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Clusium was an ancient city in Italy, one of several found at the site. The current municipality of Chiusi (Tuscany) partly overlaps this Roman walled city. The Roman city remodeled an earlier Etruscan city, Clevsin, found in the territory of a prehistoric culture, possibly also Etruscan or proto-Etruscan. The site, located in northern central Italy on the west side of the Apennines.



By the time it appears in the Livy's History, it is already a major Etruscan city being petitioned for assistance against the republican partisans of ancient Rome. About its life prior to that time, Livy only makes a brief statement (10.25) that it was once called Camars.

Different theories exist of the city's origin. Pottery from the pre-Etruscan Italian civilization, Villanovan, has been found at Chiusi. One common type is an urn for the ashes resulting from cremation dating to the 8th century BC. The urns are in the shape of wattle-and-daub huts with thatched roofs, presumably the homes of the deceased. This style of architecture is so different from classical Etruscan that many Etruscologists have denied a continuity. On the other hand, it is clear that the people of the region received a strong impetus from Greek colonies such as Cumae and from Greek immigration.

The minority theory is currently the Proto-Italic. In this theory, Etruscans from the coast or from the Aegean resettled and renamed an Umbrian city called Camars, which the exponents believe means "marshland" in Italic. On enclosing the city with a wall they changed the name to "enclosure", using an Etruscanized form, Clevsin, of the perfect passive participle, clusus, of Latin cludere, "to close".

Clevsin and Camars are more comfortable in their Etruscan milieu as Etruscan words. The limited known Etruscan vocabulary includes camthi, the name of a magistracy, which might be segmented cam-thi, where –thi is a known locative ending. Ar, -arasi, -aras are plural endings of different cases. A cleva is an offering. S and -isi are genitive and dative endings. A place of magistracies or offerings is entirely harmonious with Etruscan culture and the uses of a regional capital city. The final resolution of the question waits for more evidence.

Ancient history

Chiusi is situated on a hill above the valley of the Clanis river near lake Clusium, both of which features had those names in antiquity. The Clanis is part of the Tiber drainage system and was navigable by boat from there. Rome was also accessed by the via Cassia, which was built over an Etruscan road.

The site of ancient Clusium was reoccupied in Roman and later times, obscuring and obliterating much of the Etruscan layers. For example, the ancient sources describe the tomb of Lars Porsena at Clusium as well as the sacking and levelling of the city by Sulla. Much of what remains are its tombs and its underground passages, some of which might have been associated with the monument to Porsena.

Lars Porsena, king (or lucumo) of Clevsin, decided not to restore the Tarquin monarchy, but fostered a republic instead. At the time Clevsin was a major city of the Etruscan League.

Bucchero Ware

Lars Porsena marched on Rome with an army and a divided mind. Lack of resolve perhaps contributed to his not taking the Pons Sublicius bridge defended by Horatius Cocles. In legend, he either took the city but turned it over to the republicans, or declined to prosecute the war further (being so impressed with Horatius' bravery). Porsena is said to have sent his son, Aruns, to take Aricia, but the expedition failed and Aruns was killed. Clusium then vanished from history for a few hundred years.

Pliny the Elder wrote that a magnificent tomb was built for Porsena; a large mausoleum surrounded by cascades of pyramids over a labyrinth of underground chambers in which an intruder could get lost. Pliny never saw this tomb, so his description was based on a report from Varro and perhaps a conflated comparison to the Minoan labyrinths he describes before this tomb. Large-size tumuli of the late archaic period were built at Chiusi, and modern scholars have tried to associate these (especially Poggio Gaiella) with the legendary tomb of Porsena.

Recently there was an attempt to relocate ancient Clusium to an unexplored site closer to Florence. The site (Gonfienti) has the virtue of being possible in size and structure and of being unexplored.


A Roman ally

In the early 4th century BC (391 BC according to Varronian chronology) it was besieged by Gauls, and the Clusines called upon Rome to intermediate. However, in the following negotiations, one of the Roman delegates, of the gens Fabia, killed a Gallic leader. When the Romans refused to hand over the Fabii and in fact appointed two members of the family as consuls for the next year, the enraged Gauls broke up their siege and under the leadership of Brennus they marched onto and subsequently sacked Rome.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CLUSIUM (mod. Chiusi, q.v.), an ancient town of Italy, one of the twelve cities of Etruria, situated on an isolated hill at the S. end of the valley of the Clanis (China). It was according to Roman tradition one of the oldest cities of Etruria and indeed of all Italy, and, if Camars (the original name of the town, according to Livy) is rightly connected with the Camertes Umbri, its foundation would go back to pre-Etruscan times. It first appears in Roman history at the end of the 7th century B.C. when it joined the other Etruscan towns against Tarquinius Priscus, and at the end of the 6th century B.C. it placed itself, under its king Lars Porsena, at the head of the attempt to re-establish the Tarquins in Rome. At the time of the invasion of the Gauls in 391 B.C., on the other hand, Clusium was on friendly terms with Rome; indeed, it was the action of the Roman envoys who had come to intercede for the people of Clusium with the Gauls, and then, contrary to international law, took part in the battle which followed, which determined the Gauls to march on Rome. Near Clusium too, according to Livy (according to Polybius ii. 19. 5, Ev Tfi KaµepTLcov xd)pa, i.e. in Umbria near Camerinum), a battle occurred in 296 B.C. between the Gauls and Samnites combined, and the Romans; a little later the united forces of Clusium and Perusia were defeated by the Romans. The precise period at which Clusium came under Roman supremacy is, however, uncertain, though this must have happened before 225 B.C., when the Gauls advanced as far as Clusium. In 205 B.C. in the Second Punic War we hear that they promised ship timber and corn to Scipio. The Via Cassia, constructed after 187 B.C., passed just below the town. In the first civil war, Papirius Carbo took up his position here, and two battles occurred in the neighbourhood. Sulla appears to have increased the number of colonists, and a statue was certainly erected in his honour here. In imperial times we hear little of it, though its grain and grapes were famous. Christianity found its way into Clusium as early as the 3rd century, and the tombstone of a bishop of A.D. 322 exists. In A.D. 540 it is named as a strong place to which Vitiges sent a garrison of a thousand men.

