The oldest inland
settlement of the Villanovans and one of the chief
cities of Etruria, it lies 800 stades (ca. 130 km) N of
Rome (Strab. 5.2.9
) in the hilly country between lake
Trasimene on the NE and the extinct volcanoes of M.
Amiata and Radicofani on the SW. Its territory stretched
NW to the river Ombrone and S to the Paglia. The city
itself crowns an isolated hill dominating the Val di
Chiana to the N. In antiquity the Clanis (Chiana) flowed
S into the Paglia and the Tiber system and was navigable,
so the stories of Clusium's early associations with Rome
may be true. It was linked to the coastal cities by two
routes: one up the Fiora, around the N end of lake
Bolsena, crossing the Paglia at Acquapendente, which
accounts for the early influence of Vulci, Tarquinia, and
Caere on Clusium; the other route, down the Orcia
to the Ombrone, which may explain coins that link its
name with Populonia and Vetulonia as issues of a commercial league. The fertility of the region was famous
in antiquity, it was also rich in iron and copper, and
its hot springs are still appreciated.
Clusium first appears in Roman chronicles as one of
five Etruscan cities that promised to help the Latins
against Tarquinius Priscus (Dion. Hal. 3.51). The city's
most famous son, Lars Porsenna, attacked and captured
Rome in the first years of the Republic but did not restore the Etruscan Tarquins to the throne (Livy 2.9-13
Dion. Hal. 5.21-35). Its most notorious citizen, Arruns,
enticed the Gauls into Etruria with his merchant's samples of figs, wine, and olive oil (Livy 5.33
; Dion. Hal.
13.10-12). Whether or not the story is true, the Senones
did invade Etruria and besiege Clusium in 387 B.C. Clusium sent to Rome for help, and the Romans' intervention led to the capture and sack of their city by the Gauls the same year (Livy 5.35
; Diod. 14.113-14
; Plut. Vit.
. 15). Clusium appears next, allied with other Etruscan cities against Rome, in the third Samnite war and
was finally subdued in 295 (Livy 10.30
). In 205, as an
ally, it furnished timber and grain for Scipio's fleet
). During the war with Marius, Sulla won
a cavalry battle near Clusium (Vell.Pat. 2.28) and
fought an indecisive engagement with Carbo (App.
. 1.89). After the war, Clusium seems to have received a colony of Sulla's veterans: Pliny speaks of
Clusini Veteres and Clusini Novi (HN
3.52), and there
are inscriptions from the city referring to duoviri and
one from the base of a statue erected to Sulla in 80 B.C.
The city continued to exist in quiet comfort under the
Empire, as many later inscriptions and a fine head of
Augustus capite velato attest; the life of the city seems,
in fact, unbroken from Villanovan times.
The earliest and richest of the Villanovan necropoleis
was on Poggio Renzo to the N; others have been found
to the SW at Fornace and Fonte all'Aia. All burials are
cremation; the latest use a great dolium (ziro) as receptacle for ash urn and grave goods. Ziro burials continued
into the 6th c. B.C., the old Villanovan urn giving way to
an elaborate bronze urn with a human mask fastened to
the neck and still later to an urn with a lid in the form
of a head. Others had standing figures on the lid, surrounded by a ring of mourners and griffin protomes. The
first inhumation burials occur in chamber tombs of the
6th c., but cremation never completely disappeared at
Chiusi, and “canopic jars” (urns with a head lid) appear
in archaic chamber tombs as well.
Some chamber tombs of the first half of the 5th c.
were painted, like those at Tarquinia. Two inhumation
tombs can still be seen, the Tomb of the Monkey on
Poggio Renzo and the Tomb of the Hill (or Casuccini
Tomb) E of the city. Each is approached by a long
dromos; the main chamber is broader than deep, the
ceiling carved to represent wooden beams like those of
some of the tombs at Caere. The figures are in a frieze
at the top of the walls, with scenes of banqueting, funeral
games, dancers, and musicians. Except that in these tombs
the banqueters are all male, the repertory is the same as
in Tarquinia but the carefully drawn figures lack the
Hellenistic tombs have a very long dromos with many
loculi and a small main chamber or none at all. Sarcophagi and ash urns are found together in these. One, the
Tomba della Pellegrina, excavated in 1928, dates from
the mid 3d to the mid 2d c. The Tomba del Granduca,
discovered by chance in 1818, is coeval but of another
type, a rectangular chamber roofed with a barrel vault
of cut stone. The eight burials are all cremation.
Of all Etruscan territories this has produced the most
sculpture, almost all of it funerary, though scattered
architectural terracottas of the Classical and Hellenistic
periods have been found and some fine bronzes, both
votive and decorative. The funerary sculpture begins with
the figured urns of the 7th and 6th c.; in the later 6th
and 5th c., ash urns were carved in the soft limestone
called pietra fetida
in the form of a seated (rarely standing) man or woman. The head was carved separately and
the torso hollowed out to receive the ashes.
Contemporary with these ash ums but not from the
same workshop are the cippi found in many tombs. These
are rectangular blocks carved in relief on all sides, often
surmounted by a bulbous, onion-shaped form. The reliefs
are low, with delicate details of dress and furniture; the
subjects are connected with the funeral: prothesis, processions and dances, games, the funeral banquet.
Stone sarcophagi of the Classical period are sometimes
carved like the cippi, but others have a reclining male
figure on the lid with a female figure sitting at his feet.
Sometimes she is the man's wife, as on a sarcophagus in
Florence where the woman lifts her veil with the gesture
of Hera as a bride; in others the figure is winged, a
messenger from the other world.
Hellenistic sarcophagi, of stone or terracotta, have
figures like those at Tarquinia, reclining on banquet
couches. The contemporary ash urns have similar covers
and a front decorated with a violent mythological scene.
Material from Chiusi can best be seen in the Museo
Nazionale at Chiusi and the Museo Archeologico at
Florence, but there are fine collections in the Museo
Archeologico in Palermo, in Berlin, and in the British
Museum in London.
R. Bianchi-Bandinelli, MonAnt
(1925) 209-578; D. Levi, BdA
28 (1934) 49-75; id.,
1 (1935) 18-26, 82-89; E. H. Dohan, AJA
39 (1935) 198-209I
; E. Paribeni, StEtr
12 (1938) 57-139;
13 (1939) 179-202I
; K. A. Neugebauer, Die Antike
(1942) 18-56; J. Thimme, StEtr
23 (1954-55) 25-147; 25
(1957) 87-160; L. Banti, The Etruscan Cities and their