The ruins of Crustumerium,
one of the most ancient cities of Latium in early historical ages,
were discovered in the area of Marcigliana (a District Park),
in the 4th borough of the city of Rome.
The location of the city was debated for centuries, interpreting the ancient sources, but only in the 1980's the certainty about the site of Crustumerium was reached. The archaelogical excavations showed that the most ancient finds in Crustumerium date back to Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Near this city, moreover, vases of great interest by shape and colours were found: indeed the presence of red-coloured painted figures is a particularly rare event. Some of these vases, purloined by grave-robbers, were retrieved by the police just thanks to their originality: they were recognized on the catalogue of an auction sale in New York. After being rescued they have been exposed, with other retrieved works of art, in an exhibition at Castel Sant'Angelo, in Rome.
Its origins are not yet clear, since, according to Servius it was founded by the Siculians, while others maintained it was founded by the people of Alba Longa (Diodorus and Dyonisus), by the Sabines (Plutarch) or by the Latins. According to the legend, reported by Virgil in its poem "Aeneid", Crustumerium was one of the five cities who forged the weapons used by peoples of central Italy to fight against Aeneas: "On the anvils five great cities forge arrows, the mighty Atina, the magnificent Tivoli, Crustumerium, Ardea and the many-towered Antemnae." (Aeneid, VII, 629-631).
Then the city conflicted also with Romulus, who probably at last conquered it. Crustumerium was also involved in the rape of the Sabine women, since it's mentioned as one of the cities from where the girls came to Rome, even if this doesn't mean Crustumerium was a Sabine city .
The subsequent events, historically more reliable, tell us that Crustuminus Ager (Crustumerium countryside) was annexed by Rome in 499 or 495 B.C.E. and this determined an increase in the number of Roman tribes from 17 to 21, after the creation of the new Clustumina tribe. In particular Titus Livy (History of Rome, II, 14) quotes the capture of Crustumerium as occurred under the consulate of Titus Aebutius and C. Vetusius (499 B.C.E.).
The decline of Crustumerium is confirmed by the fact that no source mentions the city in the chronicles of fourth and third century B.C.E., neither in the tales regarding the terrible defeat of the Romans against the Gauls in 390 B.C.E. near Allia river. This battle was mentioned by many sources since was a great distress for the Romans, and occurred near the Crustumini montes (mounts of Crustumerium), from which Allia river rises: it's difficult to believe that there was an inhabited city at a distance of few hundreds of meters from the battle field, not being involved and quoted in the chronicles, this could mean the city was already abandoned.
The likely desertion of the city is confirmed by the dramatic reduction of the archaeological surface finds compared to the former period, and the lack of sepulchral areas ascribable to this period is also meaningful.
Crustumerium soil was renowned for its fertility, and gave an high quality fodder, a variety of olives and a variety of pears, called crustuminae, quoted by Virgil (Georgicon, I, 88) and later even by Rabelais (Gargantua and Pantagruel, III, 13), obviously quoting the classical sources.
- IERARDI Mario (1997) Storia di Crustumerium. Nuovo Arcobaleno, Anno I, numero 1, novembre 1997.
- Rome Archaeological Superintendence webpage on Crustumerium (in Italian)
- http://www.parks.it/romanatura/Epun.html (in Italian)
- Department of Archaeology University of Cambridge (in English)
- Archaeological team of Rome Railwaymen Recreational Facilities (in Italian)
- http://www.parks.it/romanatura/riserva.marcigliana/index.html (in Italian)
- webpage on Crustumerium, "J. Pintor" junior secondary school, Rome (in Italian)