The Fanum Voltumnae (‘shrine of Voltumna’) was the chief sanctuary of the Etruscans; fanum means a sacred place, a much broader notion than a single temple.Numerous sources refer to a league of the "Twelve Peoples" ( lucumonies ) of Etruria, formed for religious purposes but evidently having some political functions. The Etruscan league of twelve city-states met annually at the Fanum, located in a place chosen as omphalos (sacred navel), the geographical and spiritual centre of the whole Etruscan nation. Each spring political and religious leaders from the cities would meet to discuss military campaigns and civic affairs and pray to their common gods. Chief amongst these was Voltumna (or Veltha), possibly state god of the Etruria.
Roman historian Livy mentioned the Fanum Voltumnae five times in his worksand indicated "...apud Volsinios..." as the place where the shrine was located. Modern historians have been looking for the Fanum since at least the 15th century but the exact location of the shrine is still unknown, though it may have been in an area near modern Orvieto, believed by many to be the ancient Volsinii. Livy describes the meetings that took place at the Fanum between Etruscan leaders. Livy refers in particular to a meeting in which two groups applied to assist the city of Veii in a war it was waging. The council's answer was no, because Veii had declared war without first notifying it. Livy also says that Roman merchants who travelled to a huge fair attached to the meeting acted as spies, reporting back on Etruscan affairs to authorities in the city-state of Rome. Livy was alone in mentioning the god Voltumna, whereas Marcus Terentius Varro indicated a god-prince of Etruria. The Latin elegiac poet Propertius writes of an Etruscan god taken to Rome from Velzna (the town of Orvieto). That the Fanum was somewhere in central Italy in the area between Orvieto and Viterbo is probable enough, but as Livy gave no clue to its locality, and as no inscriptions have thrown light on the subject, at the current time it can be but pure conjecture to assign to it this or that particular site.
The most credited hypothesis places the shrine in Orvieto.The Urbs Vetus of the Middle Ages is identified with the Etruscan Velzna by scholars, the Latin Volsinii, conquered by the Romans in 264 BC. Livy, Pliny, Florus, Horace, Metrodorus of Scepsis, all belonging to the 2nd century BC, clearly speak of ancient Volsinii, but never in relation to the Fanum Voltumnae. In the late 19th-century archaeologists uncovered parts of the walls and found large quantities of earthenware, and based on these findings in 1930s the archeologist Geralberto Buccolini set out the hypothesis that the Fanum was situated at the foot of Orvieto's tuff In particular, the Temple of Belvedere was discovered and identified as the Temple of Nortia.
In September 2006, Simonetta Stopponi, professor of Italic Archaeology and Etruscology at Macerata University (Italy), after extensive digs (begun in 2000 and financed by the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Bank, with ministerial permission) at a site near the hill town of Orvieto (esplanade Arcone, former Campo della Fiera, smallholding Giardino della Regina) announced that the site at the feet of the Umbrian town probably was the location of the Fanum Voltumnae."It has all the characteristics of a very important shrine, and of that shrine in particular" she said.
Listing some of those characteristics, she mentioned "the scale of the construction, its intricate structure and layout, the presence of wells and fountains and the central temple building".
Structures of various periods have been identified, distributed over a very large area (a retaining wall in polygonal masonry, a paved street, etc.), and many fragments of architectural terracottas have been recovered (among which are some similar to those in Berlin), datable from Late Archaic period to Hellenistic times. Also supporting the claim that this is the Fanum Voltumnae is the fact that the area was used continuously for religious purposes right from the 6th century BC up to the 15th century. Roman temples were built on it in later centuries and the last church was erected there in the 12th century.
In November 2014, archaeologist Simonetta Stopponi announced finding a polychrome terracotta male head of an Etruscan god in the area of Orvieto. "The head is very nice and well kept," said Stopponi, "An important discovery as well as that of the temple" that measures 12 by 18 metres (39 ft × 59 ft). A main temple and a sacred way have also been excavated.
Some modern scholars have hypothesized that the location of Fanum Voltumnae was at Bagnoregio (probably on the hill of Civita di Bagnoregio), past possession of Orvieto and Etruscan walled town.
