The History


Historical notes of Avetrana

Some drawing from Foscarini and Infantino say that Avetrana was founded by Norman veterans, hence the name. Others, on the other hand, affirm that it was founded by populations from surrounding hamlets (San Giorgio, Modunato and Santa Maria) destroyed around the 9th century by the Saracen invasions (hence the symbolism of the municipal coat of arms showing three hills). In reality, but this is not the place for this debate, on the basis of historical and archaeological investigations both hypotheses can be refuted, nor, at the moment, is it possible to provide a reliable one. It can only be said that the origins of Avetrana have nothing to do with the Normans nor with the Saracen invasions which, although historically documented, are not completely true: that is, writers of the past have attributed the origin of many towns to the destruction of the 'three' pre-existing farmhouses.

The first settlements in the area date back to the Neolithic age, VI-V centuries BC, as can be seen by the various sites found in the area (Caverna Dell'Erba, Grotta di S. Martino, Grotta di Villanova-Specchia Rascina, Masseria La Marina, etc. and certainly, as per very recent discoveries of the presence of the Neanderthal Man (75-50 thousand years ago). There are also traces of the Messapians, Romans (among which, the rustic villa in the S. Francesco district) and the Byzantines (Santa Maria del Casale, La Crava and perhaps the Granieri farm).

The birth of Avetrana is probably attributable to the centralizing policies of the Angevins, which favored the larger centers of the people who lived scattered around the countryside. If, in fact, in the past, the tower was mistakenly attributed to the Norman era giving rise to Avetrana as an urban center, the indication of that era is now evidently wrong. Without necessarily having to follow, during the Middle Ages, the succession of the vati feudal lords, the turning point for Avetrana is represented by the presence of the Pagano, who, having obtained from the king the right to be able to demand duties on the salts, built the walls to defend the small village and the completion of the fortress system during the sixteenth century.

The name Avetrana

We leave out more or less creative hypotheses regarding the origin of the name, believing the following to be closer to the truth: the etymology from which we need to start the investigation is not as commonly believed 'Avetrana', but 'Vetrana'. The documentary and cartographic investigation is precisely around toponyms such as 'Vetrana', 'Veterana', 'Vetrina', 'Veturia', 'Veturiana' etc. The analysis leads us to believe that the result '-ana', or '-ano' arises from the Latin toponyms of predial origin and therefore, as ' land that belonged to someone', in our case 'land that belonged to Veturio' therefore ‘veturiana or vetrana land’ and hence 'terra della Vetrana', that is 'La Vetrana' from which ‘L'Avetrana’ and that is Avetrana.

The ‘masseria’

Masserias are a phenomenon that especially characterizes southern Italy. Although many see the masseria as a subsidiary of the 'villa rustica' of Roman origin, in reality it should be noted that while in Roman times there is no contractual form between the dominus (the owner) and the servants who work for him in the fields, only with the advent of the Lombards (VI-IX century) was the juridical figure of the 'farm contract' born, where the 'dominus' leaves a part of the product of the agro-pastoral activity to his 'massarius' that is to say the one who, in his place, takes care of the fields and pastoral activities (ie the 'mass'). Only later will the farms structurally enrich themselves with the 'noble' part in which, especially during the harvest period or during the summer, the owner (dominus) will reside.

We thank Mr. Pietro Scarciglia for his contribution.


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