The Propertius Towers in Spello, and the mystery of a poet’s birth

Le Torri di Properzio, a Spello - The Propertius Towers in Spello

The Propertius Towers in Spello dominate the sides of Porta Venere. They are named after the great elegiac Latin poet Propertius, whose place of birth remains a mystery: up until about a century ago, there were almost a dozen towns claiming he was born there, including Assisi, Perugia, Foligno, Spoleto…

…and Spello, of course, on the basis of some ruins of a house that was traditionally known as “Poet’s Home”, and had the name Propertius engraved on a tumular stone (which later turned out to be counterfeit).

Thus, in the absence of any incontrovertible evidence, the name of these magnificent, medieval-origin dodecahedral towers (which are cylindrical inside) became a sort of declaration that the town was Propertius’s place of birth – although the poet only ever mentioned the region in general as his homeland: Umbria […] / me genuit terris fertilis uberibus ( Umbria […] a fertile land of rich fields, bore me.)

The two towers helped travelers recognize the city door named after the goddess of love:
The moon lights his way, stars reveal the ruts, / Love himself strikes ahead with lit torches. / The savage rage of dogs averts its gaping jaw: / […] Venus herself becomes companion to the excluded (Propertius, “Elegies” III, 16).

Photos via: ©Silvio Belletti

January 13, 2016

The Propertius Towers in Spello, and the mystery of a poet’s birth

Spello (Pg)
Porta Venere