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Eth. TARQUI´NII (Ταρκυνία, Strab. Dionys.; Ταρκουίναι, Ptol: Eth. Tarquiniensis: Corneto), one of the most ancient and important cities of Etruria, situated about 4 miles from the Tyrrhenian sea, and 14 miles from Centumcellae (Civita Vecchia), near the left bank of the river Marta. All ancient writers represent it as one of the most ancient of the cities of Etruria; indeed according to a tradition generally prevalent it was the parent or metropolis of the twelve cities which composed the Etruscan League, in the same manner as Alba was represented as the metropolis of the Latin League. Its own reputed founder was Tarchon, who according to some accounts was the son, according to others the brother, of the Lydian Tyrrhenus; while both versions represented him as subsequently founding all the other cities of the league. (Strab. v. p.219; Serv. ad Aen. 10.179, 198.) The same superiority of Tarquinii may be considered as implied in the legends that represented the divine being Tages, from whom all the sacred traditions and religious rites of the Etruscans were considered to emanate, as springing out of the soil at Tarquinii (Cic. de Div. 2.2. 3; Censorin. de Die Nat. 4; Joan. Lyd. de Ost. 3.) Indeed it seems certain that there was a close connection [p. 2.1102]considered as subsisting between this Tages and Tarchon himself, the eponymous hero of Tarquinii. (Müller, Etrusker, vol. i. p. 73.) It is impossible here to discuss the historical bearings of these traditions which seem to point to Tarquinii as the point from whence the power and civilisation of the Etruscans emanated as from a centre, while on the other hand there is another body of traditions which seems to represent that people as gradually extending themselves from the north, and Cortona as the first centre and stronghold of their power. [ETRURIA Vol. I. p. 859.] A somewhat different version is given by Justin, who states that Tarquinii was founded by the Thessalians, probably meaning the Pelasgians from Thessaly, to whom Hellanicus ascribed the colonisation of Etruria in general. (Justin, 20.1; Hellanic. ap Dionys. 1.28.)

But whatever value may be attached to these traditions, they may at least be admitted as proving the reputed high antiquity and early power of Tarquinii as compared with the other cities of Southern Etruria: and this is confirmed by the important position it appears to have held, when its name first appears in connection with the Roman history. Cicero calls it “urbem Etruriae florentissimam” at the time when Demaratus, the father of Tarquinius Priscus, was said to have established himself there. (Cic. de Rep. 2.19) It is remarkable indeed that the story which derived the origin of the Roman king Tarquinius from Corinth represented his father Demaratus as bringing with him Greek artists, and thus appears to ascribe the first origin or introduction of the arts into Etruria, as well as its religious institutions, to Tarquinii. (Plin. Nat. 35.12. s. 43; Strab. v. p.220.) It is unnecessary to repeat here the well-known story of the emigration of an Etruscan Lucumo from Tarquinii to Rome, where he became king under the name of Lucius Tarquinius. (Liv. 1.34; Dionys. A. R. 3.46-48; Cic. de Rep. 2.19, 20; Strab. v. p.219.) The connection with Tarquinii is rejected by Niebuhr, as a mere etymological fable, but it is not easy to say on what grounds. The name of Tarquinius, as that of a gens or family, as well as that of the city, is undoubtedly Etruscan; the native form being “Tarcnas:” and the strong infusion of Etruscan influence into the Roman state before the close of the regal period is a fact which cannot reasonably be questioned. It is remarkable also that the Roman traditions represented the Tarquinians as joining with the Veientes in the first attempt to restore the exiled Tarquins, B.C. 509, though from this time forth we do not again hear of their name for snore than a century. (Liv. 2.6, 7; Dionys. A. R. 5.14.) The story of the emigration of the elder Tarquin to Rome, as well as that of his father Demaratus from Corinth, may fairly be deemed unworthy of belief in its present form; but it is probable that in both cases there was a historical foundation for the fiction.

After the war already mentioned, in the first year of the Republic, no subsequent mention of Tarquinii occurs in Roman history till B.C. 398, when the Tarquinians took up arms, and ravaged the Roman territories, while their army was engaged in the siege of Veii. They were, however, intercepted on their march home, and all their booty taken from them. (Liv. 5.16.) Livy distinctly calls them on this occasion “novi hostes:” but from this time they took an active part in the wars of the Etruscans with Rome. The conquest of Veii in B.C. 396, had indeed the effect of bringing the Romans into immediate collision with the cities which lay next beyond it, and among these Tarquinii and Volsinii seem to have taken the lead. Already in B.C. 389, we find the Tarquinians joining with the other cities of Southern Etruria in an attempt to recover Sutrium: the next year their territory was in its turn invaded by the Romans, who took the towns of Cortuosa and Contenebra, both places otherwise unknown, but which appear to have been dependencies of Tarquinii. (Liv. 6.3, 4.) From this time we hear no more of them till B.C. 358, when the Tarquinians, having ravaged the Roman territories, the consul C. Fabius marched against them, but was defeated in a pitched battle, and 307 of the prisoners taken on the occasion were put to death in the Forum of Tarquinii, as a sacrifice to the Etruscan deities. (Liv. 7.12, 15.) Shortly after, we find the Tarquinians and Faliscans again in arms, and in the first battle which occurred between them and the Romans they are said to have obtained the victory by putting forward their priests with flaming torches and serpents in their hands, to strike terror into their assailants. (Liv. 7.16, 17). But the Etruscans were defeated in their turn by C. Marcius Rutilus, who was named dictator to oppose them: and two years later (B.C. 354) the Romans took a sanguinary revenge for the massacre of their prisoners, by putting to death, in the Forum at Rome, 358 of the captives taken from the Tarquinians, chiefly of noble birth. (Ib. 19.) But the spirit of the Tarquinians was not yet subdued, and with the support of the Faliscans and Caerites, who now for a short time took part against Rome, they continued the war till B.C. 351, when they sued for peace, and obtained a truce for forty years. (Ib. 19--22.)

