History

by | Feb 20, 2023

The history of Falerii Novi extends back more than 2,000 years, to its reported founding in 241 BCE following the defeat and subsequent abandonment of the nearby Faliscan capital of Falerii Veteres (modern Civita Castellana). The city is traditionally thought to have initially been settled by a mixed group of Roman colonists and local Faliscan migrants.

From its earliest days, Falerii Novi prospered thanks to its position on the Via Amerina, an important road connecting Rome with the cities of Umbria and the rest of North-Central Italy. It possessed elements typical of a major Roman settlement: city walls, a central forum, basilica, theater, amphitheatre, bathing complexes, aqueduct, and numerous monumental temples and sanctuaries. The emperor Gallienus, who was from Falerii, officially granted it the title of colonia, the greatest honor available to a Roman city. The site was eventually abandoned until, in the eleventh century, the monastery of Santa Maria di Fàlerii was constructed on the site. From the church, the land eventually passed to the local comune, and from the comune to a series of private landowners who continue to cultivate the land within the ancient walls of Falerii Novi.

(Text adapted from Alex Reed, project member and PhD candidate at Harvard University.)

black and white photo of the abbey and church on the site of Falerii Novi

The church and adjoining abbey of Santa Maria di Falleri, taken by John Ward-Perkins circa 1957 (BSR Photographic Archive, John Bryan Ward-Perkins Collection, wpset-0295.06)