Once upon a time there was Rusellae
Once upon a time, not far from the plain where Grosseto stands today, there was a range of hills covered in forests and crossed by crystalline rivers. A vast lagoon, called the Prile, which communicated with the sea, washed the slopes of these high grounds.The first people to frequent these hills were prehistoric hunters. They lived by hunting, fishing and foraging for berries, and inhabited the natural caverns that are commonly found around here. The discovery of tools made of stone, wood and bone, used to hunt and to work on the animals’ remains, demonstrate the presence of prehistoric man in the area.With the passing of time, more stable communities began to inhabit the hills and so small villages of huts sprung up. Then, in the seventh century BC, in full Etruscan times, Rusellae made its appearance: it was a proper urban center with houses built of stone and raw bricks, which about a century later was provided with a set of imposing defensive walls surrounding the hills on which the town was located.In the Etruscan era, the town enjoyed a period wealth and prosperity thanks not only to the exploitation of farming and mining resources, but also to overland and maritime commercial exchanges with other Italic peoples and with populations from far off lands such as Sardinia, Greece, Asia Minor and the coasts of Northern Africa. Ports controlled by Rusellae were certainly present on Lake Prile and on the Ombrone River, a busy commercial route towards inland Etruria. In the fourth century, the Romans built the via Aurelia and began intensifying their presence in the area. Initially, relations with the people of Rusellae were peaceful, but these deteriorated with the passing of time. Eventually the Romans and Etruscans came into conflict and battled against each other, and this lead to the Roman conquest of Rusellae in 294 BC.Destroyed by the Romans, in the following years the economy picked up and construction of new buildings began in the Etruscan settlement until, for its involvement in the social wars at the beginning of the first century AD, it obtained Roman citizenship. Not long after that, Sulla’s wars lead to more fire and destruction, but towards the end of that century, the town was finally able to enjoy a renewed and long-lasting period of peace and prosperity with intense moments of architectural activities, particularly during the eras of Hadrian and the Julio-Claudian dynasty.Rusellae’s vitality and splendor diminished in the course of the fourth century AD, during the Christian period. In the sixth century a church was built over the ruins of the thermal baths of Hadrian, which had by then fallen into disrepair, and thus Rusellae became a bishopric.In the middle of the sixth century the Langobards descended into Italy, occupying the little town of Rusellae early in the seventh century. The Franks arrived during the eighth century and promoted the expansion of the powerful Aldobrandini family in the entire Maremma region. The date that permanently marks the end of Rusellae is 1138, the year when the bishopric was moved to Grosseto.Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and of TourismSoprintendenza Archeologia della ToscanaTexts and sketches of hypothetical reconstructions by Fiora Giovino3D reconstructions of the Basilica by Benedetta CappelliniPhotos of the walls, of the Basilica of the Bassi, the statua loricata, the amphitheater and of the thermal baths from the era of Hadrian curated by Paolo NanniniSupervision Gabriella PoggesiWe would like to thank all the staff of the Rusellae archaeological siteProduction and contents management PRISMA Associazione CulturaleTranslation: Stephanie G. Williams, Nicola AmicoVoice: Carolina Gamini - Studio Pippolaticomusic di Luca Bechelli
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