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FERE´NTINUM

FERE´NTINUM or FERE´STIUM (Φερεντῖνον, Strab. v. p.226; Φερεντία, Ptol. 3.1.50: Ferento), a city of Etruria, situated on the N. of the Ciminian range, about 5 miles distant from the Tiber, and the same distance from the modern city of Viterbo. It is not mentioned in history during the period of Etruscan independence, and must probably have been then a mere dependency of Volsinii: Strabo speaks of it as one of the smaller towns in the interior of Etruria, but we learn from other authorities, as well as from existing remains, that it must have been in his time a flourishing municipal town: Vitruvius notices the excellent quality of the stone found in its neighbourhood, and the numerous statues and other monuments hewn out of this material which adorned the town itself (Vitr. 2.7.4). In common with most of the cities of Etruria, it had received a Roman colony before the end of the Republic, but did not obtain the title of a colony; and is termed, both by Vitruvius and Tacitus, a municipium. (Lib. Colon. p. 216; Vitruv. l.c.; Tac. Hist. 2.50.) It [p. 1.895]derived some distinction from being the birth-place of the Emperor Otho, who was of a noble and ancient Etruscan family (Suet. Oth. 1; Tac. l.c.): we learn also that it possessed an ancient and celebrated temple of Fortune, i. e. probably of the Etruscan goddess Nursia or Nortia (Tac. Ann. 15.53). All these circumstances point to it as a place of consideration under the Roman Empire, and we find it termed in an inscription “civitas splendidissima Ferentinensium” (Orell. Inscr. 3507): it appears to have survived the fall of the Empire, and retained its episcopal see till the 12th century, when it was attacked and destroyed by the people of the neighbouring city of Viterbo, on account of some religious disputes which had arisen between the two (Alberti, Descrizione d'Italia, p. 62).

The site is now uninhabited, but is still known by the name of Ferento: and the ruins of the ancient city are considerable, the most important of them being a theatre, which is, in some respects, one of the best preserved monuments of the kind remaining in Italy. The scena, or stage-front, is particularly remarkable: it is 136 feet long, and built of massive rectangular blocks of volcanic masonry, on which rests a mass of Roman brickwork with arches, decidedly of Imperial times: while seven gates, with flat arches for architraves, open in the facade itself. The lower part of this construction is supposed by Mr. Dennis to be certainly an Etruscan work; but the Cav. Canina regards the whole edifice as a work of the Roman Empire. (Canina, in the Annali dell' Inst. 1837, pp. 62--64; Dennis, Etruria, vol. i. pp. 204--210.) Besides the theatre, portions of the city walls and gates, and various ruins of buildings of Roman date, are still remaining on the site of Ferento.

The ancient name is variously written: the MSS. of Tacitus and Suetonius fluctuate between Ferentium and Ferentinum: Ptolemy writes it Ferentia (Φεπεντία); and the ethnic form used by Vitruvius, “municipium Ferentis,” is in favour of the form Ferentium: on the other hand, the inscription above cited (which certainly belongs to the Etruscan and not to the Hernican town) gives the form Ferentinensis from Ferentinum, and the Liber Coloniarum also has “Colonia Ferentinensis” for the Etruscan colony.

[E.H.B]

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