: Eth. Pyrgensis
: Santa Severa
), a city on the coast of Etruria, situated between Alsium and Castrum Novum, and distant 34 miles from Rome (Itin. Ant.
It was rather more than 6 miles (50 stadia) from Caere, of which it served as the port (Strab. v. p.226
), but it is probable that it was not originally designed for that purpose, but grew up in the first instance around the temple of Eileithyia, for which it continued to be celebrated at a much later period. (Strab. l.c.; Diod. 15.14
The foundation of this temple is expressly ascribed to the Pelasgians, and the pure Greek form of the name certainly tends to corroborate this statement.
It is probable that both Pyrgi and the neighbouring Caere were originally Pelasgian settlements, and that this was the cause of the close connection between the two, which led to Pyrgi ultimately passing into the condition of a dependency on the more powerful city of the interior. Virgil calls it an ancient city (Pyrgi veteres, Aen.
10.184), and represents it as one of the Tuscan cities that sent assistance to Aeneas.
But the only mention of Pyrgi, in history during the period of Etruscan independence is in B.C. 384, when the treasures of its temple attracted the cupidity of Dionysius of Syracuse, who made a piratical descent upon the coast of Etruria, and, landing his troops at Pyrgi in the night, surprised and plundered the temple, from which he is said to have carried off spoils to the value of 1000 talents. (Diod. 15.14
; Strab. v. p.226
; Arist. Oecon.
2.21; Polyaen. 5.2. 21
The amount of the booty seems incredible, but the temple was certainly very wealthy: and it would seem that the people of Pyrgi had given some excuse for the aggression, by themselves taking an active part in the piracies carried on at this period by the Etruscans in general. Servius, indeed, represents it as bearing the chief part in those depredations; but this may probably be an exaggeration. (Serv. ad Aen. 10.184
.) It [p. 2.688]
could never have been a large town, and appears under the Romans to have sunk into comparative insignificance.
It is indeed noticed by Livy, together with Fregenae and Castrum Novum, as one of the maritime colonies which in B.C. 191 contended in vain for exemption from military levies (Liv. 36.3
); but we have no account of the time at which the colony was established there, nor does any subsequent mention of it occur in that capacity. Its name is mentioned by all the geographers among the towns on the coast of Etruria; but Strabo terms it only a small town (πολίχνιον
), and Servius calls it in his time merely a fort (castellum), which would agree well with the character of the remains. (Strab. v. p.225
; Mel. 2.4; Plin. iii, 5. s. 1
; Ptol. 3.1.4
; Martial, 12.2
; Serv. ad Aen. l.c.
) But in the time of Rutilius it had altogether sunk into decay, and its site was occupied only by a large villa. (Rutil. Itin.
1.223.) No subsequent notice of it is found until it reappears in the middle ages under the title of Santa Severa.
The Itineraries vary much in the distances they assign between Pyrgi and the other stations on the coast; but they agree in placing it between Alsium and Castrum Novum: and this circumstance, coupled with the distance of 50 stadia from Caere, given by Strabo, leaves no doubt that it is correctly identified with Sta Severa.
(Strab. v. p.226
; Itin. Ant.
pp. 290, 301; Itin. Marit.
p. 498; Tab. Peut.
) The site of the fortress of that name is unquestionably that of an ancient city.
The walls of the present castle, which is of mediaeval date, are based on foundations of very ancient character, being constructed of polygonal blocks of stone of large size, neatly fitted together without cement, in the same manner as the walls of Cosa and Saturnia.
The line of these foundations, which are undoubtedly those of the walls of the ancient city, may be traced throughout their whole extent, enclosing a quadrangular space of about half a mile in circuit, abutting on the sea. Some remains of Roman walls of later date occur at the extremities on the sea-coast; but no remains have been found of the celebrated temple which was probably situated within the enclosure; nor are there any traces of the ancient port, which must have been wholly artificial, there being no natural inlet or harbour. (Canina, in the Ann. dell' Inst. Arch.
1840, pp. 35--44; Dennis, Etruria,
vol. ii. pp. 11--16.)
The goddess to whom the temple was dedicated is called by Strabo Eileithyia, but several other writers call her Leucothea (Arist. l.c.;
), who was identified with the Mater Matuta of the Romans.
There is no doubt that the same deity is meant by both appellations. (Gerhard, Gottheiten der Etrusker,
pp. 9, 25.)