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Vulci's coast, seen from Cosa
Cosa is located in Tuscany
Shown within Tuscany
Location Comune di Ansedonia, Italy
Region Province of Grosseto
Type Settlement
Founded 273 BC
Abandoned after AD 1329
Periods Roman Republic, Roman Empire
Cultures Ancient Rome
Site notes
Excavation dates 1948–54, 1965–72, 1990s, 2010s
Archaeologists Frank E. Brown, Lisa Fentress
Condition ruined
Public access yes
Website Ansedonia - Città di Cosa; Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Cosa (Italian)

Cosa was a Latin colonia founded under Roman influence in southwestern Tuscany in 273 BC, on land confiscated from the Etruscans.[1] The Etruscan site (called Cusi or Cosia) may have been where modern Orbetello stands; a fortification wall in polygonal masonry at Orbetello's lagoon may be in phase with the walls of Cosa. The position of Cosa is distinct, rising some 113 metres above sea level and is sited 140 km northwest of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea coast, on a hill near the small town of Ansedonia. The town experienced a hard life and was never truly a prosperous Roman city, although it has assumed a position of prominence in Roman archaeology owing to the circumstances of its excavation (cf. Dyson 2005, below). After the foundation, wars of the 3rd century BC affected the town.[2] New colonists arrived in 197 BC.[3] Cosa seems to have prospered until it was sacked in the 60s BC, perhaps by pirates. This led to a re-foundation under Augustus and then life continued until the 3rd century. One of the last textual references to Cosa comes from the work of Rutilius Claudius Namatianus in his De reditu suo.[4] In the passage 1.285-90, Rutilius remarks that by AD 416 the site of Cosa was deserted and could be seen to be in ruins. He further suggests that a plague of mice had driven the people of Cosa away.


  • Archaeology 1
  • Urban layout 2
  • Capitolium 3
  • City walls and gates 4
  • Forum 5
  • Private houses 6
  • Cosa under the Empire 7
  • Middle Ages 8
  • Settefinestre 9
  • Further study 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12
  • References 13


In the 20th century, Cosa was the site of excavations carried out under the auspices of the American Academy in Rome, initially under the direction of the archaeologist Frank Edward Brown. Excavations (1948–54, 1965–72) have traced the city plan, the principal buildings, the port, and have uncovered the Arx, the forum, and a number of houses.[5] Unexcavated buildings include a bathing establishment, but no trace of a theatre or an amphitheatre has been found. In the 1990s a series of excavations was carried out under the direction of Elizabeth Fentress, then associated with the American Academy in Rome.[6] This latter campaign aimed at understanding the history of the site between the imperial period and the Middle Ages. Sample excavations took place over the whole site, with larger excavations on the Arx, the Eastern Height and around the Forum.[7] Fieldwork resumed in 2013 under the auspices of Florida State University.[8]

Urban layout

Within the city walls the urban area was divided into an orthogonal plan, with space allotted for civic, sacred, and private architecture.[9] The plan represents a subtle adaptation of an orthogonal plan to the complicated topography of the hill. The forum was found on a saddle between two heights, with the sacred area, with the Capitolium, linked to it by a broad street. Recent excavations have suggested that the original layout provided for about 248 houses, of which 20 were intended for the decurions, and were double the size of the houses of the ordinary citizens. The larger houses were found on the forum and the main processional streets.[6]



The arx or citadel of Cosa received some of the first serious treatment by Frank E. Brown and his team when they began the Cosa excavations in 1948. The citadel was a fortified hill on which were built several temples, including the so-called capitolium of Cosa.

Brown also discovered a pit (mundus) that he thought was connected to the first rituals of foundation carried out at Cosa in 273 BC. On the arx were two temples, one the triple-cella building dubbed the Capitolium of Cosa, the other a smaller temple.

City walls and gates

The city wall of Cosa was built in polygonal masonry and included a system of interval towers. The arx also had an independent circuit wall.


Basilica in the forum.

