In Italy the remains of a lost city that rewrite the ancient history of the peninsula. Here’s what archaeologists discovered in the Vulci excavations – PHOTOS, VIDEOS and directions from Google Maps

Over the years, the excavations by archaeologists in the territory of Montalto di Castro (in the Province of Viterbo ) are bringing to light the remains of an ancient city which, in fact, are rewriting the ancient history of the Italian peninsula:

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We are talking about Vulci  or  Volci  (  Etruscan  :  Velch  or  Velx  , depending on the  Romanization used) a rich  Etruscan city whose remains are located in present-day northern Lazio,  in central Italy. As George Dennis wrote   , ” Vulci is a city whose very name  … has just been mentioned, but which now, due to the enormous treasures of antiquity it produced, is exalted above any other city in the ancient world ” . [1] Vulci was located near the coast of  the Tyrrhenian Sea a  about 80 km north-west of Rome, on  the Fiora river  , between  Montalto di Castro  and  Canino . The remains of the city can be seen today. The Vulci, like other Etruscans, became master sculptors in bronze as recognized by the ancient writers. [2]  [3]  Although most of the large bronzes have been lost, there remain some magnificent examples of Etruscan bronze such as the  Chimera of Arezzo  and the  chariot of Monteleone  , perhaps made in Vulci. [4]

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In the nineteenth century, thousands of ancient Vulci tombs were discovered, many of which are so famous and spectacular, such as the Tomb of the Sun and the Moon, to be included in  the Grand Tour  of Europe. From these tombs more Attic vases have been found in the tombs of Vulci than in any other ancient site  [5] (at least by 1850) and many of these masterpieces in addition to the Etruscan bronzes have entered the major museums in the world where they can be seen today. Despite these discoveries, most of these tombs were later forgotten and lost.

The History of Vulci: 

The Vulci were a tribe or people who gave their city its name and were one of the legendary twelve peoples of  the Etruscan civilization  who later formed the  dodecapolis of the Etruscan League to protect their interests. Although Vulci’s wealth, magnificence and population must have been among the earliest Etruscan cities, it is only rarely mentioned in ancient literature or potential texts have been lost for some periods; therefore the history of Vulci can be mainly reconstructed from archeology. In the  Villanovan era  the wealth of metallurgical resources of  the Metalliferous Hills  was important for the development of trade especially with  Sardinia . The most important find that testifies to the contact between the Etruscans and Sardinians in this period was the  Tomb of the Sardinian Bronzes  in 1958 in the necropolis of Cavalupo, dated 850-800 BC, of ​​a high-ranking Sardinian woman. Among the funeral contents a magnificent bronze statue of a warrior now in  the National Etruscan Museum  of  Villa Giulia  . Numerous Villanovan fibulae  have  also been found in Sardinia. [6]

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Vulci’s expansion in  the orientalizing period of the 8th century BC is marked by the beginning of the production of bronze objects such as covered urns in the shape of a house or cone, and the first of these products appeared in Greece towards the end of the century . The seventh century is represented by the tomb of the Bronze Chariot, and in its later stages precious and sophisticated products were imported from many Mediterranean markets to demonstrate the increase in Vulci’s wealth and culture, while many Greeks came to live in Vulci as demonstrated the craftsmanship, processing and trade of fine ceramics (eg  bucchero ), bronze and gold. The golden age ofSaturnia  ,  Sovana  ,  Castro  ,  Pitigliano  and  Marsiliana  . It became a center of import of refined Attic ceramics, precious oriental balsams, splendid jewels of the most unusual shapes to satisfy its wealthy citizens, as evidenced by the many masterpieces of Greek and Etruscan art coming from the tombs of national museums today. In return, he exported his treasures all over the Mediterranean: ceramics, bronzes and wine.

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The original port of Vulci was a quay on the Fiora river but the expansion of trade led it to build a larger coastal port at Regisvilla (or Regae)  [7] and it became a great maritime power even if it was located a few miles upstream. of the river, like Rome. Originally the Etruscans were co-founders of Rome and continued to dominate it. Vulci had some influence on early Rome, as  Servio Tullio and the Vibenna  brothers   (Caile and Avle Vipinas) came from Vulci. Their names and images appear on a fresco in the  François Tomb  . After that the population of Rome became predominantly  Italic, the Etruscan kings were overthrown. After a period of crisis in the second half of the 5th century, Vulci appears to have undergone a new expansion in the 4th century when the great tombs such as the François tomb were built. The  Roman-Etruscan wars  lasted many years before the Romans took control  of Etruria  and the Etruscans were soundly defeated on  Lake Vadimo  in 310 and 283 BC.  [8]  However, Vulci was strong enough to resist further until  Tiberio Coruncanio  it did not triumph over Vulci in 280 BC  [9] and the colony  of  Cosa  was founded in its territory  .The Romans took the coast from Vulci, cutting the basis of their power which seems to have led to the decline of the city. The Etruscan league broke up during the war and the Etruscans were soon assimilated.

