The Italian town of Corythus, which Virgil makes the home of Dardanus and the cradle of the Trojan people (Aen. iii, 170; vii, 209; ix, 10), has long been identified with Cortona, between Arezzo and Chiusi. It is the purpose of this paper to suggest that this identification is false; in reviving an alternative suggestion, which has not been current since the Renaissance, I hope to show too that the vexed question of whether or not the story is a Virgilian innovation admits of a decisive answer. The Aeneid itself provides our earliest evidence; it is remarkable that Virgil's own topographical indications, oblique, but not obscure, should have been so completely ignored by earlier writers on the topic.
From his ancestral throne, King Latinus addresses the Trojan embassy (vii, 195 f.): ‘dicite Dardanidae (neque enim nescimus et urbem et genus, auditique advertitis aequore cursum’. He speaks of Dardanus, ancestor of Aeneas, as ‘his ortus ut agris’ (206): the old story relates that, ‘Corythi Tyrrhena ab sede profectus’ (209), Dardanus made for Samothrace, and then Troy (207 f.). The location of Latinus’ city is indeed left uncertain, but we are clearly to envisage it as standing somewhere between the Tiber mouth and Ardea. That is about 120 miles from Cortona—enough to impose a great strain on his (206). It would be far more satisfactory if we could discover a Tyrrhenian location for Corythus that was easily reconcilable with ‘his … agris’. The fama which Latinus relates is obscurior on account of anni (205) and not because the story has percolated with difficulty through the length of Etruria.