The forum was the public square of the city and was the site of many important structures, included a basilica and a curia-comitium complex, as well as buildings Brown termed atria publica, which have now been shown to be houses. The forum of Cosa is fairly complex in archaeological terms and many of the Republican structures were later built over with construction of the Imperial period.

Private houses

The site has played an important role in the interpretation of Roman colonization during the Middle Republican period. The housing has been the subject of two extensive publications. One, by R. T. Scott (1993), deals with a series of small houses in the western part of the site. These occupy street frontages of around 8 metres, with open courtyard spaces and gardens in the rear. They bear a strong resemblance to similar houses of the 2nd century BC at Pompeii. On the forum, the House of Diana was excavated and restored between 1995 and 1999. It was published in full by E. Fentress (2004), and a detailed report on the stratigraphy is available on the web ( This was a much larger house, on a standard atrium plan, very similar to that of the House of Sallust in Pompeii. Built around 170 BC, it was entirely rebuilt in the Augustan period, from which we have a fine series of frescoes and mosaics. In the 50s, it seems to have become the house of Lucius Titinius Glaucus Lucretianus, and a small sanctuary to the goddess Diana was added in the rear garden.

Cosa under the Empire

Cosa appears to have been affected by an earthquake in 51, which occasioned the reconstruction of the republican Basilica as an Odeon under the supervision of Lucius Titinius Glaucus Lucretianus,[10] who also worked on the Capitoline temple; however, as early as 80, Cosa seems to have been almost deserted. It was revived under the emperor Caracalla, during whose reign was built the portico around the forum, concealing two large granaries, while the odeon were restored, a Mithraeum was constructed in the basement of the Curia, and a sanctuary to Liber erected at the southeast end of the Forum.[11] The new town did not last long, however, and by the 4th century only the sanctuary of Liber was periodically visited. In the early 6th century some occupation in the ruins is attested by pottery and the remains of a church have been found built onto the Basilica. Perhaps at the same time the Arx was occupied by a fortified farm, subsequently transformed into a small fortified outpost under Byzantine control. This was abandoned in the late 6th or early 7th century. It is possible that the intermittent nature of the occupation of the town was due to the fact that, already in the early Empire, malaria was hyperendemic on the coast of Tuscany.

Middle Ages

Cosa appears in some documents dating from the 11th century, although a 9th-century occupation is suggested by frescoes at the abbey of S. Anastasio alle Tre Fontane in Rome, recording the capture of the site by Charlemagne and Pope Leo III. However, no sign of occupation between the eighth and the tenth century has been recovered.[12] By the end of the 10th century, a small cemetery was found next to a church built over a temple facing the forum. The town is recorded as Ansedoniam civitatem in a privilege of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085).

Occupation of the site began with a few sunken-floored buildings, but by the 11th century it was concentrated on the Eastern Height, now surrounded by a double bank and ditch. In the 12th century, a tower was built in the centre of these fortifications, with a large cistern on two sides. That this cistern was subsequently used as a prison is suggested by graffiti on its plaster lining, one of which gives the date of 1211.

The castle, belonging to the Aldobrandeschi family in 1269, was destroyed by the Sienese army in 1329, on the pretext that it was occupied by bandits. A catapult or trebuchet base found on the Eastern Height may have formed part of the defences at this time. The site remained deserted after this time.


A large villa complex in the Ager Cosanus at Settefinestre was excavated by Andrea Carandini in the 1970s.[13]

