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