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These are the most important of the tombs. The next group of sepulchres is further on across the Monterozzi, two miles from Corneto.
The Orotta delle Bighe is covered with much-injured but once brilliant frescoes, representing on the end wall a banquet, on the side walls dances. The paintings are in a double frieze, the lower and larger of the two having a red ground. The smaller frieze is crowded with figures, and among them are several bigae, or twohorse chariots, whence the name given to the tomb. In the pediment over the door are two leopards and two geese, in the pediment above the banquet is a large amphora with a small naked figure on either side, and, beyond these, seated figures crowned with myrtle and olive.
The Grotta del Mare consists of two small chambers measuring fifteen feet by ten, and derives its name from four sea-horses painted upon the pediment of the outer chamber. ,
The Grotta del Barone, so called from Baron Stachelberg, by whom it was discovered in 1827, is decorated by a single narrow frieze, with a border of coloured stripes. The subject seems to be a race and the distribution of prizes.
The Grotta Francesa, discovered by Chevalier Kestner in 1833, is decorated with representations of a funeral dance, with pipes and castanets.
The Grotta delle Iscrizioni, discovered in 1828, is unlike the others. It is not situated in flat tableland, but is entered from the face of the cliff opposite the hill of Turchina. It is sometimes called the 'Grotta delle Camere Finte' from the false doors, which form part of its decorations, one in each wall. Between these are different pictures, games and dances being the subjects. Two figures seem to be playing at dice, two naked man are boxing, two others are wrestling. In another compartment is a horse race, in another a Bacchic dance. On the right of the entrance is a boy sacrificing a fish upon an altar, before which stands the divinity with a rod in his hand. Above the entrance are two panthers, and beyond them, on either side, a recumbent fawn and a goose. On the opposite pediment are panthers, lions, and stags.
'The inscriptions in this tomb give us some insight into its history. The first is a long semicircular line of letters, and may be translated—" The Priestess Caesanna Matuessa calls these games in honour of the Lar deceased, the glory of his age, the protector of our temples and our commerce." Following this comes the funeral procession. First, the newly-elected Lar Matuesius, perhaps brother to the priestess—then the families of the Lucumones, who are his nearest of kin, or whose offices oblige them to bear a part in his funeral train. One individual only is given of each family, on account of the confined space in which they are represented. Here we see (identified by the names inscribed on the walls) the Lenea and the Pompey, both very noble houses of Tarquinii. Following them, the Prince Aruns Athvinacna representing the younger branches of the ruling house. Aruns means a cadet prince. After this come the Laris Phanuris or sacred mourners for the king, and the Velthuri or presidents of the various games and sacrifices. The races are contested by the royal guard, here called "Laris Larthia" or " Guardia Nobile." The wrestling is between Nucertetes, or Nicotetes, and "the Greek," perhaps some celebrated freedman or slave. The boxing is between Anthasi and Vercnes the sou of Men. This at least is a probable version of the story, and satisfied us after a very long and careful study of this tomb. The deceased Lar himself is not mentioned amongst the inscriptions, for his name and simple epitaph would be deeply engraved upon his ponderous coffin, which lay, with his likeness in full length upon the lid of it, on one side of this painted chamber.'—Mrs. Hamilton Gray.
'To recapitulate these painted tombs iu the order of their antiquity. First I should place the Grotta delle Iscrizioni. Second—the Grotta del Barone, as partaking of the same archaic character, yet with advancement in certain of the figures. Third—the Camera del Morto, as being of very similar style yet with less rigidity. Fourth—Grotta del Triclinio, which, though retaining certain archaicisms in attitude and design, shows much of Greek feeling. Fifth—Grotta Francesca, which, though of inferior merit to the last-named tomb, shows more freedom, its defects being rather the result of carelessness than of incompetence. Sixth—Grotta dclla Scrota Nera (almost impervious to visitors), which, though of less pure Greek feeling than the Grotta Triclinio, betrays more masterly design, and less of that conventionality which in various degrees characterises all the preceding. Seventh—Grotta Querciola, which displays great advancement in correctness and elegance, and much of the spirit of Hellenic art. Eighth—Grotta delle Bighe, whose upper band shows an improvement even upon the Querciola. All these must be referred to the time of Etruscan independence, for not one arrives at the perfection of the later painted vases, which date as far back as the fifth century of Rome. To a subsequent period belong— Ninth—the Grotta Cardinale; and, tenth—the Grotta Pompei, which can hardly be earlier than the latter days of the Roman Republic.
