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Angelo Amoroso

Crustumerium: Characteristics of a Frontier Settlement

Introduction
I have defined Crustumerium as a frontier settlement. This is an incorrect term if used in the modern
meaning of demarcation line, separation, obstacle, boundary. In fact, we must not consider an ancient
frontier in our case the course of the Tiber exclusively as a physical element which separated and
1
distinguished those who lived on the opposite banks of the river .
I would like to return to some aspects relating to the geographical position and characteristics of a
Latin centre the study of which was published together with Francesco di Gennaro and Andrea Schiappelli,
2
with reference to the Early Iron Age , in order to update the picture published at the time. Recent data has
made it possible to ascertain how the Early Iron Age at Crustumerium is not just documented mainly by
3
surface survey material. Excavations undertaken within the settlement and on the necropolis of Monte Del
4
Bufalo , confirm that
there are no known materials from the protourban centre that are
earlier than sub-phase
IIB2 of the Latium culture. To date there are
no attestations of the

Fig. 1 The territory on both


sides of the lower Tiber
valley, between the Aniene,
lake Martignano fosso della
Bufala, the Monti Lucretili
and Tibutini. Main PF2
centres, settlement limits
(red) (drawing by Author).

COLONNA 1986; TORELLI 2003.


DI GENNARO ET ALII 2002, 162176.
3
BARBARO ET ALII 2008.
4
BELELLI MARCHESINI 2008; DI GENNARO, BELELLI MARCHESINI, in these conference papers.
2

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A. Amoroso - Crustumerium: Characteristics of a Frontier Settlement

Fig. 2 Proto-urban centres in south Etruria (blue)


and Latium Vetus (red). A comparison between
settlements (drawing by Author).

Final Bronze Age and the initial period of


the Early Iron Age.
Crustumeriums characteristics can
be fully understood by placing it within the
territorial context examined as a whole,
where the main ethnic groups in the lower
Tiber valley (Etruscans, Latins, Sabines
and Capenites) faced each other.
On the right bank of the great river
the proto-Etruscan population was concentrated in the vast proto-urban centre of
Veii from the beginning of the Early Iron
Age onwards. By contrast the territorial organisation on the left bank only changed
radically with respect to the settlement
organisation in the Final Bronze Age during
the course of the later part of the Early Iron
5
Age (fig. 1) . Moreover, on the left bank of
the Tiber no less than eight centres of
varying size (Crustumerium, Fidenae,
Nomentum, Marco Simone Vecchio, Montecelio, Tibur, Cretone and Colle Lupo) are attested beginning in the IIB-III periods of the Latium culture.
Amongst these the medium-large settlements (Crustumerium and Fidenae) (fig. 1) stand out. They are
comparable to other proto-urban centres in ancient Latium (Gabii, Lavinium, Ardea and Antium) and in some
6
ways with the larger centres of Rome and south Etruria (figs. 2-3) .
Veii
Caere
Tarquinia
Vulci
Roma
Gabii
Crustumerium
Ardea
Lavinium
Fidenae
Antium
Satricum
Tibur
Nomentum
0

50

100

150

200

250

Fig. 3 Proto-urban centres in south Etruria (blue) and Latium Vetus (red) in the PF2 period. A comparison of size (in hectares).
5

This article makes a particular analysis of the territory between the rivers Tiber and Aniene, the Fiora torrent (or della Bufala) and the
slopes of the Monti Lucretili and Tiburtini, where the Latium Apennines begin.
6
AMOROSO 2008.

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XVII International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Roma 22-26 Sept. 2008


