(Monte S. Oreste
), a mountain of Etruria, situated between Falerii and the Tiber, about 26 miles N. of Rome, from which it forms a conspicuous object.
It is detached from the chain of the Apennines, from which it is separated by the intervening valley of the Tiber; yet in a geological sense it belongs to the Apennine range, of which it is an outlying offset, being composed of the hard Apennine limestone, which at once distinguishes it from the Mons Ciminus and the other volcanic hills by which it is surrounded. Though of no great elevation, being only 2420 feet in height, it rises in a bold and abrupt mass above the surrounding plain (or rather table-land), which renders it a striking and picturesque object, and a conspicuous feature in all views of the Campagna.
Hence the selection of its name by Horace in a well-known ode (Carm.
1.9) is peculiarly appropriate.
It was consecrated to Apollo, who had a temple on its summit, probably on the same spot now occupied by the monastery of S. Silvestro,
and was worshipped there with peculiar religious rites. His priests were supposed to possess the power of passing unharmed through fire, and treading on the hot cinders with their bare feet. (Verg. A. 7.696
--790; Sil. Ital. 5.175
; Plin. Nat. 7.2
.) Its rugged and craggy peaks were in the days of Cato still the resort of wild goats. (Varr. R. R.
Soracte stands about 6 miles from Civita Castellana,
the site of the ancient Falerii, and 2 from the Tiber.
It derives its modern appellation from the village of Sant‘ Oreste,
which stands at its S. extremity on a steep and rocky hill, forming a kind of step or ledge at the foot of the more elevated peaks of Soracte itself.
This site, which bears evident signs of ancient habitation, is supposed to be that of the ancient FERONIA
or LUCUS FERONIAE
vol. i. p. 179.)