Students at work at the archaeological site of Satricum in 1983.
Shown within Lazio
Alternate name Le Ferriere
Location Borgo Le Ferriere, Italy
Region Lazio
Coordinates 41°30′47.2608″N 12°45′18.2988″E / 41.513128000°N 12.755083000°E / 41.513128000; 12.755083000
Type settlement
Founded sixth century BC
Cultures Volscian; Roman Republic
Site notes
Excavation dates yes
Archaeologists Antonio Nibby; Conrad M. Stibbe; M. Kleibrink; Marijke Gnade
Condition ruined
Public access yes

Satricum (modern Le Ferriere), an ancient town of Latium, lay on the right bank of the Astura river some 60 kilometres (37 mi) SE of Rome in a low-lying region south of the Alban Hills, at the NW border of the Pontine Marshes. It was directly accessible from Rome via a road running roughly parallel to the Via Appia.


According to Livy, Satricum was an Alban colony, and a member of the Latin League of 499 BC. Ca. 488 BC it was taken by the Volsci.[1] It was several times won and lost by the Romans, and twice destroyed by fire. After 346 BC we hear of it only in connection with the temple of Mater Matuta.[2]

Identification and history of research

Antonio Nibby[3] mistakenly identified ancient Satricum with the low hill at Borgo Montello, then known as the Tenuta di Conca, surrounded by tufa cliffs, 1.5 km ESE of present-day Le Ferriere, on which were still scanty remains of walling in rectangular blocks of the same material. In 1896, the hill above Le Ferriere yielded remains of an archaic and early Classical sanctuary ascribed to Mater Matuta, during excavations begun under the direction of Prof. H. Graillot of the University of Bordeaux, member of the French School of Rome. After two weeks, this work was suspended by order of the Italian government, and then resumed under the supervision of Felice Barnabei,[4] Raniero Mengarelli, and A. Cozza. The objects discovered were brought to the Villa Giulia Museum at Rome.

After some cursory investigations during the 1950s, the site of Satricum was brought to light again in 1977, as a result of a concerted effort by the Italian authorities to rescue the antiquities in the Roman campagna that were acutely threatened by large-scale urbanisation and agricultural reform. The alarm was first made public by the exhibition Civiltà del Lazio primitivo at Rome (1976).[5] As a result, the Royal Dutch Institute at Rome was invited by the Comitato per l'Archeologia laziale to participate in a rescue project and to ascertain the state of preservation of the site.[6]

Since 1977, a comprehensive research program at the site has been carried out through annual excavation and study campaigns. This concerned, first of all, activities by the Royal Dutch Institute at Rome (C. M. Stibbe),[7] later joined by the Universities of Groningen (prof. M. Kleibrink) and Nijmegen (prof. J. de Waele). As of 1990, the project is being executed by the University of Amsterdam alone, under the direction of prof. Marijke Gnade.


Potsherding from Satricum, 1983.

Several inscriptions bearing the name of Mater Matuta have now made undisputed the identification of the city on and around the acropolis directly to the south of today's Le Ferriere with ancient Satricum. There remains, however, some discussion on the equation, proposed by C.M. Stibbe, of Satricum with the legendary city of Suessa Pometia.

The sanctuary on top op the acropolis was re-excavated in 1978-1981. Metrological analyses by Prof. J. de Waele, published in 1981[8] convincingly demonstrated a succession of three building phases dated from the late 7th to the early 5th century BC. Further investigations in the subsoil showed a particularly large, rather isolated hut to have preceded them, possibly with a religious function. Evidence for a large number of other huts of various shapes testify to a concentrated use of the acropolis during Latial periods II-IV (1000 - 580 BC).

The three temples succeeding one another are characterized by Etrusco-Ionian, Campanian, and central-Italic traditions, respectively, in material, technology, and artistic background, evidencing the character of Satricum as a true crossroads of regionally competing, or successive, cultures. The discovery, in 1977, of the Lapis Satricanus re-used in the foundations of the last temple and bore the name Publius Valerius (possibly to be identified with Publius Valerius Poplicola) perhaps confirms to the political connections between Satricum and Republican Rome.[9]

The Archaic Period at Satricum is evidenced by a number of large courtyard buildings on and at the foot of the acropolis. To the NE, a network of large roads, amongst which a "Sacra Via", in combination with a dense urban build-up have been traced, documenting various phases from the 6th to 4th century BC.

Among the more surprising recent (1981) findings is a large necropolis dated to the 5th and 4th century BC, within the agger in the SW corner of the Archaic city. The material culture of the populace buried here, yielding i.a. a rare inscription on a lead miniature axe bearing the inscription iukus|ko|efiei, shows strong connections with indigenous, Volscian traditions best known from the interior regions of the Apennine Peninsula. In fact, the discovery corroborates the historical traditions of the Volscians conquering Satricum in 488 BC. Tombs of this kind have successively been found both on the very top of the acropolis and intermixed with the remains of roads in the NW city area.

In addition to ongoing fieldwork, the storerooms and archives of the Villa Giulia Museum have gradually become accessible for advanced research. Thus the precise details are now known of the circumstances that led to the first excavation campaign by Graillot, the Italian government's intervention, and the subsequent neglect of the Satricum objects in the Villa Giulia. In addition, many object categories have now been properly studied and published (finds from the Archaic Votive Deposit, from the Orientalising and Archaic necropolises to the NE of the city, and the architectural terracottas of the sanctuary).


Monographs, dissertations, congresses

Excavation updates

Preliminary reports have been appearing frequently since 1978 in the scholarly periodicals Archeologia Laziale, Bulletin Vereniging Antieke Beschaving, Mededelingen van het Nederlands Instituut te Rome and Lazio & Sabina.



  1. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2.39
  2. Mauro Rubini (2002). Satricum in the Post-archaic Period: A Case Study of the Interpretation of Archaeological Remains as Indicators of Ethno-cultural Identity. Isd. ISBN 978-90-429-1193-2.
  3. Analisi della carta dei dintorni di Roma, Rome, 1848, iii.64.
  5. Maria Ornella Acanfora (1976). Civiltà del Lazio primitivo: esposizion , Palazzo delle esposizioni, Roma, 1976. Multigrafica.
  6. Patricia S. Lulof (1996). The Ridge-pole Statues from the Late Archaic Temple at Satricum. Thesis. ISBN 978-90-5170-355-9.
  7. nl:Conrad M. Stibbe
  8. Mededelingen Nederlands Instituut Rome.
  9. Gnade, M. 2012. "Lapis Satricanus." The Encyclopedia of Ancient History DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah20080

Coordinates: 41°30′47.2608″N 12°45′18.2988″E / 41.513128000°N 12.755083000°E / 41.513128000; 12.755083000

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