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Populonium

POPULONIUM (Etruscan Pupluna), an ancient seaport town of Etruria, Italy, at the north end of the peninsular of Monte Massoncello, at the south end of which is situated the town of Piombino (q.v.). The place, almost the only Etruscan town built directly on the sea, was situated on a lofty hill 1 now crowned by a conspicuous medieval castle and a poor modern village (Populonia). Considerable remains of its town walls, of large irregular, roughly rectangular blocks (the form is that of the natural splitting of the schistose sandstone), still exist, enclosing a circuit of about 13 m. The remains existing within them are entirely Roman ra row of vaulted substructions, a water reservoir and a mosaic with representations of fishes. Strabo mentions the existence here of a look-out tower for the shoals of tunny-fish. There are some tombs outside the town, some of which, ranging from the Villanova period (gth century B.C.) to the middle of the 3rd century B.C., were explored in 1908. In one, a large circular tomb, were found three sepulchral couches in stone, carved in imitation of wood, and a fine statuette in bronze of Ajax committing suicide. Close by was found a horse collar with 14 bronze bells. The remains of a temple, devastated in ancient times (possibly by Dionysius of Syracuse in 384 B.C.), were also discovered, with fragments of Attic vases of the 5th century B.C., which had served as ex votos in it. Coins of the town have also been found in silver and copper. The iron mines of Elba, and the tin and copper of the mainland, were owned and smelted by the people of Populonia; hot springs too lay some 6 m. to the E. (Aquae Populaniae) on the high road Via Aurelia along the coast. At this point a road branched off to Saena (Siena). According to Virgil the town sent a contingent to the help of Aeneas, and it furnished Scipio with iron in 205 B.C. It offered considerable resistance to Sulla, who took it by siege; and from this dates its decline, which Strabo, who describes it well (v. 2, 6, p. 223), already notes as beginning, while four centuries later Rutilius describes it as in ruins. The harbour, however, continued to be of some importance, and the place was still an episcopal see in the time of Gregory the Great.

SeeG. Dennis, Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria (London, 1883, ii. 212 sqq.); I. Falchi in Notizie degli Scavi (1903-1904); L. A. Milan!, ibid. (1908), 199 sqq.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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