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FERENTIUM (Ferento) Italy.

A town 88 km NW of Rome and 7.5 km W of the Tiber, in a region scarred by deep ravines and lying about 300 m above sea level. Rome wrested control of the district from the Etruscans ca. 265 B.C. Etruscan Ferentium (7th-5th c. B.C.) lay on a site slightly SW of the later Roman town: excavation has recently laid bare its necropolis, temples, and houses with terracotta decoration.

Roman Ferentium was already a flourishing municipium by the time of Augustus, and it remained such down to the Late Empire. Its most famous native son was Otho, the ephemeral emperor of A.D. 69, whose family sepulcher was found immediately NE of the site in 1921. Flavia Domitilla, wife of Vespasian and mother of the emperors Titus and Domitian, may also have come from Ferentium (Suet. Vesp. 3). In the Late Empire Ferentium dwindled to a village, but it retained its own bishops down to the 7th c. Neighboring Viterbo finally destroyed the place in 1172.

Its temples to Fortune and Salus, recorded by Tacitus (Ann. 15.53), have disappeared, but its theater, in the S section of the site, is one of the best preserved anywhere. Apparently it was built under Augustus, or slightly earlier, and was later restored (perhaps under Septimius Severus). Explorations in 1901 and 1927-28 revealed that it conforms closely to the theater norms recommended by Vitruvius (De Arch. 5.6), who may have been living at the time of its original construction. The scaena, ca. 40 m long, was adorned with marble statues of Apollo, the Muses, and a winged Pothos, copied from originals by Skopas: these are now in the Museo Archeologico in Florence. The rear wall of the scaena, lofty as usual, seems to belong to the later reconstruction: it is largely of brick and was pierced by 11 exits (seven survive) leading to an ambulatory. The stage proper was on the N side of the scaena: its surviving foundations, built of a local peperino commended by Vitruvius (De Arch. 2.4.7), show that it was 5 m deep and ca. 1.5 m high; the customary three doors linked the proscenium with the scaena. The orchestra has a diameter of 28 m, is paved with the local peperino, and is reached by parodoi faced with opus reticulatum. The cavea was originally divided into six sections: little remains of its original stone seating, but 13 rows have been recently restored in cement. A spectacular semicircle of massive stone pilasters, 60 m in diameter, runs round the cavea: the 28 pilasters are 4 m apart and are linked by arches, 25 of which (one of them restored) still stand, their voussoirs holding themselves in place without cement. Surviving fragments of the marble cladding further attest the sumptuous appearance of the theater.

Next to the theater on the E are extensive ruins of baths, mostly of brick but with some opus reticulatum: fragments of marble, of stucco veneer, and of white and black mosaic paving also survive. The date seems Augustan, but there were later rebuildings. Investigation in 1908-9 revealed that the baths covered ca. 4000 sq. m, provided separate accommodations for men and women, and had the tepidaria and calidaria at the S end as usual. They, too, apparently adhered to Vitruvian canons. An inscription on a marble slab used for repairing the baths in the Late Empire indicates that the forum was monumentalized, in either A.D. 12 or 18, with an Augusteum, as yet unidentified, which housed over 50 statues.

Blocks from the E end of the town wall and traces of the defensive agger at its W end also survive, as well as a well-preserved stretch of the decumanus maximus that ran W to join the Via Cassia some 4 km away. Excavation will probably reveal much else, especially in the NE part of the site where remains of an amphitheater are clearly visible.

Several ancient bridges cross the nearby ravines, the most notable being the lofty Ponte Funicchio of ca. 100 B.C. immediately to the SW.

Many of the archaeological finds are now at Viterbo in the Museo Civico (the convent of S. Maria della Verità). They include an altar front with bas reliefs (from the Augusteum ?), a female statue (headless but beautifully draped), and numerous inscriptions (one of them honoring Otho).


A. Garzana, Ferento: Guida degli Scavi (1935); M. E. Blake, Ancient Roman Construction in Italy (1947) 221, 224, 240; pl. 26 fig. 2; P. Giannini, Ferento (1971)MPI, with good bibliography.


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