This truce appears to have been faithfully observed, for we hear nothing more of hostilities with Tarquinii till B.C. 311, when the Tarquinians appear to have united with the other confederate cities of Etruria in attacking the Roman colony of Sutrium. They were, however, defeated by the Roman consul Aemilius Barbula, and again the next year by Q. Fabius, who followed up his victory by passing the Ciminian forest, and carrying his arms for the first time into Northern Etruria. There is no doubt that the Tarquinians, though not mentioned by name, bore a part in this contest as well as in the great battle at the Vadimnonian lake in the following year (B.C. 309), as we find them soon after making their submission to Rome, and purchasing the favour of the consul Decius by sending him supplies of corn. (Liv. ix, 32, 35--39, 41.) They now obtained a fresh truce for forty years (Ib. 41); and from this time we hear no more of them as an independent nation. Whether this long truce, like the last, was faithfully observed, or the Tarquinians once more joined in the final struggles of the Etruscans for independence, we know not; but it is certain that they passed, in common with the other chief cities of Etruria, gradually into the condition of dependent allies of Rome, which they retained till the Social War (B.C. 90), when they as well as all the other Etruscans obtained the full Roman franchise. (Appian, App. BC 1.49.) The only mention of Tarquinii that occurs in this interval is during the Second Punic War, when the citizens came forward to furnish the expedition of Scipio with sail-cloth for his fleet. (Liv. 28.45.) According to the Liber Coloniarum a body of colonists was sent thither by [p. 2.1103]Gracchus; but though it is there termed “Colonia Tarquinii,” it is certain that it did not retain the title of a colony; Cicero distinctly speaks of it as a “mnunicipium,” and the Tarquinienses are ranked by Pliny among the ordinary municipal towns of Etruria. Its municipal rank is further confirmed by inscriptions recently discovered on the site. (Lib. Col. p. 219; Cic. pro Caec. 4; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8 Ptol. 3.1.50; Inscr. in Bullett. d. Inst. Arch. 1830, pp. 198, 199.) From these last records we learn that it was apparently still a flourishing town in the time of the Antonines, and its name is still found in the Tabula near three centuries later (Tab. Pent.) It is probable, therefore, that it survived the fall of the Western Empire, and owed its final desolation to the Saracens.

At the present day the site of the ancient city is wholly desolate and uninhabited; but on a hill about a mile and a half distant stands the modern city of Corneto, the origin of which does not date further back than the eighth or ninth century. It was probably peopled with the surviving inhabitants of Tarquinii. The site of the latter is clearly marked: it occupied, like most Etruscan cities, the level summit of a hill, bounded on all sides by steep, though not precipitous escarpments, and occupying a space of about a mile and a half in length, by half a mile in its greatest breadth. It is still known as Turchina, though called also the Piano di Civita. Hardly any ruins are now visible, but the outline of the walls may be traced around the brow of the hill, partly by foundations still in situ, partly by fallen blocks. The highest point of the hill (furthest to the W. and nearest to the Marta) seems to have served as the Arx or citadel, and here the foundations of some buildings, supposed to be temples, may be traced. Numerous fragments of buildings of Roman date are also visible, and though insignificant in themselves, prove, in conjunction with the inscriptions already mentioned, that the site was well inhabited in Roman times. (Dennis's Etruria, vol. i. pp. 371--385.)

But by far the most interesting remains now visible at Tarquinii are those of the Necropolis, which occupied almost the whole of the hill opposite to the city, at the W. extremity of which stands the modern town of Corneto. The whole surface of the hill (says Dennis) “is rugged with tumuli, or what have once been such,” whence the appellation by which it is now known of Montarozzi. Vast numbers of these tombs have been opened, and have yielded a rich harvest of vases, ornaments, and other objects of antiquity. But the most important are those of which the walls are adorned with paintings, which possess a double interest, both as works of art and from the light they throw upon Etruscan manners. It may indeed be asserted in general of the paintings in these tombs that while the influence of Greek art is unquestionably to be traced in their design and execution, the subjects represented and the manners they exhibit are purely Etruscan. The number of these painted tombs found at Tarquinii greatly exceeds those which have been discovered on the site of any other city of Etruria; but they still bear only a very small proportion to the whole number of tombs opened, so that it is evident this mode of decoration was far from general. The paintings in many of those first opened, which are figured in the works of Micaliand Inghirami, have since been allowed to fall into decay, and have in great measure disappeared. Detailed descriptions of all the most interesting of them, as well as those more recently discovered, will be found in Dennis's Etruria (vol. i. pp. 281--364.)


hide References (18 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.6.49
    • Cicero, For Aulus Caecina, 4
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.12
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 4
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 34
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 45
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 7
    • Cicero, De Republica, 2.19
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.2
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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