Tag Archives: Archeologia

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Athena, the goddess of Punta Campanella: Inside the myth

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Atena, also known as Athena in Greek mythology, was of the major Olympian deity. The Sanctuary located on the top of the Punta Campanella promontory, the watershed between the Gulf of Naples and that of Salerno, was dedicated to the goddess Athena.

Who was the goddess Athena

This divinity was considered the goddess of wisdom, arts, sciences, justice, military strategy and civilization. She is often depicted with a helmet, shield and spear, symbols of her protective role towards Greek heroes and cities.

Associated with both war and peace, the goddess has a warrior side and is considered the protector of combatants. In contrast to Ares, which is know for being the brutal god of war, Athena had a strategic and tactical approach to warfare. In fact, she was also known for her rationality, her love of knowledge, and her ability to resolve conflicts peacefully.

The deity was the patron goddess of many Greek cities, including Athens, which was named after her. She was an iconic figure in Greek mythology and a recurring character in literary and artistic works of ancient Greece. Its influence also extended to culture and philosophy, contributing to the formation of the ideas and values ​​of ancient Greek civilization.

In the Roman cult, Minerva was the divinity corresponding to Athena. Her cult played a significant role in the religious and cultural life of ancient Rome. Indeed, her figure represented important Roman virtues and ideals such as wisdom, strategy and justice.

History of the Sanctuary of Athena

On the top of the Ateneo promontory, current Punta Campanella promontory, stood the sanctuary of Athena. Built by the Greeks, it was first a Greek and then Roman temple dedicated to the deity, protector of sailors and traders. The presence of the Sanctuary of Athena is testified by historical literary sources, from Strabo to Tito Livio. Another reference also appears in the ancient Roman map “Tavola Peutingeriana”.

The final confirmation of the position of the Sanctuary on the extreme tip of the Punta Campanella promontory came from an exceptional discovery which occurred in 1985. It was an ancient epigraph carved on a rock written in the Oscan language, dating back to the first half of the 2nd century B.C. This epigraph was of a public nature and mentioned three Magistrates of Minerva, known as Meddices Minervii, who supervised and verified the construction of the works relating to the landing and the eastern staircase leading to the Sanctuary.

Some remains of the haven dedicated to Athena can still be seen at the end of an exciting trekking route. It is very likely, in fact, that the ruins still visible near the Saracen tower of Punta Campanella are what remains of the foundation of the temple, located to the south of the tower.

Myth of the Athena’s temple

The legendary foundation of the holy place in Punta Campanella is attributed to Ulysses. During ancient times, it was the home of the sirens Leucosia, Parthenope and Ligeia, known for their enchanting song that deceived all sailors, making them lose control of their ships. The sagacious Ulysses, to protect his companions, made them wear earplugs, thus allowing the ship and his friends to arrive unharmed at the dock on the Punta Campanella promontory. Grateful for Athena’s guidance and protection, as a sign of devotion, Ulysses built the temple in honor of the goddess.

Therefore, it represents the meeting point between history, myth and legend of this territory. A heritage that would enrich not only the natural beauty, but also the historical and archaeological beauty of Massa Lubrense.

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The Osci: the ancient people of Massa Lubrense

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by Rosario Sisto

More than one ancient civilization has made Massa Lubrense its home over the centuries, just like in the rest of Italy: the ancient Romans, the Greeks, the Longobards and many others. The history of our land is rich indeed.

However, among the many people who have set foot on these lands there’s one that preceeds them all. We have proof of their past presence here thanks to an inscription found in Punta Campanella: the Osci (or Oscans).

The ancient italic people of the Osci

The Osci were an ancient italic ethnic group, essentially one of those people who were already present in Italy long before the arrival of the Greeks or the roman conquests. Unfortunately, their origins are still uncertain even today, due to the relative lack of archeological discoveries related to them. Various authors have each given their own hypothesis on the matter.

