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FALERII VETERES (Civita Castellana) Italy.

The easternmost city of the tufa region of Etruria and the most picturesque in site. It lies on a long, narrow tongue where several tributaries of the Treia unite to flow N to the Tiber; the Rio Maggiore and its tributary the Purgatorio bound it on the N, the Rio Filetto on the S. Its sheer red cliffs are some 90 m high except on the W; the gorges of the streams are narrow and now choked with vegetation.

It was the chief city of the Faliscans, a people who considered themselves Etruscan though their language was akin to Latin. In the wars between the Etruscans and Rome in the late 5th c., Falerii was allied with Veii, Capena, and Fidenae, her near neighbors (Livy 4.17.12; 5.8; 5.13.9-11); and when Rome besieged Veii, only Falerii came to her help (Livy 5.17.6-10; 5.18.7-11), for which it was attacked by Camillus and fell the year after Veii's fall (Livy 5.26-27; Plut. Vit. Cam. 1; Val. Max. 6.5.1). Later it was allied with Tarquinia (Livy 7.16.17) but in 351 made a 40 years' truce with Rome, changed to a foedus in 343 (Livy 7.22; 7.38.1). With other Etruscan cities it rebelled in 293 (Livy 10.46.5) and again in 241 (Polyb. 1.65). This time Rome sent both consuls against the Faliscans; in six days they were forced to surrender (Livy Epit. 20), having lost 15,000 men (Eutropius 2.28; Oros. 4.11). They were punished by the sequestration of half their territory (Eutropius 2.28; Zonar. 8.18), and later they were forced to leave their ancient and impregnable city for a site more accessible (Zonar. 8.18). Although this fact is recorded only by Zonaras, it is confirmed by the grave goods from the necropoleis, which include nothing later than the 3d c. B.C. The new city, Falerii Novi (S. Maria di Falleri) lay 4.8 km W of the old, on the left bank of the Rio Purgatorio.

The most extensive necropoleis are on the hills of Montarano and Celle to the NE of the city and Penna and Valsiarosa to the SW. The earliest graves are cremation burials of the early 7th c.; the latest, chamber tombs of the 4th-3d c. with rock-cut facades. The early material is like that from Narce: dark impasto with incised decorations and a partiality for ducks and horses drawn in lively shorthand; red-slipped ware, local painted ware and imported Protocorinthian and Corinthian pieces. Falerii's wealth in the 6th and 5th c. is attested by the many fine Attic vases, both black- and red-figure. Late in the 5th c. S Italian red-figure vases appear, and about 400 B.C. a local school began to turn out specimens so close in style to Attic work of the early 4th c. that the first Faliscan painters may have been Athenian immigrants; this workshop was active through the 4th c.

The original settlement may have been on the hill of Vignale NE of the present city, to which it is joined by a saddle; the Rio Maggiore sweeps around it to the W and N; the Treia, reinforced by the Filetto, on S and E. Its steep cliffs provide good natural defense; and late archaic terracottas, apparently from two temples, were found there in 1896. But the city that surrendered to Rome in 241 was on the site of Civita Castellana. Stretches of its walls are preserved, of rectangular blocks of tufa like those of the nearby Roman colonies of Sutrium and Nepet, probably built in answer to theirs. There is still an ancient gate (now in the convent of S. Maria del Carmine) on the N, serving a path that led down to the bed of the Maggiore. The path took advantage of a gap in the cliff; the wall was carried over it on a tall, narrow corbeled vault. This is the only reasonably complete Etruscan city gate earlier than the introduction of the arch to central Italy.

Three more temples are known; one at Lo Scasato is within the city walls on the S side of the plateau. The terracottas divide into two groups: one of fragments of the complete series of revetments for a large Hellenistic temple; these must date from the early 2d c. The second series is made up of figures of two sizes modeled by hand; the smaller were parts of antefixes, the larger perhaps pedimental but more probably from columen and mutule plaques. They are in an eclectic style that suits the late 2d c. better than the 4th, to which they are usually assigned, and they are exceptionally handsome. Both series, certainly to be dated later than 241 B.C., indicate that the temples were not abandoned when the city was transplanted.

Two other temples in the valley of the Maggiore also survived after 241. One, at Sassi Caduti on the left bank of the stream, was apparently a Temple of Mercury. The attribution is based on the evidence of 14 black-glaze sherds inscribed TITOI MERCVI EFILES from a Hellenistic votive deposit, and the lower part of a statue of the god, apparently an acroterion. The oldest terracottas, of the early 5th c., include an acroterion representing two fighting warriors and antefixes showing pairs of silens and maenads; the later terracottas, including the Mercury, are Hellenistic; and some fragments of Campana plaques bring the date of the temple's survival down to the time of Augustus.

The other temple, at Celle on the left bank of the Maggiore where it turns E above Vignale, is usually identified as the Temple of Juno Curritis (Ovid Am. 3.13), the chief divinity of the city. Excavated in 1886, its foundations were the first Etruscan temple foundations known: a great platform of rectangular tufa blocks supporting a massive wall at the rear, from which five walls project forward. These are taken to be the remains of a triplecella temple with alae, like the Capitolium at Rome. This was built over an older temple, and votive finds from the site are older still, going back to the Bronze Age. The temple terracottas preserved date from the 5th to the 1st c.

Mount Soracte, on the fringe of the Apennines W of the Tiber, lay in Faliscan territory (Plin., HN 7.19). A cult of Apollo Soranus (Varro, ap. Servius, Aen. 11.787) is attested by one inscription found near Falerii recording a dedication to the god; otherwise our knowledge of him is purely literary.

The temple terracottas and much of the tomb furniture from Falerii are at the Museo di Villa Giulia at Rome.


M. Taylor & H. C. Bradshaw, BSR 8 (1916) 1-34; L. R. Taylor, Local Cults in Etruria (PAAR 2, 1923) 60-96; L. A. Holland, The Faliscans in Prehistoric Times (PAAR 5, 1925); A. Andrén, Architectural Terracottas from Etrusco-Italic Temples (1940) 80-148; J. D. Beazley, Etruscan Vase Painting (1947) 70-112, 149-62; M. Frederiksen & J. B. Ward-Perkins, BSR 25 (1957) 128-36.


hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 46.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 17.12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 17.6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, 26
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 16
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 22
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