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Archaeological area of Pyrgi and Castle of Santa Severa


The Commune of Santa Marinella is located along the Via Aurelia, about 55 km NW of Rome. Its territory includes the well-known seaside resort of Santa Severa, famous for its medieval village and especially for the archaeological area of Pyrgi. By this name we are indicating the main port of the Etruscan city Caere, once connected to the urban area by means of a road (the Caere-Pyrgy) about 13 km long. Active at least since the end of the 7th century BC, it was one of the most important trading centres of the ancient Tyrrhenian Sea, frequented by Phoenicians and Greeks, whose presence is abundantly documented by the remains found at the sacred area of the city. This was located just south of the ancient city, in an area covering c. 8,000 sq.m near the beach. The wealth derived from trade with the major powers of the Mediterranean, however, became a sentence. As the sources tell us, in 384 BC the sanctuary was sacked by the tyrant of Siracusa Dionisio I, who took possession of an inestimable treasure. At the beginning of the 3rd century BC Pyrgi become a Roman Colonia Maritima, retaining its port function but losing the sacred area that was dismantled. Since the end of the 1950s, the sacred area has been the subject of systematic excavations, conducted by Massimo Pallottino, Giovanni Colonna and, currently, by Maria Paola Baglione. Two distinct sanctuaries have been identified: the north sanctuary (dedicated to Uni/Astarte and Thesan/Leucotea and Ilizia) and the south sanctuary (dedicated to the goddess Cav(a)tha and her companion Suri/Apollo). Both began their life in the second half of the 6th century BC, but only the north sanctuary developed into truly monumental forms, with the presence of two temple structures. The temple B (c. 510 BC) and temple A (c. 460 BC) are parallel to one another, side by side, enclosed by a sacred enclosure that houses other environments. The temple B, with Greek-inspired plan, presented an architectural decoration with the representation of the labours of Hercules and some celestial deities such as Aurora and the Sun. The temple A, characterized by a typically Etruscan Tuscania plan, was decorated with a high relief depicting the myth of the Sette a Tebe (Seven against Thebes). In 1964, during the excavations at area C, included in the north sanctuary, the famous lamine d’oro di Pyrgi (golden laminae of Pyrgi) (late 6th – early 5th century BC) were discovered, written in Etruscan and Phoenician and donated to the sanctuary by the chief magistrate of Caere Thefarie Velianas. Both the golden laminae of Pyrgi and the high relief of temple A are exhibited in the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome. The south sanctuary, recently investigated, has not brought to the light temples but many altars and sacella with precious Attic pottery, a further testimony of the particular openness that Pyrgi showed towards the Greek world.

Places to visit: Antiquarium di Pyrgi (free admission – closed on Mondays);
Medieval village of Santa Severa: Museo del Mare e della Navigazione Antica (Museum of the Sea and Ancient Navigation), multimedia route “Gli Etruschi in 3D”, Torre Saracena (Saracen Tower) and Battistero (Baptistery) (closed on Mondays).