Dedicated to my children, Anthony, Julie and Victor and all the
Capistrano descendents around the world.
The following chapter
has been quoted from the book,
FROM CALABRIA: DISCOVERING THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF MY CALABRIAN
by award-winning author, Michael Caputo. The book
details many enthralling events in the history of Calabria,
a magical Region in Southern Italy, all the
way back to the sixth century B.C. THE COIN FROM CALABRIA is a very
enlightening book for people who find their roots in Calabria,
that want to know more about their ancestors' history.
It is also enlightening for anyone who is interested in exotic
lands and cultures.
The book may be
bought from the following merchants:
(Canada) Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom) and
Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom) and
available on Barnesandnoble.com and ebay.com
COIN FROM CALABRIA
DISCOVERING THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF MY CALABRIAN PEOPLE
ROCCA ANGITOLA: OUR MOTHER BEFORE CAPISTRANO
Looking down toward
the distant Mediterranean from atop the various hills that rise on either
side of the Angitola Valley, the onlooker’s eyes are met, in the distance,
with a mountain that blocks the view to most of the blue sea which hides
behind it. This is the Angitola Mountain, a sacred place for thousands of
people who live in the various towns that rest atop these hills.
Over the centuries,
a great many parents that have lived in these small towns have accepted the
sacred duty of passing on to their children the precious truth that all of
us originate from that distant location. My mother embraced that duty as
well, many years ago, and, when she thought that I was old enough to
understand the concept of origins, she, like her mother or father had done
before her, passed on to me the precious knowledge that our people, long
time ago, had come from La Rocca Angitola (The Angitola Fortress).
It was not
difficult for her to reinforce history with geography. From my house one
only had to look out of our kitchen balcony and, on the left, there was the
Angitola Mountain and, adjacent to it, the stunning, blue Mediterranean.
She must have
repeated the historical lesson more than once, as it was chiseled in my mind
and it has indelibly stayed with me since those distant days. In fact, for
decades, if anyone would have asked me what was my greatest longing, the
answer would have been, “To climb the Rocca Mountain and visit the city
where my ancestors came from.”
Because there were
no pictures or videos of the Rocca available to me in those days, I felt the
need to create a mental image of what the ruins may have looked like.
Strangely, my mental images were not of majestic ruins, but of a few
dilapidated walls and scattered rocks in the green grass. The fact that my
mental image of the city was not that impressive did not really matter to
me. The Rocca was the mother of all the towns in our area and I needed to
imagine something of my ancient mother, like an orphan needs to imagine his
own mother, though the image is only a creation.
With the advent of
the Internet and Google Earth, in particular, I tried to search for the
city, looking from the sky for signs of ruins, but in vain. Finally my
relative and friend from back home, Pino La Serra, who had visited the
fortress, circled the area where it was located on a picture shot from above
with Google Earth and sent it to me.
His help made it
clear that the reasons I was not able to find it were twofold: first of all,
I had been looking in the wrong location and, secondly, the remains of the
ancient city are barely visible.
In 2008 I casually
searched the name, “Rocca Angitola,” on the Internet and, to my joyful
surprise, a site appeared which documented the pilgrimage of several people
from nearby towns to the Rocca. The site also showed beautiful pictures of
the ruins of the city and, finally, my eyes looked for the very first time
at what for decades had been only a fantasy.
To my amazement,
the place was much bigger than I had thought and the remains were clearly
more impressive than the scattered rocks and the few barely visible walls I
La Rocca Angitola
is the mother of thousands of inhabitants of several towns in the area. The
people of Francavilla, Filadelfia, Polia, Monterosso, Capistrano, San
Nicola, Filogaso and Maierato have their roots in that walled city, on that
mountain which sheltered and protected our ancestors for thousand of years.
It was a city that
through its agonizing history saw little peace and much anguish. It’s the
city that we, its children need to learn more about. We also have to accept
the sacred duty to pass on that knowledge to our children, as our parents
have done through the centuries.
The following are
some of the main events I have uncovered in my long search . These are some
of the major happenings that befell our ancestors who lived in that city
over many centuries that we need to know and pass on to future generations.
The Rocca Angitola is circled in red,
in the middle of the picture. This is the location where most of our
ancestors came from, before they settled in the Capistrano area. The
was takes from the mountain adjacent to
Capistrano. The Mediterranean can be seen in the distance.
