), an ancient city of Etruria, situated in the valley of the Albinia (Albegna
), about 24 miles from its mouth.
There is no doubt that it was an ancient Etruscan city; and as Pliny tells us that it was previously called Aurinia (3.5. s. 8), it is probable that this was its Etruscan name, and that it first received that of Saturnia at the time of the Roman colony.
But no mention of it is found in history during the period of Etruscan independence; and there is certainly no ground for the supposition of Müller that it was one of the twelve cities of the Etruscan League. (Müller, Etrusker,
vol. i. p. 350.) Dionysius indeed mentions it as one of the cities founded by the Pelasgians, and subsequently taken from them by the Tyrrhenians and Etruscans (Dionys. A. R. 1.20
); but though this is strong evidence for the antiquity of the city, there is no proof that it was ever a place of importance under the Etruscans; and it even seems probable that before the close of their rule, Saturnia had sunk into the condition of a subordinate town, and a mere dependency of Caletra.
At least it is remarkable that Livy, in speaking of the establishment of the Roman colony there, says that it was settled “in agro Caletrano.” (Liv. 39.55
The foundation of this colony, which was established in B.C. 183, is the only historical fact recorded to us concerning Saturnia; it was a “colonia civium,” and therefore would naturally retain its colonial rank even at a late period. Pliny, however, calls it only an ordinary municipal town, but Ptolemy gives it the rank of a colony, and it is mentioned as such in an inscription of Imperial times. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8
; Ptol. 3.1.49
; Gruter, Inscr.
p. 1093. 8.)
It is probable therefore that it received a fresh colony under the Roman Empire, though we have no account of the circumstance.
But it seems not to have been a place of any importance, and the existing remains which belong to this period are of little interest.
The modern town of Saturnia,
which retains the ancient site as well as name, is but a very poor place; but its mediaeval walls are based on those of the ancient city, and the circuit of the latter may be distinctly traced.
It occupied the summit of a conical hill, surrounded by steep cliffs, about 2 miles in circuit. Considerable portions of the walls remain in several places: these are constructed of polygonal masonry, resembling that of Cosa, but built of travertino; they are supposed by Micali to belong to the Roman colony, though other writers would assign them to the Pelasgians, the earliest inhabitants of Saturnia. (Micali, Ant. lop. Ital.
vol. i. pp. 152, 210; Dennis, Etruria,
vol. ii. pp. 308--310.) Numerous tombs are also found in the neighbourhood of the town, but which more resemble the cromlechs of northern Europe than the more regular sepulchres of other Etruscan cities. (Dennis, l.c.