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Supino - They were looking for the city of "Ecetra" but instead found a Roman Villa.
The discovery of Ernesto Carbonelli and Roberto D'Arolfi made 37 years ago

Thirty-seven years have passed since the ruins of the Roman Villa, in the area of Cona Del Popolo came to light. At first, it was hypothesized that it was the city of Ecetra, the mythical capitol of the Volsci, which was destroyed by the Romans and its identity totally obliterated. But soon every doubt was dispelled as it emerged from the earth; it showed evident that it was a thermal bath from the roman era. Two young men from Supino, now residents of Toronto made the interesting archaeological discovery; Ernesto Carbonelli and Roberto D'Arolfi.

There are many hypotheses and suppositions about the destiny of Ecetra. It's exact location has been much talked and written about, but the secret remains concealed behind an apparent and impenetrable mystery. Even though someone has come to the conclusion that Ecetra was not in this area.

"We decided to dig right in that meadow at Cona Del Popolo", recounts Mr. Carbonelli, on the over-seas telephone call, because we noticed that from the earth, the farmers, other than grass for animals, could not succeed in growing anything and for this reason they were not ploughed. The terrain was very hard and we knew that even the attempts to dig were to be in vane because the spade would have encountered obstacles. "I cannot hide the fact that at Cona Del Popolo we were looking for the city of Ecetra. adds, Mr. Carbonelli. We had, as a point of reference, even the considerations of Saint Mary's priest, Don Egidio Schietroma, who was also interested in such ideas, and who had conducted some studies, which concluded that some coins, found in the fields, bore the symbols and elements of Volsci or Etruscan art.

The Sunday morning of October 13th, 1963, Mr. Carbonelli and Mr. D'Arolfi, commenced to excavate the terrain, at that time belonging to the parish church of San Pietro, and were happily surprised in finding out that their suppositions about the presence of a settlement in the subsoil, that might have been Ecetra, were true.

After a few shovelfuls, about 30 centimeters deep, they had brought to light a large and valuable black and white mosaic, depicting the god Neptune proudly holding a trident while being drawn by four sea horses. Eventually, the clearing revealed to be part of the floor of a thermal bath of a larger complex. This important discovery was brought to the attention of the civil authorities, to the Carabinieri and obviously to the Fine Arts curators that took over the entire situation.

Still today, from Canada, Ernesto Carbonelli continues his own personal research, investigating and studying documents, aerial photographs, and all the testimonials that can help to sort out the intricate problem of finding the exact location of the disappeared city of Ecetra and however useful, to eliminate all the "hearsays" that precedes any story about the history of Supino.


Over the years, the countryside of Supino has returned many findings back to man. Most of the findings were picked by the hands of farmers who were working in the fields; decorated copper amphorae or of other metal; coins dating back to the fourth century B.C. up to the late Roman Empire; statuettes and relics of every kind. All of the findings were made to disappear for fear of searches by the authorities and for the most part, for fear of having the fields lost to confiscation. Some of the precious findings may be in the hands of avid collectors, that while hiding them, continue to take them away from the public enjoyment.

Knowing about the finding that happened in the 1930's, of a bronze statuette of a commanding warrior, in the act of asking to speak, immediately identified as "L'Impero Romano", Ernesto Carbonelli had begun to take an interest in the archeological aspects of Supino and in the same process had got his friends involved as well. There is no more information or knowledge of this precious statuette and of the other findings, even though they recalled the attention of many experts at time. Dr. Belloni, curator of the Castello Sforzesco di Milano, said "that bronze statuette had to date back, without any doubt, to the third or fourth century B.C. and that it was the work of local artisans" (Antonio Arcese,"Discovered the place where rose the city of Ecetra - the Volsci city destroyed by the Romans"- Il Tempo - Cronaca di Frosinone - October 14th, 1963). The last public appearance of "The Roman Empire" (the statuette), goes back to the publication of "Statuta Castri et Universitatis Supini" by Professor Cesare Bianchi by the Comune di Supino in 1986 in which is reproduced the photograph of the Italic statuette by gentle concession of Monsignor Egidio Schietroma.


Also, the pieces that were found a few years before 1963, in the years of between 1958 to 1959, on the occasion of the construction of the factory to rebuild tires, "Riva" (today occupied by other businesses), in the proximity of the Privito fountain, had fueled the fervid imagination of Mr. Carbonelli, who always wanted to see things more clearly. In proximity to the fountain existed two "votive wells" that were blown up to make room for "Riva". In the explosion, a variety of findings were thrown up into the air, which included coins and numerous fragments of anatomical earthenware. It had to be offerings to the roman divinity "Esculapio", god of medicine, which the Greeks called "Asclepio". In the mythological stories, Asclepio, son of Apollo, was lead to the study of medicine by the centaur Chirone and since he had the impudence to resuscitate a dead person he had to suffer the punishment of Zeus, who drove him away from Olympus, and reduced him to an underground divinity that was able to, nevertheless, tell oracles about medicine. The votive wells or "favisse" (famous are those of Campidoglio, assigned to the Temple of Jupiter) instead were filled with water with which the faithful used to wash themselves before entering the sacred place. The votive wells became a convenient vessel to place the sacred objects that could no longer fit inside the temple and that could not be thrown away. In Privito, when the wells were blown up, all sorts of artifacts came out to prove without any doubt, that in fact there had to be a temple there dedicated to Esculapio, with a necropolis nearby. In living memory there is testimony that coming from the via Morolense to Privito at that corner there were ancient walls with a smaller votive well probably belonging to the temple of Esculapio.


Today we know that the grassy mantles, not only those of Cona Del Popolo, cover a vast archeological area dating back to at least the roman era, and that on other meadows it is possible to recognize the outline of a buried urban settlement. Mr. Carbonelli recounts,"The mayor at that time, Pierino Schietroma, noticed that while analyzing an aerial photo he realized that in the area between "I Colli" and the Via la Mola , on the area of the "prato di Ricci" (which today is divided into plots and is largely urbanized), there were clearly visible particular geometrical forms suggesting a city."

Who knows, if maybe one day these findings will be able to see the light of day. What leaves us perplexed and infuriated is the total absence of the willpower of the authorities that in the past 40 years, even though they knew of the inestimable, and artistic patrimony buried there, they have done nothing. Thanks also to the absence of a regulated plan that does not allow any construction on these areas of major interest. We realize, today, that even though those findings were catalogued, photographed and given to the Carabinieri and to the inspectors of the Fine Arts, there is nothing known about them and they will never take part in being showcased in an museum in Supino. The town administrations that have succeeded in the years were limited themselves, whatever they could to assure a canopy over those parts of the villa and not much more. During the elections, the politicians show a certain interest for this archeological patrimony and today, thanks to the allocation of the Lazio Region of five hundred million lira, there is the hope of starting to see the first real interventions. In any case, the community at large is deprived of the view of the archeological site.

Supino, October 28th, 1999
Pierpaolo Cerilli

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