Rusellae

Situated 11 kilometres north of Grosseto in the Ombrone Valley, Rusellae was one of the twelve city-states of the Etruscan Confederation. The city was an important ancient town of Etruria (roughly modern Tuscany) and subsequently of ancient Rome. It survived until the Middle Ages before being abandoned. The remains of the ancient buildings were brought to light by means of a long campaign of excavations carried out in the 1950s. More recent work has revealed many more impressive buildings.

Coordinates: 42°49’38.5″N 11°09’32.9″E

The site was sparsely occupied during the Villanovan period, but the first urban centre dates to the 7th century BC when the first walled city was founded. About a century later, the town was provided with a new set of imposing defensive walls surrounding the hills on which it was located. In the Etruscan era, the town enjoyed a period of wealth and prosperity thanks not only to the exploitation of farming and mining resources but also to its commercial contacts with Greece and the Greek colonies of Southern Italy.

In the 4th century, the Romans built the via Aurelia and began intensifying their presence in the area. Initially, relations with the people of Rusellae were peaceful but eventually, the Romans and Etruscans came into conflict and battled against each other. This led to the Roman conquest of Rusellae in 294 BC. In 89 BC the inhabitants of the city became Roman citizens and members of the Scaptia tribe. The city experienced a long-lasting period of peace and prosperity with intense building activities, particularly during the eras between Claudius and Hadrian. Among the constructions were the paved square of the forum, the basilica, the office of the Augustales decorated with statues of the Julio-Claudian emperors, and the small amphitheatre set on the summit of the north hill.

Rusellae continued to thrive into the 4th century AD, but in the 5th century, it appeared half-abandoned. The Diocese of Roselle was established in AD 490. Between the end of the 6th century and the first half of the 7th century AD, the Lombards settled between the decumanus and the Roman workshops. In 1138 the diocese was suppressed and the site deserted. The episcopal seat was transferred to Grosseto.

PORTFOLIO

The decumanus maximus (1st century AD). This is one of the town’s two major roads, running east to west. It starts from one of the town gates and connects it to the Forum. Fountains and buildings stood all along the roadside.
On the right hand side of the decumanus maximus stands a district intended for workshops and crafts people which were built during the Imperial Age with restoration dating to the 4th and 5th centuries AD.
The Hadrian’s Baths (120 AD). They were built during the reign of Hadrian. Shaped like an L, they are characterised by the presence of a pool (natatio). In the early Middle Ages a church was erected on the remains of baths, using the preexisting structures.
On the eastern side of the Forum, separated by the cardo maximus, lies the Basilica (1st century BC). This was one of the centres of a public life in the Roman age. It had a rectangular plan with interior colonnade, of which only one plinth is extant.
The Etruscan buildings underneath the Forum (7th-6th century BC): the so-called “building with enclosure”, comprising a single room with two enclosures, probably a place of worship, as well as another construction known as the “two-roomed building” with two rectangular rooms, which had a public function.
The area of the Forum, paved with big travertine slabs. The Forum, built in the 1st century BC, was the main square of the Roman city. Overlooking the Forum are public buildings and temples where gods and emperors were worshipped.
View of the Forum and the Basilica.
The Italic temple lies in the southern side of the forum in what was once a sacred area, delimited by a fence and partially porticoed. The foundations of the cella of the Italic temple are still preserved, with the access stairs on the front.
The Southern side of the Forum (1st century BC). The square provides access to the seat of the Flamines Augustales, the priests in charge of the imperial cult. The building housed a series of statues devoted to the imperial Julio-Claudian family. Beside it is the basement of a small temple dedicated to Divus Augustus.
Marble statues from the Augusteum of Rosellae in the Museo Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma in Grosseto.
Overview of the Domus of the Mosaics. The first traces of the house date back to the late Republican period. After an extensive destruction in 90-80 BC, it was enlarged and restored, as well as enriched with three statues of Tiberius, Livia and Drusus Minor (now in the Archeological Museum of Grosseto).
The Domus of the Mosaics is an example of a Roman house of the atrium type, with a central courtyard and a pool to collect rainwater.
The tablimum of the Domus of the Mosaics.
The Roman cistern of the Southern hill (Roman Imperial Age). Used to collect rainwater, it is coated with lime mortar to waterproof the walls.
The Etruscan neighborhood on the Southern hill (6th-5th century BC).
The cardo maximus (1st century BC). The eastern side of the Forum is delimited by a road paved with basalt flagstones: the cardo maximus, which is the other main road in the town, running north to south. On its surface the marks left by cart wheels are visible.
The Northern area of the Forum with enclosed public buildings that were transformed until Late Antiquity.
Building A of the the Northern area of the Forum. This building, made of just one compartment with an apses, was probably built during Augustus’s reign and destined for a statue. The floor was made of Opus Signinum and the walls were frescoed with coloured stripes, water plants and pictures of birds.
Building B of the the Northern area of the Forum. It has a back wall furnished with an apses and the floor is made of Opus Signinum.
Building C of the the Northern area of the Forum. Public building C, probably the oldest, was built before the middle of the 1st century BC. It is characterized by a vestibule and a room with white “carpet mosaic” framed in black and plastered walls with blue shades. The raised rooms were preceded by a stairway.
Building D of the the Northern area of the Forum. This building is known as the Basilica of the Bassi, but it might be possible that here was the local senate: the Curia Senatus, whose function was religious and political. Within the room were found fragments of statues of the 1st century AD, maybe members of the family who funded the building.
Overview of Rusellae.
The remains of the Hellenistic house at the top of the northern hill built toward the end of the 3rd century BC and destroyed by a fire in the first half of the following century.
The elliptical amphitheatre is located on Russellae’s northern hill and was built in the 1st century AD. The arena stretches for almost 40 meters and is 25 meters wide; the cavea is 7 meters deep and it had eight rows of steps and a seating capacity of 1,200 people.
The Etruscan walls. During the Archaic period (6th century BC), Rosellae was provided with city walls three kilometres long.
The Etruscan walls were made as a dry stone wall using big blocks of stone.
The city walls, running along the hill’s contour, defended one hundred acres of territory. The purpose of the city walls was to circumscribe the built-up area and protect it.

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