Session: Crustumerium: I Latini tra Etruschi e Sabini

Proto-urban development in South Etruria and Latium Vetus


In south Etruria and Latium Vetus the birth of proto-urban centres during the course of the Early Iron
Age also determined a revolution in the territorial organisation. The polycentric settlement system of the
Bronze Age gave way to the monocentric system typical of the Iron Age, when each territorial sphere was
controlled by a dominant centre. This dynamic was probably the result both of a territorial division deriving
from conflicts between earlier settlements of the Final Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, and from an ethnic
administration of the territory.
The proto-urban centres grew up out of a different need on the part of the community to control and
7
manage the territory . The small parcels of land present within the proto-urban centres were not sufficient to
satisfy the entire communitys needs (extensive cultivations and specialised stock-raising, hunting,
availability of raw materials such as: water, wood, building materials etc.). Therefore, a proto-urban centre
presupposes the existence of a corresponding proto-ager, the control of which was one of the fundamental
elements of the proto-urban centre itself. It was the beginning of new modes of control, management and
above all of exploitation of the territory based on a dual system: the large inhabited centre and the land
surrounding it. The first existed in function of the second, within the sphere of a landscape that would lead to
the urbs-ager system which would fully mature in the late archaic period with the widespread occupation of
8
the territory through farms and villae .
During the later part of the Early Iron Age there was also a radical reorganisation of the territory on
the left bank of the lower Tiber. The Latins reacted to the Villanovan revolution which saw the birth of the
first proto-urban centres on the Tibers right bank. The Latins took up position on the left bank and occupied
ex novo or considerably reinforced strategic sites. Latin centres such as Rome, Fidenae and Crustumerium,
became proto-urban centres with the function of controlling crossing points on the Tiber. These centres
intercepted inter-regional traffic and exploited the advantages deriving from it.
Thus the Latins, with a targeted project, controlled strategic points and concentrated the majority of
their population in proto-urban centres, veri e propri motori della produzione e della distribuzione delle
9
merci .
In the Early Iron Age the Tiber constituted a physical element that should not be considered as a
demarcation line between opposing blocks. Furthermore, whilst the proto Etruschi perceived the Tiber as a
10
border, on the contrary the Latins, who conservano un concetto assai fluido della propria territorialit ,
living in a densely populated area, seemed to exercise an erosion of the territory occupied by the inhabitants
of the opposite bank. In particular Fidenae faced the territory of Veii (at the height of the fosso della
Valchetta) and controlled part of the course of the river Aniene, which formed another strong physical
boundary. Fidenae off set the presence of Antemnae, a secondary centre situated on the opposite bank
11
which was soon to come under the influence of Rome . Crustumerium also faced Veiis territory, but from
the Early Iron Age was intent on the control of the alluvial plain below. The territory of Crustumerium reached
as far as the area under the influence of the enclave of Capena, where the Tiber could be easily crossed at
12
the height of Ponte del Grillo . Crustumerium constituted the northern bastion of the Latins and bridgehead
13
in the direction of the Sabine and Faliscan territory, across the territory of Capena .

PERONI 1988; 2000.


CARAFA 2004; CARANDINI ET ALII 2007.
9
GUIDI 2003, 46.
10
COLONNA 1986, 94.
11
PACCIARELLI 2001, 124.
12
DI GENNARO ET ALII 2007, 135144.
13
For a synthesis regarding Faliscan and Capenate territory cf. COLONNA 1974, 9192; 1988, 520524; MAETZKE 1990; AA.VV. 1995;
CIFANI 2003, 180182 with bibliography.
8

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A. Amoroso - Crustumerium: Characteristics of a Frontier Settlement

Fig. 4 Crustumerium. The range of hills


on which the settlement stood. Present
state (aerial photograph: Google Earth).

The situation outlined for


the Early Iron Age was soon to be
shattered by the voracious expansionism of Rome intent on enlarging its own territory, which was
initially limited with respect to the
area occupied by the vast proto14
urban centre (over 200 hectares)
and by the successive incursions of the Sabines. Only in the
historic period did the latter react
to Latin pressure, exercised in the
area under examination during the
course of the Early Iron Age,
creating on the right bank of the
Tiber the territorial wedge which
made the Faliscans the fratelli
15
separati dei Latini .

Crustumerium: the characteristics


This section will highlight the
characteristics shared by Crustumerium with the main Latin
centres and the characteristics distinguishing it from the centres
along the course of the lower
Tiber, including Crustumerium,
which have been defined as
frontier settlements.
Common characteristics: Morphological characteristics
16

The uplands of Crustumerium, which are part of the system of the Sabine volcanic zone , have
suffered heavy erosion effecting the vertical stratification of the ancient deposits and the lines and profiles of
the hills (fig. 4). Landslides have occurred on the north-western and north-eastern slopes of the settlement,
where the original morphology appears greatly altered. This is a range of rolling hills with an irregular profile
that is well provided with natural defences.
The main Latin centres (for example: Rome, Lavinium, Ardea, Satricum, Fidenae) had good natural
17
defences on all sides with the exception of the side linking them to the hinterland .
14

CARANDINI 2007, 22, fig. 8.


