Oliveto Citra: ancient crossroads of history

by Yuri Buono

Before talking about the history of Oliveto Citra, it is worth telling you the reason for its name. Olive grove it owes its etymology first of all to the thick presence of olive trees that dominate the panorama of this picturesque village in the Sele Valley. What interests us most, however, due to its historical value, is the suffix "Citra".

To do this we have to go back, up to 1287, when the previous execution of Principality and Benevento land, was subdivided into Principality Ultra and Principality Citra. But let's go in order and dig deeper into the individual terms.

Oliveto Citra: antico crocevia di storia
Castle of Oliveto Citra

Oliveto Citra: the history

The "execution" designated each administrative district into which the Kingdom of Sicily was divided. The executioner, either imperial or royal, represented the major authority at the local level. The previous execution of the Principality and Terra Beneventana was created in 1233 by Frederick II, and had Salerno as its capital and included the territory of Avellino and the province of Benevento.

In 1287 Charles of Anjou divided this entity into Principato Ultra and Principato Citra, indeed the Latin diction refers to a Principality "on this side and beyond the mountains of Montoro", where the new border between the two executed was given, in fact, by the Picentini Mountains and Salerno became the capital of the Principality of Citra.

Yet, the history of Oliveto Citra begins many, but many centuries before Charles of Anjou and the executed. Suffice it to say that from the finds found, the first Olivetan community is traced back to a group of Balkans, dating back to the early Iron Age, who took up residence along the river Sele.

There are archaeological finds from the seventh century BC that testify to the Greek trade before that of other peoples. But why does this place become of crucial importance? For its proximity to the Sella di Conza, in the locality of Castelnuovo di Conza. Well, this locality has always been fundamental, because it is a pass about 700 meters high which conventionally constitutes the demarcation point between the Campania Apennines and the Lucan Apennines.

It has always been a fundamental crossroads for trade and battles. Here the provinces of Avellino and Salerno meet and a short distance away is the border with Potenza, but also the state road 7 and the Via Appia. In short, it has been over the centuries a nerve center for the domination of the Sele Valley.

The position of control of traffic is also confirmed by an ancient Olivetan locality, called Dogana, located on the right of the Sele river and over time this natural propensity put it in contact with various more advanced civilizations.

Yet this rank of his "Civita" it did not save it from the revenge of the Romans who destroyed it following the third Samnite war between 290 and 268 BC, precisely because enjoying a certain protection from the Samnites, it was considered an enemy city. The territory of Oliveto was included in ancient Lucania and was part of it until the fall of the Empire following the barbarian invasions.

Oliveto Citra: antico crocevia di storia

Lombards, Normans and a unique people

With the arrival of the Lombards it was annexed, together with the other centers of the Valley around 590 AD, in the Duchy of Benevento, while the Normans, in the eleventh century, decided to exploit the top of a large rock formation, which naturally dominated the whole valley, to build a castle with clear defensive intentions, remained in good condition until the earthquake of the Eighties, which caused a lot of damage in this area.

Over time the city underwent the various dominations of the peoples who alternated, always interested in the enviable geographical position, but its people proudly preserved its character that we could define triple: ecclesiastical, warrior and commercial. And in fact S. Mazzella, in his "Description of the Kingdom of Naples" of 1586, so defined the inhabitants of Oliveto Citra: "His people, willing people, cheerful in nature, ready for arms, scholars of virtues, shrewd and pleasant in negotiating, and devoted to profit, are also industrious, and prone to trafics ...".

At this point, we just have to visit you ...

Sources consulted:

https://www.comune.oliveto-citra.sa.it/zf/index.php/servizi-aggiuntivi/index/index/idservizio/20007

https://www.prolocoolivetocitra.it/oliveto-citra/


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