Portait of Ersilia Caetani Lovatelli. Courtesy of L. Nicotra.
Oval portrait of Ersilia Caetani Lovatelli. Courtesy of L. Nicotra.

Ersilia Lovatelli

Born in Rome to an aristocratic family in 1840, Ersilia Caetani became an expert on ancient Rome and most particularly its history. She mastered Greek, Latin and Sanskrit, and in 1859 she married Giacomo Lovatelli, a Roman patrician, became a contessa, and lived in the Palazzo Lovatelli. In 1854 she became an honorary member of the esteemed Institute of Rome (Instituto di Correspondenza di Roma) and the German Archaeological Institute. We have to remember that she lived in a time and place before the science of Italian archaeology was established, and she was the first woman member of the National Academy of Lincei, becoming the most important archaeologist of her time. In 1879 her husband died and Lovatelli continued to be actively engaged in Roman research. She published many works with illustrations of Roman life, including ancient Roman dress, inscriptions, legends, circuses, Eleusian mysteries, tomb inscriptions, works of ancient poets and philosophers, mosaics, the topography of ancient Rome, cults, rites and festivals, ancient Roman private life, popular traditions, children’s’ games, pagan and Christian burial practices, matrimony and divorce. She was also interested in philological issues and wrote about archaeological field techniques. She fostered a salon of the most celebrated artists and intellectuals of that time who gathered together and shared their ideas at her palazzo. These included notables like Stendhal, Balzac Gogol, Liszt, and Niebhur, The contessa Ersilia Caetani Lovatelli died in 1925.

Author of biography: L. Nicotra
Includes bibliography? Yes

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Keywords: Ashby, Boisser, Bonghi, Bucheler, Carducci, Contessa,, D’Annunzio, De Rossi, Eleusian mysteries, Egyptologist, epigraphy, Ersilia Caetani Lovatelli, Fabretti, Friedlander, Giacomo Lovatelli, Gatti, G. B. De Rossi, German Archaeological Institute, Greek, Gregorovius, G. Tomassetti, Ignazio Guidi, Henzen, Institute of Rome, inscriptions, Instituto di Correspondenza di Roma, Italian archaeology, Italy, Lanciani, Latin, Lenormont, Mahoffy, Michelanglo Caetani, Mommsen, mosaics, National Academy of Lincei, Palazzo Lovatelli, Peterson, Pigorini, poets, Pope Boniface VIII, philosophers, Piazza Campitelli, Ravenna, Renan, Roman life, Roman cults, Roman rites, Roman festivals, ancient Roman private life, Roman popular traditions, Roman children’s games, Roman paganism, Roman tomb inscriptions, Christian burial practices, matrimony and divorce. Rome, salon, Sanskrit, Scott, Stendhal, Balzac Gogol, Liszt, Niebhur, Nigra, topography of ancient Rome. University of Halle, Via Appia, Zola.

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Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists
Published by the University of Michigan Press, 2004