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Notes on Southern Etruria and the Ager Veientanus

  • J. B. Ward Perkins

The notes that follow are the first results of a programme of field-survey undertaken by the writer and by various members of the British School during the autumn of 1954 in the area that lies immediately to the north of Rome, between the Tiber and the sea. This area is one that has been strangely neglected by modern students of Italian topography. Ashby's published work is concerned mainly with those parts of the Campagna that lie to the south and east of Rome; and Tomassetti's work, invaluable as a repertory of manuscript and published sources, lays no claim to be a comprehensive survey of the material remains surviving on the ground.

Such a survey is badly needed today. The romantic desolation of Southern Etruria is being transformed from one day to the next under the impact of a scheme of landreform comparable in scale to the great reforms of classical antiquity, and vast estates which for centuries have been used for stock-breeding and seasonal pasture are being broken up and brought into cultivation with all the devastating thoroughness that modern mechanical equipment entails. Whole regions are accessible today as they have never been before, and within them the bulldozer and the mechanical plough are busy destroying whatever lies in their path.

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1 A prominent roadside landmark, illustrated by Canina, pl. III. Beside it stands the fifth Papal milestone, dated 1824. The popular name, which had previously been applied to the estate on which the tomb stands (properly the Tenuta del Casale di Sant'Andrea; Tomassetti, p. 22), is now given to the modern quarter that has sprung up around it on either side of the Via Cassia.

2 For the opportunity to consult these maps I am in debted to their present owner, Professor Giuseppe Lugli, who was Ashby's companion in so many of his excursions into the Campagna.

3 The horizontal bedding of the strata of many parts of the Campagna, with the resultant outcropping of horizontal beds of harder, light-coloured rock, gives to many of the photographs the effect of a variegated contour-map. An oblique dark mark of this sort, cutting across the contours, must mark the accumulation of soil within a man-made hollow.

4 The farmhouse of Ospedaletto Marziale on the hill above the road to the right; see Tomassetti, p. 25.

5 Cf. the Tomb of Caecilia Metella.

6 Gell suggests that there was an alternative route at this point, following the small, steep-sided valley to the right of the spur. No trace of such a route could be seen in 1954, and the steep climb up the river-bed at the head of the valley seems ill-adapted for a road.

7 Approximately at the north-east corner of the 100-metre contour ring.

8 ‘Torre Vergata’, or ‘Torvergata’, so-called from a medieval tower of striped masonry, now destroyed, rather than ‘Torre Vergara’, as it appears on the Carta d'ltalia; see Tomassetti, p. 26. The farmhouse on the site of the tower incorporates many blocks of ancient masonry, and in the garden is a small collection of antiquities (columns, amphorae, etc.).

9 Canina, p. 76, pl. XXXIII.

10 4-cm. bricks, coarsely jointed, five courses to 31 cm. The reticulate is of tufa.

11 5 CM 656. 3068.

12 For these enigmatic objects, see R. E. M. Wheeler, London in Roman Times (London Museum Catalogues, no. 3), 1930, pp. 149–51.

12a Just to the left of the road at this point, opposite the tumulus, another small Roman site has recently come to light (not shown on Plate XIV, b). The finds include building debris, tesserae, a small marble halfcolonnette, and sherds of late terra sigillata.

13 Probably to be identified with Canina's ‘Passo della Sibilla’ (pp. 73–4, pl. XXIII). It is a fine cutting, with lofty, vertical sides, and it has been deepened in relatively recent times to serve as a farm-track. There is nothing to suggest a Roman origin.

14 Canina, p. 73, pl. XXI.

15 The individual tiles, which are of the same red quality as the brickwork and very tightly fitted together, measure 10 × 5 × 2·5 cm.

16 On the analogy of tomb-buildings of comparable size and quality, in which the façade is often of finer brickwork than the sides and back, and these in turn than the inner face, which was not meant to be seen beneath its covering of painted plaster or stucco; Jocelyn Toynbee and John Ward Perkins, The Shrine of St. Peter, 1954, pp. 64, 269.

17 Notizie degli Scavi, 1922, pp. 390–8, fig. 13.

18 So Canina, pl. II; but the antiquity of this road is questionable.

19 E.g. 5 CM 627. 4015–6.

20 For the Via Cassia between the crossing of the Acquatraversa and Tomba di Nerone, see Notizie degli Scavi, 1925, pp. 387–99. Unlike the modern road, which winds sharply up to the right, the ancient road, after crossing the stream, continued up the north-east side of the valley and after a few hundred metres bore right, up a steep side-valley, to rejoin the present road at approximately the point (Kilo 9·45) where the line of modern villas on the left-hand side of the road is broken by an open space containing the concrete core of a Roman mausoleum. Just before this point, behind the villas, traces of the ancient road can still be seen (a terraced way up the west slopes of the valley and, just above the embankment of the modern side-road leading to Villaggio Cronisti, massive tufa walls of opus quadratum, running parallel with the ancient road, and a substantial concrete foundation); but these are fast disappearing. Between this point and Tomba di Nerone lay the road-station of ad Sextum.

21 The line followed by the Via Triumphalis is, topographically, the more natural exit from Rome.

22 E.g. Martinori, p. 171; but see Anziani, p. 192.

23 5 CM 694. 3155.

24 Cf. Studi Etruschi, x, 1936, pl. XXVII, 6 (from Caere). The type is stated by Andren to be late Republican (Architectural Terracottas from Etrusco-Italic Temples: Skrifter utgivna av Svenska Institutet i Rom, vi, 1940, p. ccxxxiii).

25 Ashby, 1907, pp. 311–23. Except for Ashby's outline plan, the only survey of this remarkable building remains that of Pirro Ligorio in Bodleian Cod. Canonici Ital., 138, f. 119V, 122V, 122r, 112r, 112V (in that order).

26 The surviving brickwork of the outer faces is not readily accessible for measurement. The dimensions given by Ashby (p. 313, note 2) refer to secondary, internal faces, which were never meant to be seen, and they are of little value for chronological purposes.

27 The most substantial of these lies about 800 metres to the north-east, and is marked by the remains of a vaulted tank, of brick-faced concrete (3-cm. bricks, ten courses to 51) roofed with opus signinum. The debris scattered around includes bricks and roof-tiles, blocks of tufa, segmental bricks from the columns of a small brick colonnade, red wall-plaster, remains of paving in black-and-white mosaic and opus spicatum, dolia, and domestic pottery. A smaller deposit of dolia and roof-tiles can be seen slightly more to the north of east, about 350 m. from the main ruins.

28 5 CM 649.4164.

28a Notizie degli Scavi, 1891, pp. 371–2.

29 Ashby, 1907, p. 311; 1927, pp. 235–6.

30 Ashby, 1907, p. 324; 1927, p. 234.

31 Frontinus, Aq. 71; Itin. Ant. p. 300, 2; Tab. Peut. 5, 4; Geogr. Rav. 274.8.

32 Nibby, p. 97. Tomassetti (p. 35) and Ashby (1927, p. 234) both follow Nibby in identifying Careiae with Galeria Vecchia.

33 Kehr, P. F., Italia Pontificia, i, 1896, p. 167 (temp. Paschal I, 817–24).

34 Nibby, pp. 97–8; Tomassetti, p. 37.

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Papers of the British School at Rome
  • ISSN: 0068-2462
  • EISSN: 2045-239X
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