Vulci – Etruscan and Roman Ruins

We spent a day hiking around in the ruins of Vulci, originally an Etruscan city (VI century BCE), later (II century CE) the site Roman villa.

Bits and pieces of the Etrurian temple and city walls remain, enough that archeologists have a fair idea of the extents of the city.

The Roman villa was relatively intact. The various rooms (toilet, bath, sauna, cooking, storage) have been excavated and identified.

Ruins of Roman Villa, Vulci
Roman Bath/Sauna

The villa’s underground storage rooms also have been excavated and made accessible.

Underground Passages, Ran Villa at Vulci

A place of worship for Mithraism – a Persian religion secretly practiced by some Romans in the first and second centuries – has been identified within the compound. According to signage at the site, Mithraism had elements similar to Christianity – virgin birth, a water-from-rock miracle, a ritual similar to baptism, a belief in final judgment and resurrection, the celebration of the birth of a god on December 25th, and a diety that lived 33 years on earth before returning to the heavens.

I’m not sure of the accuracy of the claims on the signage. In any case, by the fourth century Mithraism was eliminated in favor of Christianity. Persecution and intolerance of other religions seems to be a feature of many religions.

I tapped on the statue – it’s a fiberglass reproduction.

A Roman road ran past the villa. The Romans knew how to build roads.

At the site were several Etruscan Tombs. Not surprising – there are so many in this area that (according to our host) they cannot maintain them all, so some are simply re-buried to preserve them for the future.

One of the tombs has an interestingly carved ceiling.

Nearby was a still-intact Etruscan/Roman bridge and a 16th century castle. The bridge is larger than it looks in the picture. The total span seems to be a couple hundred feet, height about 100ft above the riverbed. The central arch has a diameter of about 60ft. The foundation is said to be Etruscan, much of the rest is apparently Roman.

Ponte dell'Abbadia, Vulci
Castello dell’Abbadia , Vulci

At places like Vulci, one can stand on a hill and see a modern restaurant, modern houses, roads, cars and farm machinery, power lines, passenger jets, a medieval castle, a Roman villa, a Roman road and bridge, and an Etruscan city. Twenty-six centuries of human history are all within sight of that spot on the hilltop. And one can capture images from that spot, attach a few words to the images using a chemically powered electronic device the size of a bar of soap and transmit them via electromagnetic waves and blinks of light to a ‘cloud’, where anyone in the world with a similarly powered bar of soap can see and read them.

We know a bit about these ancient cultures only because some of them used written languages and recorded a fraction of their lives on papyrus, clay and stone. Thousands of years from now, even if our civilization doesnt’ destroy itself, the record of our existence will be on unreadable media, encrypted and encoded in obscure bit patterns. In the unlikely event that the bit patterns did not degrade, they’ll be readable only with archaic technologies.

Much has been lost. Much more will be lost.

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