COLONNA 1988, 522.
16
VENTRIGLIA 2002.
17
GUAITOLI 1984.
15

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XVII International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Roma 22-26 Sept. 2008


Session: Crustumerium: I Latini tra Etruschi e Sabini

Common characteristics: Artificial defences


Crustumerium had defensive structures in correspondence with the sectors that were not naturally
protected by the sites morphology. Of these structures a ditch (at least 9 m wide and over 3 m deep),
partially excavated in 2007 is known, as well as terracing structures comprising parallel walls in tufa opus
18
quadratum, probably datable to the archaic period, known from excavations undertaken in 1999 .
Similar defensive structures are attested in other Latin centres (in particular Lavinium, Ardea, Castel
19
20
di Decima, Acqua Acetosa Laurentina, Ficana and Rome ), in correspondence with the least naturally
defended side of each settlement.
It is known that defensive structures, in particular the earliest known to date in Latium Vetus, did not
21
necessarily comprise a ditch with embankment and associated walls in ashlar blocks . The structures found
22
23
on the northern slopes of the Palatine and on the southern side of Fidenae , attest the existence,
beginning in the later part of the Early Iron Age, of walled structures with ritual and/or defensive functions.
Clearly the ancient murus Terreus of the Carine at Rome, known from literary sources (Varro, ling. 5, 48), is
not just a scholarly memory.
Common characteristics: The road cutting
The hypothesis formulated by Francesco di Gennaro, according to which the settlement of
24
Crustumerium was crossed in the centre by a monumental road cutting , has been confirmed by the results
25
of the excavation undertaken with the University of Oulu . Roads, with the appearance of tagliate (cuttings)
connected to settlement entrances, are attested in many Latin centres (for example the tagliate known at
26
27
28
29
Fidenae , Antemnae , Castel di Decima, Laurentina Acqua Acetosa , Satricum ).
Future investigations will clarify whether the niche tomb dating to the orientalising period, found
30
immediately to the west of the southern cutting , was part of a vast necropolis (indication of the southern
th
limit of the settlement in the 7 century B.C.), was an isolated tomb or was part of a small nucleus of burials
within the settlement. In this case we are faced with one of those anomalies which document how there are
exceptions to the usual procedure (codified in Rome, in the early Republican period in the laws of the Twelve
tables), which imposed the burial of dead adults outside the inhabited area: Hominem mortuum in urbe ne
31
sepelito neve urito . Archaeological research, in terms of ancient topography, should not consider the
position of burials exclusively as a marker distinguishing between the city of the living and the city of the
32
dead .

18

DI GENNARO 1999, 24.


CIFANI 2003, with preceding bibliography.
20
BARBERA ET ALII 2008, with preceding bibliography.
21
QUILICI 1994.
22
CARANDINI ET ALII 2000, 139159; CARANDINI ET ALII 2000, 275280.
23
AMOROSO ET ALII 2005.
24
DI GENNARO 1988, 113. This interpretation, as is known, has important implications for the understanding of the extension of the
settlement area.
25
JARVA ET ALII 2008; JARVA in these conference papers. I would like to thank Eero Jarva who kindly welcomed me to his site each year
and illustrated the results of his research.
26
QUILICI ET ALII 1986, tabs. C-CI, 226227.
27
QUILICI GIGLI 1990.
28
BEDINI 2003, 270.
29
GUAITOLI 2003, 283289.
30
JARVA ET ALII 2008; JARVA in these conference papers.
31
Cf. HUMBERT 2005 on the contents of the Twelve Tables with ample bibliography.
32
With reference to Latium Vetus cf. CARAFA 2008; CARANDINI 2008; GALLONE 2008; GUIDI 2008.
19

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A. Amoroso - Crustumerium: Characteristics of a Frontier Settlement

Distinguishing characteristics: Geographical position

Left bank of the Tiber:

Settlement

Distance from river


Extension (hectares)
(km)

Cures Sabini

Foundation date

1,5

PF2

Eretum

0,2

PF2

Nomentum

7,8

11,3

PF2

Crustumerium

1,4

60

PF1 late

Fidenae

0,2

40,7

PF1 late

Antemnae

0,2

13

PF2

Rome

0,3

205

PF1

Acqua Acetosa
Laurentina

3,0

PF2

Ficana

0,1

PF2

Right bank of the Tiber:

Settlement

Distance from river


Extension (hectares)
(km)

Nazzano
Romano

0,4

Capena

6,0

20

Veii

9,0

180

Foundation date
PF2
PF2 (?)
PF1 early

The table shows how the centres that grew up on the left bank of the Tiber (Ficana, Acqua Acetosa,
Rome, Antemnae, Fidenae, Crustumerium, Eretum in Sabina) were situated next to the river or close to it.
These centres controlled a tract of the Tiber valley, in contrast to the known centres on the right bank where
the second line position of the dominant centre of Veii stands out.
Crustumerium incorporated a tract of the international route between Etruria and Campania which
33
passed through the settlement in the monumental tagliata mentioned above .
The frontier settlements frequently intercepted international routes, in fact their presence is one of
the factors contributing to the success of these centres. In particular, roads passed through Ficana, Fidenae
and Crustumerium which made it possible to cross the ancient region of Latium Vetus in a transverse
direction at docking/crossing points on the river. Rome, a frontier settlement par excellence, also grew up on
a site where it could control the crossing point which, via several routes, connected the coast and the right
34
bank of the Tiber to the hinterland, in the direction of the Sabina, the Alban hills and Campania .