Very few courageous and adventurous souls
dare to tackle the challenge of climbing the steep incline which leads to
the Rocca Fortress. The very few that do, after walking through the almost
inpenetrable vegetation and the unforgiving thorny vines, will finally be
rewarded with a first-hand look at what today is an ancient ghost town. Most
of the buildings are nothing but ruins. Some churches and the castle have a
few walls standing. What used to be bustling city streets today are a sea of
thick bushes and ever-present thorns.
The fortress city did not simply
deteriorate because of age. The roofs and walls did not simply cave in for
lack of care. The Rocca was totally destroyed by the cataclysmic earthquakes
of 1783 which, as discussed elsewhere, destroyed upwards of 200 Calabrian
cities and towns. But, unlike the other locations, the Rocca had already
been officially declared abandoned and uninhabited on February 2, 1772 by
Giorgio Pirrone, a Notary Public from the nearby city of Pizzo Calabro, with
the witness of several people who had accompanied him to the location. The
document, which was written and testified to by the group, states that they
had found only four small houses in liveable condition and that these few
remaining dwellings had been abandoned and had been emptied of any
The document also records that the last
inhabitants had left after the night of January 21, 1771, when some
criminals had gone into the area and had killed a man by the name of
Giuseppe Bova and wounded another man by the name of Martino Curigliano. The
terrified leaders of the four remaining families decided that it was time to
abandon the Rocca and move to “locations with a lot of inhabitants, and to
run from that desert, where they continually see themselves harmed and
assailed by such criminals and assassins.”
Ten years before, in 1762, fifteen people
plus the priest were still living in the city.
A document drafted by the Notary Public, Francesco Salomone, states that six
inhabitants had spoken highly of their priest, Pasquale Malerba, who for six
years had looked after the spiritual needs of the people of the area. The
priest would live in the Rocca only from November to June. In the summer
months, he resided in the nearby Plains of the Scrisi from where he returned
on Sundays and holy days to celebrate Mass.
In March of that year, six criminals
approached the people of the area and asked if the priest was a man of
means. The six inhabitants, having understood their devious intents, warned
the priest and advised him to leave the area and move to Pizzo where he
would have been safer.45
Giuseppe Greco, the foremost historian of
the Rocca, informs us that the three bells from the Santa Maria della
Cattolica Church were transported to nearby Maierato and where they were
placed in the bell tower of the main church.
The precious crucifix, called commonly,
“The Father of the Rocca,” was brought to the church of San Giorgio in
nearby Pizzo Calabro where it is worshiped to this very day.
But why was such a place abandoned after so
many years of tortuous and heroic history? The main reason appears to have
In the late 1600, a priest by the name of
Martire wrote about the Rocca’s already deplorable condition and the cause
of the same.
“It had been a good land, all walled with
towers…now, as I saw it in the year 1691, on the occasion of the visit it
was all in ruin, with few homes still standing and with very few people,
there were only 50 souls and the thorns from the grasses almost fully
covered it, being uninhabited because of malaria, caused by that river, even
though abounding in trouts and eels.
Even before, in the late 1500’s, the
ancient Calabrian writer, Marafioti, had called the air of the area, “most
No doubt he was referring to the malaria causes by the mosquitoes which
abounded in the area.
The modern historian, Giuseppe Greco, is
also of the view that over the centuries the Angitola River nearby was the
cause of the malaria.
(The Angitola River) …flowing rapidly down
the mountains carried wood, sand and mud, which creating an obstacle for the
flowing water, gave way, with the passing of time, to a swamp which, with
the appearance of the summer’s heat infected the air all around, causing
deterioration in agriculture and tormenting fevers in the population.
The great earthquakes of 1638 and 1659 had
also done their part to bring the Rocca to its eclipse. According to a
writer of the time, Lutio D’orsi, who visited the area after the 1638
earthquake, 33 houses had been destroyed, as was the upper part of the
castle, but there were no deaths.
Less destructive was the earthquake of 1659
when only eight houses were damaged, as was the Church of Santa Maria della
All of the above events marked the
inglorious end of a city which had survived centuries of invasions and
natural disasters and which had been one of the most strategically important
locations in Calabria.
