The Roman Period

Roman Influence on the Trasimeno Region
From the late the 3rd century BC, Rome’s cultural and economic influence on the Trasimeno region is evident. Rome’s conquest of Umbria, which started in 310 BC, brought 40,000 Latin and Roman settlers into the region east of Lago Trasimeno. With these settlers came both the Latin language and Roman culture. New road networks connected Umbria and the Trasimeno region with Rome and cities to the north and east. The Via Amerina was constructed in 330 BC to connect Rome to Perugia. In 220 BC, that road was superseded in importance by the Via Flaminia, which passed to the east of Trasimeno through Spoletium and across the Apennines to the Adriatic coast. The Via Cassia, constructed in 154 BC, runs from Rome to Clusium (Chiusi) and through the Val di Chiana to Arretium and beyond. Thus, by the mid-2nd century BC, the territory of Castiglione del Lago was well-connected economically, culturally, and socially to the Rome.

Roads from Rome to Umbria and the Trasimeno Region. (based on The Barrington Atlas, Princeton University Press 2000)

Rome’s wars and territorial ambitions also had an impact on the territory around the Lake. The famous Battle of Trasimeno took place in the spring of 217 BC along the northern shore of the lake (between Tuoro and Passignano, or perhaps between Passignano and Torricella). As Hannibal advanced his forces towards Rome, the Roman consul Gaius Flaminius moved his army to confront Hannibal. However, the Carthaginians had laid a trap for the Romans and approximately 15,000 Roman troops were killed, many having drowned in the Lake.

Archaeological Evidence
Between the 4th and the 3rd centuries BC it appears that the territory between the west side of Lago Trasimeno and the Valdichiana becomes depopulated. This may be attributed in part to the invasion of the Gauls in 390 BC and the war with Hannibal at the end of the 3rd century BC. Only at Castiglione del Lago and Petrignano is there evidence of continuity. Castiglione del Lago emerges in the 2nd century as the principal town in the region and was most likely fortified at this time with a perimeter wall. South of the town there is abundant evidence for fishing activity and the presence of black glaze pottery indicates influence coming from Rome. Tombs excavated in the environs of Castiglione del Lago also provide robust evidence of the town’s importance.

Examples of black glaze pottery found on the site of the Gioiella-Vaiano Villa (CLG Survey 2015)

By the second half of the 2nd century BC people move back into the region and the number of inhabited zones is similar to what was present in the Archaic period. The distribution of tombs and evidence from boundary markers (cippi) suggests that the territory was divided into many small farms during this period, likely leading to an intensification in agricultural production, particularly grain (the famous far clusium mentioned in Latin sources). The inhabitants were citizens of Clusium and the tomb architecture and material goods indicate a literate class that was relatively homogeneous economically.

View looking south at the walls of Castiglione del Lago

The Beginning of Roman Political Control
During the Social Wars (ca. 90-89 BC), Clusium, Cortona, and Perugia are made municipia of Rome and their populations are granted Roman citizenship. From this moment there is clearly a new relationship between the city centers and the organization of the countryside. Smaller farms start to collect into larger estates and we see the rise of several medium to large villas. These agricultural and residential complexes consolidated control of the land into a small number of landowners and the villas housed both members of owner’s family as well as dependent laborers (often slaves). Archaeological evidence for such villas is documented at Ossaia, near Cortona, and at Passignano on the east side of Lago Trasimeno. Excavation at the Gioiella-Vaiano Villa is the first opportunity to investigate the role that the Roman villa system played in the economy of the territory between Castiglione del Lago and the Valdichiana.

Bradley, G. 2000. Ancient Umbria : State, Culture, and Identity in Central Italy from the Iron Age to the Augustan Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cerbella, M. 2016.Trasimeno: specchio del cielo. Dalle origini geologiche alla conquista romana, realtà, miti, leggende e falsi storici. Città di Castello. Corebook.

Pagnotta, W. 1984. L’Antiquarium di Castiglione del Lago e L’Ager Clusinus Orientale, Archaeologia Perusina 1. Rome. Giorgio Bretschneider.

Paolucci, G. 2002. “A ovest del Lago Trasimeno. Note di archeologia e di topografia,” in G.M. Della Fina, ed., Perugia Etrusca. Atti del IX Convegno Internatzionale di Studi sulla Storia e L’Archeologia dell’Etruria (Orvieto), Rome, Quasar, 247-269.

Renzetti, A. 2011, “Realtà insediative e dinamiche di popolamento nel territorio del Trasimeno tra fine VIII e inizio I secolo a.C.,” Bollettino della Deputazione di storia patria per l’Umbria 108, fasc. I-II: 235-272.

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