Key to Umbria: Perugia

Perusia after the Battle of Sentium

The walls of Perusia, which were probably begun in the 4th century BC, seem to have been substantially rebuilt after the Battle of Sentinum.  The circuit stretched for some 3 km around Colle Landone in the south and Monte Sole in the north.  The remains of five gates in the circuit survive, as does the Etruscan well (3rd century BC) in Piazza Danti. 

The urban development of Perusia shows no sign of interruption after the defeat at Sentium.  Indeed, its first ring of walls was probably built or at least substantially rebuilt some time after the battle.   Via Amerina was extended from Ameria (Amelia) to Perusia (Perugia).  Simone Sisani (referenced below, at p. 121) pointed out that the extension must must have pre-dated the early 3rd century BC, when Porta Marzia was built to monumentalise its entrance into Perusia.

After the defeat of Volsinii in 280 BC and its destruction in 265 BC, Perusia seems to have taken on its role as the leading Etruscan city, and prospered under Roman hegemony.  According to Livy, in 216 BC, during the war against Hannibal:

  1. “... [to] the garrison the Romans had at Casilinum ... was added a cohort of Perusians, in number 460 [men], who had been summoned [there] ...” (‘Roman History, 23:17:11).

William Harris (referenced below, at p. 89) suggested that the Perusians  provided this military support under the terms of their treaty with Rome.

The surviving isolated tombs and necropoles from this period provide evidence of a rapidly growing population.  They belonged not only to noble families but also to people from the middle classes.  The large number of them on the outskirts of Perugia, particularly along the roads to Gubbio and Cortona testify to a network of rural settlements associated with urban Perusia. 

A number of finds displayed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale attest to the vibrant society of Roman Perusia.  It is also possible to visit:

  1. the Ipogeo dei Volumni  (late 3rd to early 1st century BC), which is next to the Palazzone Necropolis at Ponte San  Giovanni; and

  2. the Ipogeo di San Manno  (late 3rd to early 1st century BC) 3km west of the city. 

Perusia after the Social Wars

A fragment from the lost book of Cornelius Sisenna relates to Perusia:

  1. “... then, after he made an announcement of this deed before the people of Iguvium and Perusia, ... ” (‘Histories’, Book IV, fragment translated in T. J. Cornell, referenced below, Volume II, p. 645, F 84)

Edward Bispham (referenced below, at p. 184) asserted that Book IV related to events of 89 BC and suggested (at P. 186) that both Iguvium and Perusia might have revolted in 90 BC and thus had been excluded from the grants of citizenship made in that year: instead they had to await further legislation in the following year.  Perusia subsequently became a municipium and was enrolled in the Tromentina tribe, as evidenced, for example, by an inscription (EDR 148142) commemorating a member of the gens Cutia, from the Ipogeo dei Cai Catu (now in the Museo Archeologico, Perugia).

Two accounts of the Perusine War (see the link below), which led to the destruction of the city in 40BC, mention the worship of Juno in Perusia:

  1. “Octavian intended to turn Perusia itself over to the soldiers for plunder, but Cestius, one of the citizens, who was somewhat out of his mind ... set fire to his house and plunged into the flames, and a strong wind fanned the conflagration and drove it over the whole of Perusia, which was entirely consumed, except the temple of Vulcan.  Such was the end of Perusia, a city renowned for its antiquity and importance.  It is said that it was one of the first 12 cities built by the Etruscans in Italy in the olden time.  For this reason the worship of Juno prevailed there, as among the Etruscans generally.  But thereafter, those [survivors] who shared among themselves the remains of the city took Vulcan for their tutelary deity instead of Juno” (‘Civil Wars’, 5:49). 

Cassius Dio gave other details in his account of these events:

  1. “Of the people of Perusia and the others who were captured there, the majority lost their lives, and the city itself, except the temple of Vulcan and the statue of Juno, was entirely destroyed by fire.  This statue, which was preserved by some chance, was brought to Rome, in accordance with a vision that [Octavian] saw in a dream, and it secured for [Perusia] the privilege of being peopled again by any who desired to settle there, though they did not acquire anything of its territory beyond the first mile.” (‘Roman History’, 48:14). 

This suggests that a temple to Juno had been the most important in the city until its destruction during this war.   The temple to Vulcan, which probably survived because it was outside the city walls, then apparently superseded it.

Read more:

T. J. Cornell (Ed.), “The Fragments of the Roman Historians”, (2013) Oxford

E. Bispham, “From Asculum to Actium: The Municipalisation of Italy from the Social War to Augustus”, (2008) Oxford

S. Sisani, “Fenomenologia della Conquista: La Romanizzazione dell' Umbria tra il IV sec. a. C. e la Guerra Sociale”, (2007) Rome

W. Harris, “Rome in Etruria and Umbria”, (1971) Oxford

Continue to the page on the Perusine War

Return to the History of Perugia


Roman Perusia before the Perusine War

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(Note that the page “Literary Sources s” expands on all the classical references in the account below)