Cerveteri and Tarquinia as important as Athens

Vincenzo Bellelli is the new director of the Lazio Archaeological Park with special autonomy

Terracotta plate decorated in high relief with a pair of winged horses, from the temple of Ara della Regina (first half of the 4th century BC)

Basic myths about Etruscan civilization refer to Tarquinia: in its territory, a child with the wisdom of an old man would suddenly emerge from a lump of earth that revealed the “Etruscan discipline,” or the set of rules that governed their civilization. Cerveteri, on the other hand, is the Etruscan city-state most committed to the political and commercial dynamics of the Mediterranean. This important information alone makes it possible to understand the importance of the Tarquinia and Cerveteri archeological park, equipped with special autonomy and established in 2021, under the guidance of the new director Vincenzo Bellelli, who took office on 1 March.

Director, what was your course of study?
My training took place between Naples and Rome between the 80s and 90s. After graduating in classical literature with an archaeological focus at the “Federico II” University of Naples in 1991, I specialized in archeology and obtained a diploma with a dissertation on ancient Capua. Eventually I obtained my Ph.D. in archeology (Etruscanology) at Sapienza in Rome with a dissertation on what would later become one of my favorite research topics: Etruscan Corinthian imitated pottery. I would also like to mention my study experience in France, for a semester in Nancy and Strasbourg, which enriched me a lot..

Who do you consider among your teachers?
People’s lives are made up of encounters, and from this point of view, I have been very fortunate. On my formative path, I met scholars of the highest caliber, who helped me find my “path,” set me in motion scientific research, and transferred values ​​to me, which I in turn try to transfer to others. Among them, because of the enormous influence he had on me, I will above all remember Mauro Cristofani, the great Etruscan who died prematurely in 1997..

What positions have you held so far?
A large part of my career has been spent in the CNR National Research Council, where I was a researcher. I took the first steps, very young, at the glorious Institute of Etruscan-Italic Archeology. After that, after several stages, I became research manager at the Department of Cultural Heritage. I also taught Etruscanology and Italian antiques on contract for about ten years, first at the University of Palermo and then at the University “L’Orientale” in Naples. I participated in the organization of several exhibitions, the most important of which was the one dedicated to the city of Cerveteri, held in the Lens of the Louvre (2013-14).

What is the importance of Cerveteri in the Etruscan world?
Cerveteri was in a joke in the Etruscan world a bit like Athens and Corinth were in the Greek world: a capital in every sense, from a historical, economic, political and cultural point of view. A cosmopolitan metropolis that served as an interface not only between the Greek and Etruscan worlds, but also between Etruria and Rome. In addition, Carthage should be considered among its privileged interlocutors. Its centuries-old history is reflected above all in the richness of the monumental necropolis, which since 2004 has been included by Unesco along with the necropolis of Tarquinia on the World Heritage List..

And Tarquinias?
Tarquinia is a special city with many first places. The ancients considered it the religious capital of Etruria. Like the Cerveteri and Vulci, it was a thriving and powerful city-state that marked the history of the central Mediterranean. Unlike the Cerveteri, Tarquinia was a great enemy of Rome. Tarquinia is universally known for its tomb paintings, a very valuable legacy of images that allow us to draw on the Etruscan “vision of the world”.

What projects does it intend to carry out?
There is a lot of work to do. The park is a challenge that the Ministry of Culture has put an important effort on, which confirms the complex organizational structure that UNESCO had started with the recognition in 2004. An important part of my energy will be dedicated to modernizing the two archeological sites and the two museums (Cerite National Archaeological Museum and Tarquinia National Archaeological Museum, Oath) of which I have been entrusted with the management,
with the aim of making them safer, more welcoming and more attractive. I will try to do that by creating an organizational model based on collaboration and sharing. The goal is to create a competitive park “system”, with the hope that the two municipal administrations, the financial substance and the third sector will also believe and invest in the project. This project will also include Italian and foreign universities and research bodies that are already operating in the area or that intend to commit to an interdisciplinary project. As a “good family man”, I hope to improve the two places with the right balance by promoting initiatives that raise awareness of the beauty and importance of these places.

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Vincenzo Belelli

Other articles by Giuseppe M. Della Fina

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