The archaeological site of Rusellae
|Elevation||25 m (82 ft)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
Rusellae, situated in the archaeological area of Roselle, was an important ancient town of Etruria (now Tuscany), and subsequently of ancient Rome, which survived until the Middle Ages before being abandoned. The impressive remains lie near the modern frazione or village of Roselle (Italian: [ro'zɛlːe]) in the comune of Grosseto.
The remains of the ancient buildings were brought to light by means of a long campaign of excavations carried out by archaeologist Aldo Mazzolai in the 1950's. More recent work has revealed many more impressive buildings.
Roselle was located at the point of transition between the valley dell'Ombrone and the Maremma of Grosseto, on the shore of the ancient lake Prile.
The ruins are about 15 kilometres (9 mi) southeast of Vetulonia and 8 kilometres (5 mi) northeast of Grosseto. They are situated on a hill with two summits, the higher of which is 194 metres (636 ft) above sea level. One summit is occupied by a Roman amphitheatre, the other by a tower of uncertain date. The local travertine was extensively used as a building material.
Roman remains have also been found 3 kilometres (2 mi) to the south, at hot springs used for public bathing to this day.
Excavations have revealed the newly identified Roman port on the Ombrone River, located within the Maremma National Park. The port provided an important commercial focus for the ancient city of Rusellae and for the exchange of goods around the Via Aurelia. The port is associated with a temple dedicated to Diana Umbronesis, set on a rocky promontory to the south, which acted as a ‘marker’ for the coastal trade in the area. This sanctuary together with a second, Severan, temple are part of ongoing excavations.
The first traces of settlement are shown in layers containing relics of Villanovan and at the end of 7th, early 6th century BC. Founded as a city in the 7th century BC, it was quoted by Dionysius of Halicarnassus as one of the cities that brought help to the Latins in the war against the Roman king Tarquinius Priscus. It developed to the detriment of neighbouring cities in particular Vetulonia. Rusellae was associated with, but not actually one of, the twelve cities of the Etruscan Confederation. The discovery of Attic vases with red figures testifies to the city's commercial contacts with Greece and the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. The Romans captured it in 294 BC. In 205 BC, it contributed grain and timber for the fleet of Scipio Africanus. A colony was founded here either by the Triumviri or by Augustus.
The place was deserted in 1138, although still occasionally used. The episcopal see was transferred to Grosseto, which is now the provincial capital.
The impressive cyclopean walls were built by the Etruscans between the VII and VI century BC. The perimeter of the city wall is over 3 km, with an average height of about 7 m. The walls consist of irregular, unworked blocks of travertine often measuring as much as 2.75 by 1.2 metres (9.0 by 3.9 ft)
On the top of the hill north of the city, the amphitheatre dates from the first century AD. The earth removed to create the arena was probably used as a basis for the banks of seating.
The walls of "opus reticulatum" suggest a date at the beginning of the first century AD, which was confirmed by the discovery of "sealed" Arezzo ceramic. Inside the arena, along the major axis, four stones aligned with regularly spaced holes were discovered that could be used to divide it by stage scenery.
During the early Middle Ages, the building became a fortified enclosure, using building material plundered from Roman buildings. This fortress would have been a "castrum" in late antiquity or the early Middle Ages, in defence of Byzantine the territories to counter the advance of the Lombards .
The area remained occupied until at least the sixteenth century , as evidenced by the various fragments of archaic majolica.
House of the Mosaics
The first traces of the house (domus) date back to the late republican period. After extensive destruction in 90-80 BC, it was enlarged and restored, as well as enriched with three statues of Tiberius, Livia and Drusus minor. During the Claudian era there wasa a partial destruction, perhaps due to a fire, followed by an immediate restoration. At the same time the baths in the southern half and the house, became public rather than residential.
In the late Hadrianic or Antonine era the structure was subjected to heavy restructuring with the raising and widening of the spa and its appendages: this phase witnessed the installation of mosaics in the baths and tablinium. Other changes affected the position of the columns and fountain peristyle, while the small laconiums were adorned with stucco decorations in high relief.
The domus underwent substantial transformation between the IV and VII century and in late antiquity a shop occupied the former living rooms. The workshop of a locksmith produced thick layers of ash, coal and waste disposed on almost all floors, blackened by of metallurgy. Furthermore, the finds of bronze and metal objects have led to the hypothesis that in this workshop objects were not produced from scratch, but reused antiques from Etruscan tombs and from public and private buildings of the Roman period. Towards the end of the fourth century the workshop and what remained of the domus were abandoned and in the course of the sixth century witnessed burials of infants above the level of collapse.
Temple of Augustales
On the southern part of the site, close to the mosaics of the domus, are the archaeological remains of the ancient Roman temple of flamines Augustales, which was built in the imperial period (first century AD). This was transformed in the early Middle Ages into a Christian church dedicated to St Sylvester from 765 .
The Thermal Baths
On the north slopes of the hill the thermal complex of the Roman period is characterized by walls of "opus reticulatum". The structure is divided into two sectors. The first area covers the northern section, almost rectangular the long sides facing east-west and centred around a bath.
The second sector is characterised by a highly irregular plan in which there is a room with two niches  accessed via a double staircase, a large room with an apse in the southwestern corner  and another larger room, immediately to the east . A complex system of canals and tunnels with elaborate brick arches indicates the thermal use of the rooms.
The characteristics of the opus mixtum used for the structures (with the toothing of brickwork) suggests a date between the last quarter of the 1st century AD and the first quarter of the next .
Notes and references
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Istia d'Ombrone
- Marina di Grosseto
- Principina a Mare
- Principina Terra
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