The ancient Etruscan city of Veio (Veii) stood on a triangular plateau, the southern part connected to the acropolis of Piazzad’Armi, and near two rivers: the Fosso della Mola and the Cremera, a tributary of the Tiber. The traces left of hut settlements date back as early as the Bronze Age and the Villanovan period (early 9th century BC), and the settlement’s economic development increased through control of the lower course of the Tiber and exploitation of the salt beds on the right bank of the river. Evidence of this trade is provided by findings of imported Greek ceramics which also show the intense traffic of Veio with Greek merchants. The settlement of huts turned into an actual city with houses built of masonry, a surrounding tufa-stone wall and a great earth embankment with a ditch (7th and 6th century BC). The city’s proximity to Rome (barely 17 kilometres away) led Veio to an inevitable clash for control of the territory, and the city was finally conquered by the Roman general Furius Camillus in 396 BC. The whole area was thus annexed to Rome and organised in a series of small farmsteads and rustic country houses. After a period of abandonment, a colony was created there under Julius Caesar, and Augustus turned it into a municipality with imposing buildings. However, the territory of Veio was later abandoned again, perhaps as early as the 2nd century AD), until the Middle Ages and the birth of the hamlet of Isola Farnese. There are numerous burial grounds around the city, with tumulus and chamber tombs yielding important funeral accoutrements. These tombs include the one of the Anatre (“ducks”), which is the oldest Etruscan tomb with wall paintings (first half of the 7th century BC), and the Campana tomb (late 7th century BC), decorated with animal and plant motifs and figures of riders accompanied by personages on foot or imaginary animals. The Portonaccio shrine. This is the city’s most important shrine, situated outside the urban complex and dedicated to the goddess Minerva. The discovery of the famous terracotta statue of the god Apollo (which had been erected on the top of the temple and is now kept in the museum of Villa Giulia) made archaeologists erroneously attribute the shrine to this god. The complex, encircled by a boundary wall (temenos), is composed of a temple with an adjacent pool used for rituals, and a square, which probably served to display the votive offerings of the populace, that contained a broad quadrangular platform with a square altar in the middle. The temple had three chambers (cellae) orperhaps a single cella with side colonnades and was richly embellished with terracotta panels, antefixes with the heads of gorgons and maenads, and a kroterion statues – including the one of Apollo – on the rooftop. The decoration dates back to the late 6th century BC and is attributed to Vulca, an Etruscan artist who also created the decoration for the temple of Capitoline Jupiter, on the Capitol in Rome, in the reign of Tarquinius Superbus (509 BC). The other important shrine in Veio is that of Campetti, dedicated to the underworld deity Veii, eponymous of the city, and perhaps identified with Demeter. Ponte Sodo. This is a tunnel about 70 metres long which was dug to increase the flow of the Cremera river in times of flood. The vault contained openings for drawing water from above. The dating is uncertain, but is thought to be between the Etruscan period (6th century BC) and the aftermath of the Roman annexation.
Notes: The archaeological area of Veio comprises the sanctuary of Portonaccio. To visit the park please call +39 06 9042774; fax 0039 06 9015454