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The Archaeological-Cultural Park

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BRIEF NOTES ON THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AREA OF TUSCULUM

Wedged in between the municipalities of Montecompatri, Monte Porzio, Frascati and Grottaferrata, Tusculum is at the heart of the history and culture of the Roman Castles area. Today archaeological traces of different periods in history overlap here, marking the most important events of this ancient Roman city, from its pre-Roman origins to its destruction in 1191. 

The origins of Tusculum are steeped in legend: it is said that it was founded by Telegonus, the mythical son of Ulysses and the goddess Circe. What we do know for certain is that the first traces of human settlement date to the middle Bronze Age, around the 14th century BC.

Tusculum quickly became one of the most important cities in the Latin League, proudly opposing Roman expansionism but defeated in the famous Battle of Lake Regillus in 496 BC.

Once it did come under Roman dominion, Tuscolo became the privileged summer residence of emperors, senators and writers of great fame, starting a tradition that has even reached us today. Among the most renowned villas, mention goes to those owned by Silla, Cicero, Lucullus, Tiberius and Matidia. 

In medieval times, under the Counts of Tuscolo, a dynasty that gave the church numerous popes, it dominated the Capitoline chronicles, exerting influence over political events until the Municipality of Rome ordered its destruction in1191 AD.

After a long period of abandon when many artefacts were looted, in 1990 the Mountain District of the Roman Castles and Prenestini Mountain took over the site, resuming excavations around the Forum and the Theatre, working in cooperation with the Spanish School of History and Archaeology of Madrid in Rome. Finds from archaic times, from the Republican and Imperial periods of ancient Rome and from the middle ages are found outcropping in the 50 hectare area owned by the Mountain District. Ongoing scientific research performed on-site has now reached its 13th season, creating the conditions for establishing a Tusculum Archaeological-Cultural Park, a process which is currently under way.

THE ROMAN THEATRE OF TUSCULUM

Located in the hills south-east of Rome, since 1992 — the year the area was purchased by the Mountain District — Tusculum has been the object of ongoing rediscovery and valorisation. These consolidation, safeguarding and scientific works aim to establish the conditions for a true and proper cultural park in the area, including tourist-educational itineraries and events of high cultural-artistic value. 

From the scientific point of view, the site is considered one of the most important in all of Lazio. It is the place where some of the major pages of history — from the Roman Republic to the Period of the Papal States and on to the early Middle Ages — were written in blood. The footsteps of the great Cicero and others of the past still echo on the stones of the Forum and Theatre.

The years of scientific excavation, performed in cooperation with the Spanish School of History and Archaeology in Rome (CSIC), got under way in 1994 and have brought to light traces of the via Sacra, a zone with finds of great historic importance, the very premises of a place where writers, popes and leaders have enjoyed living and vacationing since very remote times.

Together with works to consolidate and safeguard the area, the process of scientific survey has resulted in reopening of the Roman Theatre of Tusculum in the Forum area in 2003.
Built in 75 BC, after two millennia of silence, the Mountain District brought the Roman Theatre of Tusculum back to life on the evening of 5th September, 2003 with a memorable performance by Giorgio Albertazzi.

Since then the Theatre of Tusculum has been living a new season of triumph, each year renewing itself with superb performances. Since 2008, through an extraordinary agreement with the INDA — the Italian national institute of dramatic arts — the site has witnessed an artistic turning point and is now a site of excellence for performing Classic works, those of the Greek Theatre in Syracuse.

THE AMPHITHEATRE OF TUSCULUM (II century AD)

Located outside the limits of the ancient city of Tusculum, about two kilometres lower than the Roman Theatre, the Amphitheatre of Tusculum stands at the upper edge of a small valley steeped in the vegetation of what was once the Sacro Woods. Partially buried, only the contours of a space much broader than that of the Roman Theatre can currently be seen.

Known in the 17th century as the “Accademia di Cicerone”, as Cicero had lived and worked in Tusculum for some time, the Amphitheatre was partially excavated in the 1800s but has never been the object of systematic study. The most recent study by Quilici in the 1990s dates construction to the second half of the 2nd century AD.

The two main axes — 72.6 x 55 m — draw out an elliptical area measuring 53 metres in length and 35 in width that can hold no fewer than 3000 spectators.
The arena is separated from the cavea by a high podium around which runs a ringed hallway with architraved doors opening onto the arena and onto the entrance tunnel along the main arcade. A series of trapezoidal rooms is arranged within this area, filling the space between the hallway ring and the outer wall, some of which can still be entered.

Two corridors lead into the arena; the one on the north side still preserves an accessible underlying service tunnel that extends approximately 13 metres downhill. One of the entrances — the one best preserved — still boasts a triumphal arch on the outside. 

All of the construction work is made of concrete, with tuff mesh ornaments and substantial use of on brick toothing. The podium wall, its doors and the stairs, both in the cavea and the outside stairway, are built using squared blocks of volcanic stone. The outer wall running around the Amphitheatre is nearly intact.

As regards the decorations, it is often possible to find fragments of red plaster inside the Amphitheatre, proving that the rooms had once been frescoed. The Amphitheatre is currently being renovated by the Castelli Mountain District which, in collaboration with the Superintendency for Archaeology, is currently seeking the necessary funding.

In July 2005 the Amphitheatre was the object of an exceptional initiative advanced by the Mountain District of the Roman Castles and Prenestini Mountain, presented to the institutions and press on July 7th at a gala. The event started with an archaeological tour and culminated in the suggestive sunset with an extraordinary rendition of the Mark Anthony's speech from Shakespeare's “Anthony and Cleopatra” performed by Giorgio Albertazzi.