Unlike the previous two earthquakes, the
earthquakes of 1783 were unforgiving and totally wiped out the city and, in
so doing, they erased a long era which had been a part of my history and of
the history of so many others living in the surrounding towns and thousands
more living on foreign lands.
Remains of the protective wall which surrounded the
Rocca Fortress, seen from below.
The declining years going from the early
1600 to the late 1700 were preceded by abundant and peaceful years.
We are fortunate to have descriptions of the
area from some of the best known Calabrian historians of the past, who paint
a mental picture of a land rich in both agriculture and commerce.
The first Calabrian writer to describe the
area was Gabriele Barrio, who wrote the first historical work on Calabria
titled, De Antiquitate et Situ Calabriae, written in classical Latin.
In this work Barrio describes a productive
and prosperous location.
Then there is the Angitola Fortress in an
elevated area, and the river by the same name, navigable, filled with fish
and rich with trouts and eels. …Every year there is a famous Fair…In this
location they grow sesame, and cotton, they extract marble, and in the
internal areas one can also find sandstone; the salicaceae trees grow
there... In this territory abound birds and game.
Another Calabrian writer, Marafioti, in the
1500’s gives us a similar description of the area.
All the territory of the Rocca abounds in
perfect wheat, sandstone, and there are marble cliffs…In the area near the
river they grow sesame plants…In the country one can find various birds, and
in particular partridges, pheasants and other birds of value.
According to other documents of the time,
the area produced an abundance of wheat, rye, fave beans, chickpeas, beans,
flax, oil and wine.
It was, in short, an area where the people could satisfy their basic needs
and leave in relative prosperity.
Remains of an
ancient church in the Rocca Angitola fortress
Southern Italy was divided
between the Spanish and the French on November 2, 1500. Unfortunately, this
deal was followed by a war between the two powers which was won by the
Spanish in 1503, at the battle of Seminara and later at Melfi, Garigliano
One of the French military leaders found
safety in the Rocca Angitola, after his defeat at Seminara in 1503.
While there, he was surrounded by the French. After a siege of an unknown
length, the Spanish invited him to surrender and, once convinced that he and
his family would have received safe conduct, he finally came out.
We do not know if any or much much blood was spilled during the siege which
preceded the surrender.
The nobles who owned the Rocca in those days
were the Princes Alfonso and Honorato di Sanseverino, who participated in
the war on the side of the French. They were captured and imprisoned until
September 14, 1506, when they were finally released, but were spoiled of
The member of the Spanish nobility who was
rewarded with the Rocca was Diego de Mendoza, a member of a rich, noble
Spanish family, for having fought bravely on the Spanish side at Barletta.
During this time southern Italy was governed
by a Viceroy. Unfortunately, during this time southern Italians were forced
by the nobles to do unpaid work and they were treated like servants or
Taxation became oppressive and abuse
abounded. As Greco reminds us, the time of the Spanish rule, “represents
the saddest period of our history. From documents of the time we can garner
acts of ferocity, oppression, and violence.”
During this time, brigands also oppressed
the Calabrian people. They controlled roads and exacted a tribute for their
use. This was also the case in the area of the Rocca where, according to
tradition, a man by the name of San Bartolo was skinned alive simply because
he could not pay the required amount.60
The population of the Rocca reached a
sizeable number in those days. By 1561, 275 families lived in the Rocca,
from only 141 in 1532.
Since families were composed of several members in those days, we can
surmise that in 1561 the actual population of the city may have been between
one to two thousands.
Their life, though, was not easy, given the
oppressive Spanish rule.
An aerial, Google Earth view of the Rocca Angitola
(Top-middle circled in blue) area and the Scrisi Plains (La Piana degli
Scrisi) where our ancestors worked the land for hundreds of years,
before moving to the Capistrano area. (Provided by Pino La Serra)
Though the 1500’s had been years of
tyranny, the previous two centuries were not any better.
A few nobles controlled all of Calabria and
they ruled their possessions as kings would have. They had judicial control
and could impose any tax they wanted. If the taxed could not afford to pay,
they were imprisoned or their possessions were taken away.[62
In 1442, when Alfonso V “The Magnanimous”
became king over Naples, the Aragonian rule over southern Italy began. He
replaced the previous taxes imposed by the previous ruler with a new tax
named “Focatico” which demanded ten Carlini form each family in the Kingdom.