Further study



  1. Brown, F.E., Richardson E. H. and Richardson, L. jr. "Cosa I, History and Topography." MAAR 20, 1951, 5-113.
  2. Brown, F.E. Cosa II, the Temples of the Arx. MAAR 26, 1960.
  3. Dyson, Stephen L. Cosa: The Utilitarian Pottery MAAR 33, 1976. Full text at Hathi Trust.
  4. Brown, F. E. Cosa, the Making of a Roman Town Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1980. WorldCat
  5. Brown, F.E., Richardson E. H. and Richardson, L. jr. Cosa III: the buildings of the forum: colony, municipium, and village. MAAR 37, Rome 1993. WorldCat
  6. Bruno, V. J. and Scott., R. T. Cosa IV, The Houses. MAAR 38, Rome 1993.
  7. Collins Clinton, J. A Late Antique Shrine of Liber Pater at Cosa, (Etudes préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'empire romain, vol 64), Leiden, 1977.
  8. McCann, A. M., J. Bourgeois, E.K. Gazda, J.P. Oleson, and E.L. Will. The Roman Port and Fishery of Cosa: a Center of Ancient Trade, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.
  9. Fentress, E. et al. Cosa V: An Intermittent Town, Excavations 1991-1997 MAAR supp. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004.


  1. Brendel, O. "A Ganymede Group from Cosa," AJA 73, 1969, 232.
  2. Buttrey, T.V. "Cosa: The Coins" MAAR 34, 1980, 11-153.
  3. Fitch, C.R. and Goldman, N., The Lamps, MAAR 39, 1994.
  4. Hobart, M.: 'Ceramica invetriata di Cosa (Ansedonia - Orbetello)' in L. Paroli, ed., La ceramica invetriata tardoantica e altomedievale in Italia, Florence, 1990, 304-309.
  5. Hobart, M. 'La Maiolica arcaica di Cosa (Orbetello)' in Atti del XXIV convegno interna-zionale della ceramica, Albissola, 1991, 71-89.
  6. Marabini Moevs, M. T. The Roman Thin Walled Pottery from Cosa (1948-1954), MAAR 32, 1973. Full text at Hathi Trust.
  7. Marabini Moevs, M. T. "Italo-Megarian Ware at Cosa," MAAR 34, 1980, 161-227.
  8. Marabini Moevs, M. T. Cosa. The Italian Sigillata. MAAR supp. 3. Ann Arbor: Published for the American Academy in Rome by the University of Michigan Press, 2006. WorldCat
  9. Scott, A. R. Cosa: The Black-Glaze Pottery 2. MAAR supp. 5. Ann Arbor: Published for the American Academy in Rome by the University of Michigan Press, 2008. WorldCat
  10. Scott, R. T. "A New Inscription of the Emperor Maximinus at Cosa" Chiron 11, 1981, 309-314.
  11. Scott, R. T. "A new fragment of "serpent ware" from Cosa," JGS 34(1992) 158-159.
  12. Taylor, D. M. "Cosa, Black-Glaze Pottery," MAAR 25, 1957, 65-193.
  13. Tondo, L. "Monete medievale da Ansedonia," ArchMed IV, 1977, 300-305.
  14. Tongue, W. "The Brick Stamps of Cosa," AJA 54, 1950, 263.
  15. Will, E. Lyding "Ambiguity in Horace, Odes 1.4," CP 77 (1982), 240-245.
  16. Will, E. Lyding. "Defining the "Regna Vini" of the Sestii," in Goldman, N.W., ed. New Light from Ancient Cosa: Studies in honor of Cleo Rickman Fitch. New York, 2000, 35-47.
  17. Will, E. Lyding "The Roman Amphoras," in McCann, A.M., J. Bourgeois, E.K. Gazda, J.P. Oleson, and E.L. Will, The Roman Port and Fishery of Cosa: A center of Ancient Trade, Princeton, 1987, 170-220.
  18. Will, E. Lyding "The Sestius Amphoras. A Reappraisal," JFA 6, 1979, 339-350


  1. Babcock, C. "An inscription of Trajan Decius at Cosa," AJP 83, 1962, 147-158.
  2. Manacorda, D. "Considerazioni sull'epigrafia della regione di Cosa," Athenaeum 57, 1979, 73-92
  3. Saladino, V. "Iscrizioni del territorio di Cosa," Epigraphica 39, 1977, 142-151.
  4. Scott, R. T. "A New Inscription of the Emperor Maximinus at Cosa," Chiron 11, 1981, 309-314.


