evidence confirms that Volterra, ideally situated on a Pliocene ridge 541 metres above sea
level, between the Cecina and Era valleys , has been favoured as a settlement since the
The Etruscan Period
From the 8th century B.C. the Etruscans began to spread out over the slopes and in the 4th
century B.C. the great defensive wall, more than seven kilometres long, was erected to
enclose the urban centre , arable and pasture land vital for survival during a prolonged
Defended by its natural position and impregnable fortifications, the Etruscan Velathri
registered a remarkable development in its economy based on the mineral deposits of copper
and silver in an area rich in forests,agriculture and husbandry. Velathri became one of
the twelve city states of Etruria with a territory that extended from the river Pesa to
the Tyrrhenian sea and from the river Arno to the basin of the Cornia river.
The Roman Period
The last of the Etruscan Lucomons was forced to recognise the supremacy of Rome in the 3rd
century B.C. after the battle of Lake Vadimone (283 B.C.) and became part of the Italic
Confederacy in 260 B.C. changing its name to Volaterrae.
Relations with Rome were good. The populace expressed their solidarity during the second
Punic War by supplying Consul Scipione with wheat and naval equipment and proved their
loyalty during the social war which granted them the right to Roman citizenship in 90 B.C.
with the Lex Julia de Civitate. A few years later, involved in the civil war between
Marius and Sulla, Volterra sided with Marius. After a long bitter siege that lasted for
two years (82-80 B.C.) Volterra had no choice but to surrender . The city was ferociously
sacked, deprived of its citizenship and its territory declared ager publicus.
Cicero, a close friend of the influential
Caecinae family passionately defended the city and the dictators sanctions were
greatly reduced. Volterra continued to prosper in the last years of the century evidence
of which can be seen in the urban development during this period which included the
construction of the theatre and a vast residential area in the neighbourhood of Vallebona.
No important events have been recorded during the decline of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Theatre, Ith century b. C.