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CLU´SIUM (Κλούσιον: Eth. Clusīnus: Chiusi), an inland city of Etruria, one of the most ancient and powerful in that country, and without doubt one of the twelve which formed the Etruscan confederation. [On this point, see ETRURIA] It was situated about 20 miles S. of Cortona, on a gentle hill rising above the valley of the Clanis, near a small lake, to which it gave name ( περὶ Κλούσιον λίμνη, Strab. v. p.226): this is still called the Lago di Chiusi. Strabo says it was distant 800 stadia (100 Roman miles) from Rome; this agrees very nearly with the Antonine Itinerary, which gives the distance by the Via Cassia at 102 miles, and must be very near the truth. (Strab. l.c.; Itin. Ant. p. 285.) All accounts agree in representing Clusium as a very ancient city, and in accordance with this belief Virgil places it among the cities of Etruria that assisted Aeneas against Turnus (Aen. 10.167). We are told that its original name was Camars, whence it has been inferred that it was originally an Umbrian city (a fact in itself highly probable), and that it obtained the name of Clusium when it fell into the hands of the Etruscans. (Cluver. Ital. p. 567; Müller, Etrusker, vol. i. p. 102.) Servius (Serv. ad Aen. 10.167) derives its name from Clusius, a son of Tyrrhenus, which may be thought to favour this view; but no dependence can be placed on such statements. When Clusium first appears in history it was one of the most important and powerful of the Etruscan states; but there is no authority for supposing it, as some authors have done, to have been the metropolis of Etruria, or to have exercised any more than a temporary and occasional superiority over the other cities of the League. The prominence that it assumed under the rule of Porsena was evidently owing in great part to the personal abilities and reputation of that monarch (Liv. 2.9), and neither Livy nor Dionysius represent him as commanding any other forces than those of his own state, though later rhetorical writers call him “rex Etruscorum.” (Liv. l.c.; Dionys. A. R. 5.21; Flor. 1.10; Plut. Popl. 16.) At an earlier period also Dionysius speaks of the Clusians as uniting with four other Etruscan cities (Arretium, Volaterrae, Rusellae, and Vetulonia) in a league against Tarquin the Elder, where all five appear on a footing of perfect equality. (Dionys. A. R. 3.51.) It is impossible to say how much of the legendary history of the siege of Rome by Porsena can be received as historical, but there seems no reason to doubt the fact of his expedition, and much ground for supposing that it really ended in the capture of Rome. (Niebuhr, vol. i. pp. 546--548.) He subsequently seat [p. 1.637]an army under his son Aruns to attack Aricia, but the young prince was defeated and killed. (Liv. 2.14; Dionys. A. R. 5.36.) From this time we hear no more of Clusium till the invasion of the Senonian Gauls in B.C. 391, an event which was believed to have been brought about by a citizen of Clusium, who sought to avenge his private dishonour by betraying his country to the barbarians. The Gauls, however, though they in the first instance laid siege to Clusium, were soon induced to turn their arms against Rome, and the former city thus escaped from destruction. (Liv. 5.33, 35, 36; Dionys. Exc. Mai, 13.14--17; Diod. 14.113; Plut. Camill. 15--17.) Near a century later Clusium witnessed a second invasion of the same barbarians, the Senones having, in B.C. 295, made a sudden irruption into Etruria, and cut to pieces a Roman legion which was stationed there. (Liv. 10.25, 26; Pol. 2.19.) During the wars of the Romans with the Etruscans, we hear but little of Clusium, the Clusini being only once mentioned, in conjunction with the Perusians, among the enemies of Rome (Liv. 10.30); and we have no account of the period at which they passed under the Roman yoke. The city is next mentioned in B.C. 225 during the great Gaulish war, when those formidable invaders for the third time appeared under its walls, shortly before their decisive defeat at Telamon. (Pol. 2.25.) During the Second Punic War, the Clusians were active in supplying corn and timber for the fleet of Scipio (Liv. 28.45); and in the civil wars of Sulla and Marius they appear, in common with many other cities of Etruria, to have espoused the cause of the Marian party. Two successive battles were fought in the immediate neighbourhood of Clusium, in both of which the partisans of Sulla were victorious. (Vell. 2.28; Appian. B.C. 1.89; Liv. Epit. lxxxviii.) Very little is known of Clusium under the Roman empire, but inscriptions attest its continued existence as a municipal town, and Pliny distinguishes the “Clusini novi” and “Clusini veteres,” whence it would appear that, like Arretium, it must have received a fresh colony of citizens who enjoyed separate rights; but the period and circumstances of this are wholly unknown. The name of Clusium is still found in the Itineraries, as well as in Ptolemy: it early became the see of a bishop, a distinction which it has retained without. interruption to the present day; and it appears certain that it never ceased to be inhabited. Dante speaks of it as in his time going fast to decay, but it has considerably revived, and is now a flourishing though small city, with about 3000 inhabitants. (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8; Ptol. 3.1.49; Itin. Ant. p. 285; Tab. Peut.; Gori, Inscr. Etr. vol. ii. pp. 399--424; Dennis's Etruria, vol. ii. p. 331.)

