Ancient Italic city (now Frascati) in Latium, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Rome, a favourite resort of wealthy Romans under the late republic and the empire (1st century BC4th century AD). Tusculum was a Latin settlement during the early Iron Age (early 1st millennium BC) and was probably under Etruscan influence. According to Roman tradition Octavius Mamilius of Tusculum, son-in-law Frascati.
One of the six suburbicarian (i.e. neighbouring) dioceses from an immemorial date closely related to the Roman Church. The city of Frascati is about twelve miles from Rome on the northern slopes of the Alban Hills, pleasantly and healthfully situated. Its principal source of wealth is its vineyards, which yield an excellent wine. The history of the city (population, 10,000) is bound up with that of ancient Tusculum, which, according to the legend, was founded by Telegonus, the son of Ulysses and Circe. In the kingly period Tusculum was an ally of Rome, to which it later became subject. After the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus, Octavius Manilius, the tyrant of Tusculum, and son-in-law of Tarquinius, roused the Latin communes against the Roman Republic (507 B. C.); they were routed, however, at the battle of Lake Regillus (496 B.C).
In 493 the Latin League with Rome was renewed. After the disastrous battles of Vesuvius and Trifanum (338 B. C.), Rome, in order to detach Tusculum and other towns from the Latin League, conferred on them the privilege of the highest citizenship (jus suffragii et honorum). While the other Latin towns waned steadily, Tusculum grew and became in the course of time the favourite pleasure resort of the rich Roman nobles, whose sumptuous villas were scattered over the slopes of the hill; many of them can even yet be identified among the mass of ruins. The Villa of Lucullus, now the Villa Torlonia, the most splendid of them all, was famous for its library. The Villa of Agrippina, the Villa of Claudius, and those of the Flavian emperors stood on the site of modern Frascati. That of Marcus Porcius Cato, the Censor, rose on the site now occupied by the village of Monte Porzio Catone, named therefrom. Tiberius, Julia, and Vespasian also had villas at Tusculum. The exact site of Cicero’s villa, where he wrote the Disputationes Tusculan and other works, is a matter of learned controversy. In the opinion of some it occupied the present site of the monastery of Grottaferrata; others hold that it was near the modern Villa Rufinella. A more probable opinion is that it stood on the knoll above Grottaferrata. To adorn it Cicero commissioned his friend Atticus to purchase statues in Athens, the cost of which almost ruined him financially. When he was exiled in 58 B. C. the villa was sacked, and the Consul Gabinius carried off much booty to his own house. On the top of the hill near the western gate of the old town, there are to be seen even to-day the ruins of an immense villa, discovered by Canina, who drew a plan of it; it is commonly but erroneously known as the Villa of Tiberius. The ancient town was built along the ridge of the hill, about 2000 feet above the sea-level. There remain the ruins of the Greek theatre, the fortress with megalithic walls, and an amphitheatre locally known as Scuola di Cicerone (Cicero’s School); there are also rough roads paved with huge polygonal blocks of stone, and lined with tombs, grottoes, etc. Excavations were begun by the Jesuits in 1741, and were placed by Lucien Bonaparte under the direction of Biondi and Amati in 1819; later Maria Christina of Savoy had the work carried on by Canina, who wrote a description of the discoveries. Some of the most beautiful sculptures in the Vatican Museum and elsewhere at Rome were found at Tusculum.
Among the many inscriptions found at Frascati very few are Christian, and the excavations so far show no trace of early Christianity. The basilica of the monastery at Grottaferrata, and the chapel of San Cesario, close to the modern episcopal residence, are the only Christian monuments that antedate the destruction of ancient Tusculum in 1191. Nevertheless from its very proximity to Rome, Tusculum must have received the Christian Faith at an early date. Perhaps the villa of the Acilii, a Christian family, on the site of which stands the monastery of Grottaferrata, was the cradle of Christianity for the people of Tusculum. The first known Bishop of Tusculum is Vitalianus in 680, whose subscription appears on Pope Agatho’s letter to the Sixth General Council. Being one of the suburbicarian bishops, the Bishop of Tusculum from the seventh century was bound to take his turn in replacing the pope at the functions in the Lateran; but it is not till the time of Bishop Pietro (1050) that we find the title of cardinal given to the Bishop of Tusculum. From the tenth century onwards the Counts of Tusculum exercised a preponderant influence over the Government of Rome and the papacy itself. Theophylactus, Senator of the Romans and founder of the family, was the husband of Theodora, who under Sergius III was absolute mistress of Rome, and whose daughter Marozia married Alberic I, Margrave of Camerino and Duke of Spoleto, father of Alberic II, who from 932 to 954 ruled Rome under the title of Patrician and Senator, and obtained from the Romans the assurance that after his death his son Octavian should be made pope (John XII). When John XII was deposed (963), the Counts of Tusculum yielded for a time to the Crescenzi, but their power was soon restored to them. From 1012 to 1044 three popes of the great Tusculan family succeeded one another: Benedict VIII, his brother John XIX, and their nephew Benedict IX. The Tusculan domination, it is well known, was far from creditable to the Roman Church. Benedict VIII alone has a claim to our respect (Kleinermanns, Papst Benedict VIII, in Der Katholik, 1887, II, 407, 480, 624). It was Count Gregory I, father of Benedict VIII, who gave to St. Nilus (1002) the monastery of Grottaferrata. In the conflict over Investitures between Paschal II and Henry V (1111), while Tolomeo, Count of Tusculum, was on the emperor’s side, Cardinal-Bishop Giovanni led the Roman opposition to Henry. Under Alexander III, however, Bishop Imaro sided with Antipope Victor IV, though Tusculum itself was in favour of Pope Alexander. The town also opposed the Roman Senate in its attempt to deprive the popes of their temporal power. In 1182 the Romans made war on Tusculum, whereupon Archbishop Christian of Mainz was called in by Pope Lucius III and defeated the Romans. In 1191, Henry VI recalled the German garrison from Tusculum and, as a result, the town was soon destroyed by the Romans and never regained its former prestige (Lugari, L’origine di Frascati e la distruzione di Tivoli, Rome, 1891).
Frascati, in Lazio at a short distance from Rome, is a popular daytrip destination from the capital. Frascati is one of several attractive historic hilltowns to the south-east of Rome known collectively as the Castelli Romani. Every weekend these towns, and Frascati in particular, fill up with Romans looking for a change of pace, clean air, good food and wine. Often groups of Romans will drive here just for the evening, dining at one of the many informal restaurants which serve rich regional specialties and the local white wine.
The air is noticeably fresher than in the city, and in the sweltering summer months it has always been a popular resort. The wealthy built villas here, many of which are still standing although they’re not open to the public. The most impressive is the Villa Aldobrandini, designed by Giacomo Della Porta for the nephew of a pope. This palace dominates the town, hovering above the central piazza in faded splendor. The gardens are open to the public and are free to visit – you just need to collect a permit from the tourist office first. On a weekday the grounds may be completely empty, and you can explore the terraces in solita