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VOLCI

Eth. VOLCI (Οὐόλκοι, Ptol.: Eth. Volciens: Ru. near Ponte della Badia), a city of Etruria, situated in the plain on the right bank of the river Armina (Fiora), about 8 miles from its mouth. Very little mention is found of it in history. The name of the city is known from Ptolemy as well as from Pliny, who enumerates, among the municipal towns of Etruria, the “Volcentini cognomine Etrusci,” an appellation evidently used to distinguish them from the people of Volcentum in Lucania. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8; Ptol. 3.1.49.) The name is quoted also by Stephanus of Byzantium, who writes it Ὄλκιον, from Polybius. (Steph. B. sub voce But the only indication that they had once been a powerful people, and their city a place of importance, is found in the Fasti Capitolini, which record a triumph in the year B.C. 280 over the Volsinienses and Volcientes (Fast. Capit. ad ann. 473). This was one of the last struggles of the Etruscans for independence, and it was doubtless in consequence of the spirit shown on this occasion by the Volcientes that the Romans shortly afterwards (in B.C. 273) established a colony at Cosa, in their territory. (Vell. 1.14; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8.) It is expressly stated on this occasion by Pliny, that Cosa was a dependency of Volci (Cosa Volcientium), a statement which has been ignored by those modern writers who have represented Cosa as an independent and important Etruscan city. But while this is very doubtful in the case of Cosa, the evidence, though scanty, is conclusive that Volci was such; and there is even reason to suppose, from a monument discovered at Cervetri, that it was at one time reckoned one of the twelve chief cities of the Etruscan League. (Ann. d. Inst. Arch. 1842, pp. 37--40.)

But notwithstanding these obscure hints of its greatness, the name of Volci was almost forgotten, and its site unknown, or at least regarded as uncertain, when the first discovery of its necropolis in 1828 led to subsequent researches on the spot, which have brought to light a number of painted vases greatly exceeding that which has been discovered on any other Etruscan site. The unprecedented number, beauty, and variety of these works of art have given a celebrity in modern times to the name of Volci which is probably as much in excess of its real importance in ancient times as in the somewhat parallel case of Pompeii. It is impossible here to enter into any detailed account of the result of these excavations. It is calculated that above 6000 tombs in all have been opened, and the contents have been of the most varied kind, belonging to different periods and ages, and varying from the coarsest and rudest pottery to the finest painted vases. The same tombs have also yielded very numerous objects and works of art in bronze, as well as delicate works in gold and jewellery; and after making every allowance for the circumstance that the cemetery at Volci appears to have enjoyed the rare advantage of remaining undisturbed through ages, it affords incontestable proof that it must have belonged to a wealthy and populous city. The necropolis and its contents are fully described by Mr. Dennis (Etruria, vol. i. pp. 397--427). The results of the excavations, in regard to the painted vases discovered, are given by Gerhard in his Rapporto su i Vasi Volcenti, published in the Annali dell' Instituto for 1831. It is remarkable that only one of the thousands of tombs opened was adorned with paintings similar to those found at Tarquinii, and, in this instance, they are obviously of late date.

The site of the city itself has been carefully explored since these discoveries have attracted so much interest to the spot. It stood on the right bank of the river Armina, just below the point where that stream is spanned by a noble bridge, now called the Ponte della Badia, undoubtedly a work of Roman times, though the foundations may be Etruscan. The few remaining relics of antiquity still visible on the site of the city, which occupied a plateau of about 2 miles in circumference, are also of Roman date, and mostly belong to a late period. Inscriptions also have been discovered, which prove it to have continued to exist under the Roman Empire; and the series of coins found there shows that it was still in existence, at least as late as the fourth century of the Christian era. In the middle ages it seems to have totally disappeared, though the plain in which it stood continued to be known as the Pian di Voci, whence Holstenius correctly inferred that this must have been the site of Volci. (Holsten. Not. ad Cluver. p. 40.) The necropolis was, for the most part, on the other side of the river; and it is here that the excavations have been carried on most diligently. The site of Volci (which is now wholly uninhabited) is about 8 miles from Montalto, a small town at the mouth of the Fiora, where that river was crossed by the Via Aurelia. (Dennis, l.c.)

[E.H.B]

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