Tarquinii, one of the twelve Etruscan capitals
Tarquinii was anciently one of the twelve Etruscan capitals, and remarkable for the influence which it exercised on the development of the national religion of Etruria. It participated in the war of the Etruscan confederation against Rome, but was compelled to surrender after the Samnite war and to receive a Roman colony, which continued to flourish during the empire. Its ancient necro polis, discovered in 1820, is the chief object of interest at Corneto.
The Gothic Palazzo Vitelleschi, in the main street, near the gate, was enlarged by Cardinal Vitelleschi in 1439, and has recently been restored. The old part is lighted by rich Gothic windows; the more modern colonnaded court has two stories, with a loggia on the upper; remains of frescoes may be seen in the chapel. The custodian shows the tombs. — On the N. buttress of the plateau on which the town stands is the imposing Castello of Countess Matilda, containing the church of Santa Maria in Castello, begun in 1121, with a façade dating from 1200, recently restored. This interesting church (key in the Museo, see below) contains a tabernaculum of 1166 and a pulpit of 1209.
In the Cathedral are some remains of frescoes by Ant. da Viterbo, a pupil of Pinturicchio ( 1509). — The smaller Romanesque churches of Sant' Anastasia, San Salvatore, San Martino, and San Pancrazio have all been more or less restored. Adjoining the last is the old Palazzo Municipale, with three of its original eight towers. On the highest point in the town is the Gothic church of San Francesco.
The lower story of the Museo Municipale contains a number of sarcophagi, the most interesting of which is the so-called 'Sarcofago del Magnate', embellished with polychrome reliefs (battles of Amazons) and with figures on the lid. On the upper floor are smaller antiquities, vases, gold ornaments, weapons, etc. Among these are an antique set of false teeth (3rd room),and a fine bowl with red figures, which bears the names of Oltos and Euxitheos as the artists and represents the Arrival of Bacchus in Olympus, the types of the deities recalling the character of pre-Phidian art.
The last rooms contain the products of the excavations carried on in 1881-97 in the oldest part of the Necropolis. The pottery is of the rudest description and was evidently produced without the aid of a wheel. Four cinerary urns in the form of huts give us an idea of the Italian dwelling of the period. The conical helmets, with bars at the top, were evidently imported; their type seems to have served as a model for the 'Apices', or caps of the Roman priests. Among the remaining contents are Carthaginian scarabæi and idols in vitreous paste.