Narce

Mazzano Romano e la Valle del Treja

Within the boundaries of the modern villages of Mazzano Romano, Calcata and Faleria, into the Treja Valley Regional Park, in the last decades of the Ninetieth century the remains of the ancient site of Narce were discovered.
In the wonderful landscape of the gorge along the Treja river, the Bronze Age settlement (attested since 1400 BCE), on top the hills of Narce, Monte Li Santi and Pizzo Piede, was deserted at the beginning of the First Millennium BCE. At the end of the 10th century, the entire Ager Faliscus was quickly abandoned. All the communities of the little villages moved probably towards Veii (at just 15.5 miles towards the South). At this time of history in fact can be dated the first urbanization of central Italy. All the small villages, which until that moment were distributed almost equally spaced in the territory, suddenly disappeared. This phenomenon involved the proto-urban sites as all the Etruscan poleis and Rome itself. Veii controls now an enormous territory from the Tiber approximately to the sea side. Just within the first half of the 8th century, new communities settled down in the Ager Faliscus, founding the Faliscan towns, as well as Falerii, Narce and Nepi (the “Etruscan gate” according to Livy). There is a large debate concerning the origins of this population. Recent theories based on the typologies of materials as well as the funerary ideology, reveal that the formation of the Ager Faliscus may have an Italic origin together with movement of groups or families from Veii itself.
Narce – commonly identified as the Fescennium town described by the Latin sources and recently as Tevnalthia according to a name inscribed on a 7th century vessel from Pizzo Piede necropolis – it’s the southern polis of the Ager Faliscus, at just 5.5 miles of distance from the “capital”, Falerii.
A defined division between Etruscans and Faliscans probably never occurred. We might consider Narce as an “open frontier”, the junction between both similar and different cultures. Ancient boundaries were therefore often meeting places instead of division lines.
The Faliscan character appeared in the earliest tomb-groups at Narce, revealing a mixed and peculiar nature, far from the contemporary Etruscan burials. On the other hand, local aristocracy choose the Etruscan as written language for the numerous inscriptions. Together with the existence of the cremation rite of the previous phases, in the mid 8th century BCE the first inhumations in simple trenches within stone sarcophagi started to be represented. The stone sarcophagus corresponds directly to the tufa custodia. And they both have the shape of a hut. The growth of the aristocracies in the second half of the century permitted Narce to become one of the ancients sites in Italy which has returned exceptional tomb-groups. Exceptionality mainly linked with female burials. Around 700 BCE there is an evident rupture within the cultural development. This is not a break in occupation or burial activity, but a quick cultural restructuring. Changes concerned the funeral structures, the ritual practices of deposition, the topography of the settlement and the necropoleis. A sort of revolution is underway. The red on white and white on red pottery productions begin, and normally the type are much more similar to Falerii than to Veii. Even the types of tombs change. The stone sarcophagus is replaced by the wooden one. Starting in this phase, a new type of grave appears, with the skeleton now on in the loculus. We should consider these changes in a larger scale of the political events at the end of the 8th century BCE. As it is well known, the domination of Rome and Veii is indeed effective over large areas throughout the 9th century, but during the 8th the emerging of conflicts between the two cities caused a less control of the territory. During the second half of this century Rome and Veii were fighting to control the septem pagi (Liv. I, 14-15; Dion. Hal. II, 55; Plut. Rom. XXV), the seven forts founded by Romulus on the western shore of the Tiber, as well as the Salinae near the mouth of the Tiber. It is possible that what we see as a rupture in the local sequence at Narce is the outcome of the rising process of Italic populations which, when the control of Veii weakened, were able in three quarters of a century to move West and to establish an autonomous political entity. The emergence of Falerii as a capital of the Ager Faliscus can be exactly dated at the transition between the eighth and seventh centuries.
At this time of history in Narce the inhabited area of the Faliscan town distributed on three hills surrounded by the Treja River (plus Calcata, Santa Maria and the “210″ hill), was finally surrounded by 22 necropoleis along the slopes of the plateaux around the site.
7th century chamber tombs reveal a great richness, with imports from Greece. During the 6th century the different parts of the town were fenced by great walls. The saddle between Narce and Monte Li Santi was regularized by a tremendous viaduct (60 meters high), unfortunately destroyed in 1962 for the construction of the modern road Mazzano Romano – Calcata.
In the 5th century, along the shore of the Treja (in the so called “rote” area) a sanctuary was inaugurated. The worship was linked with the water rituals and with fertility cults, devoted, probably to Minerva-Maia and Fortuna (and probably connected also with Demeter/Kore and Selvans). A contemporary sanctuary has been found in 1933 on top of Pizzo Piede hill, connected with Portonaccio sanctuary at Veii. In the same chronological horizon, new types of tomb – as the open facades or the loculus corridors – reveal the beginning of a decline period in the town, as well as the presence of burials in the settlement, slowly abandoned. Narce probably suffered for the Capture of Veii in 396 BCE. Nevertheless, evidence from the settlement and the necropoleis revealed how the town should have survived until the beginning of the third century BCE. In this moment within the Sanctuary at Le Rote series of rituals of closure and obliteration occurred. M. A. De Lucia Brolli has connected those archaeological evidence with the triumph “Against the Faliscans” by Consul M. Spurilio Carvilio. The sanctuary survived until the beginning of the 51st century BCE. Narce was therefore abandoned and its territory was divided into the new organization of the Ager Romanus. New domus were built in the area between the deserted town and the via Cassia.

AntisaOverlooking the Treja valley, the medieval village of Mazzano Romano, just south of the ancient city of Narce, preserves nowadays its quaint medieval urbanistic plan, growing from the 7th century ACE. Mazzano reveals a probable etymology from Matianum (name of a Roman gens) legacy perhaps of a republican settlement lapsed in the period of the empire, as a result of the changes in the control the ancient via Cassia. On 14 January 945 ACE the Roman princeps Alberico, father of the future Pope John XII, gave the castle Mazzano, “with all the annexed territory and all the settlers who worked there” to Benedict, abbot of the monastery of Saints Andrew and Roman Gregorio al Celio. Mazzano was a fief until 1526 in the hands of the monks at the Celio, but, after years of violent conflict between the noble families in Rome, the land was bought by the Anguillara family. But it remained the Anguillara for a little over fifty years. Years, however, were critical to the restoration of the village. The ancient church of St. Nicholas, in the south of the country, built over a pre-existing medieval fortress, attributed to Vignola or one of his pupils, dates back to 1563.
The church was demolished in 1940 as an essential part of the nave was unsafe. Today only a part of the original chorus is visible in Piazza Antisà.
In 1599 Flaminio Anguillara sold Mazzano to Cardinal Lelio Biscia. After four weddings and a funeral in 1658 the estate passed, by inheritance, to the noble family of Del Drago who administered it until the land reform of the Ente Maremma. The adjective Romano was added to the name of Mazzano after the Unification of Italy in 1872.

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