The Roman villa of Scampia and the legend of the snake house

by Chiara Sarracino

It seems a bulky median and instead it is the last memory of a large farm house of about 2000 years ago. The Roman villa of Scampia, closed between the two guard rails of via Tancredi Galimberti, is today in bad conditions. But yet, until the 80s, the structure was much larger and still retained some rooms.

Era a rustic villa of an ancient landowner survived more than two millennia of history. It was going to be destroyed on the occasion ofurbanization of Scampia but, thanks to volunteers and local committees, and above all thanks to the Neapolitan Archaeological Group, it survived a fragment capable of telling us an ancient story.

villa romana di scampia
The Roman villa of Scampia

History of the Roman villa of Scampia

At the time of the Roman Neapolis the territory of the current Scampia was practically virgin. He was just there a road that connected the city to Capua, passing through a small farmhouse called Piscinula. This name left imagine the presence of aqueducts and other Roman hydraulic systems which, to date, have not reached us.

What is certain is that the Roman villa of Scampia developed on two floors and had a cistern in ancient times. Indeed, there is a local folk legend linked to its discovery: it is said that one day a soccer player, accompanied by his dog during a joke, he lost his trusted companion in the countryside north of Naples.
He felt the dog barking desperately, but he could not identify it until, once he reached the ruins of the villa, he noticed that the animal had gone into a hole too deep to be climbed: it was a Roman cistern.

It has been speculated that the house was built in the past by a legionnaire retired from military fatigue, a veteran who had been rewarded with a large piece of land. Or a family of patricians which had moved to the countryside, as evidenced by the Roman villas in Barra and Ponticelli.

villa romana di scampia strada

The house of the snakes and the stray animals killed

Another one popular legend, to say the least macabre, it was collected by Salvatore Fioretto. These ruins, when the Scampia district didn't even exist, were called "The house of snakes".
The reason is soon said: in addition to the fact that most likely the dangerous reptiles were indeed present, it is said that inside the famous cistern stray dogs and animals to be killed were thrown away, convinced that they would be eaten by snakes or, at least, they would have died of hunger and thirst.
The barking of the poor desperate dogs they listened to each other day and night: this is how the legend of the ruins infested by was born demons: an ideal story to terrify children.

The destroyed villa

The certainty is that, in modern times, these stories remain only letters in ancient books and in modern digital archives. During the construction of Via Tancredi Galimberti the find was largely destroyed. Indeed, in the 70s numerous patrols were organized to stop the looting.
It has not completely disappeared and it has not shared the sad fate of the Conocchia dei Colli Aminei, but it has nevertheless lost the famous cistern, protagonist of many horror stories. The environments have also been compromised.

And today, surrounded by flowers and weeds, there is only a small testimony: an ancient wall that binds to the past a neighborhood that, today more than ever, tries to look to the future.

-Chiara Sarracino

References
Andrea De Jorio, indication of the most notable in Naples and side dishes, Stamperia del Tirreno, Naples, 1835
http://piscinola.blogspot.com/2013/10/la-villa-romana-di-scampia-tra-storia.html
https://www.ganapoletano.it/site/i-nostri-siti/

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