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Eth. FALE´RII (Φαλέριοι, Strab.; Φαλέριον, Dionys., Steph. B. sub voce Ptol.: Eth. Φαλίσκος, Eth. Faliscus: Sta. Maria di Falleri), an ancient and powerful city of Etruria, situated in the interior of that country, a few miles W. of the Tiber, and N. of Mount Soracte. It appears in historical times, and when it first came into collision with. the Roman power, as a purely [p. 1.891]Etruscan city; and there is even much reason to believe that it was at that time one of the twelve cities which composed the Etruscan confederation. ETRURIA p. 864.] But there is much difficulty with regard to its origin; many ancient writers concurring in representing the population as one different from the rest of the Etruscan nation. A tradition, adopted by Dionysius and Cato, ascribed to them an Argive or Pelasgic origin; and the former author expressly tells us that even in his day they retained some traces of this descent, and especially that the worship of Juno at Falerii was in many points similar to that of the famous Argive Juno. (Dionys. A. R. 1.21; Cato, ap. Plin. 3.5. s. 8; Steph. B. sub voce Φαλίσκος.) The poets and mythographers went a step further, and ascribed the direct foundation of Falerii to a certain Halesus or Haliscus, a son of Agamemnon, whose name they connected with Faliscus, the ethnic appellation of the inhabitants of Falerii. (Serv. ad Aen. 7.695; Ovid, Ov. Fast. 4.73, Amor. 3.13, 31; Solin. 2.7.) Strabo speaks of the Faliscans (whom he represents as inhabiting two towns, Falerium and Faliscum) as, according to some authors, a peculiar people distinct from the Etruscans, and with a language of their own (v. p. 266); but this was certainly not the case in his day, when all this part of Etruria was completely Romanised. If any dependence can be placed on these statements they seem to indicate that Falerii, like Caere, was essentially Pelasgic in its origin; and that, though it had fallen, in common with the other cities of Southern Etruria, into the hands of the Etruscans properly so called, it still retained in an unusual degree its Pelasgic rites and customs, and even a Pelasgic dialect. But it is strange to find, on the other hand, that some points seem to connect the Faliscans more closely with the neighbouring Sabines: thus, the very same Juno who is identified with the Argive Hera, was worshipped, we are told, under the name of Juno Curitis or Quiritis, and represented as armed with a spear. (Tertull. Apol. 24; Gruter, Inscr. p. 308. 1.) The four-faced Janus also (Janus Quadrifrons), who was transferred from Falerii to Rome (Serv. ad Aen. 7.607.), would seem to point to a Sabine connection: there is, at least, no other evidence of the worship of this deity in Etruria previous to the Roman conquest.

Be this as it may, it is certain that during the historical period Falerii appears as a purely Etruscan city. It is first mentioned in Roman history in B.C. 437, when the Falisci and Veientes lent their support to the Fidenates in their revolt against Rome, and their combined forces were defeated by Cornelius Cossus. (Liv. 4.17, 18.) From this period till the fall of Veil we find the Faliscans repeatedly supporting the Veientes against Rome; and when the siege of Veii was at length regularly formed, they did their utmost to induce the other cities of Etruria to make a general effort for its relief. Failing in this, as well as in their own attempts to raise the siege, they found themselves after the capture of Veii exposed single-handed to the vengeance of the Romans, and their capital was besieged by Camillus. The story of the schoolmaster and the generous conduct of the Roman general is well-known: it is probable that this tale was meant to conceal the fact that Falerii was not in reality taken, but the war terminated by a treaty, which is represented by the Roman historians as a “deditio” or surrender of their city. (Liv. 5.8, 13, 19; Plut. Camill. 9, 10; Dionys. Fr. Mai, 13.1, 2; Diod. 14.96; Flor. 1.12.) From this time the Faliscans continued on friendly terms with Rome till B.C. 356, when they joined their arms to the Tarquinians, but their allied forces were defeated by the dictator C. Marcius Rutilus; and the Faliscans appear to have obtained a fresh treaty, and renewed their friendly relations with Rome, which continued unbroken for more than 60 years from this time. But in B.C. 293 we find them once more joining in the general war of the Etruscans against Rome. They were, however, quickly reduced by the consul Carvilius, and though they obtained at the time only a truce for a year, this appears to have led to a permanent peace. (Liv. 7.16, 17, 10.46, 47; Diod. 16.31; Frontin. Strat. 2.4.) We have no account of the terms on which this was granted, or of the relation in which they stood to Rome. and we are wholly at a loss to understand the circumstance, that, after the close of the First Punic War, in B.C. 241, long after the submission of the rest of Etruria, and when the Roman power was established without dispute throughout the Italian peninsula, the Faliscans ventured single-handed to defy the arms of the Republic. The contest, as might be expected, was brief: notwithstanding the strength of their city, it was taken in six days; and, at once to punish them for this rebellion, and to render all such attempts hopeless for the future, they were compelled to abandon their ancient city, which was in a very strong position, and establish a new one on a site easy of access. (Liv. Epit. xix.; Pol. 1.65; Zonar. 8.18; Oros. 4.11; Eutrop. 2.28.)