Before the discoveries in the Orvieto area, the archaeological site of Guado Cinto, a necropolis including the Tomb of the Queen near Tuscania, was one of the most credited locations of Fanum Voltumnae.
This hypothesis, presented in the 1950s by Mario Signorelli (1905–1990), an Italian music teacher, identified the sacred wood of the Etruscans in the peripheral areas of Viterbo named Riello and Macchia grande. This area was central to the sacred wood, protected by four guardian towns which prevented it from being disclosed to the profane. The four towns were: Ferente (i.e. Ferentium), Axia (i.e. Castel d'Asso), Vrcle (Orcla, the centre of today's Norchia), Luserna (i.e. Musarna). The works of Signorelli followed the writings of the fifteenth-century forger and friar of the Dominican order Annio da Viterbo (1432–1502), who devoted his life to collecting legends and traditions ascribed to the Etruscans, and to inventing documents to support his histories.
Viterbo's heraldic badges are surrounded by the letters FAVL (read as FAUL), which appear like a ciphered globe. It is unclear what they refer to, but some claim that they are the initials of the guardian towns and some others that they are in reference to the initial syllables of Fanum Voltumnae. The latter was affirmed in the nineteenth century by Francesco Orioli, who also surmised that the Viterbo Cathedral was built on the site of the Fanum, in the Roman settlement Castrum Herculis. Viterbo, inasmuch as it contains a church named Santa Maria in Volturna, may be considered as having some claims to the Fanum.
Annio of Viterbo, in his 17 volumes of Antiquities (published in 1498) attributed the foundation of the Etruscan Fanum Voltumnae to the ancient population known as Falisci (allies of the Etruscans, along with Capenates, at the time of the wars between Rome and Veii, 406–396 BC). The town Montefiascone was named after them (Mons Faliscorum, that is, Mountain of the Falisci). The British explorer George Dennis, though without any documentary evidence, supported Montefiascone as the sacred site where the states of the Etruscan league met periodically to discuss military and political affairs and choose a lucumo (the equivalent of Pontifex Maximus ).
In spring 1988, news was published that Fanum Voltumnae was at last discovered on the volcanic ridge of Lake Bolsena.The hill (633 m a.s.l.), known as Poggio Evangelista (commune of Latera), retains the ruins of a temple, visibly located on a strategic place, with a wide view over Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany (Berlingo and Timperi, 1995). It is likely a sacred Etruscan place of worship dating back to the 6th – 4th centuries BC.
In 1976 and 1977, Danish excavations were carried out at Monte Becco (at 556 m a.s.l.), in the area of Valentano, near to the Lake Mezzano (ancient Lacus Statoniensis). Traces of the Etruscan presence, including walls, bronze tools, and roof tiles were found during the study mission. One of the tiles was found to be incised with all the characters of the Etruscan alphabet. This site has been also indicated as one of the possible locations of the Fanum.
This hypothesis is supported by Angelo Timperi, inspector and archeologist of Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria Meridionale , with roles and responsibilities for the eastern side of Lake Bolsena and the archaeological area of Poggio Moscini in Bolsena. His idea is that Fanum Voltumnae was a large area centred on the ancient Etruscan, and later Roman town of Velzna, situated on the shore of Lacus Volsiniensis (modern Lake Bolsena). This conclusion is based on both archaeological and epigraphical discoveries, also supported by stratigraphic reconstructions and archival records.
Another hypothesissuggests that the federal shrine of the Etruscans was located to the northern coast of Lake Bolsena, in a place known as Civita di Grotte di Castro, a plain area close to the church of San Giovanni in Val di Lago (currently in the commune of San Lorenzo Nuovo). This hypothesis (also supported by Luigi Catena ) comes out of another study based on the so-called Rescritto di Spello (Rescript of Hispellum) issued by emperor Constantine I in a date between 333 and 337 AD to authorize the Umbrians' annual celebration:
We – Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine Maximus Germanicus Sarmaticus Maximus Gothicus Victor Triumphator Augustus and [his sons] Flavius Constantine and Flavius Julius Constantius and Flavius Constans – encompass with our untiring attention and care everything, indeed, that benefits human society; but this is the greatest task for our forethought: that all the cities whose splendid appearance and beauty distinguish them in the eyes of all provinces and of all regions not only shall keep their former dignity, but also shall be promoted to a still greater esteem by the grant of our Beneficence.
