1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Veii
VEII, an ancient town of Etruria, Italy, situated about 10 m. N. by W. of Rome by road. It is mentioned in the earliest history of Rome as a constant enemy, being the nearest Etruscan city to Rome. The story of the slaughter of the Fabii, who had encamped in the territory of Veii, and, of whom but one boy escaped, is well known. After constant warfare, the last war (the fourteenth, according to the annalists) broke out in 406 B.C. The Romans laid siege to the city, and, after a ten years’ siege, M. Furius Camillus took it by storm in 396, by means, so we are told, of a tunnel leading into the citadel. According to the legend, the ermissarium of the Alban Lake was constructed in obedience to the Delphic oracle, which declared that, until it was drained, Veii could not be taken. The territory of Veii was three years afterwards divided among the Roman plebs. Veii is mentioned in connexion with the defeat of the Romans at the Allia in 390 B.C., after which many Roman soldiers fled there, while a project was actually broached for abandoning Rome for Veii, which was successfully opposed by Camillus. From this time onwards we hear little or nothing of Veii up to the end of the Republic. Propertius speaks indeed of the shepherds within its walls. Augustus, however, founded a municipality there (municipium Augustum Veiens), inscriptions of which have been found down to the time of Constantius, after which, at some date unknown, the place was deserted. The medieval castle of Isola Farnese, on a hill to the south, of the city, is first mentioned in a document of A.D. 1003; but Veii itself had disappeared to such an extent that its very site was uncertain, though some scholars identified it correctly, until the excavations of the 19th century finally decided the question. Veii was not on a high road, but was reached by branch roads from the Via Clodia. The site is characteristic — a plateau, the highest point of which is 407 ft. above sea-level, divided from the surrounding country by deep ravines, and accessible only on the west, where it was defended by a wall and fosse. Remains of the city walls, built of blocks of tufa 2 ft. high, may be traced at various points in the circuit. The area covered measures about 1 sq. m. There are no other remains on the site of the city earlier than the Roman period, and these are now somewhat scanty. The site of the Forum has been discovered on the west side of the plateau; a statue of Tiberius, now in the Vatican, and the twelve Ionic columns now decorating the colonnade on the W. side of the Piazza Colonna at Rome were found there. The acropolis was at the eastern extremity of the site, where the two ravines converge; it is connected with the rest of the plateau by a narrow neck, and here a large number of ex-votos in terra-cotta, indicating the presence of a temple, and dating at earliest from the 3rd century B.C., have been found. The first discovery of them was made in 1655– 1667, when remains of the temple (of Juno?) to which they belonged were also found (R. Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, London, 1892, p. 64). In the deep ravine to the N. of the site of the town, traversed by the Cremera brook, are the ruins of two ancient bridges and of some baths of the Roman period; and here is also the Ponte Sodo, a natural tunnel, artificially enlarged, through which the stream passes. Outside the city tombs have been discovered at various times. The earliest belonged to the Villanova period (8th and 9th centuries, B.C.), probably before the coming of the Etruscans. Others are cut in the rock and are Etruscan. The most famous is the Grotta Campana found in 1843, which contains paintings on the walls with representations of animals, among the earliest in Etruria. There are also several tumuli. To a later period belongs a columbarium cut in the rock, with niches for urns. See L. Canina, L'antica città at Veio (Rome, 1847); G. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria (London, 1883), i. 1 sqq. (T. As.)
- Some have considered Isola Farnese to have been the arx of Veii, but this is unlikely.