  1. Brown, F.E., Zancani Montuoro, P. "Il faro di Cosa in ex-voto a Vulci?," RIA 2, 1979, 5-29.
  2. Dyson, S., 2005: "Success and failures at Cosa (Roman and American)", Journal of Roman Archaeology 18, 615-620.
  3. Fentress, E., Richardson Jr. L., Scott, R.: "Excavations at Cosa: the First Fifty Years"
  4. Fentress, E., "Introduction: Cosa and the idea of the city" in Fentress, E., ed., Romanization and the City. Creation, Transformations and Failures, Journal of Roman Archaeology supp. 38, Portsmouth, RI, 2000.
  5. Fentress, E. and Cirelli, E. "After the Rats: Cosa in the Late Empire and Early Middle Ages". In N. Christie and A. Augenti, eds., Urbes Extinctae: archaeologies of abandoned classical towns. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.
  6. Gerkan, A. von "Zur Datierung der Kolonie Cosa," in Scritti in Onore di Guido Libertini, Florence 1958, 149-156.
  7. Hesberg, H. von. "Coloniae Maritimae," RM 92, 1985, 127-150.
  8. Manacorda, D. "The Ager Cosanus and the production of the amphorae of Sestius: New evidence and a reassessment," Journal of Roman Studies 68, 1978, 122-131.
  9. Richardson Jr., L. "Cosa and Rome, Comitium and Curia," Archaeology 10, 1957, 49-55.
  10. Scott, R. T. "The decorations in terracotta from the temples of Cosa," In La coroplastica templare etrusca fra il IV e il II secolo a. C. Florence, 1992, 91-128.
  11. Scott, R. T. "The Latin colony of Cosa," DialArch 6, 1988, 73-77.
  12. Sewell, J., "Trading places? A reappraisal of the fora at Cosa," Ostraka 14, 2005, 91-114.
  13. Taylor, Rabun. "Temples and Terracottas at Cosa," American Journal of Archaeology 106.1 (2002) 59-84.
  14. Dyson, Stephen L. "Success and failures at Cosa (Roman and American)." Journal of Roman Archaeology 18 (2005) 615-20.
  15. Dyson, Stephen L. "Cosa." In A Companion to the Archaeology of the Roman Republic, edited by J. DeRose Evans, 472-484. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2013. doi: 10.1002/9781118557129.ch30[14]


  1. Brown, F. E. "Scavi a Cosa - Ansedonia 1965-6," BdA 52, 1967, 37-41
  2. Brown, F. E. "The Northwest Gate of Cosa and its Environs," Studi di antichità in onore de G. Maetzke, Rome 1984, 493-498
  3. Ciampoltrini, G. "Orbetello (Grosseto) Località Ansedonia. Ricerche sui monumenti d'età traianea e adreanea del suburbio orientale di Cosa," BA 11-12 1991
  4. Ciampoltrini, G. "Orbetello (Grosseto) La necropoli di Cosa. Ricerche e recuperi 1985-1991," BA 7, 1991, 59-73.
  5. Fentress, E., Hobart, M., Clay, T., Webb, M. "Late Roman and Medieval Cosa I: The Arx and the Structure near the Eastern Height," PBSR 59, 1991, 197-230.
  6. Fentress, E. "Cosa in the empire: the unmaking of a Roman town," Journal of Roman Archaeology 7, 1994, 208-222.
  7. Fentress, E., and Celuzza, M.G. "La Toscana centro-meridionale: i casi di Cosa - Ansedonia e Roselle." In R. Francovich and G.Noyé eds., La Storia dell'Alto Medioevo Florence 1994, 601-613
  8. Fentress, E., and Rabinowitz, A. "Excavations at Cosa 1995: Atrium Building V and a new Republican Temple," MAAR 41, 1996.
  9. Hobart, M. "Cosa - Ansedonia (Orbetello) in età medievale: da una città romana ad un insediamento medievale sparso," ArchMed 22, 1995, 569-583.
  10. Roca Roumens, M.,"Orbetello (GR) . Excavación en la insula O-P/4-5 de ciudad romana de Cosa," Notiziario della Soprintendenza per i Beni archeologici della Toscana 3,2007, 480-485.
  11. Scott, R. "The Arx of Cosa (1965-1970)," AJA 73, 1969, 245


