Tusculum is a hill of the Castelli Romani which was one of the pulsating hearts of local history for over a millennium. It began as an Etruscan centre (all the first kings of Rome were Etruscan) and then became an important Roman centre and ended its cycle as a bulwark of the family of the powerful Counts of Tusculum in the Middle Ages. It was destroyed in 1191.
The mountain of volcanic origin was part of the same group as the lakes of Albano and Nemi, the craters of two volcanoes, and was so under the eyes of everyone with its 670 meters of height to be forgotten for centuries.
The origins of Tusculum are lost in the legend that attributes its foundation to Telegono, the mythical son of Ulysses and of Sorceress Circe. What is certain is that the first traces of human settlements date back to the Middle Bronze Age, around the fourteenth century BC. and in the area of the Castelli Romani Park there are Etruscan necropolis.
Over a short period, the town, Tuscolo, became one of the most important cities of the Latin League, which fiercely opposed expansionism of the power of Rome, from which it was, however, beaten in the famous battle of Lake Regillo of 496 BC.
Now under the dominion of Rome, Tuscolo became a favourite summer residence of emperors, senators and famous writers, inaugurating a tradition that lasts to the present day. Among the most famous villas, there are those of Silla Cicerone, Lucullo, Tiberio and Matidia.
On the stones of the Forum and of the Theatre again echo the steps of the great Cicero, who lived and worked for a long time at Tusculum along with other great protagonists of the past. Perhaps just along the path of the ancient Via Sacra. The Roman Theatre of Tuscolo was built around 75 B.C. and, after a long silence that has gone for two millennia, it has received recent activity by archaeologists and tourists.
The amphitheatre is located about two kilometers lower than the Roman Theatre and occupies the upper end of a small valley immersed in the vegetation of what was once the Sacred Grove. This was the wood where there were times dedicated to the Goddess Diana (Nemi) and to Jupiter (Monte Cavo) and the sacred tree that could only be touched by the priest (rex) of the time of Diana. According to legend here was one of the gates of the Underworld.
The second great moment of splendor of Tusculum occurred between the tenth and twelfth centuries when this was the centre of the powerful family of the Counts of Tusculum who practically reigned over the countryside of Rome and the city according to the formula of the ‘family papacy’.
In practice, to avoid the consequences of the rule of Otto I (King of Germany, King of Italy and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) Pope John XII was elected who was Ottaviano of the Counts of Tuscolo son of Alberico of Rome.
For the first time, this pope was reuniting both spiritual and temporal power even though his lifestyle was very ‘temporal’: he loved luxury and debauchery so much that he was declared lapsed of his pontificate. After a fight he returned to power but died at the age of 27 probably killed by a husband who had caught him ‘in flagrante’ with his wife.
The Counts of Tusculum then supported the empire and the decay began in 1167 with the defeat in the battle of Prataporci, or battle of Monte Porzio, of their troops together with those of Federico Barbarossa. The city was then be finally destroyed in 1191.