'It is worthy of remark, that all the painted tombs now open are beneath the level surface; not one has a superincumbent tumulus, though such monuments abound on that site. More than six hundred, it is said, are to be counted on the Mouterozzi alone : and they may be considered to have been originally much more numerous. They seem to have been all circular, surrounded at the base with masonry, on which the earth was piled up into a cone, and surmounted probably by a lion or sphinx in stone, or by a cippus, inscribed with the name of the family beneath. After the lapse of so many ages, not one retains its original form, the cones of earth having crumbled down into shapeless mounds, though several have remains of masonry at their base. One (popularly known as "II Mausoleo") is nearly perfect in this respect. It is walled round with travertine blocks, about two feet in length, neatly fitted together, but without cement; forming an architectural decoration which, from its similarity to the mouldings of Norchia and Castel d'Asso, attests its Etruscan origin. It rises to the height of five or six feet, and on it rests a shapeless mound, overgrown with broom and lentiscus. The entrance is by a steep passage, leading down to a doorway beneath the belt of masonry. The sepulchral chamber is not in this case remarkable; but beneath a neighbouring tumulus is one of very peculiar character. The rock is hollowed into the shape of a Gothic vault, but the converging sides, instead of meeting in a point, are suddenly carried up perpendicularly, and terminated by a horizontal course of masonry. The form is very primitive, for it is precisely that of the celebrated Regulini tomb at Cervetri, one of the most ancient sepulchres of Etruria, and also bears much resemblance to the Cyclopean gallery of Tiryns in Argolis.'— Dennis.
The excavations of Corneto are being constantly carried on, and many more important tombs have been opened since this account was written.
Beneath one of the tumuli of the Monterozzi, the Gonfaloniere of Corneto, Carlo Avvolta, opened, in 1823, the wonderful virgin tomb, whose discovery led to all the other excavations near Corneto. He was digging for stones for road mending, when he came upon a large slab of nenfro. Gazing through a crevice beneath it, he says:—
'I saw a warrior stretched on a bed of rock, and in a few minutes I saw him vanish, as it were, under my eyes; for, as the atmosphere entered the tomb, the armour, entirely oxidised, crumbled away into the most minute particles; so that in a short time scarcely a vestige of what I had seen was le.ft on the couch. . . . Such was my astonishment, that it would be impossible to express the effect produced upon my mind by this sight; but I may safely affirm that it was the happiest moment of my existence.'
Turning down from the Monterozzi by the Grotta del Cardinale into the valley, the tourist should not fail to mount the opposite heights of Turchina, or Piano di Civita, for, though there are no remains of the city except a few blocks of the masonry which formed the foundations of its walls, the view is most beautiful of the orange-coloured cliffs which are crowned by the towers of Corneto, and, beyond, of the wide expanse of blue sea with the beautiful headland of Monte Argentaro, its neighbouring islets of Giglio and Giannuti, and, in the distance, Elba, and even Monte Cristo.
Some extraordinary caverned tombs, once adorned with basreliefs, which may still be traced here and there, exist at the spot called La Mereareccia, about a mile from Corneto, reached by a lane which turns off to the left above the road to Civita Vecchia.
VOLCI (PONTE DEL ABBADIA)
(It is possible for those who wish to visit Volcl to find rooms at Montalto, not in the (Locanda Minnetti) inn, but in a private house. But those who are not greatly pressed for time will do better to sleep at Corneto or Civita Vecchia, and go by the first morning train to Montalto, whence it is a drive or walk of six miles to Volci.
Volci [Ponte del Abbadia] should be visited in the winter or early spring. A rough country cart is the only conveyance to be obtained at Montalto.)
SOON after leaving Corneto the railway crosses the little river Marta, close to the mouth of which, on its northern side, are some remains of Roman buildings, and a large arch of Etruscan masonry, with traces of a quay and port, which have been identified by Dennis1 with Graviscae, the port of Tarquinii. The place is still as fraught with fever as in classical times, but its pine trees have disappeared.
