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Alsium (Greek: Ἄλσιον; modern: Palo) was an ancient city on the coast of Etruria, between Pyrgi and Fregenae, at the distance of 18 miles (29 km) from the Portus Augusti (mod. Porto) at the mouth of the Tiber (Itin. Ant. p. 301.), on the Via Aurelia,[1] by which it is about 35 km from Rome.[2] It was one of the oldest cities of Etruria, but does not appear in history until the Roman colonization of 247 BCE, and was never of great importance, except as a resort of wealthy Romans, many of whom (including Pompey and the Antonine emperors) had villas there.[3][4][5]


Its name is mentioned by Dionysius among the cities which were founded by the Pelasgians in connection with the aborigines, and afterwards wrested from them by the Tyrrhenians (Etruscans),[6] but no mention of it occurs in history as an Etruscan city, or during the wars of that people with Rome. In 247 BCE, a Roman colony was established there, which was placed on the same footing with the other coloniae maritimae; and in common with these claimed exemption from all military service, a claim which was, however, overruled during the exigencies of the Second Punic War.[7][8] No subsequent notice of it occurs in history, but its name is mentioned by Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy, and we learn from an inscription of the time of Caracalla that it still retained its colonial rank, and corresponding municipal organization.[9][10]

It appears to have early become a favorite resort with the wealthy Romans as a place of retirement and pleasure;[11] thus we find that Pompey the Great had a villa there, and Julius Caesar also, where he landed on his return from Africa, and at which all the nobles of Rome hastened to greet him.[12] Another is mentioned as belonging to Lucius Verginius Rufus, the guardian of Pliny, and we learn from Fronto that the emperor Marcus Aurelius had a villa there, to which several of his epistles are addressed.[13] At a later period the town itself had fallen into utter decay, but the site was still occupied by villas, as well as that of the neighbouring Pyrgi.[14]

The site[edit]

The site of Alsium is clearly fixed by the distance from Porto, at the modern village of Palo, with a fort and mole of the 17th century, in the construction of which many ancient materials have been used. Besides these, the whole shore to the east of the village, for the space of more than a mile, is occupied by the remains of buildings which appear to have belonged to a Roman villa of imperial date, and of the most magnificent scale and style of construction.[4]

Northeast of Palo is a row of large mounds called I Monteroni, which belong to tombs of the Etruscan cemetery. Considerable remains of ancient villas still exist along the low sandy coast, one of which, just east of Palo, occupies an area of some 400 by 250 yards (370 by 230 m);[3] the medieval castle belongs to the Odescalchi family. Palo includes today only the old castle: it is part of the comune of Ladispoli, a bathing resort founded by Prince Ladislao Odescalchi[3] in 1888.


  1. ^ "Alsivm"
  2. ^ Quilici, L.; S. Quilici Gigli; DARMC; R. Talbert; S. Gillies; J. Åhlfeldt; J. Becker; T. Elliott. "Places: 422831 (Alsium)". Pleiades. Retrieved October 18, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911.
  4. ^ a b Smith 1854, p. 112.
  5. ^ Luisa Banti (1973). Etruscan Cities and Their Culture. University of California Press. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-0-520-01910-2.
  6. ^ Smith 1854, p. 112 cites Dionysius i. 20
  7. ^ Smith 1854, p. 112 cites Velleius Paterculus i. 14; Livy xxvii. 38.
  8. ^ Patrick Bruun (1972). Studies in the romanization of Etruria. Aziende tipografiche eredi G. Bardi.
  9. ^ Smith 1854, p. 112 cites Strabo pp. 225, 226; Pliny iii. 5. s. 8; Ptolemy iii. 1. § 4; Gruter, Inscr. p. 271. 3.
  10. ^ Andrew Stephenson (1891). Public Lands and Agrarian Laws of the Roman Republic. Johns Hopkins Press. pp. 60–.
  11. ^ Smith 1854, p. 112 cites maritimus et voluptarius locus: Fronto, Ep. p. 207, ed. Rom.
  12. ^ Smith 1854, p. 112 cites Cicero pro Milon. 20, ad Fam. ix. 6, ad Att. xiii. 50.
  13. ^ Smith 1854, p. 112 cites Pliny Ep. vi. 10; Fronto, Ep. pp. 205-15.
  14. ^ Smith 1854, p. 112 cites Rutilius Itin. i. 223 (English translation).



Coordinates: 41°56′N 12°06′E / 41.933°N 12.100°E / 41.933; 12.100