Gaius Julius Solinus cites Cato the Elder’s lost Origines for the story that the city was founded by Catillus the Arcadian, a son of Amphiaraus, who came there having escaped the slaughter at Thebes, Greece. Catillus and his three sons Tiburtus, Coras, and Catillus drove out the Siculi from the Aniene plateau and founded a city they named Tibur in honor of Tiburtus. According to a more historical account, Tibur was instead a colony of Alba Longa. Historical traces of settlement in the area date back to the 13th century BC. The city’s name may share a common root with the river Tiber and the Latin praenomen Tiberius.
In the city there was also a Jewish community.
From the 16th century the city saw further construction of villas. The most famous of these is the Villa d’Este, a World Heritage Site, whose construction was started in 1550 by Pirro Ligorio for Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este and which was richly decorated with an ambitious program of frescoes by famous painters of late Roman Mannerism, such Girolamo Muziano, Livio Agresti (a member of the “Forlì painting school”) or Federico Zuccari. In 1527 Tivoli was sacked by bands of the supporters of the emperor and the Colonna, important archives being destroyed during the attack. In 1547 it was again occupied, by the Duke of Alba in a war against Paul IV, and in 1744 by the Austrians.
In 1835 Pope Gregory XVI added the Villa Gregoriana, a villa complex pivoting around the Aniene’s falls. The “Great Waterfall” was created through a tunnel in the Monte Catillo, to give an outlet to the waters of the Aniene sufficient to preserve the city from inundations like the devastating flood of 1826.
In 1944 Tivoli suffered heavy damage under an Allied bombing, which totally destroyed the Jesuit Church of Jesus. Tivoli’s reputation as a stylish resort and the fame of the gardens of the Villa d’Este have inspired the naming of other sites after Tivoli.
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