This circumstance, which is mentioned only by Zonaras, is important as showing that the existing ruins at Sta. Maria di Falleri cannot occupy the site of the ancient Etruscan city, the position of which must be sought elsewhere. The few subsequent notices in history must also refer to this second or Roman Falerii; and it was here that a colony was established by the triumvirs which assumed the title of “Colonia Junonia Faliscorum,” or “Colonia Falisca.” (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8; Lib. Colon. p. 217; Gruter, Inscr. p. 288. 1.) It does not, however, appear to have ever risen into a place of importance; and, notwithstanding its cognomen of Junonia, it is evident that the ancient temple of Juno on the site of the abandoned city was that which continued to attract the votaries of religion. (Ovid, Amor. 3.13. 6.) The period of its complete decay is unknown. The Tabula still notices “Faleros” (by which the Roman town is certainly meant) as situated 5 miles from Nepe, on the road to Ameria; and it retained its episcopal see as late as the 11th century. But in the middle ages the advantages of strength and security again attracted the population to the original site; and thus a fresh city grew up on the ruins of the Etruscan Falerii, which ultimately obtained the name of Civita Castellana. (Nibby, Dintorni di Roma, vol. ii. pp. 23--26). The site of the Roman Falerii (which was about 4 miles distant from Civita Castellana, and 5 from Nepi) is now wholly deserted, with the exception of a single farm-house, and an ancient ruined church, still called Sta. Maria di Falleri. But a large portion of the ancient walls, with their gates and towers, still remains; and though obviously not of very early date, they have contributed to the mistake of several modern writers, who have not paid sufficient attention to the distinction between the earlier and later Falerii, and have thus regarded the existing remains at Falleri as those of the celebrated Etruscan city. But all accounts [p. 1.892]agree in describing the Falerii besieged by Camillus, as well as the city taken by the Romans in B.C. 241, as a place of great natural strength, a character wholly inapplicable to the site of Falleri, the walls of which are on one side easily exposed to attack, just as the site of the new city is described by Zonaras (εὐέφοδος, Zonar. l.c.). On the other hand, this description applies perfectly to Civita Castellana; and there can be little or no doubt that the opinion first put forward by Cluver, and since adopted by many antiquarians, correctly regards that place as the representative of the Etruscan or original Falerii, No other ancient remains are visible there, except a few fragments of the walls; but these are of a more ancient style of construction than those of Falleri, and thus confirm the view that they are vestiges of the Etruscan city. (For a full discussion of this point, see Nibby, Dintorni di Roma, vol. ii. pp. 15--30; and Dennis, Etruria, vol. i. pp. 114--147.) Gell and Muller, the two chief authorities who were misled into placing the Etruscan city at Falleri, were thus led to regard Civita Castellana as the site of Fescennium, a town of far inferior importance; though the former himself admits that that place would correspond better with the descriptions of Falerii. (Gell, Top. of Rome, pp. 235--240; Müller, Etrusker, vol. i. p. 110.)