  1. Attolini, I. et al. "Political geography and productive geography between the valleys of the Albegna and the Fiora in northern Etruria," In G. Barker and J. Lloyd, eds, Roman Landscapes, London, 142-153.
  2. Bisconti, F. "Tarda antichità ed alto medioevo nel territorio orbetellano. Primo bilancio critico," Atti del VI congresso nazionale di archeologia cristiana, Florence 1986, 63-77.
  3. Bronson, R., Uggieri, G. "Isola del Giglio, Isola di Giannutri, Monte Argentario, Laguna di Orbetello," SE 38, 1970, 201-230.
  4. Calastri, C. "L’insediamento di Portus Fenilie nell’agro Cosano." Campagna e paesaggio nell’Italia antica, Rome, 2000, 127-136
  5. Cambi, F., Fentress, E. "Villas to Castles: first millennium A.D. Demography in the Albegna Valley." In K. Randsborg, ed., The Birth of Europe, Rome, 1989, 74-86.
  6. Carandini, A. "Il vigneto e la villa del fondo di Settefinestre nel Cosano. Un caso di produzione per il mercato trasmarino," MAAR 36, 1980, 1-10.
  7. Carandini, A. ed. La romanizzazione dell'Etruria: il territorio di Vulci (catalogue of the exhibition at Orbetello, 1985), Florence 1985
  8. Carandini, A., Ricci, A. eds. Settefinestre: una villa schiavistica nell'Etruria romana, Modena 1985.
  9. Carandini, A., Settis, S. eds. Schiavi e padroni nell'Etruria romana Bari 1979
  10. Carandini, A., Cambi, F., Celuzza M.G. and Fentress, E., eds. Paesaggi d'Etruria: Valle dell'Albegna, Valle d'Oro, Valle del Chiarone, Valle del Tafone : progetto di ricerca italo-britannico seguito allo scavo di Settefinestre Roma : Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2002.
  11. Carlsen, J. "Considerations on Cosa and the Ager Cosanus," AnalRom 13, 1984, 49-58.
  12. Castagnoli, F. "La centuriazione di Cosa," MAAR 25, 1957, 149-165.
  13. Celuzza, M.G., Regoli, E. "La Valle d'Oro nel territorio di Cosa. Ager Cosanus and Ager Veientanus a confronto," DdA 1, 31-62.
  14. Ciampoltrini, G. "Un insediamento tardo-repubblicano ad Albinia," Rassegna di Archeologia 4 1984, 149-180.
  15. Ciampoltrini, G. "Una statua ritratto di età imperiale dalla foce dell'Albegna," Prospettiva 43, 1985, 43-47.
  16. Ciampoltrini, G., Rendini, P. "L'agro Cosano fra tarda antichità e alto medioevo. Segnalazione e contributi," ArchMed 15, 1988, 519-534.
  17. Del Chiaro, M. "A new late republican-early imperial villa at Campo della Chiesa, Tuscany," Journal of Roman Archaeology 2, 1989, 111-117.
  18. Dyson, S. "Settlement Patterns in the Ager Cosanus. The Wesleyan University Survey," Journal of Field Archaeology 5, 1978, 251-263.
  19. Fentress, E. 1984. "Via Aurelia - Via Aemilia," PBSR 52, 1984, 72-77.
  20. Fentress, E.- "Peopling the Countryside.: Roman Demography in the Albegna Valley and Jerba" in A. Bowman and A. Wilson, eds., Quantifying the Roman Economy. Methods and Problems. Oxford, 127-162.
  21. Manacorda, D. "Produzione agricola, produzione ceramica e proprietari nell'ager Cosanus nel I sec. a. C." In Società romana e produzione schiavistica Bari 1981, 3-54.
  22. Pasquinucci, M. 1982. "Contributo allo studio dell 'ager cosanus: la villa dei muraci a Porto Santo Stefano," SCO 32, 1982, 141 -149
  23. Quilici-Gigli, S., Quilici L. "Ville dell'agro cosano con fronte a torrette," RIA 1 1978, 11-64.
  24. Quilici-Gigli, S. "Portus Cosanus. Da monumento archeologico a spiaggia di Ansedonia," BstorArt 36, 1993, 57-63.
  25. Peacock, D.: 1977. "Recent Discoveries of Amphora Kilns in Italy," AntJ 57, 1977, 262ff.
  26. Rathbone, D. "The development of agriculture in the Ager Cosanus during the Roman Republic. Problems of evidence and interpretation," JRS 71 1981, 10-23.
  27. Uggeri, G. "Il popolamento del territorio cosano nell'antichità." In Aspetti e problemi di storia dello Stato dei presidi in Maremma, Grosseto 1981, 37-53.
  28. Vitali, D., Laubenheimer, F., "Albinia, Torre Saline (prov. Di Grosseto) Il complesso produttivo con fornaci, II-I secolo a.C.-I secolo d.C." MEFRA 116, 2004, 591-604.
  29. Vitali, D., Laubenheimer, F., Benquet, L. "La produzione e il commercio del vino nell’Etruria romana. Le fornaci di Albinia (Orbetello, GR.)" in Archeologia della vite e del vino in Etruria. Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi. Scansano, 9-10 settembre 2005, Siena 2007. 191-200.
  30. Vitali, D., ed, 2007. Le fornaci e le anfore di Albinia: primi dati su produzioni e scambi dalla costa tirrenica al mondo gallico. Atti del seminario internazionale (Ravenna, 6-7 maggio 2006). Albinia, 1.