According to some historians, these people were born from the assimilation of the Opici by some samnitic people. The Opici were another italic people situated in Opicia, an ancient territory which included a large part of modern day Campania.

According to others the name “Osci” is just a second name the Opici ended up getting known by.

What we know with enough certainty is that these people, in actuality divided in various tribes as was often the case of many italic civilizations, probably came into contact with the ancient Greeks and, obviously, with the Romans. The latter ended up “romanizing” this civilization, as was their custom, destroying its cultural characteristics and replacing them with elements of roman culture.

Oscan: a special language

The Osci, ancient people of Massa Lubrense
Oscan alphabet complete with transliteration

Perhaps the most distinguishing element of the Osci was their language: the Oscan language.

The language has indo-european origins and belongs to the Osco-Umbran strain. Its geographical extension throughout the peninsula was particularily large, covering basically all of its southern half.

This language was spoken from the sixth/fifth century BC up until the romanization of the people in the first century BC. This, as a consecuence, saw Oscan being replaced by Latin.

What makes Oscan a rather special language among other ancient Italic languages is that it used to be written in at least three different alphabets. It naturally had one of its own, containing between 19 and 23 letters, according to scholars. But some Oscan records written in the Latin and Greek alphabets have also been found.

Culture and society of the Osci

Judging by what we can discern from the few discoveries we have, the Osci were people who based their own sustenance mainly on agriculture and cattle, especially buffalos. From here probably derives the modern custom of raising these animals in Campania.

Family was the key element of their social structure, which was generally patriarchal. For centuries, the Oscan society did not see the existence of slavery, but it was later introduced after the Osci came into contact with the Greeks.

As for their religion, it seems that the Osci worshipped deities linked to natural elements, such as the Sun and the Earth, like many other pre-Roman civilizations. It also seems that the worship of Mater Matuta was quite common among them.

It was precisely the Oscan culture that created an important theatrical genre: the Atellan farce. This genre owes its name to the city of Atella, one of the Osci’s ancient cities. It mainly consisted of the usually improvised representation of scenes that had a comedic tone and that focused on characters that belonged to low class social contexts. Said characters were all typical, meaning they generally represented a specific type of person and were distinguished by a singular personality trait. Some of these types were the servant, the master, the old fool, the glutton. Each of these was characterized by a specific grotesque looking mask. This genre was very popular in ancient times, even among the Romans, and it is still today the main and greatest piece of Oscan culture that we know of.

Admiring the history of the ancient people of Massa Lubrense

Unfortunately we still know relatively little about the Osci as we can only depend on the few archeological findings scattered throughout the land of Campania. Massa Lubrense, with its own findings belonging to this ancient civilization, could then be quite an interesting spot for anyone who might wish to learn more about the history of the Osci, not to mention that of other Italic civilizations whose traces are still present in these lands. Therefore, we encourage all of you, wether you are tried and true ancient history scholars or are simply curious to know the past history of our lands, to come here to admire with your own eyes what remains of our ancient origins!

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Torre Punta Campanella Tower

Saracen towers in Massa Lubrense

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di Eleonora Aiello

Il territorio di Massa Lubrense è costellato di torri di guardia costiere, le cosiddette “torri saracene”. Sono la testimonianza di un sistema di avvistamento e difesa volto a proteggere la popolazione dalle incursioni dei corsari.


Le torri di guardia sul territorio di Massa Lubrense furono edificate in diversi periodi: durante il periodo Longobardo-Normanno (IX secolo), sotto gli Angioini (1266 -1442) che furono i primi a ideare un vero e proprio sistema difensivo, e con gli Aragonesi (1442 -1503) che continuarono l’opera.

I pirati saraceni cominciarono ad attaccare le nostre coste durante il IX secolo. Con ferocia inaudita, saccheggiavano e distruggevano i villaggi, rapivano uomini, donne e bambini per venderli come schiavi.

