Summer School in Classical Archaeology

The city of Volterra

 

Volterra is one of the most important Etruscan cities, located in the core of Tuscany, on top of a naturally defended and protected high promontory.

It is here that, starting from the VIIIth century BC, the first villages inhabited by the Etruscans began to develop; the major evidence of this period consists of cremation tombs found in the necropolis, whose grave goods reveal community leaders wanted to show themselves as warriors.

During the VIIth and VIth cent. BC villages grow progressively until they become a real city; stone walls and temples to the gods that protect all the city are built and now a mint is striking coins in order to pay the city’s army. All of these are to be considered as the sign of the new political community.

 

View of the Roman theatre of Volterra (first half of Ist cent. AD).

View of the Roman theatre of Volterra (first half of Ist cent. AD).

 

Tombs reveal now the wealth of the aristocratic families, rich enough to buy bronze and ceramic objects from the cities of Southern Etruria, from Greece.

During these centuries the city is able to establish its power over a vast territory, rich in mineral resources and salines; the city is connected to the coast by means of the Cecina River valley, which in ancient times was the main trade route to the Mediterranean Sea.

North and South of the mouth of the river were the ports of the city, located inside lagoons and bays open to the sea and well protected from the main sea currents.

 

2.	The so-called “Porta all’Arco”, one of gate of the IV cent. BC Etruscan city walls.

The so-called “Porta all’Arco”, one of gate of the IV cent. BC Etruscan city walls.

 

At the beginning of the IIIrd cent. BC the city – like all the others Etruscan states – fell under the rule of Rome and, later on, some of the most important members of the aristocracy of Volterra became part of the Roman Senate, holding the higher political offices. The city is enriched with a theater and thermal baths and houses decorated with mosaic floors.

Along the coast, the lords of Volterra build their villas and develop the production of wine, which is exported in amphoras as far as the Western provinces of the empire.

The territory of Volterra is still rich and vital until the Vth cent. AD, when Christianity slowly takes over the pagan cults. The temples and the theater are abandoned, while the first churches were built in the urban center and in the outskirts.

 

The medieval fortress of Volterra, built on the same site of the Etruscan Acropolis.

The medieval fortress of Volterra, built on the same site of the Etruscan Acropolis.