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Dark_Lord

The Cyclopean Cities of Ancient Latium

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The countryside around Rome is littered with relics of a past more or less remote. One feels almost a continuity there between the ancient and the modern world, with the ancient Roman ruins being almost a familiar presence as if part of the natural landscape. Yet, one also finds there remains of a much older and mysterious past. Massive cyclopean walls encircle towns and villages, their stones darkened by the passing of centuries and millennia. One can never get used to them, so strange they are in their interlocking geometries and so different from the familiar contours of Roman and Medieval walls. They loom as a relic from an entirely different past of which we know almost nothing.

Who built the cyclopean walls and why?

The small towns of Alatri, Ferentino, Segni, Sezze, Veroli and Arpino, all in the Province of Frosinone, Norba, Cori and Circei in the Province of Latina, Amelia in nearby Umbria, as far as Ansedonia, Orbetello and Roselle in Tuscany and Alba Fucens in Abruzzo, are entirely surrounded by cyclopean walls that survive to this day in varying states of preservation. They loom even to this day over 15 meters high on the Acropolis of Alatri, and are almost intact over their entire circuit around Ferentino, Segni and Norba.

The stones composing the walls are truly gigantic, each weighting many tons, and as finely fitted together as to leave a few millimeters at most between the joints. But it is their near impossible acute angles and interlocking corners that cause the greatest amazement, as if each stone was individually carved to be a piece of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle.

Not much has changed since the time when Ferdinand Gregorovius first described the cyclopean walls of the Acropolis of Alatri as “the most astounding monument of the past in Latium”. It was 1859 when he wrote these words: “The sight of this marvelous masonry, which equals in size any existing Egyptian building, would amply repay the visitor for the longest and most fatiguing day's journey […] When I walked round this black, Titanic, construction, just in as good preservation now as if years, instead of thousands of years, had passed over them, I was filled with amazement greater than when I first beheld the Colosseum at Rome”.

In over 150 years, very little has changed in our knowledge of the builders and purpose of these cyclopean structures. The debate on the original builders of Alatri and the cyclopean walls of Latium raged for much of the 19th and the 20th Century. Lacking any other plausible explanation, the construction of the walls was attributed to the Romans of the early Republican period (III – I Century BC) and the whole question was put to rest for almost half a century. Indeed, no other civilization known to historians and archeologists would have had the technical skills and social organization to afford the construction of the miles long walls and to move tens of thousands of stones, some of which weighting in excess of 27 tons.

Yet, whoever visits the little town of Ferentino, still encircled by its beautiful cyclopean walls, would immediately realize that this attribution is plain nonsense. Here one sees more than in any other place three distinct and clearly recognizable stages of construction: the cyclopean, the Roman and the medieval. The inscription of the Roman censors Aulus Lollius and Marcus Irtius still stands to commemorate the restoration of the walls by the two censors in 180 BC. Of course, the restoration was made with relatively small, square blocks of stone upon the already ruined cyclopean masonry underneath, which served as a 10 meters high foundation for the new roman wall. Even without the inscription, no reasonable person would ever think that the cyclopean masonry and the brick-like stone wall above could belong to the same period, not to mention having been built by the same people! Yet one still reads in guidebooks and even scholarly studies that the two censors built the whole of the walls of Ferentino, including the cyclopean portion.

Nor did the Romans ever claim authorship of such a feat as building the walls of Alatri, Norba, Segni or any other of the cyclopean cities of Latium. Quite to the contrary, ancient historians had a tendency to attribute these structures, so similar to the great walls of Tiryns and Mycenae, to mythical ancestors like the Pelasgians.

If then the walls were not built by the Romans, who built them? More recent scholarship has shown greater openness towards the idea of a pre-Roman date for the cyclopean walls. The pre-roman peoples of the Hernici and the Volsci are therefore sometimes credited for the construction of the walls. Yet, also this attribution, though much more plausible, appears to rest on very thin evidence. The Hernici formed a league as far back as 495 BC, until their capital, Anagni, was taken by the Romans in 306 BC. Yet one is surprised not to find even the slightest trace of cyclopean walls in Anagni itself, where the walls – which are with good certainty attributed to the Hernici – are rather built with much smaller square blocks.

