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clustering round the base of the height—the grand old feudal castle, with its hoary battlements, crowning the cliffs behind —the fearful precipices and profound chasms at your feet—and the ranges of mountains in front, rising in grades of altitude and majesty, to the sublime icy crest of Monte Amiata.' —Dennis.
The site was afterwards occupied by the Roman colony of Suana mentioned by Ptolemy and Pliny. The existing village stands on a tongue of land, ending on one side in the square tower of the cathedral (for it is still the see of a bishop), and, on the other, in a picturesque mediaeval castle. It was the birthplace of Hildebrand—Gregory VII., and in 1240 sustained a siege from Frederick II.
Sorana should be visited in the winter or early spring: it is ruined by the malaria.
'Such is the summer scourge of "ariaccia," that even the wretched hamlet to which the city has dwindled is well-nigh depopulated, and most of its houses are ruined and tenantless. It may well be called, as Repetti observes, "The city of Jeremiah." It is but the skeleton, though a still living skeleton, of its former greatness. Pestilence, year after year, stalks through its long, silent street. The visit of a stranger is an epoch in the annals of the hamlet.' —Dennis.
The finest of the tombs at Sorana is that called La Fontana, discovered by Mr. Ainsley in 1843, till which time Sorana was unknown to Englishmen. It is on the opposite side of the ravine which is reached by the western gate of the town. Above an arched recess, is a Doric frieze, followed by a pediment sculptured in bold relief with figures of a mermaid and a winged genius. The tomb is about seventeen feet wide and seventeen high, the pediment occupying seven feet. A long line of tombs, of Egyptian character, occupies the face of the cliff (Poggio Prisca) beyond La Fontana, but they are almost concealed by the brushwood. On the opposite side of the valley is the Grotta Pola, with a front cut in the tufo like the portico of a temple, having once had apparently four columns, of which only one now remains. In the same cliff (Poggio Stanziale) are many more Egyptian-like tombs, and some 'house-tombs ' with ribbed and ridged roofs, one of them decorated with a colossal head on its pediment.
Sorana may be reached from Acquapendente or Orbetello as well as from Valentano.
Eight miles west from Sorana is Saturnia, reached by a bridlepath which fords the Fiora. It occupies a striking position above the valley of the Albegna, and is surrounded by fortifications of the fifteenth century. The present city, however, only covers a small part of the ancient area, of which fragments of the walls, of true polygonal masonry, may still be seen. Near the Porta Romana, by which the Via Clodia passed through the town to Rome, is a mass of travertine in which steps have been cut to the top, where are three graves or sarcophagi sunk in the level summit.
The Necropolis of Saturnia is ten miles distant from the city, on the opposite bank of the Albegna, at the spot called by the people Pian di Palma. The tombs here, for which the native appellation is not sepolcri or grotte, but depositi, differ from all others in Etruria, being more like the cromlechs of Cornwall, and are supposed to be the work of the Aborigines, to whom Dionysius attributes the foundation of Saturnia.
'They are quadrangular chambers, sunk a few feet below the surface, lined with rough slabs of rock, set upright, one on each side, and roofed over with two large slabs resting against each other so as to form a rude penthouse; or else with a single one of enormous size, covering the whole, and laid at a slight inclination, apparently for the same purpose of carrying off the rain. Not a chisel has touched these rugged masses, which are just as broken off from their native rock, with their edges all shapeless and irregular; and if their faces are somewhat smooth, it is owing to the tendency of the travertine to split in laminar forms. They are the most rude and primitive structures conceivable; such as the savage would make on inhaling- hi.* first breath of civilisation, or emerging from his cave or den in the rock. Their dimensions vary from about sixteen feet square to half that size, though few are strictly of that form. Many are divided into two chambers or compartments for bodies, by an upright slab, on which the cover-stones rest. In most there is a passage, about three feet wide, and ten or twelve feet long, leading to the sepulchral chamber, and lined with slabs of inferior size and thickness.
'These tombs are sunk but little below the surface, because each is enclosed in a tumulus; the earth being piled around so as to conceal all but the cover-stones, which may have been also originally buried. In many instances the earth has been removed or washed away, so as to leave the structure standing above the surface.'—Dennis,
CHAPTER XXXII THE ETRUSCAN SHORE
(Few, except thoroughgoing Etruscan antiquaries, will care to examine the shore of Etruria, partly owing to the difficulties which beset such an excursion, partly from the risks of fever, and partly from the miserable accommodation for travellers in this part of Italy. There are tolerable inns at Orbetello, Grosseto, and Campiglia, but they frequently change hands, so that it is not safe to give definite recommendations.)
TRAVELLERS from Rome to Leghorn, who are neither antiquaries nor artists, are generally oppressed by the ugliness of the lonely country through which they travel. The malaria, which affects the inhabitants, naturally causes the greater part of the country to be left untilled, and it is for the most part covered with low brushwood, or dank grass and thistles, which grow where they will over the windstricken uplands.
The wood which covers other districts is such as Dante de scribes:
'Noi ci mettemmo per un bosco Che da nessun sentiero era segnato.
—Dante, 'Inf.' xiii. 3.