Vulci in the Roman period 

Vulci does not appear to have been of great importance in the remaining Roman period, although the Romans built the  Via Aurelia there  in 240 BC. However, the great buildings in the city date from this period. A surviving milestone indicates the distance from Rome as 70  milia passuum  (miles). The road outside the northern gate was probably repaved under the reign of  Trajan (early 2nd century AD), demonstrating its good maintenance. Subsequently Vulci became a bishopric  The definitive abandonment seems to be in the eighth century AD

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What they discovered in the ancient necropolis of Vulci: 

The ancient wealth of the city was first demonstrated by the findings made in its extensive  necropolis  from the 18th century  [11] – Greek   vases  , [12]  bronzes and other remains. More Attic vases have been found in Vulci from these tombs than in any other ancient site. Many of the artifacts were sold from excavations and many found their way into the world’s major museums where they can be seen today. In the 18th and 19th centuries many of the tombs were so famous and spectacular, such as the Tomb of the Sun and the Moon, that they were included in  the Grand Tour of Europe. Despite these findings, most of these tombs were later forgotten and lost, with the exception of the tomb of Cuccumella, the largest  mound in all of Etruria. The astonishing  frescoes  of the  François Tomb  ,  [13]  discovered in 1857, which illustrate  Greek and Etruscan myths  , are considered among the most famous of the Etruscans  [14]  and are now in the private museum of  Villa Albani in  Rome  . Another important burial chamber, the so-called  Tomb of Isis  , proved to be a rich source of artifacts, most of which are now in the  British Museum  . [15]  The beautiful frescoes of the Hellenistic Tomb of the bell-ringers are kept in  the Archaeological Museum of Florence . Recent excavations have brought to light larger and more spectacular tombs such as the Tomb of the Silver Hands. [16]

The walls of the city of Vulci:

The walls were built in the first half of the fourth century. BC before the wars with the Romans and have a circumference of about 6.5 km. You can see several sections. Three imposing and robust defensive doors of the original five are now exposed. The remains of the north gate show an imposing defensive structure. A votive moat rich in materials documenting a cult linked to fertility dating from the Hellenistic age to the end of the 1st century AD was found on its western outer side. Near the ditch there are graves dug into a rocky bank. Not far away you can see the reticulated façade of a building still to be explored. The West Gate is the starting point of the  Decumanus Maximus  , the well-preserved east-west street of the city, paved with volcanic stone.

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Villa of the Cryptoporticus 

An area occupied by a large residential complex extends along the decumanus. The first building, a large domus north of the decumanus, is preceded by a series of small rectangular rooms, perhaps workshops (tabernae), which overlook the main street. Among these are the two entrances to the Villa (or  Domus  ) of the  Cryptoporticus, so called for its unusual and impressive underground rooms (cryptoporticus literally means covered portico, partly underground and was used in Roman architecture to build terraces or a covered market). It is a large and sumptuous private residence built in the classic style of the Roman noble houses (domus with atrium and peristyle). Its first phase was between the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 1st century BC and it underwent numerous restorations in the Augustan period. Further changes were made between the Flavian and Hadrianic  periods , while in late antiquity parts of the domus were partially reused. Subsequently the area was abandoned and used as a cemetery by the discovery of graves in the cellar. The large main entrance leads into a large atrium, around which various rooms are arranged, divided into bedrooms (  cubicula  ) and living areas (  triclinium ) ). A second entrance leads into a courtyard with a fountain in the center, the result of the transformation of an original small atrium, probably at the end of the 1st century AD. This leads to the main atrium and then to the rectangular peristyle surrounded by columns on all four sides. At the north-east corner of the peristyle are the stairs that give access to the upper floor which has been lost. The rich floor mosaic which dates back to the first phase of the domus is still preserved; the mosaics of the two rooms that open onto the portico can be dated to the Augustan age. The portico overlooks an  apsidal nymphaeumwhich includes a swimming pool probably built in the imperial era. In the north-western part there are the thermal baths which were reduced from four to three rooms in the Augustan age restructuring. They consist of a dressing room (  apodyterium  ), a turkish bath (  laconicum  ) and a room for a hot water bath (  calidarium ), covered with intact mosaic floors supported by brick columns to allow the circulation of hot air. The areas immediately south of the baths were a general service sector directly connected to the decumanus by a narrow private road. The underground part of the house, the cryptoporticus, is accessed via a corridor to the east of the peristyle covered by a well-preserved barrel vault. The underground area was ventilated and lit by 18 windows that open at the level of the garden above. The function of the underground complex was above all the conservation of products such as wine and oil that needed an adequate environment. Next to the north-western side of the domus there is a series of rooms probably built in the Hellenistic period. It is a complex of two or more buildings of uncertain date and use. They are characterized by the presence of canalization works and different types of flooring, in masonry, tiles and local stone.

