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For other uses of Tusculum, see Tusculum .
Tusculum is the classical Roman name of a major ancient Alban Hillsmarker city, in the Latium region of Italymarker.


The ruins of Tusculum are situated on the Tuscolo hill, on the north edge of the outer crater ring of the Alban volcanomarker. The volcano is in the Alban Hillsmarker 6 km (4 miles) north-east of the modern Frascatimarker .

The highest point is 670 m above sea level, the top of Tuscolo hill. It has a very extensive view of the Roman Campagna, with Romemarker lying 25 km to the north-west. Rome was approached by the Via Latina (from which a branch road ascended to Tusculum, while the main road passed through the valley to the south of it), or by the Via Labicana to the north.

In the territory of Tusculum there was an old river called "Tuscus Amnis" which rose at Tuscolo hill under the acropolis and flowed southerly through the Latin valley. The river then turned to the northerly direction and met the Anienemarker river near the Mammolo bridge. Afterwards a dam, built in 1122 by Pope Callixtus II in Morena resort, changed the course of the "Tuscus Amnis" toward the "Albula river" (Tiber river).

Strabo wrote about Tusculum in Geography, V 3 § 12.:

But still closer to Rome than the mountainous country where these cities lie, there is another ridge, which leaves a valley (the valley near Algidum) between them and is high as far as Mount Albanus.
It is on this chain that Tusculum is situated, a city with no mean equipment of buildings; and it is adorned by the plantings and villas encircling it, and particularly by those that extend below the city in the general direction of the city of Rome; for here Tusculum is a fertile and well-watered hill, which in many places rises gently into crests and admits of magnificently.


View of the theatre.


According to the legend, the city was founded by Telegonus, the son of Ulysses and Circe.

Funerary urns datable to the 8th - 7th centuries BC demonstrate a human presence in the late phases of Latin culture in this area. Tusculum is first mentioned in histories when it was an independent, city-state with a king, a constitution and gods of its own.

When the last King of Rome Tarquinius Superbus was expelled from the city, his cause was espoused by the most outstanding citizen of Tusculum, Octavius Mamilius. Mamilius commanded army of the Latin League against the Romans at the battle of Lake Regillus (497 BC), being killed. The outcome was the beginning of Rome's nearly predominance among the Latin cities. According to some accounts Tusculum became from that time an ally of Rome, and on that account frequently incurred the hostility of the other Latin cities.

In 460 BC the Sabines occupied the Capitolmarker. Only Tusculum, among the Latin cities, hastened with the troops, commanded by the dictator Lucius Mamilius, in help of the Romans and, together with the forces of the consul Publius Valerius Volumnius Publicola, were able to free Rome. The latter was thankful to the Tusculans for the received help and also conferred to Lucius Mamilius the honour Roman citizenship because, as Titus Livius wrote, Rome received help only from them.

In 459 BC the Aequi attacked Tusculum and conquered its fortress. The Romans therefore moved to aid the attacked city. The fortress was regained with the troops of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, who defeated the Aequi in the battle of Mons Algidus.

Roman age

In 381 BC, after an expression of complete submission to Rome, the people of Tusculum received the Roman franchise, Tusculum became the first "municipium cum suffragio", or self-governing city. The Tusculum citizens were therefore recorded in the "Tribus Papiria".

Other accounts, however, speak of Tusculum as often allied with Rome's enemies, last being the Samnites in 323 BC.

Several of the chief Roman families were of Tusculan origin, e.g. the gentes Mamilii (Mamilius), Fulvii, Fonteii, Juventii, Oppii, Coruncanii, Quintii, Rabirii, Javolenii, Cordii, Manlii, Furii and Porcii; to the latter belonged Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder, who was born at Tusculum in 234 BC.

In 54 BC, in his Orationes Pro Cn. Plancio, Marcus Tullius Cicero said: "You are from the most ancient municipium of Tusculum, from which so many consular families are originating, among shich even de gens Iuventia - all other municipia (together) do not have so many (consular families) coming from them".

Varro wrote about the laws of Tusculum in De Lingua Latina, 5th book: ""New wine shall not be transported in the town before the Vinalia are proclaimed".

The town council kept the name of senate, but the title of dictator gave place to that of aedile. Notwithstanding this, and the fact that a special college of Roman equites was formed to take charge of the cults of the gods at Tusculum, and especially of the Dioscuri, the citizens resident there were neither numerous nor men of distinction. The villas of the neighborhood had indeed acquired greater importance than the not easily accessible town itself, and by the end of the Republic, and still more during the imperial period, the territory of Tusculum was one of the favorite places of residence of the wealthy Romans. Seneca wrote: "Nobody who want to acquire a home in Tusculum or Tibur for health reasons or as a summer residence, will calculate how much yearly payments are".

In 45 BC Cicero wrote a series of books in his Roman villa in Tusculum, the Tusculanae Quaestiones. In his times there were eighteen owners of villas there. Much of the territory (including Cicero's villa), but not the town itself, which lies far too high, was supplied with water by the Aqua Crabra.

The last archeological evidence of Roman Tusculum is a bronze tablet of 406 AD commemorating Anicius Probus Consul and his sister Anicia.

Middle Ages

From the 5th to the 10th century there are no historical mentions of Tusculum. In the 10th century it was the base of the Counts of Tusculum, an important family in the Medieval History of Romemarker.

Madonna del Tuscolo.

They were a clan system whose first mentioned member is Theophylact I (died 924). His daughter Marozia married Alberic I, Marquis of Spoleto and Camerino, and was for a while the arbiter of political and religious affairs in Romemarker - a position which the Counts held for a long period of time. They were pro-Byzantine and against the German Emperors. From their clan came several Popes in the period between 914 and 1049.