In summer, when the country is far less repellent, few see it, for it is more dangerous. Then it is—
'The green Maremma!—
Before the mysterious pestilence was known, this country was thickly populated, and students who have patience, in the safe winter months, to search for its hidden cities, and endurance to undergo a certain amount of self-denial while seeking for them, will be well rewarded.
'" In the Maremma," saith the proverb, "you get rich in a year, but—you die in six months :" in Maremma «' arricckisce in un anno, si muore in sei mesi. The peculiar circumstances of the Maremma are made the universal excuse for every inferiority of quantity, quality, or workmanship. You complain of the food or accommodation. My host shrubs his shoulders, and cries, "3/a che—cosa vuole, signor? iiamo in Maremma"—what would you have, sir V we are in the Maremma. A bungling smith well-nigh lamed the horse I had hired; to my complaints he replied, " Cosa, vuole, signor? e roba di Maremma." "Marem ma-stuff" is a proverbial expression of inferiority. These lower regions of Italy, in truth, are scarcely deemed worthy of a place in a Tuscan's geography. "Net mondo, o in Maremma" has for ages been a current saying. Thus Boccaccio's Madonna Lisetta tells her gossip that the angel Gabriel had called her the handsomest woman " in the world or in the Maremma." '—Dennis.
While the country is a desert, even the later cities are halfdeserted and ruined.
'Guarda, mi disse, al mare; e vidi piana
—Fazio degli Uberti.
The one highly picturesque point passed between Leghorn and Rome is where the salt lake of Orbetello (Albergo Nazionale, 3 kil. from the station) opens upon the right of the railway, across thick scrub, reaching in a shimmering expanse of silvery water, to the abrupt purple cliffs of isolated Monte Argentaro. On either side it is enclosed by long tongues of sand (Tomboli). Strabo1 mentions this salt lagoon as the ' seamark,' and it adds greatly to the unhealthiness of the country, which, however, it abundantly supplies with fish. If it were deeper it might be more healthy. It is only five feet deep at present. Orbetello is surrounded by walls built in the seventeenth century by the Spaniards. On the side toward the sea they rest upon huge blocks of polygonal masonry. Several Etruscan tombs have also been found, but to what lost city these remains belonged has never been discovered.
At the point where the Feniglia, the southern sand-bank extending from Monte Argentaro, joins the mainland, stand the polygonal towered ruins of Ansedonia (375 feet), the Etruscan Cosa. It is a drive of five miles from Orbetello to the foot of the hill, and here, in a lane on the right of the high road, is a house called ' La Selciatella,' where a guide may be procured.
The conical hill which is occupied by the remains of Cosa rises 600 feet above the sea. The ancient road may be traced all the way up the ascent.
'The form of the ancient city is a rude quadrangle, scarcely a mile in circuit. The walls vary from twelve to thirty feet in height, and are relieved, at intervals, by square towers, projecting from eleven to fifteen feet, and of more horizontal masonry than the rest of the fortifications. Fourteen of
1 v. 226.
these towers, square and external, and two internal and circular, are now standing, or to be traced; but there were probably more, for in several places are immense heaps of ruins, though whether of towers, or of the wall itself fallen outwards, it is difficult to determine.
'Of gates there is the orthodox number of three ; one in the centre ol-the northern, southern, and eastern walls of the city respectively. TheyTire well worthy of attention, all of them being double, like the two celebrated gateways of Volterra, though without even the vestige of an arch. The most perfect is that in the eastern wall. It is evident that it was never arched, for the door-post, still standing, rises to the height of nearly twenty feet in a perfectly upright surface ; and as in the Porta di Diana of Volterra, it seems to have been spanned by a lintel of wood, for at the height of twelve or fourteen feet is a square hole as if for its insertion.'—Dennis.
The interior of the walls of Cosa is now a mere wilderness of brambles. The view from the ramparts is most beautiful—Elba is visible, and, in the near distance, the island of Giannutri, the ancient Artemisia. Cosa is believed to have become a Roman colony B.C. 280; afterwards the fidelity of its people to the Romans, during the second Punic war, is spoken of by Livy.1 Rutilius mentions the tradition that the inhabitants were finally hunted away from the town by an army of mice:—
'Cernimus antiquas nullo custode ruinas,
Et desolatae moenia foeda Cosae.
Promere ; sed risum dissimulare piget.
Muribus infestos deseruisse lares.
A delightful excursion may be made to M. Argcntaro, anciently Mons Argentarius. On the summit of one of its two peaks is the Passionist Convent called II Ritiro.
'Necdum decessis pelago permittimur umbris,
Natus vicino vertfee ventus adest.
Ancipitique jugo caerula rura premit.
Circuitu ponti ter duodena patet.
Ionias bimari litore findit aquas.'
At the base of the mountain on its south-eastern shore is Porto d'Ercole, the ancient Portus Herculis, in a most beautiful situation.
'Haud procul hinc petitur signatus ab Hercule portus;
This was the port of Cosa (Portus Cosanus), in the territory of which town Mons Argentarius was included. Thus Tacitus2 calls 'Cosa, a promontory of Etruria.' Hence Lepidus embarked for Sardinia, when driven from Italy by Catulus in B.C. 78.