Of pre-Roman or Roman buildings in the town itself there are few remains, except for some fragments of the Etruscan town walls composed of rather small rectangular blocks of travertine, built into the medieval fortifications. Under it, however, extends an elaborate system of rock-cut passages, probably drains. The chief interest of the place lies in its extensive necropolis, which surrounds the city on all sides. The earliest tombs (tombe a pozzo, shaft tombs) are previous to the beginning of Greek importation. Of tombe a fosso there are none, and the next stage is marked by the so-called tombe a ziro, in which the cinerary urn (often with a human head) is placed in a large clay jar (ziro, Lat. dolium). These belong to the 7th century B.C., and are followed by the tombe a camera, in which the tomb is a chamber hewn in the rock, and which can be traced back to the beginning of the 6th century B.C. From one of the earliest of these came the famous Francois vase; another is the tomb of Poggio Renzo, or della Scimmia (the monkey), with several chambers decorated with archaic paintings. The most remarkable group of tombs is, however, that of Poggio Gaiella, 3 m. to the N., where the hill is honeycombed with chambers in three storeys (now, however, much ruined and inaccessible), partly connected by a system of passages, and supported at the base by a stone wall which forms a circle and not a square - a fact which renders impossible its identification with the tomb of Porsena, the description of which Pliny (Hist. Nat. xxxvi. 91) has copied from Varro. Other noteworthy tombs are those of the Granduca, with a single subterranean chamber carefully constructed in travertine, and containing eight sarcophagi of the same material; of Vigna Grande, very similar to this; of Cone Casuccini (the ancient stone door of which is still in working order), with two chambers, containing paintings representing funeral rites; of Poggio Moro and Valdacqua, in the former of which the paintings are almost destroyed, while the latter is now inaccessible.

A conception of the size of the whole necropolis may be gathered from the fact that nearly three thousand Etruscan inscriptions have come to light from Clusium and its district alone, while the part of Etruria north of it as far as the Arno has produced barely five hundred. Among the later tombs bilingual inscriptions are by no means rare, and both Etruscan and Latin inscriptions are often found in the same cemeteries, showing that the use of the Etruscan language only died out gradually. A large number of the inscriptions are painted upon the tiles which closed the niches containing the cinerary urns. The urns themselves are small, often of terra-cotta, originally painted, though the majority of them have lost their colour, and rectangular in shape. This style of burial seems peculiar to a district which E. Bormann (Corp. Inscr. Lat. xi., Berlin, 188 7, p. 373) defines as a triangle formed by the Clanis (with the lakes of Chiusi and Montepulciano, both small, shallow and fever-breeding), on the E., the villages of Cetona, Sarteano, Castelluccio and Monticchiello on the W., and Montepulciano and Acquaviva on the N. In Roman times the territory of Clusium seems to have extended as far as Lake Trasimene. The local museum contains a valuable and important collection of objects from the necropolis, including some specially fine bucchero, sepulchral urns of travertine, alabaster and terra-cotta, painted vases, stone cippi with reliefs, &c.

Two Christian catacombs have been found near Clusium, one in the hill of S. Caterina near the railway station, the inscriptions of which seem to go back to the 3rd century, another 1 m. to the E. in a hill on which a church and monastery of S. Mustiola stood, which goes back to the 4th century, including among its inscriptions one bearing the date A.D. 303, and the tombstone of L. Petronius Dexter, bishop of Clusium, who died in A.D. 322. The total number of inscriptions known in Clusium is nearly 3000 Etruscan (Corp. Inscr. Etrusc., Berlin, 475-3306) and 500 Latin (Corp. Inscr. Lat. xi. 2090-2593). To the W. and N.W. of Chiusi - at Cetona, Sarteano, Chianciano and MontepulcianoEtruscan cemeteries have been discovered; the objects from them formed, in the latter half of the 19th century, interesting local collections described by Dennis, which have since mostly passed to larger museums or been dispersed.

See G. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria(London,1883),ii.290 seq.; L. Giometti, Guida di Chiusi (Poggibonsi, 1904). (T. As.)

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