The site of Civita Castellana, indeed, is not only one of great strength, from the vast and deep ravines which surround it on almost all sides, but affords space for a city of considerable extent; and the population and power of the ancient Falerii are attested by the fact that, in its last hopeless struggle against the Roman power, it is said to have lost 15,000 men in the field. (Oros. 4.11; Eutrop. 2.28.) The existing walls of Roman Falerii enclose a much smaller space, being only about 2300 yards in circuit, and could therefore never have belonged to a city of the first class. (Gell, p. 241.) They are, however, of interest, from their excellent preservation, and present one of the best specimens extant of Roman fortification: they are flanked at short intervals by projecting square towers, which are most numerous on the two sides where they stand completely in the plain, and much fewer on the S. side of the city, where the wall borders on a small ravine, and is protected by the nature of the ground. The gateways, of which several remain in good preservation, are regularly arched, and the masonry of the walls themselves has throughout a character of regularity wholly different from any of those of ancient Etruscan origin.

The territory of Falerii appears to have been in ancient times extensive and fertile. Ovid, whose wife was a native of the place, speaks of the “pomiferi Falisci,” and of the rich pastures in which its cattle were fed. (Ovid, Amor. 3.13. 1.) It was celebrated also for its sausages, which were known as “ventres Falisci,” and were considered to rival those of Lucania. (Varr. L. L. 5.111; Martial, 4.46. 8.)

There is no doubt that Faliscus was only the ethnic form derived from Falerii, and the Falisci usually mean the inhabitants of that city. Those writers, indeed, who speak of the Falisci as a separate people, ascribe to them the possession of two cities, Falerii and Fescennium (Dionys. A. R. 1.21); but the latter appears to have been a place of inferior importance, and was probably a mere dependency of Falerii in the days of its power. There is, however, much difficulty in a passage of Strabo (v. p.226) in which he speaks of “Falerii and Faliscum” as two separate towns; and both Solinus and Stephanus of Byzantium seem to acknowledge the same distinction. Little dependence can, indeed, be placed upon the accuracy of these two last authorities; and the Faliscum of Strabo (if it be not merely a mistake for Feseennium) may probably be the same place which he again alludes to shortly after as “Aequum Faliscum” (Αἰκουμφαλίσκον), and describes as situated on the Flaminian Way between Rome and Ocriculi. No other author mentions a town of this name, but the “Aequi Falisci” are mentioned both by Virgil and Silius Italicus. (Verg. A. 7.695; Sil. Ital. 8.491.) Ancient commentators appear to have understood the epithet of Aequi as a moral one, signifying “just” (Serv. ad Aen. l.c.); while Niebuhr supposes it to indicate a national connection with the Aequians (vol. i. p. 72): but there can be little doubt that in reality it referred to the physical position of the people, and was equivalent merely to “Faliscans of the Plain.” It seems, however, impossible to understand this, as Miller has done (Etrusker, vol. i. p. 100), as referring to the site of the new city of Falerii. It is far more probable that the plain on the banks of the Tiber was meant; and this would agree with the statement of Strabo, who places his “Aequum Faliscum” on the Flaminian Way, where it is natural enough that a large village or borgo may have grown up, during the flourishing ages of Rome, within the Faliscan territory, but distinct both from the more ancient and later Falerii, neither of which was situated on the line of that high road. Unfortunately the passage of Strabo is obviously corrupt, and none of the emendations proposed are altogether satisfactory. (See Kramer, ad loc.

The coins ascribed by earlier numismatists to Falerii belong in fact to Elis, the inscription on them being ΦΑΛΕΙΩΝ, the ancient Doric form with the digamma prefixed. [ELIS]


hide References (14 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.96
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 47
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 16
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.695
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 46
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 18
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 17
    • Ovid, Fasti, 4
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