Key to Umbria: Perugia

Etruscan Urns

The loggia around the upper level of the large cloister is lined on three sides with cinerary urns from the necropolises that were built outside the city walls in the Hellenistic period.  These held the ashes of the deceased and were placed inside their hypogea (subterranean tombs).  A family hypogeum might contain the urns of several generations. 

The urns from this period were mass-produced to designs that were probably the work of Greek artisans.  They were generally made from local travertine, usually polychromed and occasionally gilded.  The deceased was often portrayed reclining on the lid in Greek dress, with his or her name inscribed below.  The great majority of these inscriptions are in the Etruscan language, although some that date to the period after the formation of the municipium in 89 BC are in Latin.

Some urns, particularly the earlier ones, were decorated with reliefs of scenes taken from Greek mythology.   (The website of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell' Umbria contains an interesting page on some of the more common ones).  

Urns from Ponticello di Campo (2nd and 1st centuries BC)

A number of the urns exhibited here were discovered in hypogea at Ponticello di Campo, south east of Perugia (slightly to the north of the larger the Palazzone necropolis (see below). 

Numbers  1 - 38 came from nine hypogea excavated in 1878-88.  Five of these (numbers 12 - 16) came from one of these hypogea that was used for women of the Selvathri family.  They belong to successive generations and are mostly identified by their maternal descent:
  1. Carcinei, wife of Selvathre (15);

  2. Thana Selvathre, wife of Cusithe, daughter of Carcinei (14);

  3. Thania Cusithi, wife of Chvesna (13);

  4. Hermi, wife of Cacei, daughter of Acsi (12); and

  5. Fasti Vipi, wife of ..., daughter of Hermi (16).

The relief on the urn of Thana Selvathre (14 - illustrated here) depicts Orestes pursued by Avenging Furies after he has murdered his mother.

Numbers 39 - 47 came from the Ipogeo dei Veti, which was excavated in 1925-6.  They belonged to three generations of male members of the Veti family and their wives.  The urn of Larta Pomponia, daughter of Aule (42) is the only one with an inscription in Latin.

Numbers 130 - 143 came from the Ipogeo dei Pompu Plaute, which was excavated in 1792. The urn of Lucius Pomponius Plotus, son of Lucius (142), which is in the form of a Roman temple, is the only one with an inscription in Latin.  The cognomen Plaute (Etruscan) or Plotus is a form of the more common Latin cognomen Plautus, which means flat-footed.

See also the page on the Ipogeo dei Setna, which was discovered at Ponticello di Campo in the 1960s.  (The urns from this necropolis are separately displayed).

Ipogeo di Donne, Casaglia (2nd - 1st centuries BC)

The so-called Ipogeo di Donne (hypogeum of the women) was found in 1987  at Casaglia, outside Perugia (beyond the cemetery, along a road that led to the Tiber).  It contained the urns of four women from the same family (numbers 63 - 66). 

Three of the urns have Etruscan inscriptions identifying the deceased:

  1. Ani, daughter of Vapsuntei (63);

  2. Larthi Alfi, wife of Veltsna, daughter of .... (64); and

  3. Thania Veltsnei, daughter of Larth and Armni, wife of Luesna (65).

The fourth (66), which has its inscription in Latin, belonged to Lusinia, daughter of Iota.

The urn of Thania Veltsnei (65) is particularly moving:
  1. On the lid, she embraces her husband, Luesna.

  2. In the relief, she reluctantly takes her leave of him.  Another man tugs gently at his toga as she prepares to go with another noble lady to her life after death.  This second lady holds the handle of a box (probably a jewel box) that is similar to a box made of bone that was found with the ashes in the urn.

Ipogeo dei Rafi (2nd - 1st centuries BC)

This hypogeum was discovered in tact in 1887, cut into the rock on the site of the Cimitero Civico (cemetery), which was part of the extensive Monteluce Necropolis.   It contained 36 funerary urns (including numbers 92 - 123) and a number of terracotta vessels that also contained the ashes of human cremations.  The Etruscan inscriptions on the lids of the urns revealed that they belonged to four generations of the Rafi family.  They were distributed on the floor of the tomb, with that of the founder of the complex at the centre.  The sarcophagus of his wife was beside his, and those of his parents were nearby. 

The inscription on the urn of the founder (104) identifies him as Vel Rafi, son of Arnth and Cai.  He is depicted on the front of his urn as an old man dressed in Roman style .  It would seem that he was an architect since he holds a ruler and stands beneath an arch that he presumably built.  The arch is probably meant to represent the gate of Hades, but it may have been inspired by one of the city gates.