A salt tax was also added which brought the total amount to 15 Carlini. The
taxes had to be paid in three amounts, paid at Christmas, Easter and in
The feudal lords continued to
oppress Calabria and the Rocca people. In 1492, after the Camponeschi family
rule ended and the Sanseverino family took over the area, the inhabitants of
the Rocca bemoaned the oppression of their previous Lord who had forced them
to pay 60 Tomoli of wheat per year and compelled them to use their mills
with payment. Because the mills had become property of the King, they
appealed to him to end the oppression.
In 1495 the area ended in the hands of the
Count of Belcastro and the Roccans were forced to swear allegiance to him.
It is during the early 1400’s that the name
Rocca Angitola replaced the old name, “Rocca Niceforo.” In 1423 we are
informed by documents of the time that the possessions of Giovanni
Caracciolo included an area called Rocca Niceforo.
Not long after, the kingly order of October 7, 1425 to the Count of Buccino
referred to the same location as, “Roccangitola”
In 1429, Queen Giovanna II gave as
possession to Antonio de Camponeschis the area called, “Rocca Angitola.”
Thus, amidst all the oppression and abuse,
the new name for the fortress emerged and became entrenched into history to
Little has come to us from the 1300’s,
except for the fact that the Lauria family became the undisputed rulers of
the Rocca. Documents of the start of the century (soon after 1302) reveal
that the city belonged to the Grand Admiral, Ruggero di Lauria, a military
leader who had been involved in many battles of the time.
In 1310 the city became property of
Ruggero’s son, Carlo, and in 1313 it became the property of Berengario,
Carlo’s brother. Afterwards, the new Lord of the area was the Count Arrigo
Sanseverino Di Marsico, who married Maria di Lauria, the last inheritor of
the Admiral Ruggero, mentioned above. The city was part of Maria’s dowry.
Going back into the 1200’s, what sheds
light on who ruled the area is a document from Sulmona, in Abbruzzi, dated
September 2, 1275. This document “offers a long list of various feudal lords
and a precise picture of the Calabrian nobility of the times.”71
The fourth lord listed in the document is
Giovanni di Rocca (Giovanni from Rocca), as the possessor of a location in
the Rocca territory, named “Ammirato.” This location had been given to him
by the King, on January 16, 1266. (Carlo…having seen, therefore, with how
much fervour and fidelity and with how much readiness of devotion was
demonstrated by Giovanni from Rocca Niceforo, in the running of the affairs
of the Kingdom of Sicily, and wanting to give a special favour to Giovanni,
we have desired to give, in perpetuity, to the above-mentioned Giovanni and
to his inheritors the feudal area named Ammirato, found in Rocca Niceforo.”
In the same catalogue, other people are
mentioned who also owned lands “within” the Rocca territory, such as
Raimondo di Contissa, Rogerio Caracza, Palmerio picinna and Agnesia,
daughter of Rainaldo Senice.
The population of Rocca Niceforo in 1276
was 1228 inhabitants, according to the calculations done by Giuseppe Pardi
in 1921, based on the records of taxation of the time.
According to Pardi, the population of my
town that same year was 343. Nearby, Castel Monardo had a population of 783,
Vallelonga had reached a population of 1371.
In the Acta Imperii of 1206, it is
confirmed that two hamlets in the territory of Rocca Niceforo were given to
Guido di Chiaromonte, by the King of Sicily, because of the “ardour of his
devotion and the grateful services…” that he had demonstrated toward the
THE BLESSED NORMAN PERIOD
The Norman period was one of the most
positive times for the area. The Normans, led by Roger and Robert Hauteville
made it their task to free Southern Italy from the Saracen scourge. After
freeing Palermo on January 10, 1072, Robert left the conquest of the rest of
Sicily to his brotherwhich he accomplished thanks to his highly mobile army.
He defeate the brutal Saracens and delivered Calabria from their
scourge. As the Byzantines before them, they too recognized the strategic
importance of the Rocca Fortress and Count Roger (Ruggero), as we are
informed by Count Roger’s biographer and great admirer,
the Benedectine monk, Geoffrey (Goffredo ) Malaterra, fortified it
with towers and bastions. “He, in truth, strengthened, with the utmost care,
with towers and bastions the fortress named Nicefora and provided it with
In time, Roger turned the fortress into a critical bastion of defense.
