Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tusculum

TUSCULUM, an ancient Latin city, situated in a commanding position on one of the eastern ridges of the Alban Hills, near the site of the modern Frascati (q.v.). It has a very beautiful and extensive view of the Campagna, with Rome lying fifteen miles[1] distant to the north-west, on the west the sea near Ostia, and the long range of the Subine Hills on the north-east. According to tradition, the city was founded by Telegonus, the son of Ulysses and Circe; hence Horace (Epod., i. 30) speaks of it as "Circsea moenia" and Ovid (Fast., iii. 91) as "Telegoni mcenia" (see also Prop., iii. 30, 4, and Sil. Ital., xii. 535). The legendary descent of one of the chief Tusculan families, the gens Mamilia, from Ulysses through Telegonus is commemorated on some denarii struck by the Mamiliangens in the later years of the Roman republic; these have on the reverse a figure of Ulysses recognized by his dog Argo. 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, a piece of water which then lay immediately below the Colles Tusculani, but is now dried up. At this battle (497 B.C.) Maniilius was killed, and the predominance of Rome among the Latin cities was practically established. From that time Tusculum became an ally of Rome, and on that account frequently incurred the hostility of the other Latin cities. In 378 B.C., after an expression of complete submission to Rome, the people of Tusculum received the Roman fran chise, and thenceforth the city continued to hold the rank of a municipium. 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. 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 the Romans, supported by the German emperor, gained the upper hand, and the walls of Tusculum, together with the greater part of the city, were destroyed.

Extensive remains still exist of the massive walls, which sur rounded the city, and of its arx a separate citadel which stood on an abrupt rock, approached only on one side, that towards the city, with which it was connected by long walls. The walls are built of large blocks of the native "lapis Albanus" or peperino, some of them as much as 5 feet long by 3 feet thick. They probably belong to the early republican period; restorations in concrete faced with opus reticulatum " of the 1st century B. c. can be traced in many places.

During the latter years of the republic and under the empire Tusculum was a favourite site for the country villas of wealthy Romans. That of Lucullus was very large and magnificent; other handsome houses were built there by Julius Caesar, L. Crassus, Q. Metellus, Marcus Brutus, and others. A palace was erected by Tiberius near Tusculum on the way to Rome, close to the Via Latina.

The most interesting associations of the city are those connected with Cicero, whose favourite residence and retreat for study and literary work was at 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. Its grounds are known to have adjoined the more splendid villas of Lucullus and the consul Gabinius (see Cic., De Fin., iii. 2, and Pro Dom., 24). The most probable site is that now marked by the Villa Rufinella to the west of Tusculum, where the hill is divided into two ridges. The scholiast on Horace, Epod., i. 30, states that Cicero's villa was "ad latera superiora," the plural probably being used in allusion to the double ridge. The other theory, which places the site at Grotta Ferrata, some distance farther to the west, has little 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 building of no mean size and pretension. 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 porticus or cloister, with apsidal recesses (exedree) containing seats (see Ad Fam., vii. 23). It also had bath-rooms (Ad Fam., ~s.iv. 20), and contained a number of works of art, both pictures and statues in bronze and marble (Ep. ail Alt., 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. The so-called " scuola di Cicerone," near the line of the ancient wall of Tusculum, is the substructure of some building formed in the usual Roman way by a series of vaulted chambers, and is clearly later in date than the time of Cicero. Other remains of houses exist in and near the city, but nothing is known as to their history or ownership.

Ruins of two theatres still exist. One of them, which is not earlier than the beginning of the 1st century, between the city and the arx, is fairly perfect, and still possesses most of its ancient seats, divided into four cunei by three flights of steps. Only traces remain of the other theatre, which abutted against the long walls that defended the road from the city to the arx. Remains of an amphitheatre of no great size can be traced, dating probably from the 3d century. There is also a large piscina, near the first-mentioned theatre. In the vicinity of Tusculum a number of interesting tombs have been discovered at various times; some, as for example that of the Furii, contained valuable inscriptions of the 4th and 3d centuries B.C.

The city was supplied with water by the Aqua Crabra, and near it were the springs which fed two of the Roman aqueducts—the Aqua Tepula and Aqua Virgo (Front., De Aq., 8).

For further information the reader is referred to Compagni, Memorie Storiche dell' Antico Tusculo; Canina, Descr. dell' Antico Tusculo; Gell, Topogr. of Rome and its Vicinity; and Nibby, Dintorni di Roma, vol. iii.


  1. Dionysius (x. 20) states that Tusculum was only 100 stadia (about 121/2 miles) from Rome; but the fifteenth milestone on the Via Latina was close to the walls of Tusculum.