, Dionys.: Eth. Fescenninus
), an ancient town of Etruria, situated not very far from Falerii, with which it always appears in close connection. Dionysius, indeed, expressly tells us that the Falisci had two cities, Falerii and Fescennium; and other authors confirm this by ascribing the same Argive or Pelasgic origin to both. (Dionys. A. R. 1.21
; Solin. 2.7
It is very probable also that the “Faliscum” of Strabo, which he speaks of as a town distinct from Falerii (v. p. 266), was no other than Fescennium. Virgil mentions the “Fescenninae acies” among the Etruscan forces that followed Turnus to the war against Aeneas (Aen.
7.695); but no independent notice of Fescennium occurs in history, and it appears certain that it was merely a dependency of Falerii, and followed the fortunes of that city, during the period of its greatness and power. Pliny, however, speaks of Fescennia (as he writes the name) as in his time an independent municipal town (3.5. s. 8), but this is the only notice we find of it under the Roman Empire; and we have no clue to its position beyond that of its proximity to Falerii. Hence the determinatior. of its site has been involved in the confusion which has arisen with regard to that of the more important city; and both Gell and Müller have placed Fescennium at Civita Castellana.
It may, however, be regarded as certain that that city occupies the site of the ancient or Etruscan Falerii [FALERII
]; and we must therefore seek for Fescennium elsewhere.
A local antiquarian (Antonio Massa), whose opinion has been followed by Cluver and several other writers, would place it at Gallese,
a village about 9 miles to the N. of Civita Castellana,
where some Etruscan remains have been, found. Mr. Dennis has pointed out another site, a short distance from Borghetto on
the Tiber, between that village and Corchiano,
where there are unquestionable remains of an Etruscan city (part of the walls, &c. being still visible), which appear to have the best claim to be regarded as those of Fescennium. They are distant about 6 miles from Civita Castellana,
and indicate the site of a city of considerable magnitude.
The spot is marked only by a ruined church, named S. Silvestro.
vol. i. pp. 152--162; Cluver, Ital.
p. 551; Nibby, Dintorni,
vol. ii. p. 28.)
It is singular that a place which seems to have been of so little importance as Fescennium, should apparently have given name to a particular branch of literature,--the “Fescennini versus,” which appear to have been originally a kind of rude dramatic entertainment, or rustic dialogue in verse: though, when these were superseded by more polished dramatic productions, the name of Fescennini was retained, principally, if not exclusively, for verses sung at nuptial festivities, when great licentiousness of language was permitted, as had been the case in the older Fescennine dialogues. (Liv. 7.2
; Hor. Ep. 2.1. 145
; Catull. 61.127; Claudian, Fescennina,
xi.--xiv.; Senec. Med.
The only authors who expressly
derive these dialogues from Fescennium are Servius (Serv. ad Aen. 7.695
) and Festus (v.
Fescennini, p. 85); and the former, strangely enough, calls it a town of Campania,
probably by a confusion between the Fescennini and Atellanae [ATELLA
]: but the name is in itself strong evidence in favour of their derivation from thence. And though we are unable to account for the application of such a local epithet to a class of compositions which must have been to a great extent the spontaneous effusions of rustic character, the same remark applies in a great degree to the “fabulae Atellanae,” which could hardly have been confined to the one city of Campania to which they owe their name. Hence, it appears unreasonable to reject the obvious derivation from Fescennium (as Klotz and Bernhardy have done), merely because we cannot explain the origin of the appellation. (See on this subject Müller, Etrusker,
vol. ii. pp. 284--286; Klotz, Römische Literat. Geschichte,
vol. i. p. 293; Bernhardy, Röm. Literatetr.