Monday, May 27, 2019


Paul Fontaine, Sophie Helas (ed.), Le fortificazioni arcaiche del 'Latium vetus' e dell'Etruria meridionale (IX-VI sec. a.C.) : stratigrafia, cronologia e urbanizzazione : atti delle Giornate di Studio : Roma, Academia Belgica, 19-20 settembre 2013. Institut Historique Belge de Rome Artes, 7. Turnhout: Brepols, 2016. Pp. 294. ISBN 9789074461856. €75,00 (pb).

Reviewed by Joshua R. Hall (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

In September 2013, a small army of archaeologists gathered at the Academia Belgica for two days of discussion and study of the fortifications of archaic Latium and Etruria. Although this reviewer was not present, the proceedings—the volume under review—are proof of how interesting this meeting must have been.

The second paragraph of Fontaine and Helas's introduction positions the study within the wider "fenomeno urbano," but it is clear that the primary purpose of the volume is to reevaluate the chronology of the fortifications under consideration. Much of the research presented here focuses on the agger-vallum (rampart and ditch) type of fortification which began appearing in the Final Bronze Age and flourished in the Early Iron Age. Discussion of other types of defensive systems are present throughout, with stone walls constructed in the opera quadrata technique emerging by the sixth century BCE.1 Although the title includes southern Etruria, the papers mostly concern Latium.

The first two chapters after the introduction examine the fortifications of Veii. Boitani, Biagi, and Neri focus on those of the Porta Nord-Ovest and the Porta Caere of the Campetti plateau. They associate the earliest fortifications detected with the Final Bronze Age (FB3) or Early Iron Age (Veio IA). Continual development led to the sixth-century construction of a wall built in opera quadrata. Bartoloni and Pulcinelli's chapter examines the fortifications of the Piazza d'Armi, a small plateau which yields evidence of use from the ninth century to the fifth century. They discuss recent excavation data which shows the stone fortifications, which have usually been dated to the sixth century BCE at the latest, actually date to the Medieval period(!). This is an extremely important reconsideration and is an example of how important continual excavation can be.

Using data from recent soundings, Fontaine argues that the fortifications of Castellina del Marangone, a settlement on the frontier of Caere's territory, were built in two phases; the first dating to the end of the seventh century, constructed in a "maçonnerie rustique" using stones and earth, the second dating to the Hellenistic era, made out of blocks of scaglia. He compares the construction technique of the earlier walls to eighth-century examples at Veii, Castel di Decima, and Lavinium.

The next two chapters look at Gabii. Fabbri and Musco identify the first phase of the settlement's fortifications as belonging to the seventh century based on data from the north-east section. This agger was replaced by a new defensive system in opera quadrata in the Republican era. On the town's acropolis, Helas' excavations have revealed an agger dating to the eighth century, which was later developed into more "monumental" fortifications. She describes the sequence of the acropolis' fortifications thus: a ninth century clay wall, the eighth-century agger, an early sixth-century wall in blocks of tufo, and a reinforcement of this in the third century (p. 102).

Cifani and Guidi analyze two aggeres at Colle Rotondo, a small settlement north of modern Anzio. The eastern fortification was probably built in the ninth century and the western, "internal," agger in the sixth century. The latter was stone, with the former originally having wooden framing, but being reinforced with stone around the sixth century. The "internal" wall was perhaps used to separate the settlement into two spaces, maybe creating "una sorta di acropoli" on the western part of the plateau. The authors also discuss the data for the defensive systems at Antium (modern Anzio), dating the initial construction to the eighth century. They make an important observation in their conclusion, that the appearance of fortifications can be tied to political and social change (p. 123).

At Collatia we hear of a seventh-century defensive ditch and a wall in opera quadrata of the sixth-fifth century. Alessandro Bedini's discussion of excavation data from 1976-1980 at Laurentina Acqua Acetosa brings to light a Final Bronze Age agger which was used as a foundation for more significant fortifications in the ninth century. His analysis of the material evidence provides us with an interesting settlement history for the site.

An eighth-century agger and vallum is identified at Ficana by Fischer-Hansen. This later fell out of use and the settlement may have been refortified in the seventh or sixth century, with the existing fortifications again supplanted by the more significant fourth-century ashlar wall. Jaia links the earliest fortifications of Lavinium, probably from the seventh century, to the person buried in the Heroon of Aeneas (p. 205). Further development of the settlement's defensive system continued into the fourth century. An ancient agger-vallum system was seen at Satricum in early excavations, which Gnade dates to the sixth century.

