chapter  XIX
13 Pages

Sources and Authorities

Archaeological material provides the main basis of our knowledge of the prehistory and ethnology of Italy. The nature of Etruscan civilization and the appearance of early Rome and other Italian towns has been revealed largely by the spade. The result often confi rms in a striking manner the later literary tradition which can thus be tested and controlled at many points, though elsewhere much of the early history must remain hypothetical. There has been a reaction from the hypercritical and destructive attitude displayed towards early Roman history at the beginning of this century by E. Pais, who later indeed himself somewhat modifi ed his earlier views; and this reaction is due in part to the new light shed by archaeological research. The material provided also illustrates later phases of Rome’s conquests in Italy and the Mediterranean world. As examples there may be cited the discovery of a Chalcolithic settlement and Iron Age huts at Rome, of the site of Politorium, of the thirteen altars and the probable ‘tomb of Aeneas’ at Lavinium, of the castrum at Ostia which dates the Roman colony to the mid-fourth century; excavations which reveal the early prosperity of Ardea and its decline after the Samnite Wars; the Greek, Lucanian and Roman phases exemplifi ed in the splendid fortifi cations and other buildings at Paestum; the Etruscan, Greek, Samnite and Roman stages in the development of Pompeii; the early growth of colonies, as Minturnae, Cosa and Alba Fucens. Beside the laying bare of cities and buildings archaeologists have supplemented the literary tradition by the discovery of coins (p. 318 ff.) and inscriptions. Apart from those inscriptions which illustrate the dialects, constitutions and religious history of Italian towns, the majority which survive are concerned with Roman contacts with the Hellenistic world.