Another 16 urns (85 -91) that belonged to members of this family were discovered in 1822 at an unspecified location north of Perugia.

Ipogeo dei Tetina (2nd century  BC)

This hypogeum was excavated in 1880 in Pacciano, near Castiglione.   It contained:

  1. the urn of Larth Tetina, son of Marcnei, the founder (127), which was in the main room; and

  2. the urns of his son Larth (128) and of Thania Herini (129), who was either his wife of his daughter-in-law, both of which were in the corridor.

A Greek helmet (late 4th or 3rd century BC), which lay near the urn of the founder, is now in the Sala dei Bronzi.

Palazzone Necropolis

The Palazzone Necropolis (which can be visited) is just outside Ponte San Giovanni, a few kilometers from Perugia, on a slope that descends to the Tiber.  The area is named for the Villa del Palazzone, which belonged to the Baglioni family.  It was first recognised as an Etruscan burial ground in the 1790s, when a few hypogea were discovered.  However, interest increased dramatically when the amazing Ipogeo dei Volumni was unearthed during roadworks in February 1840.

Subsequent excavations  established the fact that this hypogeum was on the edge of a large necropolis.  Unfortunately, the excavations were unsystematic and poorly documented, and the precise provenance of most of the funerary urns and grave goods that were discovered was lost.   The area was then largely neglected until 1963, when systematic excavation revealed some 200 hypogea that were cut into the rock.  The great majority belong to the Hellenistic  period (4th - 1st centuries BC), although five are considerably older. 

Most of the cinerary urns discovered on the site are exhibited at the entrance to the Ipogeo dei Volumni.   A few are displayed here:

  1. Three urns (124-6) belonging to women of the Velimnas family  (which also owned the Ipogeo dei Volumni) were among nine discovered in 1797.  An important mirror (ca. 320 BC) found nearby, in which the goddess of fate, Atropos presides over the deaths of Adonis (shown with Aphrodite) and Meleager (shown with Atalanta), is now in the [Berlin Antiquarium].  It is perhaps a hundred years older than the urns and was presumably a family heirloom.
  2. The urn of Fasti Titi Petrui, wife of Cacei (144, at the back in this photograph) has in interesting relief of a boar hunt on the front.  It probably represents Meleager killing the Calydonian boar.
  3. The urn of Larth Facui, son of Vel and Titi (145, at the front in this photograph), which Conte Giancarlo Conestabile discovered in 1870, has a relief depicting Odysseus (newly returned from Troy and in disguise) spying on his wife Penelope in her bedroom.

  4. Two urns from the Ipogeo dei Casni (176 and 177) were discovered in 1843.

Ipogeo delle Madri e Figlie (2nd century BC)

The so-called hypogeum of the mothers and daughters was discovered in 1925 at Villa Barbiellini [near Villa del Palazzone].   It contained five urns, four of which carried inscriptions (numbers 153-7).  These inscriptions identified ladies from what seem to be four generations of the same family:

  1. Leunei, wife of Venthn[a], daughter of Achrati (154);

  2. Venthnei, wife of Arzni, daughter of Leunei (156);

  3. Thana Arznei (i.e. daughter of Arzni), wife of Paniathe (153); and

  4. Larthi Paniathi (i.e. daughter of Paniathe - 155).  The relief on this urn shows the deceased leaving for the underworld, accompanied by female demons. 

Ipogeo dei Praesenti (1st century BC)

The urn of Hastia Aemili Praesenti (159) came from a hypogeum (1st century BC) that was discovered in 1869 in the Ipogeo dei Praesenti (on the site of the nunnery of Santa Caterina Vecchia, outside Porta Sant' Angelo).   Hastia is identified by the Latin inscription.  The relief on the urn depicts Odysseus (newly returned from Troy and in disguise) spying on his wife Penelope in her bedroom. 

The hypogeum, which consisted of two or three small rooms, also contained three other travertine urns (not exhibited), which belonged (respectively) to:

  1. Presnte (Hastia's husband);

  2. his mother; and

  3. another lady.

The first two had Etruscan inscriptions while the third inscription, like that of Hastia, was in Latin.  A number of objects (3rd or 4th century BC) that were found nearby are exhibited among the Etruscan Artefacts.  These are much older than the hypogeum, and must have been heirlooms.

Ipogeo dei Sortes (1st century BC) 

The urns exhibited as numbers 199 - 206 came from a relatively late hypogeum that was discovered in an unspecified location on hill of Monteluce, the site of the Monteluce Necropolis.  All of these except numbers 202 and 205 belonged to men from three generations of the Sortes family.

