The statue of Apollo from Veio, in polychrome terracotta, is one of the masterpieces of Etruscan art from the end of the 6th century BC, famous the world over. Together with other statues, it decorated the roof beams of the Temple of Veio in Portonaccio, a sanctuary dedicated to Minerva. Placed on high plinths they were erected with an arcoterial function twelve metres high and even though they were created separately, they narrated Greek mythical events at least in part tied to the god Apollo. The statue, which is currently undergoing restoration work, together with the statue of Heracles, formed a group representing one of the labours of the hero before his apotheosis among the divinities of Olympus. The myth narrates the contention between the god and the hero for the possession of the doe with the golden horns. There was probably also a statue of Mercury united to this group of which only the head and a part of the body remain. Apollo, dressed in a tunic and short cloak advances towards his left with his right arm outstretched and bent (his left arm is towards the ground maybe with a bow in his hand); Heracles, with the doe tied around his legs, is outstretched towards the right, leaning forwards to attack with his bludgeon and with his torso in a violent curve.
The Group was conceived for a lateral vision and the solid volume of the figures united with the fine dissymmetry both in Apollo (the torso and face) and Heracles torso indicate that the artist was quite knowledgeable regarding optical deformations. The style of the statues is in the ambit of the “international” ionic manner that characterizes not only the Etruscan artistic culture of the late archaic period of the last years of the 6th century BC but the result achieved reaches very high expressive levels that can be attributed to someone with great talent. The creator of the arcoterial statues can be identified as the “Artist from Veio an expert in coroplastic art”.

The Portonaccio Temple is the first Tuscan –type temple erected in Etruria (about 510 BC) and codified in the Augustan age by Vitruvio, the Tuscan-type temple, in other words Etruscan, was constituted by three cells sided by a double row of columns on the facade. This is an original set up with respect to the other types of constructions found in Etruria and the Tyrrhenian side of Italy, which have one cell with or without columns, seen in Greece and the Orient.
The reconstruction proposed for the Portonaccio Temple, elaborated in 1993 by Giovanni Colonna together with Germano Foglia, presents a square 60 feet construction on a low podium (about 18 metres, considering the 29cm foundation) and divided into a pronapse with two columns making up the facade between entrances, 24 feet deep and a group in the back made up of three 30 feet deep adjacent cells. The 21 foot columns were made of stuccoed tufa as were the walls, which inside the pronapse were decorated with various paintings on clay panels. The roof was in wood covered with polychrome terracotta. The terracotta was placed through a refined system of syllabic abbreviations and they were integrated with bronze inserts and a generous profusion of plastic inserts, mostly modelled by hand, among which a splendid series of grand antefixes (joint coverings) with the heads of Gorgone, Acheloo, Menade and Satyr.


This sanctuary, among the most ancient and venerated on all of Etruria, was outside of the city and a road leading from the city of Veio to the Tyrrhenian coast and the famous Veio saline mines ran through it. Its most ancient nucleus tied to the cult of the goddess Minerva and a small temple, a square altar, a portico and stairs from the road were built in about 530-530 BC in her honour. The three cell temple with the polychrome terracotta decorations was erected in about 510 BC in the western part of the sanctuary. Adjacent to the temple there was a great pool with a tunnel and a fence that enclosed the sacred woods. The temple was in honour of the god Apollo in his prophetic oracle aspect inspired after the Delphi model to which purification ceremonies were tied. Heracles, the hero made god dear to tyrants, and maybe also Jupiter, whose image we have to imagine on the central wall of the temple were tied to Apollo. By the middle of the 5th century BC, all interventions on the temple are concluded and it begins a slow decline while the structures sacred to Minerva are renovated on the eastern sector of the sanctuary. The starting up again of the cult worshipping Minerva, which continued also after the conquering of Veio by Rome (396 BC) is documented by a splendid series of votive statues of classic and late-classic style boys, such as the famous head, “Malavolta” as to indicate the important role of the goddess in the rituals of the passage from adolescence to adulthood that signalled the fundamental phases of the life of the members of the aristocratic families of Veio. In the 2nd century BC, the tufa mine that destroyed the central area of the sanctuary was opened causing damage to the temple and the sliding down of material downhill. The recovery of the fragments of the sanctuary determined the start up of excavations in 1914, which continued after the discovery of the statue of Apollo in 1916.

The city was on a vast plateau close to the Valchetta and the Fosso della Mola and connected to the south to the Piazza d’Armi highland, the seat of the acropolis. The necropolis surrounded the plateau, which developed with thousand of burial sites beginning at the start of the Villanova Age (9th century BC) and for all of the 7th and 6th centuries BC. The Tomb of the Ducks, between 680 and 650 BC, is the most ancient painted tomb in all of Etruria.
The city has been explored only in part and besides some segments of the city wall (5th century BC), the most important cult sites are known: the Apollo sanctuary in Portonaccio; the archaic age temple on the acropolis and other sacred areas such as the one of Giunone Regina and those in Campetti, documented by immense volumes of votive material. The city plan of the acropolis with almost orthogonal road indications, one of the most ancient of Etruria, goes back to the end of the 7th century BC. Some hydraulic constructions are also peculiar such as the long gallery of the Sodo Bridge along the Cremera. It was the first Etruscan city to fall to the Romans in 396 BC after the siege by Furio Camillo. There are numerous testimonies of the Roman presence between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC and in particular in the territory that is populated by a dense web of small farming properties.
Following the creation of the municipium veiens by Augustus, the city lives its last period of prosperity in the 1st century AD and this is documented by prestigious constructions such as the Palazzo Wedekind at Piazza Colonna in Rome. Starting in 1996, following the signing of a convention between the La Sapienza University of Rome and the Archaeological Patrimony of Southern Etruria Superintendence, there has been a special research project carried out regarding Veio, financed by the university to face the archaeological knowledge of this ancient city.

Francesca Boitani
Direttore del Museo Nazionale
Etrusco di Villa Giulia

The picture inside this section have been realized from Eraldo De Luca
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