33
34

AMOROSO 2002a.
COLONNA 1988, 448449; CARANDINI 2007, 1721.

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XVII International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Roma 22-26 Sept. 2008


Session: Crustumerium: I Latini tra Etruschi e Sabini

Distinguishing characteristics: The material culture


The presence in burial contexts at Crustumerium of red impasto jars and cups used in ritual
35
banqueting is significant . These pottery forms were produced in Latium and had painted white-on-red
decoration. This decorative technique was widespread in southern Etruria (especially in the ancient Etruscan
36
towns of Caere and Veii) and in the Faliscan-Capenate territory .
The presence of two large red impasto cistae is exceptional. Decorated with white painted geometric
and vegetal motifs on the bodies and procession of fantastic animals on the handled lids, they were among
37
the grave goods in tomb 111 of Monte Del Bufalo . These artefacts, if imported, attest the level of wealth
reached by Crustumerium in the orientalising period thanks to contacts gained via the international route. If
of crustumina production they document the high level of skill attained by local craftsmen thanks to contacts
with the artisans of Veii, Falerii and Capena. It cannot be excluded that these artefacts are indirect evidence
for the arrival at Crustumerium of foreign artisans, specialised in refined decoration. It may also be the case
38
that the tomb belonged to an individual whose origins lay on the right bank of the Tiber .
There were products specific to Crustumerium which are also attested outside of the Latin centre:
39
the crustumine bowl was present amongst the tomb groups in the necropolis of Pizzo Piede at Narce . The
small Latium amphora with the very pronounced spikes, widely documented in the tomb groups at
40
Crustumerium - characteristic of the Latin territory north of the river Aniene - is also present in Rome and in
41
the territory of Capena (monte Tufello di Vacchereccia) .
The material culture is distinguished by the co-existence of local and non-native elements, the latter
documenting contacts with the areas of Veii, Falerii and Capena. By contrast, to date the material culture has
not provided evidence regarding the relationship between Crustumerium and Sabine centres, which must
also have existed, as the literary sources attest. The latter mostly allude to episodes of conflict with the
th
42
Sabines, in particular at the beginning of the 5 century B.C.
Distinguishing characteristics: Funerary architecture
Burial types which were not characteristic of the Latin area were predominant at Crustumerium in the
orientalising period. These are the numerous trapdoor tombs with lateral niche (Narce and Montarano types),
43
also attested in one of the eastern cemeteries at Fidenae ), that were particularly widespread in the
44
territories of Veii, Falerii and Capena .
The presence of non-native funerary architecture has often been noted at Tibur, also a Latin frontier
45
settlement, although it had a material culture typical of Latium . The known a circolo burials found at the
cemetery of Rocca Pia of this Tiburtine settlement have similar characteristics to the earth-dug graves with a
tumulo covering that were particularly widespread in the Early Iron Age in Umbrian territory (Terni, the Acciaie-

35

See in particolar DI GENNARO 2006a; BELELLI MARCHESINI 2008; Iidem in these conference papers.
MICOZZI 2004.
37
AMOROSO 2002b, 38, figs 5-6; DI GENNARO ET ALII 2007, 140; DI GENNARO 2006b.
38
NIJBOER ET ALII 2008, 4; NIJBOER in these conference papers: the composition of the vessel group in tomb 232 at Monte Del Bufalo
characterised by the unusual presence of a holmos in white-on-red ware of probable Faliscan production, also attests the presence of
non-native elements at Crustumerium. Also to be noted is the presence of a holmos a bulla, of the Veian-Faliscan type in tomb 20 of the
eastern cemetery at Fidenae: IAIA 2006.
39
AMOROSO 2002a, 310, note 52; DI GENNARO ET ALII 2007, 155.
40
DANTI 2001, 333, fig.10.
41
DI GENNARO ET ALII 2007, 158159.
42
QUILICI ET ALII 1980, 20. For an analysis of the literary sources.
43
DI GENNARO ET ALII 2004, 9496.
44
DI GENNARO 2007; BELELLI 2008.
45
FACCENNA ET ALII 1976; FULMINANTE 2003, 4550.
36

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A. Amoroso - Crustumerium: Characteristics of a Frontier Settlement

46

47

rie necropolis) and in the middle Adriatic area (in particular the necropolis at Fossa) . The adoption of nonnative funerary architecture constitutes a characteristic of a number of frontier settlements in Latium Vetus,
which merit further investigation.

