Skip to comments.Archaeologists May Have Found What Was Once The Biggest City In Italy
Posted on 11/07/2004 5:27:22 PM PST by blam
Scientific treasure hunters
Nov 4th 2004 | CLUSIUM, OR POSSIBLY NOT
From The Economist print edition
Archaeologists may have found what was once the biggest city in Italy
REAL archaeology bears about as much resemblance to an Indiana Jones movie as real spying bears to James Bond. Excavationat least if it is to be meaningfully different from grave robbingis a matter of painstaking trowel work, not gung-ho gold-grabbing. But there is still a glimmer of the grave robber in many archaeologists, and the search for a juicy royal tomb can stimulate more than just rational, scientific instincts.
Few tombs would be juicier than that of Lars Porsena, an Etruscan king who ruled in central Italy around 500BC. Porsena's tomb has been sought for centuries in the rubble under the Tuscan city of Chiusi, which is believed by most authorities to stand on the site of Porsena's capital, Clusium. No sign of it, however, has ever been found. And that, according to Giuseppe Centauro, of the University of Florence, is because everybody is looking in the wrong place.
Lars Porsena's place in history was ensured by his interference in the revolution that made Rome a republic. The last Roman king, Lucius Tarquinius, nicknamed Superbus because of his arrogance, was Etruscan. When he was deposed by the revolutionaries, he appealed to Porsena for help. There are conflicting accounts of whether Porsena succeeded in capturing and ruling Rome, or was forced to make peace with the revolutionaries. Either way, most of those accounts agree that he was eventually buried in a fabulous tomb near his home city of Camars, or Clusium as the Romans called it.
The Etruscans were big on tombsconstructing entire cities for the dead to inhabitbut Porsena's was supposedly the biggest of the lot. It was, according to one ancient source, a monument of rectangular masonry with a square base whose sides were 90 metres (about 300 feet) long and 15 metres high. On this base stood five pyramids, four at the corners and one in the centre, and the points of these pyramids supported a ring from which hung bells whose sound reached for miles when stirred by the wind. From this level rose five more pyramids, and from these another five.
Chiusi was clearly once an Etruscan city, but the evidence that it was actually Clusium boils down to the fact that the two names mean the same thing (closed). Such nominative determinism is hardly conclusive. Dr Centauro prefers his evidence to be wrought in stone, and he thinks the most persuasive pile of masonry around is actually on a mountainside near Florence.
At the moment, he is awaiting permission from the authorities to start digging there. But the above-ground remains convince him that he has found the real site of Clusium. He believes he has identified two concentric walls 17km (about ten miles) in circumferencecertainly big enough to qualify as the biggest city in Italy before the rise of Rome, which is the reputation that Clusium had.
Such a site has not, of course, completely escaped archaeological attention in the past. A dig in an outlying part of it known as Gonfienti has been under way since 1998. Gabriella Poggesi, the archaeologist in charge of the Gonfienti dig, has unearthed the foundations of what was evidently a wealthy settlement on the banks of the Bisenzio river. She has also found evidence of great damage, probably from a flood that swept through in 480BC, after which the houses were abandoned.
This, Dr Centauro believes, is all grist to his theory. In his view, this riverside settlement was an affluent suburb situated on reclaimed land outside the city walls. He thinks it was built to cope with later expansion, and is younger than the site he now calls Clusium.
The outer walls of the main site are three metres thick, several metres high, uncemented and regular in construction. From the style of the masonry, Dr Centauro is convinced the remains are Etruscan. At corners where they have collapsed, small rooms are visible. These, he thinks, would have accommodated the sentries who manned the watchtowers.
So where is the tomb? And is it unlooted? Sadly for goldbugs, its riches are probably gone. In 89BC Cornelius Sulla, a Roman general, sacked Clusium and razed it to the ground. But if the ancient descriptions of the tomb are even a pale reflection of the truth, that amount of masonry is unlikely to have wandered far. So if Dr Centauro's hunch is right, and this is Clusium, the old king's secret may soon be dug up.
I heard they found the ancestral home of Chef Boyrdee.
Its all a lie.. Karl rove is trying to change the subject! He doesnt want us to look into the voter fraud!!
So, this Lars Porsena was a corrupt Dem power broker, that tried to muscle in on the Republicans in Rome, but they were to strong for him and pushed him back out to the periphery.
LARS Porsena of Clusium
By the Nine Gods he swore
That the great house of Tarquin
Should suffer wrong no more.
By the Nine Gods he swore it,
And named a trysting day,
And bade his messengers ride forth,
East and west and south and north,
To summon his array.
East and west and south and north
The messengers ride fast,
And tower and town and cottage
Have heard the trumpets blast.
Shame on the false Etruscan
Who lingers in his home,
When Porsena of Clusium
Is on the march for Rome.
. . . . Horatius put a stop to that!
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Yes, near the ruins of Abadanza.
I guess he was a northern Italian.
Oh, I read about that area once. It's the sister city of Abba Zabba.
Interesting. I know the Roman Empire was first estbalished in 753 BC. I heard that the Romans came from the Etruscans originally. Some say Basque is related to Etruscan language.
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The date sounds crudely right, but Rome was a Kingdom, then a Republic, then an Empire. The first transition is described in the article, the second occurred after the assassination of Julius Caesar and a complicated civil war in the last century BC.
It's unlikely that the Romans sprung from Etruscan stock. Latin is an Indoeuropean language with similarities to Greek, Celtic, and even Sanskrit. Etruscan is a language isolate, apparently unrelated to anything so far known (including Basque). Only about 300 words of Etruscan have been deciphered, mostly related to funerals and monuments.
The best guess would be that the Etruscans were a remnant of some earlier inhabitants of the Italian peninsula. The Romans probably arrived from the East in later waves of immigration at crudely the same time as the Greeks and Celts.
Etruscan is a mysterious language, like Basque or Bushushaski.