Nel 1500 le incursioni dei pirati saraceni, barbareschi e turchi si fecero più frequenti. Oltre ad attaccare le navi mercantili nel mar Mediterraneo, i corsari sbarcavano sulle spiagge e si spingevano verso l’interno per cercare villaggi da razziare e cristiani da catturare.

Tra le incursioni più cruente avvenute in Penisola Sorrentina e Costiera Amalfitana ricordiamo: l’attacco subito da Cetara (1534), la strage di Conca dei Marini (1543), l’invasione turca a Massa Lubrense e Sorrento (1558), l’invasione turca a Vietri (1587).

Fu così che le fortificazioni costiere si fecero sempre più necessarie. Infatti, è nel periodo del vicereame spagnolo che si edificò la maggior parte delle torri ancora oggi esistenti. Nel 1563 Don Parfan de Ribera Duca d’Alcalà emanò un editto che impose la costruzione di torri costiere presidiate da militari su tutte le coste del Regno di Napoli. 

Tuttavia, il grande progetto non fu mai completato, sia per mancanza di fondi che per il sopraggiungere della battaglia di Lepanto, che sottrasse numerose galee alla flotta turca. Le torri persero via via la loro importanza strategica e vennero utilizzate per altri scopi.

Torre di crapolla – Fotografia di Giovanni Gargiulo


Le torri di epoca angioina erano a pianta cilindrica, alte, dalla muratura non molto spessa e avevano principalmente una funzione di guardia. Servivano a segnalare l’arrivo dei pirati con fuochi o tramite segnali di fumo, in questo modo si avvertiva la popolazione di cercare riparo nei boschi, nelle grotte o nelle fortificazioni.

Con l’intensificarsi degli attacchi, si vide necessario rendere le torri più resistenti e massicce; si preferì la pianta quadrata, con uno spessore della muratura maggiore sul lato esterno. A una prima serie di torri di vedetta, si sostituirono a poco a poco torri di difesa, armate con cannoni e presidiate da un corpo di guardia comandato dal torriere.

Il sistema difensivo prevedeva che ogni torre fosse costruita in posizione tale da essere visibile da quella più vicina, in modo che le segnalazioni di pericolo potessero essere più efficaci e veloci.

A segnare il passaggio da una forma all’altra fu l’introduzione dell’artiglieria, che rese indispensabile il cambiamento di tali fortificazioni. L’artiglieria era posta sulla piazza e non all’interno della torre, poiché i gas e i fumi sprigionati dalle armi avrebbero danneggiato le stesse per la mancanza di saturazione. La torre quadrata risultava più funzionale rispetto a quella cilindrica anche perché consentiva di poter contenere più armi.

Torre Minerva – Fotografia di Giovanni Gargiulo

Cosa ne rimane?

Di queste antiche strutture difensive, in penisola sorrentina sopravvivono numerose testimonianze. Alcune non sono altro che ruderi, a causa della mancanza di manutenzione, mentre altre, sottoposte a interventi di recupero, sono state adattate agli usi più disparati.

Torri saracene

Le torri principali

Sono nove le torri che ancora esistono lungo le coste di Massa Lubrense. Lungo il versante napoletano della costa massese ci sono quelle di Capo Massa, Capo Corbo, San Lorenzo, Fossa di Papa e Minerva. Le altre, Montalto, Nerano, Recommone e Crapolla, sono invece sul versante salernitano.

Massa Lubrense è ricca anche di strutture di difesa interne, costruite sulla fascia collinare. Ne sono un esempio il “Torrione”, struttura edificata per difendere l’ex collegio gesuitico, e le case-torri, erette prevalentemente da privati. La popolazione utilizzò le torri anche dopo le incursioni saracene: Torre Turbolo, al borgo dell’Annunziata, nel Seicento fu sede del Monte dei Pegni; la Torre Ghezi, presso Sant’Agata sui due Golfi, servì come rifugio durante la seconda guerra mondiale.

Mappa delle torri sulla costa di Massa Lubrense