the latter, and opens in it in an irregular aperture, which seems of more recent date. In the circular chamber, one opening is regular, and another quite irregular. Yet in one case it is the neatest and most decidedly artificial passage that cuts through the bench. May not the passages have been formed before certain of the tombs? May they not have formed part of the original sepulchre in connection with the circular chamber, and have been cut into by the subsequent excavation of the chambers?

26 Abeken (Mittelitalien, p242) supposes these to have been the work of former riflers.

27 This is also Abeken's opinion. Mittelitalien, p245.

28 There is another similar, but larger hill, not far off, called Poggio di Same Paolo, which tradition has marked as the depository of ancient treasures. Fragments of massive masonry also seem to indicate the basement of a sepulchral tumulus. Here is most promising field for such researches. But no excavations have been yet made; and are not likely to be made as long as the mound remains in the hands of its present proprietors.

Thayer's Notes:

a a hasty and grossly unfair judgment. Careful reading of Pliny shows repeatedly that he believes not that much of the taller tales he tells, but cannot avoid reporting them: as indeed it would be irresponsible to do even now, since there are kernels of truth, or even more, in what may appear to be the wildest legends. In the enlightened thought of Western civilization well after the Middle Ages, at one time or another both of the following were thought, by right-thinking people who knew better, to be fables: stones falling out of the sky; skeletons of fish and whales in rocks on the tops of mountains.

b A reminder is in order here, that no argument is possible one way or the other when dealing with the minutiae of spelling in Latin prose texts: manuscripts were copied every which way, and letters were frequently skipped or doubled by the medieval copyists on whom we depend for the transmission of our ancient authors; and making one's argument on modern editions is one step worse, since the scholarly editors very often impose consistency by themselves choosing one spelling or the other.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 4 Dec 17