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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


Ferentinum or Ferestium (Pherentinon, Strab. v.; Pherentia, Ptol. iii. 1.50: Ferento), a city of Etruria, situated on the N. of the Ciminian range, about 5 miles distant from the Tiber, and the same distance from the modern city of Viterbo. It is not mentioned in history during the period of Etruscan independence, and must probably have been then a mere dependency of Volsinii: Strabo speaks of it as one of the smaller towns in the interior of Etruria, but we learn from other authorities, as well as from existing remains, that it must have been in his time a flourishing municipal town: Vitruvius notices the excellent quality of the stone found in its neighbourhood, and the numerous statues and other monuments hewn out of this material which adorned the town itself (Vitruv. ii. 7.4). In common with most of the cities of Etruria, it had received a Roman colony before the end of the Republic, but did not obtain the title of a colony; and is termed, both by Vitruvius and Tacitus, a municipium (Lib. Colon.; Vitruv. l. c.; Tac. Hist. ii. 50). It derived some distinction from being the birth-place of the Emperor Otho, who was of a noble and ancient Etruscan family (Suet. Oth. 1; Tac. l. c.): we learn also that it possessed an ancient and celebrated temple of Fortune, i. e. probably of the Etruscan goddess Nursia or Nortia (Tac. Ann. xv. 53). All these circumstances point to it as a place of consideration under the Roman Empire, and we find it termed in an inscription civitas splendidissima Ferentinensium (Orell. Inscr. 3507): it appears to have survived the fall of the Empire, and retained its episcopal see till the 12th century, when it was attacked and destroyed by the people of the neighbouring city of Viterbo, on account of some religious disputes which had arisen between the two (Alberti, Descrizione d'Italia).
  The site is now uninhabited, but is still known by the name of Ferento: and the ruins of the ancient city are considerable, the most important of them being a theatre, which is, in some respects, one of the best preserved monuments of the kind remaining in Italy. The scena, or stage-front, is particularly remarkable: it is 136 feet long, and built of massive rectangular blocks of volcanic masonry, on which rests a mass of Roman brickwork with arches, decidedly of Imperial times: while seven gates, with flat arches for architraves, open in the facade itself. The lower part of this construction is supposed by Mr. Dennis to be certainly an Etruscan work; but the Cav. Canina regards the whole edifice as a work of the Roman Empire. (Canina, in the Annali dell' Inst. 1837; Dennis, Etruria, vol. i). Besides the theatre, portions of the city walls and gates, and various ruins of buildings of Roman date, are still remaining on the site of Ferento.
  The ancient name is variously written: the MSS. of Tacitus and Suetonius fluctuate between Ferentium and Ferentinum: Ptolemy writes it Ferentia (Phepentia); and the ethnic form used by Vitruvius, municipium Ferentis, is in favour of the form Ferentium: on the other hand, the inscription above cited (which certainly belongs to the Etruscan and not to the Hernican town) gives the form Ferentinensis from Ferentinum, and the Liber Coloniarum also has Colonia Ferentinensis for the Etruscan colony.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited Jan 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Ferento, Ferentium

Local government Web-Sites

Comune di Faleria


The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


Ferentium (Ferento) Italy. A town 88 km NW of Rome and 7.5 km W of the Tiber, in a region scarred by deep ravines and lying about 300 m above sea level. Rome wrested control of the district from the Etruscans ca. 265 B.C. Etruscan Ferentium (7th-5th c. B.C.) lay on a site slightly SW of the later Roman town: excavation has recently laid bare its necropolis, temples, and houses with terracotta decoration.
  Roman Ferentium was already a flourishing municipium by the time of Augustus, and it remained such down to the Late Empire. Its most famous native son was Otho, the ephemeral emperor of A.D. 69, whose family sepulcher was found immediately NE of the site in 1921. Flavia Domitilla, wife of Vespasian and mother of the emperors Titus and Domitian, may also have come from Ferentium (Suet. Vesp. 3). In the Late Empire Ferentium dwindled to a village, but it retained its own bishops down to the 7th c. Neighboring Viterbo finally destroyed the place in 1172.
  Its temples to Fortune and Salus, recorded by Tacitus (Ann. 15.53), have disappeared, but its theater, in the S section of the site, is one of the best preserved anywhere. Apparently it was built under Augustus, or slightly earlier, and was later restored (perhaps under Septimius Severus).   Explorations in 1901 and 1927-28 revealed that it conforms closely to the theater norms recommended by Vitruvius (De Arch. 5.6), who may have been living at the time of its original construction. The scaena, ca. 40 m long, was adorned with marble statues of Apollo, the Muses, and a winged Pothos, copied from originals by Skopas: these are now in the Museo Archeologico in Florence. The rear wall of the scaena, lofty as usual, seems to belong to the later reconstruction: it is largely of brick and was pierced by 11 exits (seven survive) leading to an ambulatory. The stage proper was on the N side of the scaena: its surviving foundations, built of a local peperino commended by Vitruvius (De Arch. 2.4.7), show that it was 5 m deep and ca. 1.5 m high; the customary three doors linked the proscenium with the scaena. The orchestra has a diameter of 28 m, is paved with the local peperino, and is reached by parodoi faced with opus reticulatum. The cavea was originally divided into six sections: little remains of its original stone seating, but 13 rows have been recently restored in cement. A spectacular semicircle of massive stone pilasters, 60 m in diameter, runs round the cavea: the 28 pilasters are 4 m apart and are linked by arches, 25 of which (one of them restored) still stand, their voussoirs holding themselves in place without cement. Surviving fragments of the marble cladding further attest the sumptuous appearance of the theater.
  Next to the theater on the E are extensive ruins of baths, mostly of brick but with some opus reticulatum: fragments of marble, of stucco veneer, and of white and black mosaic paving also survive. The date seems Augustan, but there were later rebuildings. Investigation in 1908-9 revealed that the baths covered ca. 4000 sq. m, provided separate accommodations for men and women, and had the tepidaria and calidaria at the S end as usual. They, too, apparently adhered to Vitruvian canons. An inscription on a marble slab used for repairing the baths in the Late Empire indicates that the forum was monumentalized, in either A.D. 12 or 18, with an Augusteum, as yet unidentified, which housed over 50 statues.
  Blocks from the E end of the town wall and traces of the defensive agger at its W end also survive, as well as a well-preserved stretch of the decumanus maximus that ran W to join the Via Cassia some 4 km away. Excavation will probably reveal much else, especially in the NE part of the site where remains of an amphitheater are clearly visible.
  Several ancient bridges cross the nearby ravines, the most notable being the lofty Ponte Funicchio of ca. 100 B.C. immediately to the SW.
  Many of the archaeological finds are now at Viterbo in the Museo Civico (the convent of S. Maria della Verita). They include an altar front with bas reliefs (from the Augusteum ?), a female statue (headless but beautifully draped), and numerous inscriptions (one of them honoring Otho).

E.T. Salmon, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Jan 2006 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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