© Amici di Torricella                                                                                                                               


Important Archaeological Discovery

Pre-Roman Iuvanum

by Luigi Copertino

Amongst the mountains of the Peligna area, where the boundaries of the communal territories of Torricella and Montenerodomo meet, there is a well-known archaeological area that takes its name from the ancient Roman centre of Iuvanum. We owe the evaluation of this centre to the late archaeologist and superintendent of Abruzzo, Valerio Cianfarani[1], who, between 1962 and 1963, carried out a vast campaign of excavations, following on in the wake of previous findings of traces of walls and other archaeological discoveries that had previously been found: the result of this work was the discovery of the entire Forum area and the two temples (dating to the 2nd Century B.C.) which, together with already known remains of the theatre, highlighted the existence of a Roman “Municipium”[2] with territorial administrative, economic and military functions. Thus, in Roman times, Iuvanum was the most important town of this Samnite-Peligna region.

All the important details that we have about Iuvanum date to after the period known as the “Bellum Sociale” (the Social War[3]), by means of which the Italic peoples of the central-south obtained Roman citizenship. In fact it was after this political-military event that Iuvanum was raised to the high office of “Municipium Romanum” and was written into the “Amensis” tribe. On the other hand, there are very few details about Iuvanum dating to before the Social War, from which we can deduce that, the Samnite Caracine[4] population, probably merged with the indigenous Peligni of the area of Iuvanum, and followed the historical fate of the Samnites in general, who, extending their dominion throughout almost all the central-south region of Italy, were soon “at war” with the emerging power of Rome.

If details about Iuvanum prior to the Social War were few, those relating to the pre-Roman period were truly non-existent until very recently: in fact, although there was a hypothesis suggesting the likelihood that there had been a pre-Roman inhabited centre, there was absolutely no supporting evidence. But in 1980 new excavation works were entrusted to the Institute of Archaeology and Ancient History of the University of Chieti, under the direction of Professor E. Fabbricotti, with the aim of verifying the likely hypothesis according to which the Romans had founded Iuvanum on top of an already existing Italic village or fort. Thus, after lengthy work, pre-Roman archaeological remains have recently been uncovered, adjacent to the main road that leads to the Forum. Currently, therefore, it is thought that there was an existing Samnite community structure, on the model of the “VILLAGGIO” or “Pagus”[5], with respective territory and cultural centre. The economy of this pre-Roman village was probably similar to others belonging to the Samnite-Caracines, namely it was of the pastoral and craftsman type (in particular they carried out transhumance[6]).

Thus there was confirmation of the pre-Roman hypothesis; now we must await subsequent studies to cast more light on the results obtained thus far, and hope that the Sovrintendenza ai Beni Culturali di Chieti (the Office of Culture in Chieti) will wake up from its “inactive torpor” concerning our archaeological outskirts.


[1] Valerio Cianfarani - Superintendent of Antiquities in Abruzzo, Professor of Archaeology in the 1950’s-70’s

[2] Municipium – Latin for a Provincial Town

[3] the Social War “Bellum Sociale”
Before Rome was founded, the lands on the Eastern side of the Apennines were inhabited by peoples of Indo-European stock today known as the "Piceni", divided into many different tribes. When Rome started its expansion in the 5th century BC, little by little the various tribes were subdued and became allies of the Romans.
The Roman victories and conquests, achieved also thanks to the help of the Italic peoples, ought to have favoured an ever greater fusion of the Piceni with the Romans, but it was not so. Only those among them who had been granted Roman citizenship were able to take advantage of the new wealth and power, whereas those who did not enjoy the status of Roman citizens were kept in a state of great economic and social inferiority.
The Social War
Discontent became widespread among the Italic peoples, and when finally the Roman Senate denied another request for Roman citizenship, revolution broke out: Piceni, Vestini, Peligni, Marsi, Marrucini, Frentani, Sanniti and, more to the South, Lucani and Apuli, started a rebellion against mighty Rome. This was the start of a war that later was called "Bellum Sociale" (the social war). Those peoples who had joined the Romans in the past against powerful Hannibal and terrible Perseo, the king of Macedonia, became Rome's most dangerous enemies. In 90 BC the rebels established the first centre of an Italic state choosing as their capital Corfinium, which was renamed Italia, a name that appeared for the first time as a symbol of the common land for all the inhabitants of the Italian peninsula who were fighting against Rome. A 500-member Senate was elected and two consuls appointed, Marsian Quintus Poppedius Silone and Samnite Caio Papius Mutilus, along with twelve magistrates (praetores).
Corfinio, became the capital, its name is derived from the Italic gods Cerfi; it was chosen not only for its central position (it was located at the end of the mountain pass between the valley of Lake Fucino and the Peligna Valley, along the banks of the Aterno river), but also because it was a strategic centre along the via Valeria, which continued the Tiburtina connecting Rome to the Adriatic Sea.
The new capital issued its own coins to oppose the monopoly of the Roman currency and to assert the political importance of the new State. Their first coin showed a female head with a laurel crown and the word ITALIA; another coin had the word VITELIU, in recognition of the etymology of the name Italia from the Italic word for "calf" (meaning that Italia was the land of calves).
Early Italic victories compelled the Romans to prepare a stronger army. In the spring the war had spread throughout Abruzzo and Samnium. Fearing more insurrections in Etruria and Umbria, the Romans granted the rebels some of their requests: the "Lex Iulia de civitate" granted Roman citizenship to all those peoples who had kept their loyalty to Rome; the "Lex Plautia Papiria" extended citizenship to all inhabitants of those Latin or allied towns which presented to the praetor within 60 days. These laws weakened support to the rebels and consequently favoured Roman victory.
In 88 BC the Social War ended and the Marrucini, Frentani, Marsi, Peligni and the other peoples of Abruzzo and Samnium were incorporated into the Roman tribes. Corfinio was conquered and its named was changed to Pentima, which was kept until 1928, when it was renamed again to the ancient Corfinio.

[4] Caracines –
Carentines – according to Pliny these people were Frentanians. The wide range of form of the names of this group of Samnite tribes, Caraceni, Carecini, Caretini, etc., is partly due to the swings and differences in ancient writings, (Tacitus, Pliny, Tolomeo) and partly due to later reconstructions and criticisms of these texts. Recently two inscriptions have enabled a better definition of the precise Latin form of the ethnic group as Carricini. http://xoomer.virgilio.it/davmonac/sanniti/carric01.html

[5] Pagus (or VILLAGGIO) village or country district

[6] Transhumance – For many centuries, local shepherds in this area of the Abruzzo have practiced the custom of "transhumance," moving their flocks down to the warmer pastures of Apulia (Puglia) in the fall and back home again in the spring, following the same age-old “tratturi” trails.
In Torricella, Via Bellini, (almost in front of the school building) is the part of the village that was called "Lu trattore", a word in dialect derived from the Italian “Tratturo” (sheep-track), because it was used as a pathway by the flocks of sheep during Transhumance, as they went at the end of summer from the mountains to the sea. "Abballe pe lu trattore" in dialect means that the road descends; it went from "Rue di signurielle" towards the "Calacroce", the present day Via Bellini.


Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca 

© Amici di Torricella         Year II        No 3  December  1990  page 4