We woke up bright and early excited for what promised to be an incredible road trip through the wilds of Etruria – land of Etruscans! Our first stop was Veii, which suffered a famous sack in 396 B.C. at the hands of the Romans. This was an exciting site for us classicists, as the sack of Veii kicked off the era of unprecedented conquest and expansion that would culminate in the Romans’ consolidation of control over the entirety of Etruria, and eventually their world conquest. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the soft sound of smooth saxophone jazz floating up from the river valley below. After some closer inspection, we found out it was a man standing in the doorway of an abandoned ticket office laying down some tunes on a sax like Kenny G. We still have no idea what that was about, but we can assume it was probably a ghost/Vanth (An Etruscan demon).
Anyway — corroborating the accounts of the severity of the sack, we found very little of the ancient city intact, with only a few foundation stones and a modern rebar reconstruction to give us a hint of what was once the grand temple of Apollo. Regardless, this site introduced us effectively to the fundamentals of Etruscan temple architecture as explained by architectural historian extraordinaire Professor Ulrich.
After Veii, we made our way further up the Tiber valley to Sutri, an Etruscan town that also boasts some impressive Roman remains. Our first step was what Professor Ulrich incorrectly identified as an Augustan amphitheatre, but Aaron was able to correctly identify beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt as an alien UFO landing site. The group killed some time at nearby tombs, explored the remains of an abandoned mill, and at 2 o’clock was granted permission to enter a medieval rock-cut Church that was probably built within a Roman Mithraeum. At first it seemed as if we’d have to stay in the antechamber, as the lights in the main hall weren’t working. But after some finagling with the fuse box Mithras was appeased and all was illuminated for the FSP’ers. After wandering about and getting some fun-facts about Mithras and his shadowy cult, it was back on the bus for our last destinations of the day – Falerii Nuovi and Orvieto!
Orvieto is a mountaintop village renowned for its spectacular 13th century Basilica. Being situated so high above the Tiber valley, we left our bus in a lot in the shadow of the crag and hopped on a funicular cable car to make the ascent. Upon arriving, the group dumped their stuff and went forth to explore the charming medieval town. The Duomo (once located in the winding maze of streets) was just as spectacular as any of us could have hoped. The façade glowed a rosy red hue, and the golden mosaics glistened in the light of dusk.
Finally, after a long day, the group went out for a group dinner at a local eatery. Even Professor Ulrich, TA Katelyn Burrrrrrgess, and friendly bus driver Carlo accompanied the group. It was a fitting end to an amazing day, and left us fully recharged and ready to explore Etruscan Orvieto when dawn with her rosy finger shined once more.
Photos (courtesy of Brett):