- With the greater facility of the modern road network, it is easy to take a landlocked attitude to the Italian peninsula. However, it is important to offer a complementary maritime survey of the peninsula, an approach to the peninsula that is given credence by the discovery of a shipwreck such as that of Giglio. The sea was not only key to communication, but also an important source of resources ranging from fish to salt.Our survey starts with the Gulf of La Spezia in the northwest, an embayment with a small coastal plain, flanked by the points of Portovenere (a narrow, cliffed headland) and S. Pietro. The Magra delta forms the regional context of the later Roman city of Luni, where geomorphological studies have shown considerable build-up of sediment since Roman times. The Apennines, behind this city, provided an important source of (Carrara) marble from at least classical times. From this point onward, the Apennines leave the sea, and the coast of modern Tuscany and Latium sweeps southeast for about 550 kilometers, in a series of broad bays separated by rocky headlands and promontories. Studies of the coastal strip, through a combination of archaeological and geomorphological evidence, have shown a considerable aggradation of this coastline from at least the Republican period onward, in particular in the region around the Archaic settlement of Massarossa. A series of islands (Gorgona, Capraia, Pianosa, Elba, Giglio) lie off the coast, providing both important landmarks and, to judge from the number of later shipwrecks, problems for shipping (although Etruscan shipwrecks have only been found off Giglio and Elba).There is a beach-fringed plain that widens to accommodate the mouth of the Arno River. This is succeeded by a rocky section that is in its turn interrupted by the mouth of the smaller Cecina River. To the south of here, after entering the Maremma, there is the striking promontory of Piombino, which is a projection of the Colline Metallifere, with the island of Elba beyond. The bay of Baratti, which served the city of Populonia, was important, as indicated by the quantity of shipwrecks, which are mainly of later date. Once the landmark of the Piombino promontory has been passed, one enters the major embayment of Follonica, drained by the Cornia River. This is followed in turn by another promontory (Punta Ala), a site of potential danger for ships, and the more ample plain of Grosseto, which in Etruscan times would have been lagoonal in character behind sandbars; this is, in part, the delta of one of the major rivers of Tyrrhenian Italy, the Ombrone. At this point the hills again project into the sea at Talamone, before opening once more into the Albegna Valley. At the southern edge of the valley, mariners would see from some distance the promontory of Monte Argentario, attached to the mainland by two tombolos (sand bars) containing a lagoon behind them. To the south, there is a 50-kilometer, broader plain of beach backed by sand hills that reach up to 10 kilometers inland and down to the mouth of the Mignone River, which contains the mouth of the Fiora River as well as smaller streams, lagoons, and salt pans. At the site of the Roman and modern Civitavecchia, the mineral-bearing Tolfa hills come down to the sea, fringed by cliffs and pebble beaches. After this important promontory landmark and political boundary, the coastal plain again widens for some 60 kilometers, often behind sand dunes and marshland, which shield the tuff volcanic plains from the sea. The coastline at Santa Severa, not far from the Archaic sanctuary port of Pyrgi, would have been another nodal zone of ancient shipping activity. To the south, the delta of the Tiber has extended quite considerably seaward from Roman Ostia since Etruscan times (in this instance, most prominently since 1500 AD), and volcanic tuffs behind the delta have also become more eroded.
Historical Dictionary of the Etruscans. Simon K. F. Stoddart.
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