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An ancient Etruscan vase from Caere (ca 525 BC) depicting Heracles presenting Cerberus to Eurystheus.

Caere (also Caisra and Cisra) is the Latin name given by the Romans to one of the larger cities of Southern Etruria, the modern Cerveteri, approximately 50-60 kilometres north-northwest of Rome. To the Etruscans it was known as Cisra and to the Greeks as Agylla. It was bounded by the two rivers Mola and Manganello, and lay 80 metres above sea level on an outcrop of rocky tuff, a few kilometers from the coast.

Today, the area of Cerveteri is known for its Etruscan necropolis and archeological treasures.



The earliest evidence of settlement of the site come from finds of urns at two areas (Cava della Pozzolana and Sorbo) from the 8th and 9th centuries BC. Trade with the Greeks at Etrusco became increasingly common in the middle of the 8th century BC, with standardised urns and pottery common in graves of the time.

The town became Etruria's main trading centre during the 7th century BC, as well as increasing trade with other Greek colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily, and with the Corinthians. Locally manufactured products began to imitate imported Greek pottery.

Burials of the time became increasingly grand, with jewelry and other products of particularly fine manufacture, illustrating the continuing good fortunes of the city. At the height of its prosperity in the 6th century BC, the people of Caere (with the Carthaginians emerged marginally victorious from clashes with the Phocaean Greeks.

Following the "Battle of the Sardinian Sea", captured prisoners were stoned to death in the city, an act that was attributed as the cause of an ensuing plague. In recompense, athletic contests were held every year in the city to honour the dead, who were given proper burial.

Following this historical, violent outburst by the people of the city, trade once again flourished through the 5th century BC, partly in spite of the difficulties affecting Etruria during the period. Arguably, this is due to the particularly good relations with the Rome, a traditional ally.

In 353 BC Caere, allied to the Tarquinii, lost a war with Rome and with it some of its territory, including the coastal area and ports so important for trade. With this loss, the area lost its wealth and power completely by the first century AD.

It should be noted that this occurred during the First Punic War that pitted Rome against Carthage: the Etruscans and Carthaginians were traditional allies (see Battle of Alalia). Furthermore, the first resumption of Gladiatorial combats in Rome, after its liberation from the Etruscans by the Republic in 510 BC, was in 264, also during the First Punic War. And Caere's ally, Tarquinia, had a peace treaty with Rome that expired in 268 (on the eve of the Punic Wars).

Thus, it would appear that Carthage's Total War against the Roman Republic breathed new life into the Etruscan "Old Ways", and we infer that Carthage appealed to its enemy's enemies for support, pandering to smoldering Etruscan animosity towards their Roman overlords in order to open up a second military front against Rome.

Archeological site

Before the dominance of Rome in the area led to the fall of Etruria, during the period 700-300 BC the inhabitants had constructed an impressive necropolis known today as Banditaccia, which is still not fully excavated but has already yielded the "Sarcophagus of the Spouses".


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CAERE (mod. Cerveteri, i.e. Caere vetus, see below), an ancient city of Etruria about 5 m. from the sea coast and about 20 m. N.W. of Rome, direct from which it was reached by branch roads from the Via Aurelia and Via Clodia. Ancient writers tell us that its original Pelasgian name was Agylla, and that the Etruscans took it and called it Caere (when this occurred is not known), I A limestone well adapted for building. It was well known in the 15th and 16th centuries, at which period many English churches were built of it.

but the former name lasted on into later times as well as Caere. It was one of the twelve cities of Etruria, and its trade, through its port Pyrgos, was of considerable importance. It fought with Rome in the time of Tarquinus Priscus and Servius Tullius, and subsequently became the refuge of the expelled Tarquins. After the invasion of the Gauls in 390 B.C., the vestal virgins and the sacred objects in their custody were conveyed to Caere for safety, and from this fact some ancient authorities derive the word caerimonia, ceremony. A treaty was made between Rome and Caere in the same year. In 353, however, Caere took up arms against Rome out of friendship for Tarquinii, but was defeated, and it is probably at this time that it became partially incorporated with the Roman state, as a community whose members enjoyed only a restricted form of Roman citizenship, without the right to a vote, and which was, further, without internal autonomy. The status is known as the ius Caeritum, and Caere was the first of a class of such municipalities (Th. Mommsen, Rdmische Staatsrecht, iii. 583). In the First Punic War, Caere furnished Rome with corn and provisions, but otherwise, up till the end of the Republic, we only hear of prodigies being observed at Caere and reported at Rome, the Etruscans being especially expert in augural lore. By the time of Augustus its population had actually fallen behind that of the Aquae Caeretanae (the sulphur springs now known as the Bagni del Sasso, about 5 m. W.), but under either Augustus or Tiberius its prosperity was to a certain extent restored, and inscriptions speak of its municipal officials (the chief of them called dictator) and its town council, which had the title of senatus. In the middle ages, however, it sank in importance, and early in the 13th century, a part of the inhabitants founded Caere novum (mod. Ceri) 3 m. to the east.

The town lay on a hill of tufa, running from N.E. to S.V., isolated except on the N.E., and about 300 ft. above sea-level. The modern town, at the western extremity, probably occupies the site of the acropolis. The line of the city walls, of rectangular blocks of tufa, can be traced, and there seem to have been eight gates in the circuit, which was about 4 m. in length. There are no remains of buildings of importance, except the theatre, in which many inscriptions and statues of emperors were found. The necropolis in the hill to the north-west, known as the Banditaccia, is important. The tomb chambers are either hewn in the rock or covered by mounds. One of the former class was the family tomb of the Tarchna-Tarquinii, perhaps descended from the Roman kings; others are interesting from their architectural and decorative details. One especially, the Grotta dei Bassirilievi, has interesting reliefs cut in the rock and painted, while the walls of another were decorated with painted tiles of terracotta. The most important tomb of all, the RegoliniGalassi tomb (taking its name from its discoverers), which lies S.W. of the ancient city, is a narrow rock-hewn chamber about 60 ft. long, lined with masonry, the sides converging to form the roof. The objects found in it (a chariot, a bed, silver goblets with reliefs, rich gold ornaments, &c.) are now in the Etruscan Museum at the Vatican: they are attributed to about the middle of the 7th century B.C. At a short distance from the modern town on the west, thousands of votive terracottas were found in 1886, some representing divinities, others parts of the human body (Notizie degli Scavi, 1886, 38). They must have belonged to some temple.

See G. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, i. 226 seq.; C. Hiilsen in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopddie, iii. 1281. (T. As.)

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