), a small town of Etruria, mentioned by Cicero (pro Caec.
7), who calls it a “castellum,” and describes it as situated “in agro Tarquiniensi.” It is probably the same of which the name is found in Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v. Ἀξία
), who tells us only that it was “a city of Italy.” Its site may be fixed with much probability at a place still called Castel d'Asso
about six miles W. of Viterbo. [p. 1.352]
The ancient town appears to have occupied the angle formed by two small streams named the Rio Secco
flowing through deep vallies or ravines with precipitous escarpments on each side. Some slight fragments of the ancient walls are all that remain on the site of the town ; but the opposite or N. bank of the valley of the Arcione
was evidently in ancient times the Necropolis of the town, and presents a remarkable assemblage of sepulchres.
These are not merely subterranean chambers cut out of the rock, but present regular architectural facades, with bold cornices and mouldings in relief, all hewn out of the soft tufo rock of which the escarpments of the cliffs are composed. They vary in height from 12 to 30 feet, but have all a remarkable resemblance in their architectural character, and occupy a considerable extent of cliff in a regular range like a street, extending also some distance up a lateral ravine which opens into the principal valley. Many of these tombs have inscriptions over them in Etruscan characters, most of which consist of, or at least contain, the customary formula ΕΞΑΣΥΘΙΝΕΣΑ.
Since the first discovery of these monuments in 1808 by Professor Orioli of Bologna, they have attracted much attention, more perhaps than they really deserve. Their architecture is thought to have a strong resemblance to the Egyptian, but it is still more closely connected with the Doric Greek, of which indeed the whole Tuscan architecture was merely a modification. Nor is there any reason to assign them a very remote antiquity; Orioli is probably correct in referring them to the fourth or fifth century of Rome. They certainly however seem to prove that Axia must have been a place of more consideration in the flourishing times of Etruria, than it was in the days of Cicero; though it could never have been more than a small town, and was probably always a dependency of Tarquinii, as its name never occurs in history.
The remains at Castel d'Asso
have been described in detail by Orioli (Dei Sepolcrali Edifizi dell' Etruria Media,
1826, inserted in Inghirami, Mon. Etruschi,
vol. iv.; and a second time in the Annali dell' Instituto di Corr. Archeol.
1833, p. 18--56), and again by Dennis (Cities, &c. of Etruria,
vol. i. p. 229--242.)