In the paper which takes the widest view of the emergence of fortifications in Latium, Gatti and Palombi survey the chronology and building techniques throughout the region. While there appear to be periods in which certain types of fortifications flourished, it is clear that settlements in different areas were fortified at different times.

Closing out the book are two papers which look at fortifications outside of central Italy. In the thirteenth chapter, Frederiksen presents an interesting view of archaic Greek fortifications, which he has discussed before in a monograph.2 His contribution to the volume under review surveys the evidence for archaic walls and discusses some theoretical questions about urban communities in the ancient world. Fernández-Götz and Krausse look at three fortified sites from Iron Age continental Europe (France and Germany), emphasizing both the defensive and the socio-cultural significance of these fortifications. Interestingly, they point to a mudbrick wall of c. 600 built on the acropolis of the Heuneburg as having conceptual links to Phoenician-Punic construction techniques (p. 271). Although these two chapters do not tie in with the overall discussion of Latium and Etruria, they do contribute more broadly to our understanding of ancient defensive systems and their purposes. And in the case of the latter paper, we are reminded of the connections between continental Europe and the Mediterranean world.

The analyses of the papers in this volume are important for our understanding of protohistoric central Italy. As identified by the editors, there are many questions that the data in them help answer. This book is a significant contribution to our knowledge of issues such as urbanization and warfare, amongst others.3 Unfortunately, the richness of its offerings is not reflected in a comprehensive analytical chapter. Given the expertise of the authors and the editors, a "wrap-up" paper would have been very welcome. I do not wish for that one critique to take away from this volume. Its value lies in the analysis of new excavation data and the careful revisiting of older data, all of which was carried out meticulously. This collection has the potential to spawn further studies of fortifications in central Italy and the associated theoretical concepts, and all the participants should be applauded for their contributions.

Table of Contents

Introduzione. Paul Fontaine & Sophie Helas, "Le fortificazioni arcaiche del Latium vetus e dell'Etruria meriodionale (IX-VI sec. A.C): stratigrafia, cronologia e urbanizzazione. Genesi e bilancio di due Giornate di Studio", 13-18
1. Francesca Boitani & Folco Biagi & Sara Neri, "Le fortificazioni a Veio tra Porta Nord-Ovest e Porta Caere", 19-35
2. Gilda Bartoloni & Luca Pulcinelli, "Veio. Le mura di Piazza d'Armi", 37-50
3. Paul Fontaine, "Castellina del Marangone. Sondages stratigraphiques sur l'enceinte « Bastianelli »", 51-70
4. Marco Fabbri & Stefano Musco, "Nuove ricerche sulle fortificazioni di Gabii. I tratti nord-orientale e settentrionale", 71-90
5. Sophie Helas, "Nuove ricerche sulle fortificazioni di Gabii. Le indagini sul versante orientale dell'acropoli e sul lato meridionale della città", 91-109
6. Gabriele Cifani & Alessandro Guidi, "Le fortificazioni nel territorio di Anzio", 111-124
7. Anna De Santis & Stefano Musco, "Vecchi e nuovi dati sui sistemi difensivi della città latina di Collatia", 125-138
8. Alessandro Bedini, "Laurentina Acqua Acetosa (Roma). Il sistema difensivo dell'abitato protostorico: i dati di scavo 1976-1980", 139-176
9. Tobias Fischer-Hansen, Ficana "(Monte Cugno). The Fortifications from the Early History of the Settlement", 177-198
10. Alessandro Maria Jaia, "Le mura di Lavinium", 199-212
11. Marijke Gnade, "Le fortificazioni arcaiche dell'antica Satricum. Indagini archeologiche nell'area urbana inferiore", 213-231
12. Sandra Gatti & Domenico Palombi, "Le città del Lazio con mura poligonali: questioni di cronologia e urbanistica", 233-249
13. Rune Frederiksen, "Frotifications and the Archaic City in the Greek World", 251-266
14. Manuel Fernández-Götz & Dirk Krausse, "Early Centralisation Processes North of Alps: Fortifications as Symbols of Power and Community Identity", 267- 286


1.   All dates are BCE unless otherwise noted.
2.   R. Frederiksen, Greek City Walls of the Archaic Period, 900-480 BC (Oxford: OUP, 2011).
3.   The importance of fortifications in our understanding of warfare in central Italy is shown by their discussion in J. Armstrong, War and Society in Early Rome: From Warlords to Generals (Cambridge: CUP, 2018), e.g. 42-6, 107-10.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.