In the year 1130 with the formation of the
Regnum Siciliae, (The beautiful Kingdom) as was referred to by some
historians, “a new era began, an era of fervour, of peace and of work.”
Historian Giuseppe Greco describes the
period as follows:
The Normans gave
to Southern Italy an atmosphere of serenity and of peace, after the scary
nightmares unleashed by the Saracens.
On the lands of
Calabria rose a dawn of awakening, of enthusiasm, of activity.
The cities started
re-flourishing in the arts and in wealth. Churches and castles rose, among
which was the one known as Rocca Niceforo, and around the castles rose the
hamlets which had been destroyed by the Saracens.
It is during this time the Calabrian Church
that previously depended from the Eastern Church, moved under the control of
the Roman Church. Tithes (Ten percent of one’s income) were paid to the new
spiritual overseer. The tithe was divided into four parts. One part went to
the Bishop, one part went to the clerics, one part went to the poor, and one
part was assigned to the building of churches.
The preceding period revolved around the
arrival of perhaps the most cruel invaders ever to step on Calabrian soil:
The Saracens. This was a period of great anxiety, not only for the
people of the Rocca, but for all of Calabria and many parts of southern
The Battle of Cerami, Roger I of Sicily
at the battle of Cerami, Sicily (1063),
in which, he was victorious against
a large Saracen army.
THE BRUTAL DEMONS: THE SARACENS
Around the year 800 AD, Sicily had been
overrun by Saracens, a fierce Arabic tribe bent on conquest and expansion.
Once the island had been conquered, they were ready to attempt an invasion
of the toe of the Italian peninsula, as a precursor to an invasion of all of
With unparalleled persistence, they captured
Calabrian centres like the formidable fortress of Santa Severina, on the
Sila Mountains, and other cities on the Western side of
Calabria, such as Tropea and Amantea, both
not very far from my area.
My people lived just about one hundred
kilometres north of the straight of Messina. Day-time or night-time
incursions were easy, since my people had settled in an area where the high
rocky, almost unconquerable cliffs of Southern Calabria, ended and the
undefended, easily accessible beaches began. In fact, the mouth of the
Angitola River would have offered a
perfect spot where small ships could go inland and where the Saracens could
land without the interference of high waves.
My people’s only protection was the fortress
on the nearby mountain on the south side of the Angitola
River. But the attacks were
frequent and sudden. The anxiety and horror of the brutal and horrifying-
looking Saracens drove many to move inland to various locations east of the
coast. These small groups were the origins of the people who gave rise to
the towns of Maierato, Filogaso, Capistrano, Monte Rosso, Polia, Francavilla,
San Nicola, Castel Monardo and finally Filadelfia.
But many other courageous souls would not
move away from the safety of the fortress. The stunning beauty of the
Mediterranean, the rich soil nearby, the fish-rich sea and river were hard
In the meantime, Capistrano and the various
other hamlets of the area developed and grew. The land proved ideal for
olive groves, vines and fruit trees. The strong, rugged people cut terraces
into the sides of the hills and found the land to be ideal for growing
vegetables as well. The plateau on the mountain behind the town was perfect
for wheat. Forests abounded all around. The future bode well for them -- or
so they thought. In reality future,
brutal events would have dashed their hopes and dreams in the not-so-distant
The whole area was
about to face one of the most dangerous periods they had ever faced. The
predators from the sea, were readying to bring their brand of horror to all
of Calabria and to
my area in particular.
Calabrian historian, Rosario Chimirri, describes those days with absorbing
Starting from the centuries preceding and
following the tormented year 1000, the exodus which had already began from
the coast became almost total and the region underwent a true systematic
pillaging on the part of the Saracens. The incursions originated almost
always from the sea…with raids in the most fertile areas abounding with
pasturing sheep. The pirates, who attacked with rapidity and surprise, would
arrive from the bases already conquered on the coast (Tropea, Amantea) even
though there was no lack of expeditions coming from nearby Sicily and
sometimes even from Africa.
The populations, terrified by these evermore
uncontrollable events, would distance themselves…finding refuge in the hilly
and mountainous areas of the interior, which, beside offering them greater
protection, would have guaranteed also an economic renewal, because of the
healthier environments and natural characteristics more appropriate for
people dedicated to working the land and to sheep farming. Thus are born
small centres on high cliffs in the most inaccessible areas…easy to control
and defend from where vast horizons would stretch out, useful in spying the
movement of the terrible predators.