Even the ultimate function of the cyclopean walls and acropolises is ultimately shrouded in mystery. Of course, the immediate thought that comes to mind when seeing a wall is that it might serve some defensive function. Yet, in spite of their grand scale, cyclopean walls would offer very little protection and certainly no better protection than a much more simple structure built of bricks or even wood. Not only are the walls pierced by several gates and lacking towers or any other defensive feature one would expect from a fortification of comparable size, but they even present features that seem to exclude any meaningful defensive function. The author Giulio Magli lists several of this features in his book “I Segreti delle Antiche Città Megalitiche” [secrets of the Ancient Megalithic Cities]. For instance, the acropolis of Circei lacks any defense on the Northern side, which was therefore entirely open and defenseless towards the mountain. Even the main gate of Norba is too broad, at over 7 meters, to allow any kind of covering unless we imagine a capstone of truly monstrous size as could have never been supported by the side walls (there is ample evidence the builders of the cyclopean walls didn’t know the principles of the arch, or deliberately chose not to use it in their constructions). These cyclopean walls are much more similar to a sacred precinct, like the themenos of a temple, than to a fortress of any kind.

This is especially true in the case of the Acropolis of Alatri, undoubtedly the finest of its kind in Italy and among the greatest megalithic realizations in the Mediterranean. Other than the usual absence of any defensive features inside or outside the perimeter of the Acropolis, the only structure inside the precinct of its walls appears to be a large stepped platform. Here is found some of the finest cyclopean masonry in Italy and probably in the world, including a stone with over 15 angles, with joints so tight that they don’t allow even the finest blade to pass between two stones. This platform, called a Hyeron, was clearly an altar of some sort, and is moreover very carefully astronomically and geometrically aligned as to be the virtual center or omphalos of the whole city of Alatri.

Recent research has shown that the entire city of Alatri was designed after a roughly circular plan, with three concentric walls converging towards the Acropolis. The gates defined a number of axes which show evidence of having been carefully astronomically aligned towards the rising and setting of the Sun at the solstices and equinoxes. A number of stellar alignments also seem to point to the constellation of Gemini, Orion and the Southern Cross, at a time when it was still visible above the horizon in the Northern hemisphere. Also, the golden section was embedded in the design of the Acropolis and its gates.

The stars may shed new light on the age-old question of the dating of the Acropolis of Alatri: A recent archaeo-astronomical study shows that the Acropolis could not have been built later than 1,270 BC, when the main axis of the city and of the Eastern wall of the Acropolis was aligned to the star Polaris, with the North-West wall aligned to the rising of the Sun on the morning of the Summer equinox and its setting on the Winter solstice. The same study found evidence of an astronomical clock based on the shadow projected by the sun along the tunnel formed by the lesser gate of the Acropolis, also pointing at a date in the XIII Century BC.

Previous studies had already shown that the shape of the Acropolis almost exactly mirrors the profile of the constellation of Gemini. Even on a grander scale, the position of the towns of Alatri, Atina, Arpino, Anagni and Ferentino (ancient Antinum) matches the same profile of the constellation of Gemini (or, according to other interpretations that also include several other centers of Lower Latium, the constellation Ursa Maior).

According to tradition, these five cities were founded by a legendary king Saturn (sometimes identified with the God of the same name) and are therefore called “Saturnian Cities”. According to the same legend, the tomb of Saturn was located in the town of Atina, which is also surrounded by imposing cyclopean walls of unknown date.

Following the renewed interest in the megalithic civilization of Central Italy, even UNESCO has taken an interest in the astronomic alignments of the acropolis of Alatri.

Even UNESCO now acknowledges that the cyclopean walls of Lower Latium may be indeed several centuries older than their assumed dating to the Roman period, and laments the lack of a reliable stratigraphy that may shed more light on their true age. UNESCO defines Alatri as “the most spectacular example of the use of geometry and astronomy in planning” and is considering its inscription as a World Heritage site.

You can find more pictures and references on my own website here:

http://unchartedruins.blogspot.it/

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Interesting PDF on this topic available here.

Harte

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IMGP1426.JPG

Here is a link to some more pictures of cyclopean walls in Latium: http://unchartedruins.blogspot.it/2014/01/the-cyclopean-cities-of-ancient-latium.html

And a recent video by researcher Ornello Tofani showing his research on the astronomical orientation of the Acropolis of Alatri:

The video shows the working of the astronomical calendar built into the lesser gate of the Acropolis and the system of astronomical alignments towards the constellations of Orion and Gemini. This latter is particularly interesting as the polygonal design of the Acropolis on the ground appears to be an almost exact reproduction of the constellation of Gemini.

One of the most controversial points made in the video relates to the age-old question of the origins of the megalithic builders of Central Italy and their supposed Pelasgian links. Interestingly, his theories provide a basis for the speculations of 19th and early 20th Century antiquarians of a common origins of the Hittites and Pelasgians, that influenced megalithic and polygonal architecture across the Mediterranean.