* Inde Graviscarum fastigia rara videmus, i
quas premit aestivac saepe paludis odor. Sea nemorosa viret densis vicinla lucis, pineaque extremis fluctuat umbra fretis.'
—Rutilius, ' Itin.' i. 279.
A little south of this is the little port of <S. Clementina, whence corn and salt are exported in large quantities. Here Gregory XI., brought at last from Avignon though fatally-diseased, by the remonstrances of S. Catherine of Siena, landed October 18, 1376, thus ending what Petrarch rightly termed ' the Babylonian captivity of the Papacy.'
Pursuing the Via Aurelia, at Montalto di Castro there is nothing to be seen save the sea, The rather dismal walled town stands on a hill around its castle about 1J mile from the station, and is only remarkable as having given a Cardinal's title to Sixtus V., whose father, Peretto Peretti, a gardener, had lived there in the utmost poverty, till driven by his debts to Fermo, shortly before the birth of the future Pontiff. Two miles south of it is the site of Forum Aurelii.
A desolate track leads from Montalto to Ponte del Abbadia, exposed to every wind, and, when we visited it in March, to
1 Cities and Cemeteries of Struria, ii. 398.
driving snow-storms. The country is piteously bare, and owing to the prevalence of malaria is entirely uninhabited. A tumulus called the Cucumella is the only feature which breaks the bare outline of the treeless moors.
This gloomy prelude makes the transition all the more striking, when a path, turning down a hollow to the right, leads one directly into the beautiful ravine of the sparkling river Fiora (Armenita), which forces its way through a rocky chasm overhung with wealth of ilex, arbutus, and bay, and is one of the loveliest streams in Italy. The views near the bridge no one will omit, but there is a spot about a mile lower down the river called 'II Pelago' (where an Etruscan bridge once existed), at which the river forms a rocky pool overhung by rocks and evergreens, which should also be visited, and, if possible, be painted.
Hence an ill-defined path along the edge of the cliffs leads to the Ponte del Abbadia (so-called from a Cistercian Abbey), which is one of the most glorious scenes in this land of beauty. A gigantic bridge 250 feet long, spans the river at a height of 100 feet, striding from one great orange-coloured cliff to another by a single mighty arch (65 feet), while on the other side, close to the bridge, rises a picturesque mediaeval castle with a tall square1 tower. From bridge and rocks alike, hang stupendous masses of stalactites, often twenty feet in length, giving a most weird character to the scene, and formed by many centuries of dripping water, ' charged with tartaric matter.' The whole view is filled with colour; the smoke of the large fires which the guards at the castle burn to keep off the malaria adds to the effect, and the desolation of the surrounding country only renders it more impressive.
'The bridge is of different dates. It has three projecting piers of red tufo, much weather-worn, which are obviously of earlier construction than the neat and harder nenfro masonry which encases them. Both are in the same emplecton style, like the walls of Sutri, Nepi, and Falleri; and the nenfro portion is, in part, rusticated. The return-facing of the arch, however, is of travertine, and may with certainty be referred to that people, as it possesses features in common with bridges of undoubted Roman origin—the Ponte d'Augusto at Narni, and the celebrated Pont du Gard near Nimes. The aqueduct, also (which occupied the parapet of the bridge), I take to be Roman, simply because it passes over arches of that construction; for the skill of the Etruscans in hydraulics is so well attested as to make it highly probable that to them were the Romans indebted for that description of structure. The tufo buttresses are very probably Etruscan, for they are evidently the piers of the original bridge. The nenfro and travertine portions are, in any case, of Roman times/whatever be the antiquity of the tufo piers.'—Dennis.
Scarcely anything is known of the history of Volci, one of the twelve confederated towns of Etruria, beyond the fact of the defeat and conquest of its people, together with those of Volsinii, in B.C. 280, by the Roman Consul Titus Coruncanius. The city, however, was not destroyed then, and continued to exist in imperial times, as is proved by inscriptions which have been found there, including
1 Not round, as in the engraving iu Dennis' book.