Since, indeed, you aver that you have been annexed to Tuscia in such a way that by the established practice of ancient custom priests are created every other year in turn by you and by the aforesaid people of Tuscia, who exhibit stage plays and a gladiatorial show at Volsinii, a city of Tuscia; but that, because of the steepness of the mountains and the difficulties of the paths through the forests thither, you most earnestly request that permission shall be granted to your priest to abandon the necessity of going to Volsinii to celebrate the exhibition; and that we shall give a name from our cognomen to the community, which now has the name Hispellum and which you state is contiguous to and lying along the Flaminian Way and in which a temple of the Flavian Family is being built, of truly magnificent workmanship worthy of the greatness of its name; and that there that priest, whom Umbria selects annually, shall exhibit a festival of both stage plays and gladiatorial shows; and that this custom shall remain as regards Tuscia: that the priest created at Volsinii shall celebrate, as has been his wont, the observation of the aforesaid exhibitions at that place: our assent is gladly granted to your prayer and desire.
For from our own name we vouchsafe to the community of Hispellum an eternal designation, an appellation to be venerated, so that hereafter the aforesaid city shall be called Flavia Constans; and in its center we wish, as you desire, the temple of our Flavian Family to be completed of magnificent workmanship, but with this regulation added: that no temple dedicated in our name shall be defiled by the deceptions of any contagious and unreasonable religious belief; and so we also permit you to stage exhibitions in the aforesaid community, although in such manner that, as has been said, the celebration of Volsinii also shall not fall into disuse through the ages, but that there the aforesaid celebration also must be staged by priests chosen from Tuscia.
Thus, indeed, it will not appear that our actions especially derogate anything from old customs; and you, who are suppliants to us for the aforesaid causes, will rejoice that you have gained those things for which you have earnestly asked.
This is the first document that allows one to situate the Fanum at Volsinii – or at least in the Volsiniese territory. It is said in the document that the annual Etruscan feast (concilium principum Etruriae) was celebrated near Volsinios, including games and combats of gladiators, and election of the federal sacerdos. The document dates 4th century AD, thus the geographical indication in it can only refer to Volsinii Novi, i.e. Bolsena, and not to Velzna (Latinized to Volsinii Veteres, currently Orvieto), the town the Romans had conquered and destroyed more than five centuries earlier. 1791–1795). New discoveries from ongoing excavations have been made in location "Alfina" and "Monte Landro" by a team coordinated by Adriano Maggiani (teacher of Etruscology and Italic Archaeology at Ca' Foscari University of Venice), which may shed new lights on Etruscan culture at San Lorenzo Nuovo [e.g. Maccarino's tomb and other Etruscan tombs at San Lorenzo Nuovo ]. An Etruscan mirror exhibited in the British Museum was found in a tomb on the territory of San Lorenzo Nuovo.New light is being brought into this area by British and Danish studies. The sacred rescript, found in 1733, was claimed false by the Italian historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori in his Novus Thesaurus Veterum Inscriptionum (pp.
Within Lake Bolsena, the Bisentina island (commune of Capodimonte) is also regarded as a sacred isle of the Etruscans, possible site for the Fanum, and gate to the underground world of Agharti. A sanctuary located on an island not situated at the sea would have been accessible to priests and kings of the 12 cities (with their closest entourages), their protection being granted during the religious and political meetings by a handful of armed men. An Italian television program Voyager (1 October 2003) supported this hypothesis, suggesting for the Etruscans a parallelism to the Incas populations, who had also chosen one of Lake Titicaca's islands as their omphalos.
Indeed, not only the Incas but, for the same reasons, various peoples have decided to erect their most eminent sanctuary on sacred islands: the Egyptians at Philae; the Greeks at Delos; the Germans at Helgoland in the North Sea and on the island of the goddess Nerthus, in the Baltic; the Celts at Gavrinis, near to the Breton coast in France, at Iona in Scotland, etc. This hypothesis finds a type of confirmation in the poem the Theogony, by the Greek oral poet Hesiod (8th–7th century BC) : "They ruled over the famous Tyrenians, very far off in a recess of the holy islands".
