The traveller who follows the track of the charcoal burners near the coast from Porto d'Anzio will in turn pass Torre Caldana, Torre S. Anastasia, and Torre S. Lorenzo. Then, crossing the stream Fosso della Moletta, he at length sees Ardea rising before him on the top of a rock, three miles from the sea, and 20 miles from Rome.
Augustus J. C. Hare - Days near Rome - 1875
The view from Mount Albano, as may be supposed, is extensive and varied. (..) But the most interesting object by far in this prospect is the truly classic plain expanded immediately below, the theatre of the last six books of the Eneid, and once adorned with Ardea, Lavinium, and Laurentum. The forest in which Virgil laid the scene of the achievements and fall of the two youthful heroes Euryalus and Nisus; the Tiber winding through the plain, and the groves that shade its banks and delighted Aeneas on his arrival; all these are displayed clear and distinct beneath the traveller; (..) he may consider them at leisure, and if he pleases, compare them with the description of the poet. The Alban Mount is, in fact, in the Eneid what Mount Ida is in the Iliad, the commanding station whence the superintending divinities contemplated the armies, the city, the camp, and all the emotions and vicissitudes of the war.
J. C. Eustace - Classical Tour of Italy in 1802 (publ. 1813)
As you look across this classic land of that Latian strand, and over the ancient country of the Rutuli, and of Ardea, if you have any poetry in you, you will recall the people in Virgil's Aeneid, for this is the Roman Troy, the scene of the combats between the heroes in Virgil's great poem.
Ferdinand Gregorovius - The Volscian Mountains - 1860 - translation by Dorothea Perkins
He rais'd his arm aloft, and, at the word,
Deep in his bosom drove the shining sword.
The streaming blood distain'd his arms around,
And the disdainful soul came rushing thro' the wound.
Virgil - Aeneid - Book XII - last four verses - Translation by John Dryden
There was hope that the Rutuli (..) would abandon the war. It continued, and both sides had gods to help them, and courage that is worth as much as the gods' assistance. Now they were not seeking a kingdom as a dowry, nor a father-in-law's sceptre, nor you, virgin Lavinia, but to win: and they waged war because they were ashamed to surrender. At length Turnus fell, and Venus saw her son's weapons victorious. Ardea fell, spoken of as a power while Turnus lived. After the savage fires had destroyed it, and warm ashes buried its houses, a bird flew from the ruins, one now seen for the first time, and beat at the embers with flapping wings. Its cry, its leanness, its pallor, everything that fitted the captured city, even its name, ardea, the heron, survived in the bird: and in the beating of its wings, Ardea mourns itself.
Ovid - The Metamorphoses - Book XIV - Translated by A. S. Kline
Ardea was the capital of the Rutuli, a nation or tribe occupying a small territory on the coast. It still retains its name. Ardea was said have to been founded by an Argive colony. Before the arrival of the Grecian colonists, the Aborigines and Pelasgi possessed the country. (..) For a long time Ardea was supposed to have occupied only the hill of the small modern village, containing one hundred and seventy-six inhabitants, thinly scattered over its surface; and it was only in constructing the Map, which accompanies this work, that the modern Ardea was found to be no more than the citadel of the ancient town, which was at least six times more extensive.
The baronial mansion of the Duca di Cesarini, who now possesses almost all the country of the Rutuli, from the Lake of Nemi to the coast (including Genzano and Lanuvio), occupies nearly the whole breadth of the citadel of Ardea, on the side next the sea. (..) It is a sort of castellated mansion, situated on the point of the bluff rock.
Sir William Gell - The Topography of Rome and its vicinity - 1834
Ardea, 6 miles from Pratica, still retains the mighty name of the Argive capital of Turnus, king of the Rutuli, though its population has dwindled down to less than 100 souls. There is a small wine shop at Ardea travellers may obtain refreshments, but the best plan is to procure order from the Cesarini family at Rome which will obtain accommodation in their castle. Ardea occupies the crest of a lofty rock of tufa distant miles from the sea and insulated by deep natural ravines.
