Classics Veii
Helen Nagy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 February 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0038


The ancient city of Veii (in Italian, Veio) lies seventeen kilometers northwest of Rome and occupies a plateau of approximately 350 hectares, bounded by the rivers Valchetta (ancient Cremera) on the north and east and Piodoro on the west and south. The city had ample water and was naturally defensible, but sections of tufa walls remain, indicating that it was also fortified. Several major roads crossed the city and led toward other centers, such as Rome, Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Vulci, and Capena, via fortified gates. Impressive Etruscan-made drainage tunnels (cuniculi) flank and traverse the plateau. There is sporadic evidence of late Bronze Age settlements in the area, but it was during the Villanovan period, 9th and 8th centuries BCE, that villages appeared on the plateau and on the citadel of Piazza d’Armi. A significant growth in population during the late 8th and 7th centuries BCE resulted in urbanization. The strength and wealth of the city reached their peak in the 6th century BCE, but by the late 5th century BCE, conflicts with Rome weakened Veii, and it was finally taken after a ten-year siege in 396 BCE by M. Fulvius Camillus. The triumph was sealed by the transfer of the principal cult of Juno Regina to Rome. Although Veii declined sharply after the Roman victory, some of the old popular sanctuaries continued to be frequented by the local population. In 2 BCE the status of municipium was conferred on Veii by Augustus. By this time the city was falling into decay, although a small part of the Etruscan site continued to be inhabited, as evidenced by architectural fragments, sculptures (including one of Tiberius now in the Vatican Museum), and inscriptions. Once considered the richest city of the Etruscan League, Veii declined and was abandoned by the end of the 4th century CE. The plateau today is covered by fields, trees, and remnants of ancient structures. Principal among these is the archaeological site of the extra-urban Portonaccio Sanctuary. Etruscan necropolises and a few Roman tombs surround the city. Archaeological surveys continue to yield results such as the 2006 discovery of the early-7th-century Tomb of the Roaring Lions in the Grotta Gramiccia necropolis. In 1997, the Regional National Park of Veii (37,030 acres) was established to ensure the protection of the ancient city and its surroundings from the ravages of urban sprawl and illegal construction.

General Overviews

Although no general overview of ancient Veii has been published to date, results of archaeological work on the site since the late 20th century, especially under the auspices of the Università di Roma “La Sapienza,” have added considerably to the understanding of the ancient city. The citations in this section represent the works that come closest to providing a complete historical and cultural view of the city. The detailed description of Veii over one hundred years ago in Dennis 1883 is essential for understanding the modern changes on the site. The brief chapter in Steingräber 1983 is a good summary of the site, while Potter 1979, on settlement patterns, and Delpino 1985 are excellent sources on the topography and the later history of the region and of the excavations conducted at Veii. The brief but scholarly guide in Ceci 2008 is informative, and one wishes it existed in a greatly expanded version. J. B. Ward-Perkins’s reassessment of the history of the city in the context of ongoing and completed excavations (Ward-Perkins 1961) is complete for its date. Two early-21st-century updates of this important publication (Cascino, et al. 2012 and Cascino, et al. 2015) significantly enhance the topographical and archaeological understanding of the city.

  • Cascino, Roberta, Helga Di Giuseppe, and Helen L. Patterson, eds. 2012. Veii: The historical topography of the ancient city; A restudy of John Ward-Perkins’s survey. Archaeological Monographs of the British School at Rome 19. London: British School at Rome.

    Multiauthored reexamination of Ward-Perkins 1961 on early-21st-century topographical surveys. Includes a topographical catalogue of the finds and an extensive catalogue of each piece, mainly consisting of pottery, organized according to type and chronology. This is a very welcome up-to-date addition (in English) to the few surveys on the city. Extensive bibliography.

  • Cascino, Roberta, Ugo Fusco, and Christopher Smith, eds. 2015. Novità nella ricerca archeologica a Veio: Dagli studi di John Ward-Perkins alle ultime scoperte; Atti della Giornata di studi, British School at Rome, 18 gennaio 2013. Rome: Sapienza Università Editrice.

    Conference on Veii at the British School in Rome. Addresses early-21st-century research at Piazza d’Armi, Macchiagrande, and Campetti. Current methodologies applied to earlier excavations as pertaining to the urban development of Veii. Presents new finds from the vicinity of Veii, including necropolises. The volume is of aid to the scholar and student alike in assessing the archaeological and topographical aspects of the city.

  • Ceci, Francesca. 2008. Veio. Itinerari dei Musei, Gallerie, Scavi e Monumenti d’Italia 81. Rome: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecco dello Stato.

    Essentially a guidebook, but one that provides a good overview of the site, including history, topography, and bibliography. Useful maps and illustrations.

  • Delpino, Filippo. 1985. Cronache veientane: Storia delle ricerche archeologiche a Veio, I; Dal XIV alla metà del XIX secolo. Rome: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche.

    Thorough overview and documentation of archaeology at Veii between the 14th and mid-19th centuries. Includes illustrations of art works depicting the site and reproductions of documents pertaining to the excavations. Good source on topography, especially of Roman Veii and on the relocation of material looted from the site.

  • Dennis, George. 1883. Cities and cemeteries of Etruria. 2 vols. 3d ed. London: John Murray.

    Two chapters of Dennis’s indispensable work concern Veii: chapter 1, “Veii.—the City,” pp. 1–30, and chapter 2, “Veii.—the Cemetery,” pp. 31–42. Dennis evokes the grandeur that was Veii in the past and describes in patient detail the ancient remains he saw on his visit on foot to the lonely site.

  • Potter, T. W. 1979. The changing landscape of south Etruria. London: Paul Elek.

    A study of changing settlement patterns in the context of topography and population size, this work lays heavy emphasis on Veii from the earliest Villanovan phase though the age of decline.

  • Steingräber, Stephan. 1983. Città e necropoli dell’Etruria: Luoghi segreti e itinerari affascinanti alla riscoperta di un’antica civiltà italica. Rome: Newton Compton.

    Although somewhat outdated, this work presents a handy historical and topographical overview of Veii.

  • Ward-Perkins, John Bryan. 1961. Veii: The historical topography of the ancient city. Papers of the British School at Rome 29.16: 1–123.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0068246200010916

    The entire Vol. 29 of the Papers of the British School is devoted to the history and topography of Veii, on the basis of excavations conducted up to 1961. Includes both Etruscan and Roman Veii. Illustrated with photographs and line drawings of maps and plans. Although somewhat out of date, this is still one of the best overviews of the site, by an archaeologist who spent years excavating there.

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