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This wouldn't surprise me at all. I like to look at Cybersky on certain dates to see what was going on celestially and on the founding day of Rome, 21st April 753BC the morning sky looks very interesting.

2104753bc.jpg

One thing I immediately noticed as that only one of the known planets of the time is missing - and that is Saturn. It might even align with the myth of Saturn hiding out (in Latium). The other Gods would have recognised this day of Rome's founding, hence Saturn is not associated with Rome but rather Latium. Saturn can be found at night near Ophiucus.

All the planets are there, with not only Venus near Aries the ram but also next to Mars the planet, very striking set-up. The sun is about the enter Taurus the Bull.

I watched the youtube vid and the shape they say is rams horns actually looks very much like the Pisces constellation, or a uterus, and there is Mars right near it.

2 years later (751BC) Jupiter is in the sign of Gemini, (every 10-11 yrs) which is what I was first looking for, as Jupiter in this sign might represent his presence in Latium, if the temple is actually Gemini. When this is happening Orion is coming up on the eastern horizon. A Saturn in Gemini might show up a construction date for the temple.

Edited by The Puzzler

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The OP started a thread about this topic several years ago here.

Is there any new information that warrants creating a new thread, or updating the old?

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I don't really see these walls as being that remarkable. The earlier culture, maybe Etruscans, obviously valued strong walls of larger stones. But, let's face it, they didn't build the Great Pyramid here. All the stones I saw could be easily moved with ropes and crews of laborers, combined with small ramps of earth. Shaping the stones isn't even such a problem. Unless these are hard volcanic stones?? Consider that if they had just 100 masons, they probably could build a city wall using large stones in just a dozen years.

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I don't really see these walls as being that remarkable. The earlier culture, maybe Etruscans, obviously valued strong walls of larger stones. But, let's face it, they didn't build the Great Pyramid here. All the stones I saw could be easily moved with ropes and crews of laborers, combined with small ramps of earth. Shaping the stones isn't even such a problem. Unless these are hard volcanic stones?? Consider that if they had just 100 masons, they probably could build a city wall using large stones in just a dozen years.

Even though I would agree these walls are neither functionally nor technically comparable to the stone workmanship of early dynastic egypt, and certainly much cruder than the South American megaliths, I think there are a few elements to consider before dismissing these structures simplicistically.

  • First of all, the Etruscans privileged the soft local tufa as a construction material, and etruscan masonry always consist of relatively small, neatly squared stone blocks laid in parallel courses. No Etruscan city ever had cyclopean walls, with the exception of those megalithic enclosures that were later resettled by the Etruscans (plausibly centuries after their abandonment, as is the case of Orbetello, Roselle, Cosa and Pyrgi).
  • Among the Italic people of pre-Roman Italy, the Hernici are usually credited for the construction of the cyclopean walls of the so-called "Pentapolis", consisting of five cities that legend claims founded by Saturn (these cities were Alatri, Anagni, Ferentino (Antino), Arpino, Atina). Interestingly, the only city of the Pentapolis that was certainly settled and occupied by the Hernici, Anagni (which also served as their capital during their wars against the Romans), is the only one that is not encircled by polygonal walls. Instead, the walls of Anagni are much more reminescent of Etruscan military architecture, consiting of smaller blocks of tufa laid in parallel courses.
  • The geographic distribution of the cyclopean cities, inside and outside of Latium, covers an area much broader than the territory once occupied by any single pre-Roman people, and it actually overlaps with the lands of the Etruscans, the Hernici, the Umbri and the Samnites.
  • As of today, there is no agreement as to the identity of the builders of some 200 miles of cyclopean walls in Central Italy (for how incredible it seems, this figure may actually be grossly underestimated). Even if taken individually, the citadel of Alatri contains a volume of stone larger than any megalithic construction in the Mediterranean, with the sole exception of the pyramids of Egypt and the great megalithic platforms of Baalbeck, Jerusalem and Damascus. Whoever built these walls, which show a remarkable consistency in technique, disposition and orientation, clearly possessed a very accurate knowledge of engineering, astronomy and sacred geometry.
  • The age of these constructions is yet unknown. Dating ranges from 5,650 BC to the 3rd Century BC.
  • Even the purpose of these structures is unclear. They seem to lack any explicit defensive arrangement, but contain instead a sophisticated astronomical and mathematical symbolism. The term "Acropolis" is indeed a very suitable definition for these structures, as it describes an elevated place that might have exceptionally served as a citadel or refuge in case of siege, but was mostly revered as a sacred site.
  • Most cyclopean cities contained an arrangement very similar to an Omphalos, that marked the center of the land, usually raised as an altar on a terraced platform (as in the example below, that shows a reconstruction of the Acropolis of Alatri). Interestingly, Alatri is very close to the present-day geodetic center of Italy and may indeed have played a role very similar to the one Delphi played as the geodetic center of Greece.
    Immagine1-Disegno-antico-di-una-possibile-ricostruzione-dellAcropoli-di-Alatri-nella-sua-totalit%C3%A0.jpg

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It really would depend on accurete dating of all the sites. Perhaps from debris under each wall, which had been undisturbed?