Roman arch of Publius Sulpicius Mundus:

In 2003 the foundations of a triumphal arch over the Decumano were discovered on the west side of  the  Roman forum . Many fragments have been found that have allowed the reconstruction of the arch, and a long inscription was also found that dedicated it to Publius Sulpicius Mundus, a Roman senator around 100 BC.

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The temple:

The temple has an imposing base of 36.5 x 24.5 m sides. The temple had a continuous colonnade on all four sides, doubled on the front by four additional columns; it is preceded by an overhang with a central staircase. The temple reveals at least two construction phases; the oldest (late 6th century BC) had numerous architectural terracotta with  Ionic columns . In the early Roman imperial age the temple was rebuilt, which involved replacing the wooden elements of the façade with structures in travertine and  opus caementicium . Among the many elements of the façade collapsed and visible around the monument, a fragment of the architrave with an inscription can be seen.

Late Roman basilica:

On the south side of the Decumano there is a rectangular apse building, believed to be a   late Roman basilica . Originally with a gabled roof, it has a small apse and shows a combination of construction techniques in the walls (especially to the east), such as opus reticulatum  and  opus incertum .

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The Abbadia bridge:

The Ponte dell’Abbadia  [17]  sul Fiora is a Roman bridge with an arch greater than 20 m of span and 30 m above the stream and was built on an Etruscan bridge (the  tuff buttresses  are most likely Etruscan, because evidently they are the pillars of the original bridge). It led the ancient road and the Romans, unusually, incorporated an  aqueduct  that led to Vulci about 1.5 km away. The overflow of the aqueduct after its degradation caused the “curtain of stalactites”. The waters still flow from an aqueduct in the gardens of the adjacent Castello dell’Abbadia. The site also hosts a  mithraeum . The site was described by George Dennis as follows:

“It is truly a magnificent structure, straddling the rocky abyss like a colossus, with the Fiora shaking and foaming to a vast depth below. But what does this extraordinary curtain of stalactites that dominate the bridge from this side, jutting out, mean? in huge jagged masses from the parapet, and looking like a vast cataract had rolled over the top of the bridge and was petrified in its fall, before it could reach the ground? … The stalactites stand six or seven feet from the wall and depend from a depth of fifteen or twenty feet. Regardless of their remarkable conformation, their coloring – a pale yellowish white – combines, with gray or reddish masonry, to add to the effect of the bridge. “

Finally, we remind you that the Vulci Museum is located in the Castello dell’Abbadia which houses a rich collection of finds. On the archaeological remains of Vulci there are many videos dedicated to them online. Here are some links of the videos posted on YouTube:

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Archaeological discoveries in the Vulci nature park – video link:

Statue of a winged lion from the 6th century BC discovered in Vulci – video link:

A third century BC coin treasure was found intact in Vulci – video link:

#vulci #roma #lazio #archaeology #history #necropolis #wall #archeological #discovery #etruschi

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  1.  Dennis, George (1848). The cities and cemeteries of Etruria  . London.
  2. ^  Ateneo Deipnosofisti 1.28b
  3. ^  Vitruvius iii. 3.5 Natural history of Pliny 16
  4. “Bronze chariot inlaid with ivory – Artwork – Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History – The Metropolitan Museum of Art”  . The Met’s Chronology of Heilbrunn Art History  .
  5. ^  The cities and cemeteries of Etruria, chapter XXI Vulci, George Dennis, 1848.
  6. ^  Mazzuoli, Giacomo. “The ancient ports of Vulci”  .  .
  7. ^  Mazzuoli, Giacomo. “The ancient ports of Vulci”  .  .
  8. ^  Polybius, The stories, 2.19.7-13
  9. ^  recorded in the Fasti Consulares, preserved in the Capitol.
  10. ^  Risi, Anzio. “Vulci, City of Vulci”  .  .
  11. ^  George Dennis’ Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, London, 1848
  12. ^  N. Spivey, ‘Greek Vases in Etruria’, in N. Spivey and T. Rasmussen (eds), Looking at Greek Vases (Cambridge, 1991)
  13. “The tomb of Francois, Vulci”  .  .
  14. ^  Etruscans rediscovered and the tomb of Francois, FRS Ridgway, Journal of Roman Archeology / Volume 18 / January 2005, pp 466-471
  15. “Collection search: you searched”  . British Museum  .
  16. ^  Journal of archeology, The tomb of the silver hands, Tuesday 15 July 2014;
  17. ^  Ponte dell’Abbadia  in  Structurae

Do you want to reach Vulci through Google Maps? Here are the directions:

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#vulci #etruschi #archaeology

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