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Tuesday 3 October 2023
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The Ruins of Carsulae

Area Archeologica demaniale di Carsulae
Weekdays and holiday: 8,30am - 7,30pm (April-September) 8,30am - 5,30pm (October-March) (free entrance) Centro documentazione di Carsualae

Although the ruins of this ancient city were identified and documented already in the 17th century, it was not until the systematic digs carried out in 1951 and 1972 that part of the Forum, the amphitheatre, a long section of the Via Flaminia and some funerary monuments were actually unearthed. Nothing remains of the early settlement of Carsulae, which probably developed in the 3rd century BC shortly after the Via Flaminia was built. The fate of Carsulae is in fact inextricably linked with this great road, that forms the main street axis dividing the town.
The visit to Carsulae should begin at the church of St Damiano, a paleo-Christian or High Medieval construction erected over the remains of a previously existing Roman building whose use is still unclear.(1) Traces of this previously existing building are clearly visible in the southern flank of the church. The fact that his little church was dedicated to St Damian (or more probably to both Cosma and Damian) is unusual and interesting in that most buildings dedicated to these two saints appeared during the Byzantine period (6th century AD). Originally the building was composed of a single, rectangular hall with an apse. The small portico on the facade was probably added in the 11th century using materials almost entirely recovered from the surrounding debris. The two colonnades in the interior were also added at this time.

A number of architecural fragments including bases, capitals and marble plaques that once adorned the basilica and public buildings of the Forum are now within the church and beneath the portico. The paving of the Via Flaminia runs directly in front of the church. The section of road that has been unearthed corresponds more or less to the section that once ran within Carsulae itself. (13) A little further south, near the southern confines of the city, there are visible remains of what were once the public baths. (12). The ruins of a series of rooms arranged around a central courtyard along the Via Flaminia, back near the church of San Damiano, are most likely a late-Republican private dwelling. Going north along the Flaminia there are the remains of the Forum, largely built on a terraced structure. The series of vaulted structures, or tabernae, that give onto the road, were probably shops. Access along the Via Flaminia into the city was through two imposing four-fronted arches. The first arch was further south, near the so-called twin temples (4). All that remains of them today are the two daises sheathed in slabs of pink rock. They were two tetrastyle cult buildings side by side and of the same size, consacrated to a pair of unknown divinities. The second entrance led to the portico that ran along the northern side of the square lined with some public buildings.(3). These are four rectangular, apsed rooms all sumptuously decorated with marble both on the walls and on the floor. The decoration is still clearly visible in two of the rooms that are decorated with opus sectilis flooring. Further along there is a rectangular cistern in opus reticulatum that was perhaps connected to the nearby baths. It has now been transformed into an antiquarium. (11). Back towards the Flaminia, the remains of the large basilica are visible in the axis to the east of the large square. (2)The rectangular hall is divided into three naves by two rows of columns that lead to an apse at the far end that was used for administering justice and trading. Behind this structure, on the eastern border of the city, stand the theatre and the amphitheatre. (7) The theatre is entirely built in opus reticulatum and is still in fairly good shape until the cavea level. Built under Augustus, it is slightly earlier than the adjacent amphitheatre, built almost at a perfect right angle. Probably built under Flavian, the building technique used for the amphitheatre is completely different, however, characterised by blocks of limestone interrupted at regular intervals by a layer of brick. The structure has made use of a natural cavity in the terrain and has survived fairly intact in the southern side of the cavea. The access passages along the main entrance, as well as the secondary corridors leading up to the steps, are also clearly discernible. Along the Flaminia, going northwards out of the city, there si the imposing arch of San Damiano. (5)Originally made up of three arches, the two lateral structures have long vanished. The arch was built under Augustus and acted as a kind of symbolical entrance to the city from the north - Carsulae in fact had no fortifications. Originally the structure was completely covered in marble slabs. Some heavily restored funerary monuments stand a short distance further north. (6) (14)The first and largest of these is of the ‘tumulus’ variety favoured by aristocratic families of the late-Republican and Augustan periods. (6). The inscription kept at Palazzo Cesi in Acquasparta, almost certainly taken from Carsulae, mentions the ‘gens Furia’ - one of the city’s most prominent families - and could well have been taken from this very monument.

[tratto da: Archeologia a Terni - Crace, Perugia]

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