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COSA (Ansedonia) Etruria, Italy.

A Latin colony on a rocky promontory, rising ca. 113 m above the sea, on the Tyrrhenian coast 139 km NW of Rome. It was founded in 273 B.C., on territory taken from Etruscan Vulci (Vell. Pat. 1.14.7; Livy Per. 14; Strab. 5.2.8). Its name was derived from a nearby Etruscan town, probably modern Orbetello. After the wars of the 3d c. B.C. (Livy 22.11.6; 27.10.8-9; 32.2.7; 33.24.8-9) it prospered until an unrecorded event of the 60s B.C. left it sacked, burnt, and depopulated. Partially rebuilt under Augustus, it survived as a local religious and festival center until the second quarter of the 3d c. For a century or so after 350 the ruins of the forum were occupied by the center of a large estate.

Excavations (1948-54, 1965-72) have traced the city plan, the principal buildings, the port, and have uncovered the Arx, the forum, and a number of houses. Unexcavated buildings include a bathing establishment, but no trace of theater or amphitheater has been found.

The colony's fortifications of massive polygonal masonry still surround the town site. The circuit of less than 2 km had curtains flanked by 18 square towers and was pierced by three gateways and a postern. The gateways were of the inner court type with arched outer openings closed by portcullises and inner gates. The town site, sloping northward, covered ca. 13 ha. Its principal features were twin summits with a level saddle between. Temples stood on the summits. The forum occupied the saddle. Main streets at right angles crossed the site from the gates and were directed at the forum and temple heights. Secondary streets ending in a pomerial road subdivided the site into rectangular and trapezoidal blocks.

The Arx, on the loftier summit at the S angle of the fortifications, was set off from the city by low cliffs and walls of polygonal masonry. At a broad opening on the NE front a main street widened to become a sacred way. The Arx came to be the seat of a major temple, the Capitolium (175-150 B.C.) and a minor, of Mater Matuta (?) (200-175 B.C.). The Capitolium, raised on a high podium above the terraced altar court, had a facade of four columns, reached across its full width by a flight of steps. From a deep, half-enclosed pronaos opened the three cellae of its prototype. The exterior was decorated with molded and painted revetments and pedimental sculptures of terracotta. The minor temple, beside the approach to the Capitolium, was set on a low podium of polygonal masonry, and had a single, square ceila behind its deep pronnos. It, too, was adorned with terracotta revetments and pedimental sculptures.

Under the floor of the Capitolium, on the crest of the summit, were found the traces of the augural templum and sacred pit which celebrated the inauguration of the colony. Behind the Capitolium, cuttings in the rock have disclosed the outlines of the first temple on the Arx (240-220 B.C.), dedicated to Jupiter and torn down when the major temple was built. A small building, later erected on the site of its altar court and composed of atrium, meeting rooms, and kitchen, testifies to the observances of a religious confraternity and to the life of the Arx during the Empire.

The forum was a long, unpaved rectangle, entered at either end of the long axis by widened extensions of a main thoroughfare and at either side of one end by a secondary street. By 125 B.C. it had been surrounded by buildings, some of which had already passed through earlier stages. Its entrance from the center of the town was now marked by a monumental triple archway (175-150) between twin, public buildings (240-220), having the form of atria surrounded by shops and offices. One long and both short sides were lined with colonnades (175-150), behind which were the older facades, identically tripartite, of shops and offices (240-220). Along the fourth side stood a row of separate, public buildings. The oldest of these were the comitium and curia (273-250): a circular amphitheater of steps and a covered, rectangular hall, facing a bicolumnar monument across the short axis of the forum. To one side stood a temple, with its forecourt, similar to the minor temple of the Arx, and the Aerarium (200-175). To the other stood the basilica (150-125). Along both sides of the forum ran continuous pairs of steps, in front of which toward one end small trees were planted in tub-like, rock-cut pits. A double row of smaller, square pits across this end seems to have served to secure staging for various public purposes.

The principal buildings along the one side of the forum were preserved by the Augustan revival of the town, while most of the ruined shop and office buildings were sealed off and abandoned or turned into dwellings. Between A.D. 50 and 55 the basilica was rebuilt as an odeum with seats and a stage. Later a mithraeum was installed in the basement of the curia. In the 4th and 5th c. the ruins of these buildings provided a skeleton for the estate center. One aisle of the basilica accommodated a church. One of the forum's entrances was walled up to make a pagan sanctuary.

The residential blocks of the colony were terraced lengthwise according to the slope of the town site. In each block a row of houses on either side of the median terrace wall opened on the upper or lower street. Six small houses (250-200) show the uniform plots and more or less uniform plans of the early colony. Later houses, rebuilt on two or more of the original plots, display freer plans and gardens. These plans were not of the typical atrium type but centered on covered halls or open courtyards. All the houses brought to light so far were destroyed before 60 B.C. Houses reconstructed in the early Empire had similar plans.

The port of the colony lay in the lee of the promontory. It consisted of an outer harbor offshore, connected by a ship channel with an inner harbor at the end of a coastal lagoon. The outer harbor was protected by a mole and outlying breakwaters of large limestone blocks. The embankments of the ship channel were revetted with polygonal masonry. Recent excavations have uncovered a watering dock, jutting into the channel, its fountain house and quays. Measures for keeping the outer harbor free of sand and for circulating water through the inner harbor are represented by a flux channel to the lagoon with flood gates and by a large rock-cut flush basin fed by sluices.

The finds from the excavations of Cosa are to be stored and exhibited in an antiqunrium on the site.


R. Cardarelli in Maremma 1 (1924) 131-42, 155-86, 205-24; 2 (1925) 3-36, 75-128, 147-213; F. E. Brown, Cosa I, History and Topography (“MAAR,” 20, 1951)MPI; id. et al., Cosa II, The Temples on the Arx (“MAAR” 26, 1960)MPI; id., “Scavi a Cosa-Ansedonia (1965-1966),” BdA 52 (1967) 37-41MPI; F. Gastagnoli, “La centuriazione di Cosa,” MAAR 24 (1956) 147-65; L. Richardson, Jr., “Cosa and Rome: Comitium and Curia,” Archaeology 10 (1957) 49-51PI; D. M. Taylor, “Cosa: Black-Glaze Pottery,” MAAR 25 (1957) 65-193; A. M. McCann & J. D. Lewis, “The Ancient Port of Cosa,” Archaeology 23,3 (1970) 200-211PI; V. J. Bruno, “A Town House at Cosa,” Archaeology 23,4 (1970) 232-41; M-T. M. Moers, The Roman Thin Walled Pottery from Cosa, in MAAR 32 (1973).


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