Cosa

Last summer I was lucky enough to take a week away to go to Rome and the surrounding region. Yes, it has taken me over a year to write this post. It wasn't exactly a holiday. Our holidays are usually of the active, cultural sort---museums and all that---rather than the lying on the beach sort.[1] But this, you see, was a research trip. I'd secured a few hundred pounds from my School's travel grant fund, paying the rest from my own bank account.

There was walking.
So.
       Much.
                 Walking.
Anyway, after doing as much as I could for a few days in Rome (some of which I'll perhaps one day get around to blogging about too), I collected the rental car that I'd booked well in advance, and headed to a new base in the outskirts, from which I could drive out to my research sites. The most northerly of these was Roman Cosa, nowadays in the village of Ansedonia. You can see both the modern Ansedonia and Roman Cosa in the map. The latter is the area in the dead centre. You can click through to rotate and tilt the landscape to better make out the features of the site.


Cosa was a Roman colony (Latin colonia) established in 273 BCE on land taken from the Etruscans (who probably held the nearby site at Orbetello). It's purpose should be quite clear to anyone who's hauled their way up to it. Cosa is right at the top of the headland, and affords spectacular views. To the South, the sweeping bay, a crucial and valuable natural harbour. To the East, the land sweeps away to that of the potentially hostile Etruscan cities, who still held their independence at the time of Cosa's foundation.
These photos I took from Cosa's arx, its highest place of refuge.[2]

A view from the arx at Cosa. 2013-09-23. (C) David Colwill
I'll get back to the buildings at the arx in a bit. Before that, I'd like to start back at the entrance to the archaeological remains as they currently lie. It's a publically accessible site, with a small fee payable to access the museum. The place as a whole is striking. Living in the UK, you get used to sort of living in the remains of the Roman occupation. I mean, so many of our place names reference the Romans in some way, directly or oblique. And there are structures, many of them ankle height, some much more impressive. The amphitheatre of Caerleon and the perimeter wall of Caerwent are just down the road. But walking through Cosa is to walk through a debris field of antiquity. It's strewn all around. Fragments of stone are everywhere, some clearly hewn by human hands, but much of it indistinct. Bits of terracotta poke out of the dusty soil everywhere you look or tread.

This is the archaeological plan of the site:

Plan of Cosa on a public graphic onsite. Image taken: 2013-09-23.
(C) Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cosa and others.

Approaching Cosa and its walls

The modern visitor gains access via the gate numbered 1 on the map, the others being not open for the public to pass through. That's because the authorities are evidently (and quite rightfully) eager to control access to and from the site:

Warning! Signs at Cosa. Taken: 2013-09-23.
Gate 2 however, is really interesting, and I'll be showing a few pictures of it later. Of course in the days of the city's inhabitation, all three gates would have been in use, and I expect that number 2 would take a large part of the traffic, as it lies on the side facing inland and having the least steep approach to the town (at least as far as I can tell from nowadays. I should check Google Maps I suppose to confirm this impression).








[1] I'm not the sit-still type.
[2] The arx would often fulfil the dual role of being the site of the major monumentalised temples and of being the place of last refuge. It was somewhat equivalent to the Greek acropolis, with which people are usually familiar, even if just for the one at Athens.

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