The name Tusculum reveals an Etruscan origin, due to the fact that, in ancient times, this area, and the people who inhabited it, were conquered by the Etruscans, the civilization living in Central Italy prior to the foundation of the roman Empire. Tusculum, allied with other tribes of the Lazio area in a Latin League [ Lega Latina ], fought against Rome until 495 B.C. when the Roman armies finally defeated the League in the battle of Lake Regillo. A peace treaty was declared, by which Tuscolo was guaranteed absolute equality with Rome, administrative independence but also considered an ally in case of war and defense. Later on, towards the end of the republican period, and all through Imperial times, Tuscolo grew to become a favorite location for rich roman Patrizi [princes ], who built fancy and luxurious villas on the vast hills. The borders of the territory were expanded more and more, eventually coming to include the entire area of the Tuscolo hill and a huge space of land today occupied by the towns of Frascati, Monteporzio, Grottaferrata, and, partly, by Marino, Rocca Priora and Montecompatri [ See Tusculum ].

There is no information on the history of Tuscolo in the decaying centuries that followed the fall of the roman Empire [ 476 A.D. ]. The ancient township remained unnoticed until the eleventh century A.D., when the Conti family [otherwise known as the Counts of Tuscolo] gained a staying influence on roman affairs and Papal elections. During the contrasts between Church and State the behavior of the Conti family was fairly ambigous: in 1108, Tolomeo Conti openly rose against the authority of the Church; however, during the rebellion of 1116, when a general uproar was caused by the elections of the roman prefect, Tolomeo supported the Pope’s candidate, receiving in return the Castle of Ariccia. A complex stage of contrast and alliance with the church followed, until, during the regency of Pope Alexander III, the people of the Tuscolo area [ Tuscolani ] found themselves engaged in violent battle with Rome. After the Prata Porci battle [1167], where the Romans were defeated, the Tuscolani were finally neutralized in 1170. Under Papal control, the town was used by Pope Alexander III as his favorite residency. During this period, the Roman Senate ordered the destruction of part of the original forts and walls. From then on, Tuscolo remained under Roman control, was attacked again by Rome in 1183 and, in 1191, Romans gained the opportunity to totally demolish the city, which was one of the conditions the german King Henry the Sixth required for being crowned Emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire [ which, actually, included the whole of Western europe at the time] in the Vatican. The few survivors scattered in nearby areas.

Following this, the documentation on what happened to Tusculum are very scarce until the mid-fourteenth century, however a Papal Edict of 1228 included the territory in the domains of the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano; this powerful Basilica assigned Frascati to the rich Colonna family. In 1410, Pope Gregory XII crowned Giovanni and Niccolò Colonna Princes of various orders, including the castle of Frascati, which later, under Pope Martino V, returned property of the Capitolo Lateranense [ that is to say, back to the Church of San Giovanni ], only to be again passed to the Colonnas by order of Pope Eugene IV, and, finally, back under the definitive control of the Lateranensi. In 1508, Pope Jules II passed the feud back again to Marcantonio Colonna, husband of his niece Lucrezia Borgia della Rovere. Marcantonio Colonna, during his enlightened administration of the area, developed the various Statutes and Chapters of the Castle of Frascati, though, in 1527, this period of peace and prosperity was disturbed by the Imperial invasion, when mercenary armies sent from Central Europe sacked the whole Pontificial State, including Rome, which was severely damaged. When Marcantonio Colonna died, the town of Frascati was ruled by Pier Luigi Farnese first, then by Pope Paul III, who, by developing a reassessment program of the area, managed to enhance the town’s importance among the territories of the Lazio Vulcan.

From then on, several catholic governors, acting on the behalf of the Holy Church, brought out further architectural development and enriched the town’s legislation; in the age of Pope Sixtus the Fifth, the great S. Rocco door and town hall were built, while Clement the Eighth amended the old Colonna statute and ordered a renovation of the hydraulic system; Paul the Fifth introduced a new tax rule ( annonaria ] and, in Benedict the Thirteenth’s pontificate, governor Camillo Cybo made possible the transfer of power to the Sacred Congregation or Consulta. The town grew richer and richer with luxurious villas until the mid-eighteenth century. In Napoleon’s times, it was annexed to the Roman Republic, before going back to the Church in 1815. in 1856, the first State railtrack connected the area to central rome and the vatican. When independence came, in 1870, Frascati and the towns of the Tuscolo area were finally constituted under the new State.

Text translated by A. Srivastava from:

January, 26, 2001


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