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BLERA Italy.

An ancient city until recently called by its mediaeval name, Bieda. The site, barely known to the Roman geographers, appears on the Peutinger Table as a station on the Via Clodia. The city occupied a long, narrow, curving plateau of which the modern town takes up the E end. The site is cut from the Tuscan tufa plateau by the Fosso Ricanale on the N and the Biedano on the S; at its W tip these join, and the Biedano continues past Norchia to join the Marta below Tuscania. The Via Clodia ran along this valley, crossing the streams on two bridges. The older, Ponte della Rocca, which dates from the 2d century B.C., is a single span across the Ricanale just before it joins the Biedano; the other, Ponte del Diavolo, of Imperial Roman date and with three arches, spans the Biedano SE of the city.

Some thousand Etruscan tombs, both tumulus and cliff tombs, have been found here. The tumuli rimmed the high plateaus on the far side of the city's boundary streams; the cliff tombs were carved in the face of the cliffs below the city or facing it across the water.

Like the tumuli at Caere, those at Blera had a ring base, usually carved in the living rock and crowned with a series of moldings, a rock-cut burial chamber approached by a dromos, and an earth mound above. The material found in the chambers is local pottery of the late 7th and 6th c.

The cliff tombs are of two types: the rarer has the form of a house with a pitched roof, the other is flat-roofed with a massive crown of moldings. Only three gabled tombs are known, but some hundreds of die tombs. Most of these are merely a facade carved in the cliff, or a half-die projecting from its face, but the facade is always much the same: a smooth rectangle, slightly broader than high, topped with a series of moldings—hawk's beak, half round, deep fascia—above which a heavy Etruscan quarter round (the “bell”) rolls back to a crowning half round and fascia. In the facade a door is carved (sometimes two) with a Doric T-shaped frame. Usually, at least at Bieda, the door is real and leads to the burial chamber, though there are some tombs with false doors like those at Norchia and Castel d'Asso. The burial chamber normally takes the form of a room with a gabled roof and heavy rooftree, with a couch on either side wall, its front carved to represent a wooden bedstead.

The flat-topped die tombs have been taken either to represent a flat-roofed house or to be designed as a funerary monument, a giant cippus. The crowning moldings are hard to explain as eaves' trim, and the fact that the grave chambers themselves have pitched roofs speaks further against the flat roof as an element in Etruscan domestic architecture.


G. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria (3d ed., 1883) 207-218; H. Koch et al., RömMitt 30 (1915) 161- 303MPI; G. Rosi, JRS 15 (1925) 1-59; 17 (1927) 59-96; A. Gargana, NSc (1932) 485-505; Å. Åkerström, Studien über die etruskischen Gräber (1934) 76-84; L. T. Shoe, Etruscan and Republican Roman Mouldings, MAAR 28 (1965) 46f.


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