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

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

Spello (Pg)
Porta Venere

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