All of the inscriptions are in Latin.  The last member of the family whose ashes were interred here (in urn number 201), Lucius Nigidius Sors, son of Lucius, used a Latin form of the family name (as opposed to the form Sortes used by the others).  His inscription also contained the interesting information that he was "scriba aedilium curulium" or secretary of the Aediles Curules (municipal magistrates).

Bellucci Collection

A series of rooms off the first side of the cloister (proceeding clockwise fro the entrance, between exhibits 33 and 34) houses the Bellucci Collection, the collection of some 1,700 amulets that Giuseppe Bellucci donated in 1921.

Roman Artefacts

These exhibits are along the fourth side of the cloister.

Urn of Annia  (early 1st Century AD)

This lovely marble cinerary urn (currently un-numbered) is exhibited to the right of the facade of San Domenico Vecchio: its original provenance is unknown, but it was used as a font in the Duomo from the 16th century until 1833.   The inscription (CIL XI 2031) commemorates:

Annia Sex(ti) f(ilia) Cassia nata

Annia, daughter of Sextus and Cassia

The front of the urn has a relief of putti holding a garland of wheat, suggesting that Annia  might have been a priestess of Cerere.  The EAGLE database (see the CIL link) dates the inscription to the period 1 - 14 AD.

Annia belonged to the gens Annia, a family of Etruscan origin that subsequently achieved consular status in Rome.  Her father was probably Sextus Annius Gallus, who is known from two funerary inscriptions from Perusia (CIL XI 2030 and CIL XI 1953), each of which commemorates one of his freedmen and dates to the last three decades of the 1st century BC.

Dedications to Fortuna (63-5 AD)


                      CIL XI 5609                                                                CIL XI 5610

These dedications to the goddess Fortuna (CIL XI 5609 and CIL XI 5610) were discovered in the 18th and early 19th centuries respectively at Civitella d’ Arna.  They were made by Polytimus, a Greek freedman and dispensator (estate manager) of Poppea Augusta, who is recorded as the wife of Nero in CIL XI 5610: she married Nero in 62 AD, was designated Augusta in the following year and died in 65 AD.

Inscriptions of the Volumnius Family (1st century AD)

Three inscriptions also in the Museo Archeologico (exhibits 243-5) commemorate members of the Volumnius family, which owned the Ipogeo dei Volumni:

  1. An dedicatory inscription (CIL XI 1944, 1 - 14 AD) in the Museo Archeologico (245), which was preserved in San Francesco delle Donne until 1815, commemorates Publius Volumnius Violenti, son of Publius.  He had served as quattuorviro and then duoviro, and the inscription relates to something (presumably a statue) that the citizens and other inhabitants of Perusia had dedicated to him.  The change of the form of the magistracy of Perugia from quattuorviri to duoviri   is thought to have occurred when the municipium was restored as Augusta Perusia in the early 1st century AD.   This Publius Volumnius may have been the son of the Publius Volumnius Violens, son of Aule and Cafatia, who had chosen to be buried in the hitherto closed Ipogeo dei Volumni, probably  shortly after 9 BC. 

CIL XI 2085                                               CIL XI 1957

  1. Two funerary inscriptions also in the Museo Archeologico (exhibits 243-4, above) commemorate later members of the family:

  2. Part of the travertine funerary inscription (CIL XI 2085, 1st half of the 1st century AD) of Lucius Volumnius Perusinus (243) came from an unknown location.

  3. The funerary inscription (CIL XI 1957, 1st century AD) of Volumnius Primigenius and his wife Caenia Crescens (244) was found near the church of San Costanzo in 1742. 

Plinth of a Statue of Emperor Antonius Pius (166 AD)

The plinth (239) was embedded in the facade of Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo until 1787.  Its inscription (CIL XI 1924) records that the people of Perugia had provided funds for the erection of a statue to the duovir (magistrate) Caius Egnatius Festus after he had instituted games in the city.  He, however, had  declined the honour and asked the decurions to spend the money instead on a statue of the recently deceased Emperor Antonius Pius (138 - 61).  

The inscription on the side records the relevant decree and gives the date with reference to the consuls of 166 AD.  It mentions the duoviri of that year: Publius Casinerius Clemente and Lucius Petilius Nepote. 

Proceed to Rooms off the Upper Cloister.

Walk along the corridor in the fourth side of the large cloister, through the Prehistoric and Bronze Age Collection.

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