John Murray - Handbook for travellers in Italy - 1843
The modern gate is under the north end of this house, and is composed almost entirely of the old blocks of the citadel, which impart to it an air of respectable antiquity. The rocks seem to present a natural opening here, but the road has been cut, and much labour has been bestowed in rendering the ascent practicable. Gell
Modern Ardea, is the citadel of the ancient city; and is entered by a gate built by the Colonna family in the XV. century, as was also the Cesarini palace. It is the only entrance to Ardea, the rest of its circuit being inaccessible. On entering we observe to our right the Cesarini palace, which commands a view of the plain of Ardea, three miles in circumference.
Rev. Jeremiah Donovan - Rome Ancient and Modern - 1843
Town side of Palazzo Cesarini and the road going down to the medieval gate
In January 1944 Allied troops landed at Anzio with the objective of hastening the liberation of Rome; their advance was checked by the Germans at Fosso della Moletta, three miles south of Ardea when they were met by sniper and machine-gun fire. Unable to cross the deep ravine, the tanks and armoured cars skirted the south bank, where they were halted by a mine field. The left flank of the beachhead line stood on the Moletta River until the end of May when the Germans were forced to withdraw to a new defensive line, extending from Ardea near the coast through Lanuvio and Velletri to a position before Valmontone. German units were ordered by Hitler to hold this line at all costs, but in the first days of June the front collapsed and the Allies entered Rome. The heavy fighting at Ardea destroyed Palazzo Cesarini.
The Acropolis or Citadel of Ardea from the side next to the sea
Two streams (..) had, long before Ardea was built, worn valleys, which had left an eminence between them as a site for the city. The top is nearly a flat, having originally formed part of the great plain which extended from the mountain of Albano to the sea. Gell
The appearance of the rock from all parts of the plain is exceedingly picturesque but the malaria is so severe in summer that the town is almost deserted. Murray
The natural rock was made steeper by the early inhabitants of Ardea and later on the Rutuli built walls at its top. These were turned into a fortification which protected the town from corsair raids in the early XVIth century. The Renaissance bastions were so strongly built that they withstood WWII artillery fire.
Tufa rock of Civita Vecchia opposite the Acropolis of Ardea
The Ardeatines seem to have fallen under the Roman yoke without much contest, after being weakened by internal dissensions, which had greatly reduced the number of its inhabitants; and so much had Ardea lost of its consequence at so early a period that a colony was sent from Rome to help to re-people the place. (..) Vestiges of the walls can be discovered only by a close inspection; as they lie here and there, amongst the bushes on the edge of the precipices which bounded them.
Advancing beyond the church to the northern extremity of the citadel we have a view of the valley del Incastro opposite us, and of Civita Vecchia or the site of the ancient city of Ardea to our right (..) and here is seen an ancient Rutulian tomb, cut in the natural rock. Donovan
The existing village and its castle, which belongs to the Duke Cesarini, occupy an isolated rock, evidently the ancient citadel, which is joined by a narrow neck of land to a larger platform, still called Civita Vecchia, and once covered by the ancient city, of which not a vestige remains. Hare
In the middle ages Ardea must have been of far more importance than it is now, but the notices of it are slight. Nibby conjectures that it had been destroyed by the barbarians, more especially the Saracens, as being near the sea. When they ascended to Rome in the ninth century and destroyed the churches of S. Peter and S. Paul, almost at the gates of Rome, and in A.D. 840 went up almost as far as Subiaco, it is not likely that a place so near the coast as Ardea escaped them; it is probable that that part of the city which goes by the name of Civita Vecchia, or the old city, was destroyed at that period, and that the remaining inhabitants then defended themselves in the ancient acropolis or citadel, which is in a very strong position, and must have been originally almost impregnable.
John Henry Parker - Architectural Features of the City of Ardea - 1880.
