1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tusculum
TUSCULUM, an ancient city of Latium, situated in a commanding position on the north edge of the outer crater ring of the Alban volcano, 11 m. N.E. of the modern Frascati. The highest point is 2198 ft. above sea-level. It has a very extensive view of the Campagna, with Rome lying 15 m. distant to the north-west. Rome was approached by the Via Latina (from which a branch road ascended to Tusculum, while the main road passed through the valley to the south of it), or by the Via Tusculana (though the antiquity of the latter road is doubtful).
According to tradition, the city was founded by Telegonusi the son of Ulysses and Circe. When Tarquinius Superbus was expelled from Rome his cause was espoused by the chief of Tusculum, Octavius Mamilius, who took a leading part in the formation of the Latin League, composed of the thirty principal cities of Latium, banded together against Rome. Mamilius commanded the Latin army at the battle of Lake Regillus (497 B.C.), but was killed, and the predominance of Rome among the Latin cities was practically established. According to some accounts Tusculum became from that time an ally of Rome, and on that account frequently incurred the hostility of the other Latin cities. In 381 B.C., after an expression of complete submission to Rome, the people of Tusculum received the Roman franchise, but without the vote, and thenceforth the city continued to hold the rank of a municipium. Other accounts however, speak of Tusculum as often allied with Rome’s enemies—last of all with the Samnites in 323 B.C. Several of the chief Roman families were of Tusculan origin, e.g. the gentes Mamilia, Fulvia, Fonteia, Juventia and Porcia; to the last-named the celebrated Catos belonged. The town council kept the name of senate, but the title of dictator gave place to that of aedile. Notwithstanding this, and the fact that a special college of Roman equites was formed to take charge of the cults of the gods at Tusculum, and especially of the Dioscuri, the citizens resident there were neither numerous nor men of distinction. The villas of the neighbourhood had indeed acquired greater importance than the not easily accessible town itself, and by the end of the Republic, and still more during the imperial period, the territory of Tusculum was one of the favourite places of residence of the wealthy Romans. The number and extent of the remains almost defy description, and can only be made clear by a map. Even in the time of Cicero we hear of eighteen owners of villas there. Much of the territory (including Cicero’s villa), but not the town itself, which lies far too high, was supplied with water by the Aqua Crabra. On the hill of Tusculum itself are remains of a small theatre (excavated in 1839), with a reservoir behind it, and an amphitheatre. Both belong probably to the imperial period, and so does a very large villa (the substructures of which are preserved), by some attributed, but wrongly, to Cicero, by others to Tiberius, near the latter. Between the amphitheatre and the theatre is the site of the Forum, of which nothing is now visible, and to the south on a projecting spur were tombs of the Roman period. There are also many remains of houses and villas. The citadel—which stood on the highest point an abrupt rock—was approached only on one side, that towards the city, and even here by a steep ascent of 150 ft. Upon it remains of the medieval castle, which stood here until 1191, alone are visible. The city walls, of which some remains still exist below the theatre, are built of blocks of the native “ lapis Albanus ” or peperino. They probably belong to the republican period. Below them is a well-house, with a roof formed of a pointed arch—generally held to go back to a somewhat remote antiquity, but hardly with sufficient reason. The most interesting associations of the city are those connected with Cicero, whose favourite residence and retreat for study and literary work was at, or rather near, Tusculum. It was here that he composed his celebrated Tusculan Disputations and other philosophical works. Much has been written on the position of his villa, but its true site still remains doubtful. The theory, which places it at or near Grotta Ferrata, some distance farther to the west, has most evidence to support it. Although Cicero (Pro Sestio, 43) speaks of his own house as being insignificant in size compared to that of his neighbour Gabinius, yet we gather from other notices in various parts of his works that it was a considerable building. It comprised two gymnasia (Div. i. 5), with covered portions for exercise and philosophical discussion (Tusc. Disp. ii. 3). One of these, which stood on higher ground, was called “ the Lyceum,” and contained a library (Div. ii. 3); the other, on a lower site, shaded by rows of trees, was called “ the Academy.” The main building contained a covered portions, or cloister, with apsi dal recesses (exedrae) containing seats (see Ad Fam. vii. 23). It also had bathrooms (Ad Fam. xiv. 20), and contained a number of works of art, both pictures and statues in bronze and marble (Ep. ad Att. i. 1, 8, 9, 10). The central atrium appears to have been small, as Cicero speaks of it as an atriolum (Ad Quint. Fr. iii. 1). The cost of this and the other house which he built at Pompeii led to his being burdened with debt (Ep. ad Att. ii. 1). Nothing now exists which can be asserted to be part of Cicero's villa with any degree of certainty. During the imperial period little is recorded about Tusculum; but soon after the transference of the seat of empire to Constantinople it became a very important stronghold, and for some centuries its counts occupied a leading position in Rome and were specially influential in the selection of the popes. During the 12th century there were constant struggles between Rome and Tusculum, and towards the close of the century (1191) the Romans, supported by the German emperor, gained the upper hand, and the walls of Tusculum, together with the whole city, were destroyed.