The Faliscan people

The Faliscan people

The history and glory of an ancient civilization

The Faliscans, in times past inhabitants of the territory known as Agro Falisco, had a role of great influence among the ancient Italic populations. These people were, already back then, made famous for being wonderful ceramics artists. 

The moment of greatest splendour, both economic and artistic, yet also of political affirmation, came to the Faliscan people during the 4th century B.C. It was in this period that the city of Falerii Veteres, today’s Civita Castellana, was made capital city of the entire district.

Although being generally disinterested in matters of warfare, the Faliscan people held out against the Roman threat for almost two centuries. As a matter of fact, the increasing clout of the Faliscans soon collided with the expansionistic aims of the Romans, and eventually led to conflict. This was to be a long-lasting and wearing war, marked by a tireless succession of sieges and truces. Throughout these troubled years, more than once the Faliscans joined forces with the Etruscans, who were also in open hostility with the Romans.

At last, the siege of Falerii Veretes in 241 B.C, marked the end of the conflict. Within days the city was razed to the ground, despoiled, and cut off from all the new communication routes, so as to avert any chance of rebirth.

The inhabitants of the by then devastated Falerii Veteres, were relocated to a new city, freshly founded by the Romans, and located where they would be easily controllable by the victors. This town was Faleri Novi.

Ceramica falisca

Ceramica falisca

Corredo funerario falisco

Corredo funerario falisco

Necropoli falisca con tombe a colombario

Necropoli falisca con tombe a colombario

Tomba falisca

Tomba falisca

Culture and religion

From a cultural point of view, the Faliscan people present a significant resemblance to their Etruscan neighbours, with the exception of speech, as the language spoken by the Faliscans had Latin roots, whereas the origins of the Etruscan tongue are to be traced back to Greek.

The cultural affinities with the Etruscans are manifest also within the religious sphere and when taking a closer look at the cults it involved. Indeed, most of the divinities worshipped by the Faliscan people stemmed from the Etruscan pantheon: Apollo, Minerva, Mercury, and especially Juno, invoked by the Faliscans with the epithet of Curite.

The architecture also presents similitudes: for instance, as is the case of the temples in which the forenamed divinities were venerated. A recurring feature of these structures, is the embellishing and sumptuous apparatus of clay decorations, mostly in terracotta, an artistic production in which the Faliscan people had always excelled.

What’s more, these people shared with the Etruscans the enthusiasm for conviviality, partaking in banquets invested with many ritualities. The Faliscans were joyful people, accustomed to the pleasures of life, great wine lovers. This is what one can deduce by some renowned Faliscan inscriptions which have survived to this day. Among these for instance, a sentence engraved upon a cup rediscovered in Falerii, which reads: “today I’ll drink wine, tomorrow I’ll refrain!”.

 

Agriculture and livestock farming

There is no doubt agriculture was one of the principal activities of the Faliscan people. The lay of the land itself, with its vast and fertile tuff rock plains, separated by deep valleys, the so-called ravines, lends itself to the flowering of both farming practices and cattle breeding.

Yet the proximity of the river Tiber, being at the time the most important channel of communication of central Italy, was also conducive to fostering commercial exchanges.

 

The art of ceramics

The activity which earned the Faliscan people, already in ancient times, the widespread reputation of being great artists, is ceramic manufacturing, consisting of both grand architectural terracotta structures, and refined ceramic products.

This production was undoubtedly favoured by the generous abundance of raw materials naturally offered by the territory, namely great quantities of water and clay. Nevertheless, such an outstanding artistic quality would have never been achieved if it weren’t for a remarkable technical expertise, craftsmanship and aesthetic taste.

The Faliscan ceramic production is extremely rich and varied, able as it was to combine the local mastery with the finest ornaments of Greek origins. These latter arts were assimilated due to the presence throughout the territory of Greek and generally skilful eastern artisans, coexistence which proved to be valuable, as it has blessed us with such a prime artistic outcome. 

During the IV century B.C this production experienced its period of greatest splendour, particularly with the manufacturing of the red figured ceramics. One specific piece, the Krater of the Aurora, conserved at the Villa Giulia Museum in Rome, stands as a symbol of the great artistic expertise of this civilization.

 

Learn more about the Faliscan people, an ancient civilization of the Lazio region, by visiting the National Museum of the Agro Falisco in Civita Castellana!

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