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Harris, W., R. Talbert, T. Elliott, S. Gillies, J. Becker, , S. Gillies. "Places: 413107 (Cosa)". Pleiades. Retrieved March 7, 2012. 
  • A. Rabinowitz and E. Fentress. "EXCAVATIONS AT COSA (1991-1997), PART 2: THE STRATIGRAPHY". University of Michigan. 


  1. ^ Velleius Paterculus 1.14.7; Livy Periochae 14; Strabo 5.2.8
  2. ^ Livy 22.11.6; 27.10.8-9; 32.2.7; 33.24.8-9
  3. ^ Livy 39.55
  4. ^ 1.285-90
  5. ^ Frank Edward Brown (1980). Cosa: The Making of a Roman Town. University of Michigan Press.  
  6. ^ a b Elizabeth Fentress; John P. Bodel (2003). Cosa 5. University of Michigan Press.  
  7. ^ Elizabeth Fentress (2003). Cosa 5. University of Michigan Press.  
  8. ^ FSU Cosa Excavations
  9. ^ Pierre Grimal; G. Michael Woloch (1983). Roman Cities. Univ of Wisconsin Press. pp. 147–.  
  10. ^ David Braund; Professor of Black Sea History David Braund (27 June 2014). Augustus to Nero: A Sourcebook on Roman History, 31 BC-AD 68. Routledge. pp. 109–.  
  11. ^ Elizabeth Fentress (1994). "Cosa in the empire: the unmaking of a Roman town'". Journal of Roman Archaeology 7. pp. 208–222. 
  12. ^ Elizabeth Fentress; Enrico Cirelli (2012). Neil Christie, ed. "After the Rats: Cosa in the Late Empire and Early Middle Ages". Andrea Augenti. Farnham. 
  13. ^ Andrea Carandini; M. Rossella Filippi (1985). Settefinestre: una villa schiavistica nell'Etruria romana. Panini. 
  14. ^ Jane DeRose Evans (29 March 2013). A Companion to the Archaeology of the Roman Republic. Wiley. pp. 472–.  
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