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       Dedicated to my children, Anthony, Julie and Victor and all the Capistrano descendents around the world.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

 

The following chapter has been quoted from the book, THE COIN FROM CALABRIA: DISCOVERING THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF MY CALABRIAN PEOPLE, 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:

PAPERBACK -- Amazon.com (USA) / Amazon.ca  (Canada)  Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom) and Amazon.it (Italy) Amazon.au (Australia)

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Also available on Barnesandnoble.com and ebay.com

 

 
 
     
 

 

THE COIN FROM CALABRIA

DISCOVERING THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF MY CALABRIAN PEOPLE

 

 

 

 
 

ROCCA ANGITOLA: OUR MOTHER BEFORE CAPISTRANO

 

NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN

 

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 had imagined.

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 picture was takes from the mountain adjacent to Capistrano. The Mediterranean can be seen in the distance.

 

 

 

 

AN INGLORIOUS END

 

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 possessions.

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.”[43]

Ten years before, in 1762, fifteen people plus the priest were still living in the city.[44] 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. 46

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.[47]

But why was such a place abandoned after so many years of tortuous and heroic history? The main reason appears to have been malaria.

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.[48]

Even before, in the late 1500’s, the ancient Calabrian writer, Marafioti, had called the air of the area, “most unhealthy.”[49] 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.[50]

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.[51]

Less destructive was the earthquake of 1659 when only eight houses were damaged, as was the Church of Santa Maria della Cattolica.[52]

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.

 

 

 

 

To see the remains of Rocca Angitola, click the link below:

www.francavilla-angitola.com/Foto_Visita_Rocca_Angitola.htm

 

 

 

THE PROSPEROUS YEARS

 

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.[53]

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.[54]

According to other documents of the time, the area produced an abundance of wheat, rye, fave beans, chickpeas, beans, flax, oil and wine.[55] 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

 

 

 

 

THE TYRANNICAL YEARS

 

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 and Cerignola.

One of the French military leaders found safety in the Rocca Angitola, after his defeat at Seminara in 1503.[56] 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.[57] 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 their possessions.

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 slaves.[58]

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.”[59]

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. [61] 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)

 

 

 

 

THE OPPRESSIVE YEARS

 

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 September. [63

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. [64]

In 1495 the area ended in the hands of the Count of Belcastro and the Roccans were forced to swear allegiance to him.[65]

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.[66] Not long after, the kingly order of October 7, 1425 to the Count of Buccino referred to the same location as, “Roccangitola”[67]

In 1429, Queen Giovanna II gave as possession to Antonio de Camponeschis the area called, “Rocca Angitola.”[68]

Thus, amidst all the oppression and abuse, the new name for the fortress emerged and became entrenched into history to our days.

 

THE LAURIA’S CENTURY

 

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.[69]

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.[70] 

 

 

THE NEBULOUS YEARS

 

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.”[72]

 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.[73]

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. [74]

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.[75]

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 ruler.[76]

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.[77] 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,[78] 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 armed soldiers.”[79] 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.”[80]

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.[81]

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.[82]

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 Italy.

 

 

 

                      

                      File:RogerAtTheBattleOfCerami1061.JPG

 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 southern Italy.

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 to abandon.

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 future.

The whole area was about to face one of the most dangerous periods they had ever faced. The Saracens, the

unstoppable Moslem 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 language.

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 feudalism.

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 surprise.[83]

     Another area historian, G. Brasacchio, also captures the anxiety of the times in the following:

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.[85] Some inhabitants of the Rocca escaped; others were killed or taken as slaves.

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 Porphirogenitus.

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.[86]

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 slaves.

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 well.

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 descendents.

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.[87]

The realization 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 hundred years.[88]

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.  

The 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.

 Thus 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]

The 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 whom?

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THE COIN FROM CALABRIA

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

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

THE BIZANTINES: MORE GREEK-SPEAKING IMMIGRANTS ARRIVE IN CALABRIA

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

CONCLUSION

WORKS CITED

© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2011 (This work may not be reproduced in part or in full without the permission of the author.

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