The population within these new communities,
that often arose in the proximity of a fortress-castle, felt safe and more
protected but, at the same time, it also meant moving towards a closed and
limited way of life, limited by its heights, by endemic malaria and by the
Saracen menace, phenomena that restricted the economy reducing it to
primitive agro-pastoral forms and opening the way to a long and heavy
The lands near the fortress would be
deforested. New spaces were created to dedicate to agriculture and to sheep
farming… Work rhythms were fast-paced. At dawn the men would leave the
fortress to the nearby fields or to bring the animals to the fields, with
the constant fear, though, of a sudden attack that would take them by
historian, G. Brasacchio, also captures the anxiety of the times in the
The insecurity made the tribulations of the
labour more bitter: the feverish anxiety accelerated their steps; the need
to produce the essentials forced the farmers to give to the land abundant
physical energy dedicating as few hours as possible outside the fortress or
the fortified city. The straining race outside the walls, to the exhausting
and hasty work was followed by rest within the fortified area. Therein they
waited for the morning with the hope that the Saracens had afforded them
another day of respite; the far away sea and the sky were scanned carefully;
they read the winds and the clouds. It was the hope that…the tempests had
kept away the pirate’s ships. But when in the long summers, and sometimes in
the mild winters, the sky and the sea of Calabria would show
themselves in all their mythic splendour, the hope weakened and the fear of
the next arrival of the hordes would transform itself into certainty...[84
The year 950 the Saracens finally unleashed
their fury on the Rocca Fortress. They surrounded its high walls and, after
an unknown period of time, they were somehow able to poison the fortress’
drinking water and were finally able to conquer it.
Some inhabitants of the Rocca escaped; others were killed or taken as
The Saracens went on to also attack the
eighteen hamlets dependent on the Rocca, in the nearby valleys, which were
not fortified. They killed, maimed and then kidnapped as many people as they
could. Historian, Giovanni Manfrida, describes the tragic times as follows:
The Saracen attacks became very intense
starting the year 948, when the new Emir, Hasan, who proposed, together with
help from the African
Califf , Farhang Mahaddet, to exterminate the Calabrian cities, to punish
them for the missing tribute of the Byzanthines and for having received news
of an expedition against them of the militia of Emperor Constantine
Even the village of
Capistrano was invaded, according to…Ilario Tranquillo, in whose work… La
Rientegra del Principe di Mileto del 1474, which, among other topics,
reminds us of the destruction caused by the Saracens in 950, when all that
would have brought them gain was taken away and many inhabitants were killed
and many others were taken away in chains; the men to be sold as slaves and
the young women for their harems.
Once the destruction was almost complete and
the lucrative young men and women were captured, they chained them and
forced them to walk back to the coast. Down they stumbled inside the rugged,
stony path of the river that flowed toward the coast. And then the gruelling
walk down the valley; the incomprehensible commands; the pushing and
punching; the stumbling and falling; the agonizing pain on the bare-naked
feet; the horror…
After the seemingly never-ending trek, they
approached the edge of the mountain where the Rocca Fortress was located.
One more hope: maybe the Rocca people would have come to their rescue. They
looked at the Rocca from the distance and hoped. Unfortunately, as they
approached, it became painfully clear that the Rocca Fortress had also been
attacked and conquered and that many of its inhabitants may have also been
captured and, like them, may have been taken as
By now their anguish must have been
multiplied by the thought that their relatives and friends that had chosen
to stay behind in the Rocca may have been killed or may have been taken as
In fact, that event was a holocaust for my
people, since, not only was my village and the Rocca attacked, but as
already mentioned, seventeen other hamlets and villages which had been
begotten by the people from the Rocca had been attacked as well. Both the
mother and its children had been violated by the brutal invaders. The year
950 would have become an unforgettable year of darkness for them and their
Without doubt some distraught parents
followed from the distance, hiding behind bushes and trees, as their beloved
sons and daughters were being forcefully taken away. From their hiding
places they could behold the crowded beaches, and their children being
forced onto small, menacing ships. They looked on the agonizing spectacle…
speechless. They heard the last screams of horror. They may have
witnessed the last agonizing struggles and the last abuses. Then the
powerful sails rose, as the ships started crawling out to sea and south
toward Tropea, Sicily or Africa. Then, slowly,
they disappeared in the cruel horizon…
Though they killed, plundered and destroyed
everything they could, if my coin was there, it was not taken. Perhaps a
child held it tightly into his hands as tears were streaming down his
cheeks. Perhaps the parents had been taken away and the coin was a precious,
comforting possession the child hung on to, in all the horrifying chaos.