Crustumerium, port of the Latins


Its position as a frontier settlement represented an element of strength from which Crustumerium
gained undeniable advantages and was perhaps also the reason for its foundation, as a proto-urban centre
which in the beginning acted as bastion against possible Villanovan expansion on the left bank of the river,
an expansion which never took place. This frontier, ably exploited, constituted an enriching factor which
made Crustumerium the Latins port, especially in the direction of the territories of Veii, Falerii and Capena.
The inhabitants of Crustumerium appear to have been inclined to: 1) intercept experiences,
materials, products elaborated elsewhere and to re-elaborate them according to their own usage and tastes;
2) distribute their own products (for example the crustumine bowl from Pizzo Piede); 3) welcome people
from other centres and ethnic spheres; 4) look for fortune beyond the river, forming relationships of mutual
exchange and reciprocal convenience.
In this light it may be possible to justify the fact that the literary sources allude, as also in the case of
Fidenae, to the Etruscan town of Crustumerium (Paul, Fest. 55, 12) and to the existence of an ager
Crustumerium in Etruria (Plin. NH 3, 68). Just as unusual, and not perhaps without significance, is the
attestation of the river Clustumium in Umbria between Rimini and Pesaro (Plin. NH 3, 111-112, 115; Lucan
48
2, 406, Vibius Seq. p. 10) .
49
Elements of ipseit (strictly correlated to the need for autonomy and territorial defence) cohabited with the need for contact with bordering settlements. These were relationships and alliances, where
ethnic distinction between Latins, Etruscans, Sabines, Faliscans and Capenates even if present - one thinks
50
of the significant linguistic differences - seems to have gradually disappeared. For the inhabitants of
Crustumerium relations with the inhabitants of Veii and other Faliscan and Capenate centres could have
been more advantageous than neighbourly relations, not always peaceful, with the other Latins. Rome
51
conquered Crustumerium three times ; Fidenae, for its position and morphology, constituted an alternative
settlement reality with respect to that of Crustumerium.
The archaeological data highlights the existence of a horizontal mobility between southern Etruria
52
and Latium Vetus from the Early Iron Age onwards . This horizontal mobility increased in the orientalising
th
and archaic periods and persisted until the beginning of the 5 century B.C. Attius Clausus moved with his
53
5,000 clients from the Sabina into the territory of Fidenae, which had been recently conquered by Rome .
The known archaeological picture of ancient Latium together with what is known from the literary
sources makes it possible to appreciate how Crustumerium was well integrated into this dense network of
contacts. Matrimonial alliances between members of different gentes from bordering settlements and agri
played an important role. The presence of bronze suspension rings, of Latin production, in Early Iron Age
54
burials attested in the territory of Capena may be interpreted as evidence of this . The well known episode
of the rape of the Sabines and of the women of Crustumerium, Caenina and Antemnae by Romulus, the first

46

LEONELLI 2003.
COSENTINO ET ALII 2001.
48
cf. COLONNA 1986, 94, on this subject.
49
CRISTOFANI 1999.
50
COLONNA 1988.
51
QUILICI ET ALII 1980, 1820 for an analysis of the literary sources.
52
DE SANTIS 1995.
53
AMOROSO ET ALII 2003.
54
cf. COLONNA 1988, 522; IAIA 2007.
47

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XVII International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Roma 22-26 Sept. 2008


Session: Crustumerium: I Latini tra Etruschi e Sabini

king of Rome, can probably also be interpreted in this light (Liv. 1, 9, 8-9; 1, 10, 1-3; 1, 11, 3-4; Dion. Hal. 2,
32, 2; 2, 36, 1-2; Plut., Rom, 17, 1).
The archaeological evidence described here shows how the inhabitants of Crustumerium also used
knowledge of, and comparison with the non-Latins to construct their own identity.

Angelo Amoroso
Collaboratore della Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma

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XVII International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Roma 22-26 Sept. 2008


Session: Crustumerium: I Latini tra Etruschi e Sabini

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TORELLI M., 2003. Preface. In CIFANI 2003, 1720.
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