Arezzo (Roman Arretium)

The Arezzo Chimera

The modern city of Arrezo (Roman ARRETIUM) was once a thriving Etruscan centre, and one of the 12 cities of the Etruscan league. No reliable sources can be found which record the Etruscan name of the city although some sources indicate that its name probably began with Arret-

The city is capital of the Arezzo provincia, Toscana (Tuscany) regione of north-central Italy. It is located 296 m. above sea level on a hilly slope near a wide plateau from which open the Valdarno, Casentino and Valdichiana valleys near the confluence of the Chiana and Arno rivers to the southeast of Florence. This strategic position effectively controlled communications between Southern Etruria and the Appennine passes leading to Padan Etruria, which probably explains why a city developed at this location, and why it grew in importance from the end of the sixth century onwards.


Among the various Ancient writers, Strabo considered ancient Arezzo to be the Etruscan city that lay furthest inland. Thanks to its position, it formed a natural centre for the farming population scattered over the fertile Chiana Valley and possibly originally grew up as an outpost of Chiusi, during the major period of Etruscan expansion to the north (6th century BCE).as noted above.

During the 4th Century , Arretium was torn by civil strife (Livy X,3,1-3). In 301, the plebeans revolted against the gens of the Cilnii (The Etruscan familial name Cilnei is found in numerous Necropolis inscriptions from the area). a powerful Arretine family, from which Maecenas claimed descent through his mother. (Attested by Seneca who talked of the family tree in Maecenas's villa on the Palatine Hill). A Roman army under M. Valerius Maximus helped to restore order - a clear indication of Rome's growing appreciation of Arezzo's importance for its future plans. In the early third century, Arezzo submitted to Roman control, and the prosperity and high industrial capacity Arezzo had achieved by the end of the century is reflected in the extraordinary size of the contribution made by the city during the Second Punic war.
The Arezzo Ploughman (6th Century BCE)

There is little archaeological data on the town since so much of it covered by built up area, although there are ample traces of many of the important sanctuaries that once contained famous "votive offerings", among them the famous bronze Chimera, today in the Archaeological Museum in Florence; these buildings were all decorated with extremely beautiful terracottas, carried out by a well known local school of pottery (Piazza San Jacopo, Via Roma, etc.).In 1869, an important votive deposit was discovered in the Fonte Veneziana, which yielded 180 bronzes of various kinds, as well as ceramics. Surrounded by the typical walls made of massive blocks of stone, the large necropolis of Poggio Sole was founded in the 6th century BCE. and continued to be used until Roman times.

Evidence of the notable economic prosperity enjoyed by Arezzo for the whole of the Hellenistic and the successive Roman age can be seen from the monumental buildings, such as the powerful sanctuary of San Cornelio-Castelsecco, which stood outside the city and probably dates from the 2nd century BCE.

Once it had become one of Rome's satellites and was made a "municipium", it was furnished with great public buildings, a forum and public baths.

Famous for its magnificent pottery in Etruscan times, Arretium during the later Roman period churned out many thousands of examples of mass produced Arretine Sigilatta pottery, with its characteristic red glaze, originally intended to mimic the appearance of bronze ware. Copies of Arretine ware have been found in the remotest outposts of the Roman Empire.

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