Talk abstract details

The “acropolis” on the Cesi hill in Umbria: an archaeo-astronomical analysis
Nicola Schiavottiello, Giulio Magli


The Terni lowland, about 80 Km north of Rome, was inhabited before the Roman conquest (IV century BC) by the Italic people called Umbrians. To the north, the landscape of the Terni valley is dominated by the mountains called Monti Martani, with their rounded top of Monte Torre Maggiore (1170 m), under which the ancient town of Cesi is located. The Martani mountains are a “presence” extremely significant, visible in a prominent way from everywhere across the lowland, and on the top of the mountain, there has been since ancient times (at least since the sixth century B.C.) a centre of worship. When the sacred mountain is approached from the south, half-way ascending from Cesi along the road which leads to the summit of Torre Maggiore, one encounters the spur of rock of St. Erasmo, which hosts an imposing megalithic building about 160 meters long. The building, constructed with a fine polygonal masonry, is very similar to other “acropolis” in Italy, such as Alatri and Circei, as well as to the Mycenean citadels of Mycenae and Tiryns. We report here on the archaeoastronomical part of an extended survey of this structure we have recently carried out, which includes a careful Gis-based view-shed analysis. We show that the geometry of the whole structure and its astronomical alignments are quite suspicious of having being inspired by symbolic, rather than strategic, needs. In particular, we propose to interpret the megalithic basement which protrudes on the valley from the south of the structure as an auguraculum, i.e. a place which was used to take omens from the flight of the birds, according to the Etruscan-italic tradition of reflecting the “cosmic order” on the earth.