Perhaps someone may have hidden it well and it remained with the possessor.
Fortunately, it was one treasure the Saracens were not able to take.
SEEKING SAFER HAVENS
As a result of the
tragic events described above, many survivors from the Rocca Fortress, and
some from the nearby village of Montesanto, moved to Capistrano to seek
refuge, only to find that the town had been destroyed.
that the village was no longer a safe haven may have pushed the surviving
inhabitants and the new arrivals to seek the security of higher grounds.
There is a Capistrano tradition that before the people had finally settled
on the side of Mount Coppari they had lived on the flat area atop the
adjacent mountain. Perhaps this is what the tradition refers to. No
archeological remains have been found that an actual stone village existed
on that location. This may have been due to their brief stay and the fact
that they had no intention of building stone houses, given more possible
attacks. Another possibility is that only part of the population moved to
higher grounds and others remained below. Perhaps a third possibility may be
true as well: they may have worked their fruitful lands below during the day
and may have walked to the top of the mountain in the evening where they
would have been safer at night.
In fact, the
tenuousness of their situation may have been further reinforced by a
probable, second attack which may have occurred thirty three years later,
when the coast was again plundered and the nearby city of Bivona was
“totally razed to the ground” by the Saracens and was not re-built for two
By this point, the
people of Capistrano had to come up with a long term solution. Being
in the proximity of the Angitola River and the coast was no longer safe.
They had to move further away to a much safer location. The village of
Vallelonga would have been the ideal location. It was positioned on higher
grounds and much further away from the coast than Capistrano.
There the powerful count of Arena, Lord of the area and of the local castle,
might have offered them protection.
town’s first destruction had taken place in 950, and perhaps a second one in
983; strangely, the decision to move took place in 1122. Why did they wait
so long? Without doubt they continued hearing of the ongoing attacks on the
coast. Perhaps from the mountain, where they might have settled, they may
have seen Saracens return to the town below on more than one occasion
looking for more to plunder. Perhaps some Saracens may have even
ventured up the steep mountain to the plain above, but found no one, since
the people had enough time to run away and hide. Maybe fighting them from
above was easier and the were able to resist further attacks. Whatever may
have been the immediate reason for their departure, my people had become
certain that they could no longer stay in the area and that safety could
only be found much further inland and within the walls of the Arena castle.
Did the other villages do the same? This is highly probable, as they all
faced the same dangers.
many asked the Count for protection. Their request was granted and they
became his servants working his land in exchange for the basics and, most of
all, in exchange for protection. A few courageous souls, though, refused to
leave their lands and stayed behind.89]
others served the Arena family from 1122 to 1304. Once the Saracen danger
had greatly diminished, they longed to return to their lands. Their request
was granted and they returned to their beloved village once again.
Had my coin traveled with someone to the new place of safety? If so, with
THE COIN FROM CALABRIA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A BOY IN CALABRIA
RENOIR IN CAPISTRANO?
GOING TO "AMERICA"!
UNCOVERING THE PAST
EARTHQUAKES: CALABRIA'S ONGOING APOCALYPSE
NAPOLEON: THE SCOURGE FROM THE NORTH
THE VILLAGE BEGINS
ROCCA ANGITOLA: THE UNRELENTING FORTRESS
THE SARACENS: THE DEMONS FROM AFRICA
HOW MUCH SARACEN BLOOD IS THERE IN CALABRIANS?
THE CHILDREN OF THE ANGITOLA FORTRESS
FILADELFIA: THE CALABRIAN UTOPIA
MORE GREEK-SPEAKING IMMIGRANTS ARRIVE IN
THE MIGHTY ROMANS CONQUER CALABRIA
THE ANCIENT GREEKS DISCOVER CALABRIA
BACK TO WARS -- JUST LIKE HOME
BACK TO CENTRAL GREECE
SEARCHING FOR CRISSA
MORE ABOUT THE PHOCIANS
© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2011 (This work may not be
reproduced in part or in full without the permission of the author.