In Geografia sacra, Giovanni Feo presents his studiesconducted over the Fiora River valley, in the comune of Pitigliano. A set of megalithic relics with astronomic functions was found out here, along with engraved rocky structures for cultural use. Such discoveries testify of the existence of a sacred area, originally developed by a pre-etruscan civilization settled down near to Lake Bolsena and later elected by the Etruscans as their religious centre. Giovanni Feo also pointed out the borders of this sacred area, which delimited the Fanum, divided into four parts centred around the intersection point between the earth and heaven gods.
In the commune of Farnese, deep in the Selva del Lamone, location Voltone is assumed to get its name from the sacred temple dedicated to Voltumna. The Voltone is surrounded by numerous archaeological sites, such as Sovana, Castro, Vulci, and Tarquinia, which testify of the culture of the Etruscans.
According to Alberto Palmucci,the Fanum Voltumnae could be the renowned temple of Ara della Regina , the biggest temple of Etruria, consecrated to Tinia, god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology (equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus). The only representation of this god is one on a mirror, showing him attending the lesson in divination (haruspicy) given, in Tarquinia, to the culture hero Tarchon by prophet Tages. Greek historian Strabo supports that symbols of Etruscan federal power were transferred to Rome from Tarquinia.
In the archaeological museum of Tarquinia is an Etruscan vessel (early seventh century BC) with a dedication to the god Vertun (Latin: Vertumnus, Voltumna). It comes from the nearly Etruscan cemetery.
The Etruscan civilization of ancient Italy covered a territory, at its greatest extent, of roughly what is now Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Lazio, as well as parts of what are now the Po Valley, Emilia-Romagna, south-eastern Lombardy, southern Veneto, and Campania.
Etruria was a region of Central Italy, located in an area that covered part of what are now Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria.
Eiza Etruscan inscriptions) is the name of the Etruscan equivalent to the Greek Hadifez, the god of the Afterlife.
Nortia is the Latinized name of the Etruscan goddess Nurtia, whose sphere of influence was time, fate, destiny, and chance.
In Etruscan mythology, Tarchon and his brother, Tyrrhenus, were culture heroes who founded the Etruscan League of twelve cities, the Dodecapoli. One author, Joannes Laurentius Lydus, distinguishes two legendary persons named Tarchon, the Younger and his father, the Elder. It was the Elder who received the Etrusca Disciplina from Tages, whom he identifies as a parable. The Younger fought with Aeneas after his arrival in Italy. The elder was a haruspex, who learned his art from Tyrrhenus, and was probably the founder of Tarquinia and the Etruscan League. Lydus does not state that, but the connection was being made at least as long ago as George Dennis. Lydus had the advantage in credibility, even though late, of stating that he read the part of the Etrusca Disciplina about Tages and that it was a dialogue with Tarchon's lines in "the ordinary language of the Italians" and Tages' lines in Etruscan, which was difficult for him to read. He relied on translations.
In Etruscan mythology, Voltumna or Veltha was the chthonic deity, who became the supreme god of the Etruscan pantheon, the deus Etruriae princeps, according to Varro. Voltumna's cult was centered in Volsini a city of the Etruscan Civilization of central Italy. Voltumna is shown with contrasting characteristics, such as a maleficent monster, a chthonic vegetation god of uncertain sex, or a mighty war god.
Orvieto is a city and comune in the Province of Terni, southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The city rises dramatically above the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone, called tufa.
Volsinii or Vulsinii, is the name of two ancient cities of Etruria, one situated on the shore of Lacus Volsiniensis, and the other on the Via Clodia, between Clusium (Chiusi) and Forum Cassii (Vetralla). The latter was Etruscan and was destroyed by the Romans in 264 BC following an attempted revolt by its slaves, while the former was founded by the Romans using the remainder of the Etruscan population rescued from the razed city.
Lake Bolsena of central Italy, is a lake of volcanic and tectonic origin. It is the largest volcanic lake in Europe. Roman historic records indicate activity of the Vulsini volcano occurred as recently as 104 BC; it has been dormant since then. The two islands in the southern part of the lake were formed by underwater eruptions following the collapse that created the depression.
