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Κόσσαι, Strab. Ptol.: Eth. Cosanus: Ansedonia) a city of Etruria, situated on the sea-coast between the Portus Herculis and Graviscae; immediately adjoining the southernmost of the two necks of sand which connect the Monte Argentaro with the main land. [ARGENTARIUS MONS] It is mentioned by Virgil (Aen. 10.167) among the cities supposed to have furnished auxiliaries to Aeneas against Mezentius, but this is the only intimation we find of its having been in very early times a place of consideration: there is no authority for the supposition of some writers who would rank it among the twelve cities of the Etruscan League. Pliny speaks of it as a dependency of Volci, from which it was only 20 miles distant (Cosa Volcientium, Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8); and though this may apply to the time of the author, it is certain that we find no evidence of its having ever been an independent city: indeed its name appears for the first time in history in B.C. 273, when a Roman colony was established there (Liv. Epit. xiv.; Veil. Pat. 1.14). This statement has been regarded by Madvig and Mommsen as referring to Cosa in Lucania (see No. 2), but that appears to have been always an obscure place, and Zumpt is certainly correct in referring the Roman colony to the Etruscan Cosa. As the Romans had triumphed over the Volcientes only seven years before (Fast. Capit.), it was natural enough that they should seek to establish their power in this part of Etruria by planting a colony in their territory. (Madvig, de Colon. p. 298; Mommsen, Röm. Münzwesen, p. 232; Zumpt, de Colon. p. 257.) In the Second Punic War Cosa was one of the eighteen colonies which were still able and ready to furnish their required quota of supplies (Liv. 27.10); but it seems nevertheless to have suffered severely from the war, so that in B.C. 199 we find the Cosani petitioning for a reinforcement of colonists. Their request was at first refused, but granted three years afterwards, when 1000 new colonists [p. 1.696]were settled there. (Id. 32.2, 33.24.) The chief importance of Cosa was derived from its port, known as the Portus Cosanus, which became a frequent point of departure for the Roman fleets and squadrons, from its ready communication with the islands of Ilva, Corsica, and Sardinia. (Liv. 22.11, 30.39.) It was from thence that Lepidus embarked for Sardinia, when driven from Italy by his colleague Catulus in B.C. 78. (Rutil. Itin. 1.297.) It was in the neighbourhood of Cosa also that during the Civil War of B.C. 49, Domitius assembled a small force and a squadron, with which he proceeded to occupy Massilia. (Caes. B.C. 1.34; Cic. ad Att. 9.6, 9.) The town of Cosa is not again mentioned in history, but its name is found in all the geographers, and inscriptions prove it to have been still in existence in the third century. Rutilius, however, speaks of it as in his time utterly desolate and lying in ruins, and relates a ridiculous legend as the cause of its abandonment. (Itin. 1.285--290.) The city does not appear to have been ever again inhabited, and the origin of the name of Ansedonia, now given to its ruins, is uncertain.

The remains of Cosa are of much interest, and present a very striking specimen of ancient fortifications. Strabo correctly describes the city as standing on a lofty height above the bay, at a short distance from the sea (v. p. 225). A steep ascent of above a mile leads to the gates; and remains of the ancient road are visible all the way. The walls, which are preserved more or less perfectly, in their whole extent, enclosed a rude quadrangle, hardly a mile in circuit, forming the level summit of the hill, which rises about 600 feet above the sea. They vary from 12 to 30 feet in height, and are composed of polygonal blocks of hard limestone, fitted together with great nicety: the upper course of the masonry presenting a marked approximation to a horizontal and regular style. They are moreover strengthened at intervals by square towers, projecting from the front of the walls, 14 of which are still standing or distinctly to be traced, forming a continuous chain of towers round the W. and S. portions of the city. No other instance of this regular employment of towers is known in the Etruscan cities, or the massive polygonal walls of so many cities in Latium: while it precisely resembles that adopted by the Romans at Falerii and Alba Fucensis. It therefore furnishes a strong argument for supposing that the walls now standing, were either erected, or at least in great measure rebuilt, when Cosa became a Roman colony. Dennis, however, from whom the above description is taken, strenuously maintains their high antiquity and Pelasgic origin. (Dennis's Etruria, vol. ii. pp. 269--289; Micali, Antichi Popoli Italiani, vol. i. p. 152, iii. p. 6.) The small extent of the space enclosed within the walls sufficiently proves that Cosa could never have been a very powerful city.

The Itinerary of Antoninus places Cosa on the Via Aurelia, and gives also another line of route passing through Tarquinii to Cosa (Itin. Ant. pp. 292, 300); but it is clear that the high road could never have ascended the hill to the city itself: and the Tab. Peut. gives the name of Succosa (Subcosa), which appears to have been a station or Mutatio at the foot of it. The port of Cosa, called by Livy Portus Cosanus, is evidently the same which is termed by Strabo and Rutilius the Portus Herculis, and is still called Porto d'Ercole: it is on the opposite side of the bay from Cosa itself, under the shoulder of the Mons Argentarius, the whole of which remarkable promontory appears to have been included in the territory of Cosa. Hence it is termed by Tacitus “Cosa, a promontory of Etruria” (Ann. ii.), where he is certainly speaking of the Monte Argentaro.


A town of Lucania, mentioned by Caesar, who calls it “Cosa in agro Thurino” (B.C. 3.22), and relates that Milo laid siege to it and was killed under its walls. Velleius, however, refers the same event to Compsa in the Hirpini (2.68), and Pliny speaks of the death of Milo as occurring “juxta castellum Carissanum” (2.56), for which Sillig would read Compsanum. But the reading in Caesar is well supported, and there is no reason to reject it: the Cosa there mentioned would appear, however, to have been but an obscure place, a mere Castellum in the territory of Thurii, and there is clearly no ground for supposing the Roman colony of B.C. 273 to have been settled here instead of at Cosa in Etruria. It is not improbable that we should read in Pliny “Cossanum” or “ Cassanum” for “Carissanum,” and that the name is still retained by the modern town of Cassano, near which is a place called Civita, where the ruins of an ancient city are said to be still visible. (Cluver. Ital. p. 1205; Romanelli, vol. i. p. 238). Stephanus of Byzantium cites from Hecataeus a city of Cossa (Κόσσα), as existing in the interior of Oenotria, which may probably be identical with the preceding. [E.H.B]

hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 39
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