The date you give of 5600 BC to 300 BC is quite a long period with dozens of cultures having lived in that area.

300 BC could be Roman, or late Etruscan.

700 BC could be early Etruscan.

700-1300 BC could be Villanovan or Urnfield.

1200-1600 BC could be Tumulus or Terramare.

1700-2300 BC could be Unetice.

2800 BC could be Remedello.

Before that would almost be guessing...

Basically until the walls are dated, they could have been built by anyone who was there before the Romans.

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It really would depend on accurete dating of all the sites. Perhaps from debris under each wall, which had been undisturbed?

The date you give of 5600 BC to 300 BC is quite a long period with dozens of cultures having lived in that area.

300 BC could be Roman, or late Etruscan.

700 BC could be early Etruscan.

700-1300 BC could be Villanovan or Urnfield.

1200-1600 BC could be Tumulus or Terramare.

1700-2300 BC could be Unetice.

2800 BC could be Remedello.

Before that would almost be guessing...

Basically until the walls are dated, they could have been built by anyone who was there before the Romans.

I agree. The difficulty in dating these structures comes from their continuous reuse by several different peoples and in different epochs. Many of these towns have been continuously inhabited since the remotest antiquity, and offer therefore little undisturbed material for a rigorous dating.

A more reliable approach to dating these structures could come from advances in optical luminescence (which was succesfully employed by Prof. Ioannes Liritizis in dating cyclopean masonry in Greece, including the famous pyramid of Hellenikon). This technique has never been applied to the Italian cyclopean remains to the best of my knowledge. Purely stylistical considerations would however suggest the cyclopean structures of ancient Latium to be at least as old as the virtually identical cyclopean masonry of Mycenean Greece - belonging therefore to a period much older than the age of the Hellenes or the Romans.

The only extensive stratigraphic study of cyclopean walls in Italy was carried out in Norba at the beginning of the 20th Century. The walls were dated to the IV Century BC, based on pottery shards found in the vicinity of the walls.The results are highly dubious and have been challenged ever since by archaeologists and independent researchers alike as only providing a terminus ante quem rather than an absolute dating of the walls themselves.

More recent archaeoastronomical analysis has yielded a variety of dates, ranging from the VI Century BC (Southern Cross/ Gemini) to 5,650 BC (Orion).

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A more reliable approach to dating these structures could come from advances in optical luminescence (which was succesfully employed by Prof. Ioannes Liritizis in dating cyclopean masonry in Greece, including the famous pyramid of Hellenikon). This technique has never been applied to the Italian cyclopean remains to the best of my knowledge. Purely stylistical considerations would however suggest the cyclopean structures of ancient Latium to be at least as old as the virtually identical cyclopean masonry of Mycenean Greece - belonging therefore to a period much older than the age of the Hellenes or the Romans.

That sounds like something that should eventually be done.

I did also google various ancient cultures around the Med and there are a number of stonework walls that are very simular. The various Mycenean walls being a good example.

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I don't really see these walls as being that remarkable. The earlier culture, maybe Etruscans, obviously valued strong walls of larger stones. But, let's face it, they didn't build the Great Pyramid here. All the stones I saw could be easily moved with ropes and crews of laborers, combined with small ramps of earth. Shaping the stones isn't even such a problem. Unless these are hard volcanic stones?? Consider that if they had just 100 masons, they probably could build a city wall using large stones in just a dozen years.

...I gotta agree, when building without mortar the strength/endurance of these types of structures lies with big and heavy stones. little wonder that people associate these remains as being built by giants (cyclopean builders). But as impressive as they may seem the stones aren't really dressed properly and layered in a haphazard way, like it was built without a plan and with the terrain of the land dictating the final size and shape.

Edited by Harry_Dresden
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  • Immagine1-Disegno-antico-di-una-possibile-ricostruzione-dellAcropoli-di-Alatri-nella-sua-totalit%C3%A0.jpg

Dark Lord, maybe this is related:

Sardinia, Monte d'Accoddi

http://www.unexplain...15#entry3752484

http://www.unexplain...15#entry3752421

http://www.unexplain...25#entry3438226

AEcomp-1-2.jpg

Edited by Abramelin
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