We commence our walk
around the walls by a path to the left, and observe that
the tufa rock has been cut perpendicularly so as to
present an elevated breast-work. Donovan
The ancient citadel is united to the tableland by a natural isthmus in which three deep ditches have been cut. (..) Ardea as the capital of Turnus is conspicuous in the wars of the Aeneid; it is remarkable also for its siege by Tarquinius Superbus and for the asylum it afforded to Camillus during his exile; he defeated Brennus and the Gauls beneath its walls and was residing there when he was elected dictator and summoned to return to Rome to undertake the siege of Veii. It is about 22 miles from Rome: the road follows the Via Ardeatina which is still perfect in many parts (..) it proceeds to Rome by Tre Fontane and S Paolo. Murray
Walls at the eastern end of the Acropolis (also in the image used as background for this page)
These valleys approach each other, leaving a narrow isthmus for the entrance to the city from the east; this isthmus is considerably strengthened by a high mound, or agger, extending from valley to valley, which supported, or rather backed a wall, whence, in all probability, the idea of the Roman agger of Servius Tullius was originally taken. A gap or cut exists, through which was the ancient entrance to the city; and in this is the ruin of a tower, fixing the site of the gate toward Aricia. This mound is called Bastione by some of the people of the place; but all modern names are to be regarded with suspicion when they rest only on the authority of the peasantry. It is evident, that though an ancient path might have led from the sea to the citadel, as at present, yet the great gate of the city was at the east end of the Arx. Here it may be well to remark, that the wall of the citadel of Ardea is built, like almost all others constructed with tufo, of blocks either parallelograms, or nearly so, though sufficiently irregular to indicate high antiquity. Gell
On the edge of the rock forming the bound of the modern village we may see some highly instructive fragments of the walls of the ancient city: they are composed of parallelograms of tufa irregularly put without cement and are certainly to be classed among the earliest examples of this kind of construction. Murray
New church of S. Pietro: (left) entrance which retains some Roman decorative reliefs from the old church; (right) funerary altar with the inscription "D(is) M(anibus) / Mani / Septici / patris"
The road opposite the gate leads up to the village, and is cut in the solid rock, as are also the four small streets within the village. The little church, built in the XIII. century, stands on ancient ruins of reticulated work; and in the area opposite its side entrance is the sepulchral altar of Manius Septicius, found in the vicinity of Ardea. Donovan
(left) Church of S. Marina, today in the cemetery of Ardea; (right) portal and details of its reliefs
Under the rocks of the city, on the right, is the chapel of Santa Marinella. Gell
Advancing we observe to our right the little church of S. Marina, of the XII. century, built up against the rock of Civita Vecchia. Its door-frame was presented to the church, in the XII. century. by Cencio Savelli, better known as Cencio Camerario, the then Chancellor of Rome , afterwards Pope Honorius III. In the centre of its architrave is the figure of S. Marina with the inscription, sca-marina; to the left is the Abbot, abbas: to the right is the father of S. Marina, pat-smarine, all enclosed in small circles. Donovan
Tombs opposite S. Marina
Several Rutulian tombs may here be observed in the citadel and
in Civita Vecchia. To the right as we advance, the road,
which is cut in the rock, leads to Civita Vecchia, of
which the site only remains. Donovan
Excavations have unearthed parts of the Roman town which stood immediately north of Ardea. The tombs were used as stables and warehouses and, during WWII and its aftermath, as temporary houses. Today continuous geodetic measurements ensure potential landslides of the rock are early detected.
Roman Campagna: Colonna and Zagarolo. Palestrina, Cave, Genazzano, Olevano, Paliano and Anagni.
The Ernici Mountains: Ferentino, Frosinone and Alatri; Fiuggi (Anticoli di Campagna); Piglio and Acuto
The Volsci Mountains: Valmontone, Segni, Norma and Cori
Circe's Cape: Terracina and San Felice
The Orsini Castle in Bracciano
Subiaco, the oldest Benedictine monastery
Small towns near Subiaco: Cervara, Rocca Canterano, Trevi and Filettino.