Arezzo – The Etruscans

Girasoli ad Arezzo – Photo © Lylla Lausanne
Girasoli ad Arezzo – Photo © Lylla Lausanne

The ancient Arezzo, situated in the north-eastern part of Etruria proper on the hills overlooking the Clanis valley, and held by some sources to have been one of the twelve major cities known as lucumonie, was considered by Strabone as the most inland of the Etruscan cities.

Its position made it a natural center for the agricultural population scattered over the fertile Valdichiana, and as an organized settlement it may have developed as an outpost of Chiusi at the time of the greatest Etruscan expansion northwards (sixth century BC).

The city grew up on a low upland set between the hills of San Pietro and San Donato, at the center of the obligatory routes towards the north and east (Emilia Romagna) and towards the south (Lazio and Umbria).

There is relatively little archaeological data relating to this city in the archaic and late-archaic period. We can assume that the urban nucleus developed between the end of the sixth and the beginning of the fifth century BC.

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The sources however begin to refer to Arezzo in an homogenous manner starting from the sixth century BC.

Effectively, within the city there are numerous important sanctuaries which must have been worthy to house, among other things, famous bronzes such as the Chimera, and which were adorned with terracottas of great aesthetic value as a result of the presence of an acclaimed local coroplastic school (Piazza S. Jacopo; Via Roma).

Nor is there any shortage of small bronzes, also produced by Arezzo workshops (archaic series and votive collections of the Fonte Veneziana), which possibly used the metal quarried in the mines of the nearby Monti Rognosi.

Corresponding to the urban area was the spacious necropolis of Poggio del Sole, also set up in the sixth century BC and used in subsequent periods up to the Roman age.

In this period the city took on a precise urban layout. It undoubtedly possessed a ring of walls made of large blocks of stone, some stretches of which have come to light in recent excavations (Piazzetta S. Niccolo’).

This ring marked out a relatively small perimeter, a boundary later surpassed by the construction of several buildings beyond the walls (the sanctuary della Catona and the constructions of Piazza S. Francesco).

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At the same time the boundaries of the agricultural district subject to the direct influence of the city also had to be defined.

This territory must have extended southwards over the Valdichiana as far as what is now Sinalunga, northwards as far as Casentino, westwards to the peak of Pratomagno, descending as far as San Giovanni, and eastwards through the Valtiberina.

In parallel, there was a great expansion of building within the city itself, witnessed not only by the presence of numerous terracottas, both architectural (S. Croce; Via Roma; Catona) and votive (Societa’ Operaia votive collection), but also by the templar constructions of Viale Buozzi and by the ceramic finds of both local production (black-painted) and imported.

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In the third century Arezzo also coined its own money for a brief time (series wheel/amphora; wheel/crater). In this period the city was characterized not only as a major agricultural center (we would recall the famous “far clusinum” spelt), but also as an industrial and commercial center of great importance (production of ceramics and metal working, trade with nearby cities such as Volterra). This fact explains the recurrent disturbances of a social character recorded by the sources (360 BC; 302 BC Livio, 3.5) and the existence in the city of a strong and restless urban populace.

Despite the varied political and social vicissitudes (relations with Rome and wars against the Gauls, Punic Wars), Arezzo managed to maintain a remarkable economic prosperity throughout the Hellenistic age. Among the monumental complexes which arose in this period, in the area immediately outside the town we should mention the impressive sanctuary of S. Cornelio-Castelsecco, possibly constructed in the second century BC, which was later to be endowed with a magnificent layout through the theatre-temple combination which recalls the architectural models of the Lazio sanctuaries.

As is well known, at the beginning of the third century BC all the inland cities of northern Etruria were forced to surrender to the Romans, and Arezzo too entered within the orbit of Rome.

Where to stay in Arezzo

There are numerous high quality hotels, villas, apartments and agriturismi (Farm stays) available in Arezzo, check them out and make a reservation here.