Chiusi retains but very few vestiges of her early greatness in the form of ruins or remains of edifices; but some portion of her walls are still visible, which in their style of construction resemble those of Perusia and Tuder; and a few fragments of architectural decorations are scattered through the buildings of the modern town. But the numerous sepulchres which have been excavated in the neighbourhood have yielded a rich harvest of Etruscan relics,--sepulchral urns, pottery, bronzes, and other objects. Many of these are interesting as exhibiting apparently the purest specimens of Etruscan art, unaltered by Greek influences; much of the pottery in particular is of a very peculiar style, “a coarse, black, unbaked ware, of uncouth forms, grotesque decorations, rude workmanship, and no artistic beauty.” The figures with which it is adorned are in relief, and represent for the most part monsters: and uncouth figures of a very Oriental character. The painted vases, on the other hand, which have also been found here in considerable numbers, though much less than at Tarquinii and Vulci, uniformly represent subjects from the Greek mythology, and bear the obvious impress of Greek art. The urns in stone and terra-cotta resemble those found at Volterra, and belong for the most part to a late period. Several of the sepulchral chambers also have their walls painted in a style very similar to those of Tarquinii. (For a full description of these works of art,. see Dennis's Etruria, vol. ii. pp. 325--384.)

About 3 miles NNE. of Chiusi is a hill of conical form, called the Poggio Gajella, which has been proved, by recent excavations, to have been converted in ancient times into a vast sepulchral monument,. containing numerous tombs, and a number of labyrinthine passages, penetrating in all directions into the heart of the hill. This has been supposed by some writers to be no other than the celebrated tomb of Porsena, of which a marvellous account has been preserved to us by Pliny from Varro; but the only resemblance is the fact that in that case also there was a labyrinth in the basement of the tomb. The description of the superstructure or external monument (which was probably taken by Varro from some Etruscan author) can hardly be received as other than fabulous, and is justly treated as such by Pliny himself, though some modern writers have believed it literally, and attempted a restoration of the monument in accordance with it. (Plin. Nat. 36.13. s. 19; Müller, Etrusker, vol. ii. p. 224; Abeken, Mittel-Italien, pp. 244, 245; Dennis, l.c., pp. 385--400, where the opinions of numerous modern authors on this much controverted subject are cited and referred to.)

The territory of Clusium probably included several smaller and dependent towns. Etruscan remains have been found at the modern towns of Cetona, Sarteano, Chianciano, and Montepulciano, all of them situated within a few miles of Chiusi; but we have no trace of the ancient names of any of these places. The district adjoining the city (probably the valley of the Clanis) was celebrated, in ancient as well as modem times, for its great fertility, and the excellence of its wheat and spelt. (Plin. Nat. 18.7. s. 12; Col. 2.6.3.) Horace also alludes to its possessing sulphureous springs, frequented for medicinal purposes (Ep. 1.15. 9).


hide References (15 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (15):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.113
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.7
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.13
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 30
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 35
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 25
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 45
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 26
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 9
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 2.6.3
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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