Town (pop., 2006 est.: 16,058), northern Lazio region, central Italy. It developed out of the ancient Tárchuna, one of the chief cities of the Etruscan confederation. It was defeated by Rome in the 4th century BCE and became a Roman colony (as Tarquinii) in the 1st century BCE. It was moved to its present site after Lombard and Saracen invasions in the 6th–8th centuries CE. In medieval times it was called Corneto. Remains of the ancient city include the foundations of a great Etruscan temple with a group of terra-cotta winged horses that is considered a masterpiece of Etruscan art. The famous necropolis contains the most important painted tombs in Etruscan Italy.
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In 358 BCE the citizens of Tarquinii captured and put to death 307 Roman soldiers; the resulting war ended in 351 with a forty years' truce, renewed for a similar period in 308. When Tarquinii came under Roman domination is uncertain, as is also the date at which it became a municipality; in 181 BCE its port, Graviscae (mod. Porto Clementino), in an unhealthy position on the low coast, became a Roman colony. It exported wine and carried on coral fisheries. Nor do we hear much of it in Roman times; it lay on the hills above the coast road. The flax and forests of its extensive territory are mentioned by classical authors, and we find Tarquinii offering to furnish Scipio with sailcloth in 195 BCE. A bishop of Tarquinii is mentioned in 456.
The original site of the Etruscan city of Tarquinia, known as the "Civita", is on the long plateau to the north of the current town. The two coexisted for most of the early middle ages, with Tarquinia dwindling to a small fortified settlement on the "Castellina" location, and the more strategically placed Corneto (possibly the "Corito" mentioned in Roman sources) growing progressively to become the major city of the lower Maremma sea coast, especially after the destruction of the port of Centumcellae (modern Civitavecchia). The last historic references to Tarquinia are from around 1250, while the name of Corneto was changed to Tarquinia in 1934. Reversion to historical place names (not always accurately), was a frequent phenomenon under the Fascist Government of Italy as part of the nationalist campaign to evoke past glories.