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Coordinates: 42°01′16″N 12°23′27″E / 42.02111°N 12.39083°E / 42.02111; 12.39083 Portonaccio is an archaeological site located next to the west side of the plateau on which the ancient Etruscan city of Veio, north of Rome, central Italy, was located. The site takes its name from the locality within the village of Isola Farnese, part of XX Municipio, city of Rome.


The site

The site is a polytheistic temple complex erected in a cuttng on the side of the hill on which the city wall of Veii towered over it then. One of the richest sources of Etruscan artifacts: pottery and other objects inscribed in Etruscan and terra cotta statuary and other decorative elements, it contained two main structures, one a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Menerva (Etruscan spelling) and the other a temple that had statues of Turms, Hercle, Aplu (the Apollo of Veii) and Letun on the roof, which has come to be regarded as a temple of Apollo. Next to the temple of Apollo was a rectangular pool. A well provided water. The site has been left wooded, as it was in ancient times, when surrounded by a sacred grove.

The site was excavated in modern tmes by Massimo Pallottino in the 1940s and published decades later by the first and second generation of his students. The roof of the temple of Apollo has been restored on one side. It hangs over the site on a geometrical framework of steel rods. The sanctuary of Menerva is under roof nearby. Otherwise only the foundation walls of the complex survive. In ancient times it was surrounded by its own wall.


The sanctuary to Menerva

The Portonaccio Sanctuary of Minerva was the first Tuscan–type (ie Etruscan) temple erected in Etruria (about 510 BC). The reconstruction proposed for it in 1993 by Giovanni Colonna together with Germano Foglia, presents a square 60 feet (18 m) construction on a low podium (about 18 metres, considering the 29 cm foundation) and divided into a pronapse with two columns making up the facade between entrances, 24 feet (7.3 m) deep and a group in the back made up of three 30 feet (9.1 m) deep adjacent cells. The 21-foot (6.4 m) columns were made of stuccoed tuff as were the walls, which inside the pronapse were decorated with various paintings on clay panels. The roof was in wood covered with polychrome terracotta. The terracotta was placed through a refined system of syllabic abbreviations and they were integrated with bronze inserts and a generous profusion of plastic inserts, mostly modelled by hand, among which a splendid series of grand antefixes (joint coverings) with the heads of Gorgons, maenads and satyrs.

The temple of Apulu

This sanctuary, among the most ancient and venerated on all of Etruria, was outside of the city and a road leading from the city of Veio to the Tyrrhenian coast and the famous Veio saline mines ran through it. Its most ancient nucleus tied to the cult of the goddess Minerva and a small temple, a square altar, a portico and stairs from the road were built in about 530-530 BC in her honour. The three cell temple with the polychrome terracotta decorations was erected in about 510 BC in the western part of the sanctuary. Adjacent to the temple there was a great pool with a tunnel and a fence that enclosed the sacred woods. The temple was in honour of the god Apollo in his prophetic oracle aspect inspired after the Delphi model to which purification ceremonies were tied. Heracles, the hero made god dear to tyrants, and maybe also Jupiter, whose image we have to imagine on the central wall of the temple were tied to Apollo. By the middle of the 5th century BC, all interventions on the temple are concluded and it begins a slow decline while the structures sacred to Minerva are renovated on the eastern sector of the sanctuary. The starting up again of the cult worshipping Minerva, which continued also after the conquering of Veio by Rome (396 BC) is documented by a splendid series of votive statues of classic and late-classic style boys, such as the famous head, “Malavolta” as to indicate the important role of the goddess in the rituals of the passage from adolescence to adulthood that signalled the fundamental phases of the life of the members of the aristocratic families of Veio. In the 2nd century BC, the tuff mine that destroyed the central area of the sanctuary was opened causing damage to the temple and the sliding down of material downhill. The recovery of the fragments of the sanctuary determined the start up of excavations in 1914, which continued after the discovery of the famous statue of Apollo in 1916.

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