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FAESULAE (Fiesole) N. Etruria, Italy.

A town on the hill that dominates Florence. With the exception of the geographers (Plin. 3.52; Ptol. 3.1.43), it is rarely mentioned in the literary sources, and does not even appear in the Itineraria. It is mentioned for the first time in connection with the Gallic invasion in 225 B.C. (Polyb. 2.25); then by Polybios (3.80.82) and by Livy (22.3) during the second Punic war when Hannibal's army camped in the fertile Fiesole countryside. From that time on, the citations increase.

Fiesole participated in the social war and was devastated in 90 B.C. by Lucius Porcius Cato (Florus, Ep. 2). Later on, the victorious Sulla established a colony of veterans there (Cic. Cat. 3.14; Sall. Cat. 28). The Fiesolani revolted in 78 B.C.; and in 63 took part in Catiline's conspiracy (Sall. Cat. 24.27.30; App. BCiv. 2.3).

The few fragments that survive from the archaic period indicate that the area must already have been inhabited in the Early Iron Age. The city must have developed at a much later period, even though certain stretches of the encircling wall on the upper part of the hill of S. Francesco and near Borgunto seem to date from the 5th c. B.C., while the major part of the wall dates from the 3d c. B.C. Various building techniques, with some stretches in polygonal work, confirm that the wall was built in stages with some rebuilding in the Roman period.

Inside the walls, which extend for ca. 3 km, the most significant building yet excavated is a temple dedicated to a healing divinity, constructed with separate annexes probably for the use of pilgrims. The temple has a peculiar plan, consisting of a cella against the far wall and two lateral wings. The entrance between two columns was reached by a stepped ramp. Excavations in progress in the area immediately in front of the temple have brought to light the altar belonging to the Etruscan temple, a drain from the same period, and another at a lower level from an earlier period (5th to 4th c. B.C.). This suggests an urban system preceding the Hellenistic. The necropolis, with chambered tombs, in the area called Bargellino to the N of the wall, contains no funerary material earlier than the 3d c. B.C. In the fields around Fiesole nevertheless several stelai have been found that date as far back as the 6th c. B.C. They come from isolated tombs, often far apart. Near the Villa Marchi, inside the Etruscan wall on the slope that overlooks Florence, a shrine was found with a votive stipe that offers a rich sampling of small bronzes.

Fiesole was at its height under Augustus. To this time, according to the latest stratigraphic tests, belong the theater, the baths, and perhaps the rebuilding of the Etruscan temple, destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 1st c. B.C. and reconstructed with its annexes at a higher level with a slightly amplified plan.

The central part of the cavea of the theater rests against the hill while the lateral sections are carried by vaults. The theater must have been refurbished during the Roman Imperial age, as can be seen from the plaques on the pulpitum, which show noticeable stylistic and chronological discrepancies. Since the Fiesole hillside is made up of sloping terraces, the forum was probably in the modern Piazza Mino da Fiesole where, at a more elevated position, the Capitolium must have been under the present church of S. Maria Primerana. The theater, of several levels, linked the forum and the buildings in front on the lower terrace built against the wall, the temple, and the baths. The latter have a very simple plan with natatoria at the entrance, then the tepidarium flanked by two apoditeria, to the right the caldarium, and to the left the frigidarium with the swimming pool. Behind the caldarium are two earthenware furnaces. The water for the baths came from Montereggi, where the beginning of the Roman aqueduct has been traced. The baths show rebuilding during the Imperial epoch up until the Severian age.

Numerous barbarian tombs have been found during excavation in the archaeological zone. Fiesole again appears in the histories at the beginning of the 5th c. when Stilicone defeated the Goths under Radagaiso near Fiesole (Oros. 7.37), and in 539 when Fiesole was occupied by Belisarius (Procop. Goth. 2.23, 24, 27). Under Pope Gelasius I (492-96) a notice of an episcopus faesulanus shows that Christianity had already reached Fiesole.


“Faesulae” in PW 6C; EAA 3 (1960) with biblio. (G. Maetzke); A. De Agostino, NSc (1940) 180ff. Per la necropoli: G. Maetzke, NSc (1957) 267ff. Per l'ara: F. Castagnoli, BullComm 77 (1959-60) p. IIII; P. Bocci, St. Etruschi 29 (1960) 421ff; id., NSc (1961) 52ff.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 3
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