Gregory I of Tusculum rebuilt the fortress on the Tuscolo hill, and gave as a gift the "Criptaferrata" to Saint Nilus the Younger, where the latter built a famous abbey. Gregory also headed the rebellion of the Roman people of 1001 against the German Emperor Otto III.

After 1049 the Counts of Tusculum Papacy declined as the particular "formula" of the papacy-family became outdated. Subsequent events from 1062 confirmed the change of the Counts' politics, which became pro-Emperor in opposition to the Commune of Rome. Tusculum had in this time several notable guests: Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor, and his wife Empress Agnes in 1046, the Pope Eugene III from 1149, Louis VII of France and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1149, Frederick Barbarossa and the English Pope Adrian IV in 1155.

In 1167 the Roman communal army attacked Tusculum (Battle of Monte Porzio), but it was defeated by the Emperor-allied army, headed by Christian I, Archbishop of Mainz; in the summer of 1167 a plague decimated the Emperor Army and Frederick Barbarossa was forced to get back to Germany.

Destruction and rediscovery

From 1167 the residents of Tusculum moved to the neighbours (Locus) or little villages as Monte Porzio Catonemarker, Grottaferratamarker and mostly to Frascatimarker: only a little group of defense troops remained in the old city.

When in 1183 the Roman army attacked again Tusculum, Barbarossa sent a new contingent of troops to its defence. The Commune of Rome was however able to destroy the town on 17 April 1191 with the consent of Pope Celestine III and the consent of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, son of Frederick Barbarossa.

Roger of Hoveden wrote "lapis supra lapidem non remansit", indeed the Roman Commune's army took away the stones of the walls of Tusculum as spoils of war in Rome.

After destruction the land of Tusculum city became woodland and pasture lands. The buildings destroyed in Tusculum became a big open quarry of materials for the inhabitants of the neighbours towns of Alban Hillsmarker.

In 1806 the first campaign of archaeological excavation on the top of the Tuscolo hill was begun by Lucien Bonaparte. In 1825 the archaeologist Luigi Biondi excavated to find out Tusculum, engaged by Queen Maria Cristina of Bourbon, wife of Charles Felix of Sardinia. In 1839 and 1840 the architect and archaeologist Luigi Canina, called by the same royal family, excavated the Theatre area of Tusculum. The ancient works of art excavated were sent to Savoy Castle of Aglièmarker in Piedmont.

In 1890 Thomas Ashby arrived to Rome as Director of "British School in Rome": he was an expert of ancient monuments topography and studied the Tusculum monuments, reporting the results in The Roman Campagna in Classical Times published in London in 1927.

In 1955 and 1956 the archaeologist Maurizio Borda excavated a necropolis with cinerary urns.

From 1994 to 1999 was held the last excavation campaigns of archaeologist Xavier Dupré and his staff undertaken by Escuela Espanola de Historia y Arqueologia en Roma.

Croce del Tuscolo.
The marble slab.

Main sights

On the hill of Tuscolo are remains of a small theatre excavated in 1839.

In the High Middle Ages, there were three churches in Tusculum: St. Saviour and Holy Trinity "in civitate", while St. Thomas on the acropolis. The Greek monastery of St. Agata lay at the foot of the Tuscolo hill, at the 15th mile of the Via Latina road, the old "Statio Roboraria" : it was founded in 370 AD by the basilian monk John of Cappadocia, a disciple of St. Basil of Caesarea, called St. Basil the Great. He brought here a relic of the master, handed it over to him by monk Gregory Nazianzus. Saint Nilus the Younger died in this Greek monastery on 27 December 1005.

The Portrait of "Madonna del Tuscolo", placed nowadays in a little aedicule on the Tuscolo hill, is a reproduction in ceramic of an earlier original icon from Tusculum, spoil of war, which now is in the Abbey of St. Mary in Grottaferratamarker.

In the extra-urban area located south of the city, between it and the Via Latina, there are archeological evidence of burials in the place of a medieval church already in ruin after 1191 and dating to the 13th century, found by the last archeological excavation (1999).

The cross of Tusculum there was already in 1840, as reported by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, rector of the English Collegemarker. In October, 1864 the students of the English College rebuilt the plinth of foundation of the old cross. Now on the top of the Tuscolo hill is an altar and an iron cross 19 metres (62,33 ft) high. The height of cross underlines the fact that it was built 19 centuries after the death of Jesus Christ.

External links


  • Richard Stillwell, ed. Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, 1976: "Tusculum, Latium, Italy"
  • Cassius Dio "Roman History"
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus: The Roman Antiquities
  • Thietmar of Merseburg - Chronicle
  • Roger of Howden - Chronica
  • Gregorovius, Ferdinand. Rome in the Middle Ages Vol. IV Part 1. 1905
  • William Gell The Topography of Rome and its Vicinity with Map". 2 vols. London, 1834. [Rev. and enlarged by Edward Henry Banbury. London 1846]
  • William Gell Analisi storico-topografico-antiquaria della carta de' dintorni di Roma secondo le osservazione di Sir W. Gell e del professore A. Nibby. Rome 1837 [2nd ed. 1848]
  • Thomas Ashby - The Roman Campagna in Classical Times - London 1927
  • G. Bagnani - The Roman Campagna and its treasures - London 1929
  • G.E. Mc Cracken - A History of Ancient Tusculum - Washington 1939
  • B. Goss - Tusculum in PECS (Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites) - 1976
  • T.J. Cornell - The beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to Punic War - London 1995 - ISBN 0-415-01596-0
  • Xavier Dupré - Scavi archeologici di Tusculum - Rome 2000 - ISBN 88-900486-0-3

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