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RUSELLAE (Ῥουσέλλαι: Eth. Rusellanus: Roselle), an ancient and important city of Etruria, situated about 14 miles from the sea, and 3 from the right bank of the river Ombrone (Umbro). In common with several of the ancient Etruscan cities, we have very little information concerning its early history, though there is no doubt of its great antiquity and of its having been at a very early period a powerful and important city. There is every probability that it was one of the twelve which formed the Etruscan League (Müller, Etrusker, vol. i. p. 346). The first mention of it in history is during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, when it united with Clusium, Arretium, Volaterrae, and Vetulonia, in declaring war against the Roman king, apart from the rest of the confederacy,--a sufficient proof that it was at that time an independent and sovereign state. (Dionys. A. R. 3.51.) From this time we hear no more of it until the Romans had carried their arms. beyond the Ciminian forest, when, in B.C. 301, the dictator M. Valerius Maximus carried his arms, apparently for the first time, into the territory of the Rusellae, and defeated the combined forces of the Etruscans who were opposed to him. (Liv. 10.4, 5.) A few years later, in a. 100.294, the consul L. Postumius Megellus not only laid waste the territory of Rusellae, but took the city itself by storm, talking more than 2000 of the inhabitants captives (Id. 10.37). No other mention of it occurs during the period of Etruscan independence; but during the Second Punic War the Rusellani are mentioned among the “populi Etruriae” who came forward with voluntary supplies to equip the fleet of Scipio (B.C. 205), and furnished him with timber and corn (Id. 28.45). It is evident that at this time Rusellae was still one of the principal cities of Etruria. We find no subsequent notice of it under the Roman Republic, but it was one of the places selected by Augustus to receive a colony (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8; Zumpt, de Colon. p. 347); notwithstanding which it seems to have fallen into decay; and though the name is mentioned by Ptolemy (3.1.48) we meet with no later notice of it in ancient times. It did not, however, altogether cease to exist till a much later period, as it retained its episcopal see down to the twelfth century, when it vas transferred to the neighboring town of Grosseto. (Repetti, Diz. Top. vol. ii. pp. 526, 822.)

The site of Rusellae is now wholly desolate and overgrown with thickets, which render it very difficult of access. But the plan may be distinctly traced, and the line of the ancient walls may be followed in detached fragments throughout their entire circuit. It stood on the flat top of a hill of considerable elevation, about 6 miles from the modern city of Grosseto, overlooking the broad valley of the Ombrone and the level plain of the Maremma, which extends from thence to the sea. The walls follow the outline of the hill, and enclose a space of about 2 miles in circuit. They are constructed of very rude and massive stones, in some places with an approach to horizontal structure, similar to that at Volterra and Populonia; but in other parts they lose all traces of regularity, and present (according to Mr. Dennis) a strong resemblance to the rudest and most irregular style of Cyclopian construction, as exemplified in the walls of Tiryns in Argolis. (Dennis's Etruria, vol. ii. pp. 248, 249.) The sites of six gates may be traced; but there are no indications of the manner in which the gateway itself was formed. Within the walls are some fragments of rectangular masonry and some vaults of Roman construction. It is remarkable that no traces of the necropolis--so often the most interesting remnant of an Etruscan city--have yet been discovered at Rusellae. But the site is so wild and so little visited, that no excavations have been carried on there. (Dennis, l.c. p. 254.)

About 2 miles from the ruins, and 4 from Ggrosseto, are some hot-springs, now called I Bagni di Roselle. On a hill immediately above them are the mediaeval ruins of a town or castle called Moscona which have been often mistaken for those of Rusellae. (Dennis, l.c.)


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 4
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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