Bolsena is a town and comune of Italy, in the province of Viterbo in northern Lazio on the eastern shore of Lake Bolsena. It is 10 km (6 mi) north-north west of Montefiascone and 36 km (22 mi) north-west of Viterbo. The ancient Via Cassia, today's highway SR143, follows the lake shore for some distance, passing through Bolsena.
Montefiascone is a town and comune of the province of Viterbo, in Lazio, central Italy. It stands on a hill on the southeast side of Lake Bolsena, about 100 km (60 mi) north of Rome.
San Lorenzo Nuovo is a small town and comune in the province of Viterbo, in the Latium region of Italy. It is an agricultural center producing potatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, cereals and grapes. A second source of revenue is tourism.
Feronia or Lucus Feroniae was an ancient town of southern Etruria, at the foot of Mount Soracte, within the territory of Capena, with a temple or shrine of the goddess from whom it derived its name, and a sacred grove, attached to it. Strabo, indeed, is the only author who mentions a town of the name, which he calls Feronia; other writers speak of Lucus Feroniae and Feroniae fanum, but it is natural that in process of time a town should have grown up around a site of so much sanctity, and which was annually visited by a great concourse of persons. Feronia appears to have been a Sabine goddess, and hence the festivals at her shrine seem to have been attended especially by the Sabines, though the sanctuary itself was in the Etruscan territory, and dependent upon the neighbouring city of Capena The first mention of these annual festivals occurs as early as the reign of Tullus Hostilius, when we find them already frequented by great numbers of people, not only for religious objects, but as a kind of fair for the purposes of trade, a custom which seems to have prevailed at all similar meetings. Great wealth had, in the course of ages, been accumulated at the shrine of Feronia, and this tempted Hannibal to make a digression from his march during his retreat from Rome, in 211 BCE, for the purpose of plundering the temple. On this occasion he despoiled it of all its gold and silver, amounting to a large sum, besides which there was a large quantity of rude or uncoined brass, a sufficient proof of the antiquity of the sanctuary. The only other notices of the spot which occur in history are some casual mentions of prodigies that occurred there; but Strabo tells that it was still much frequented in his time, and that many persons came thither to see the miracle of the priests and votaries of the goddess passing unharmed through a fire and over burning cinders. This superstition is ascribed by other writers to the temple of Apollo, on the summit of Mount Soracte. It was probably transferred from thence to the more celebrated sanctuary at its foot.
Etruscan cities were a group of ancient settlements that shared a common Etruscan language and culture, even though they were independent city-states. They flourished over a large part of the northern half of Italy starting from the Iron Age, and in some cases reached a substantial level of wealth and power. They were eventually assimilated first by Italics in the south, then by Celts in the north and finally in Etruria itself by the growing Roman Republic.
Poggio Colla is an Etruscan archaeological site located near the town of Vicchio in Tuscany, Italy.
The so-called Mars of Todi is a near life-sized bronze warrior, dating from the late 5th or early 4th century BC, produced in Etruria for the Umbrian market. It was found at Todi, on the slope of Mount Santo.
Rofalco was a fortified late-Etruscan settlement, located about twenty km north of Vulci, at the edge of the Selva del Lamone volcanic plateau. The site controlled the important natural route formed by the valley of the Olpeta stream and contributed to the defense and the organization of the southeastern portion of the ancient territory of Vulci.
In ancient Italy, the Etruscan "Lega dei popoli" was a league comprising several towns — usually, but not necessarily, twelve — located in the areas that today are known as Tuscany, western Umbria and northern Lazio.
Lur is an Etruscan deity with not much known history. Lurs does not have many depictions but the ones that have been found show the deity as a male. He has been noted to be associated with a prophetic nature, while also bearing oracular and martial characteristics. He has been linked to another deity by the name of Laran, which suggest is where Lur derives his name from. The context of the name has been associated with darkness and the underworld. A fifth century vase found near a sanctuary in Sans Giovenale reads an inscription that translates: "I am Lurs, that of Laran." Another inscription has been found with the spelling of his name as lartla, noting relations to a Lar, which gives a label to Lur that describes features of protection.
Maria Bonghi Jovino is an Italian archaeologist. Bonghi Jovino was Professor of Etruscology and Italic Archaeology at the University of Milan.