Benevento


Municipal coat of arms
Country Italy
RegionCampania
ProvinceBenevento (BN)
MayorFausto Pepe (since May 30, 2006)
Areakm
Population
 - Total (as of December 31, 2004)
 - Density/km
Time zoneCET, UTC+1
Coordinates
GentilicBeneventani
Dialing code0824
Postal code82100
PatronSt. Bartholomew
 - DayAugust 24


Location of Benevento in Italy
Website: www.comune.benevento.it
Benevento is a town and comune of Campania, Italy, capital of the province of Benevento, 50 km northeast of Naples. It is situated on a hill 130 m (300 ft) above sea-level at the confluence of the Calore Irpino (or Beneventano) and Sabato. It is also the seat of a Catholic archbishop.

Benevento occupies the site of the ancient Beneventum (Greek: Βενεβεντός, Steph. B. or Βενεουεντόν, Strab., Ptol.), originally Maleventum or still earlier Malowent (Greek: Μαλόεντον or Μαλεβεντός and earlier Μαλοϝεντ). The "-vent" portion of the name probably refers to a market-place and is a common element in ancient place names.[1] The Romans theorized that it meant "the site of bad events", from Mal(um) + eventum. In the imperial period it was supposed to have been founded by Diomedes after the Trojan War.

History

Benevento in antiquity

Benevento, as Maleventum, one of the chief cities of Samnium, and at a later period one of the most important cities of southern Italy, was situated on the Via Appia at a distance of 32 miles east from Capua; and on the banks of the river Calor (modern Calore). There is some discrepancy as to the people to which it belonged at contact: Pliny expressly assigns it to the Hirpini; but Livy certainly seems to consider it as belonging to the Samnites proper, as distinguished from the Hirpini; and Ptolemy adopts the same view. (Plin. iii. 11. s. 16; Liv. xxii. 13; Ptol. iii. 1. § 67.) All writers concur in representing it as a very ancient city; Solinus and Stephanus of Byzantium ascribe its foundation to Diomedes; a legend which appears to have been adopted by the inhabitants, who, in the time of Procopius, pretended to exhibit the tusks of the Calydonian boar in proof of their descent. (Solin. 2. § 10; Steph. B. s. v.; Procop. B. G. i. 15.) Festus, on the contrary (s. v. Ausoniam), related that it was founded by Auson, a son of Ulysses and Circe; a tradition which indicates that it was an ancient Ausonian city, previous to its conquest by the Samnites. But it first appears in history as a Samnite city (Liv. ix. 27); and must have already been a place of strength, so that the Romans did not venture to attack it during their first two wars with the Samnites. It appears, however, to have fallen into their hands during the Third Samnite War, though the exact occasion is unknown. It was certainly in the power of the Romans in 274 BCE, when Pyrrhus was defeated in a great battle, fought in its immediate neighborhood, by the consul Curius Dentatus. (Plut. Pyrrh. 25; Frontin. Strat. iv. 1. § 14.) Six years later (286 BCE) they sought farther to secure its possession by establishing there a Roman colony with Latin rights. (Liv. Epit. xv.; Vell. Pat. i. 14.) It was at this time that it first assumed the name of Beneventum, having previously been called Maleventum, a name which the Romans regarded as of evil augury, and changed into one of a more fortunate signification. (Plin. iii. 11. s. 16; Liv. ix. 27; Fest. s. v. Beneventum, p. 34; Steph. B. s. v.; Procop. B. G. i. 15.) It is probable that the Oscan or Samnite name was Maloeis, or Malieis, from whence the form Maleventum would be derived, like Agrigentum from Acragas (modern Agrigento), Selinuntium from Selinus (the ruins of which are at modern Selinunte), etc. (Millingen, Numnism. de l'Italie, p. 223.)
Enlarge picture
View of the Roman Theatre of Benevento.
As a Roman colony Beneventum seems to have quickly become a flourishing place; and in the Second Punic War was repeatedly occupied by Roman generals as a post of importance, on account of its proximity to Campania, and its strength as a fortress. In its immediate neighborhood were fought two of the most decisive actions of the war: the Battle of Beneventum, (214 BCE), in which the Carthaginian general Hanno was defeated by Tiberius Gracchus; the other in 212 BCE, when the camp of Hanno, in which he had accumulated a vast quantity of corn and other stores, was stormed and taken by the Roman consul Quintus Fulvius Flaccus. (Liv. xxii. 13, xxiv. 14, 16, xxv. 13, 14, 15, 17; Appian, Annib. 36, 37.) And though its territory was more than once laid waste by the Carthaginians, it was still one of the eighteen Latin colonies which in 209 BCE were at once able and willing to furnish the required quota of men and money for continuing the war. (Liv. xxvii. 10.) It is singular that no mention of it occurs during the Social War; but it seems to have escaped from the calamities which at that time befel so many cities of Samnium, and towards the close of the Roman Republic is spoken of as one of the most opulent and flourishing cities of Italy. (Appian, B.C. iv. 3; Strab. v. p. 250; Cic. in Verr. i. 1. 5) Under the Second Triumvirate its territory was portioned out by the Triumvirs to their veterans, and subsequently a fresh colony was established there by Augustus, who greatly enlarged its domain by the addition of the territory of Caudium (modern Montesarchio). A third colony was settled there by Nero, at which time it assumed the title of Concordia; hence we find it bearing, in inscriptions of the reign of Septimius Severus, the titles Colonia Julia Augusta Concordia Felix Beneventum. (Appian. l. c.; Lib. Colon. pp. 231, 232; Inscr. ap. Romanelli, vol. ii. pp. 382, 384; Orell. Inscr. 128, 590.) Its importance and flourishing condition under the Roman Empire is sufficiently attested by existing remains and inscriptions; it was at that period unquestionably the chief city of the Hirpini, and probably, next to Capua, the most populous and considerable city of southern Italy. For this prosperity it was doubtless indebted in part to its position on the Via Appia, just at the junction of the two principal arms or branches of that great road, the one called afterwards the Via Trajana, leading from thence by Equus Tuticus into Apulia; the other by Aeculanum to Venusia (modern Venosa) and Tarentum (modern Taranto). (Strab. vi. p. 283.) Its wealth is also evidenced by the quantity of coins minted by Beneventum. Horace famously notes Beneventum on his journey from Rome to Brundusium (modern Brindisi) (Sat. i. 5, 71). It was indebted to the same circumstance for the honor of repeated visits from the emperors of Rome, among which those of Nero, Trajan, and Septimus Severus, are particularly recorded. (Tac. Ann. xv. 34.) It was probably for the same reason that the noble triumphal arch, the Arch of Trajan, which still forms one of its chief ornaments, was erected there in honor of Trajan by the senate and people of Rome and constructed by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus in 114. The Arch of Trajan is one of the best-preserved Roman structures in the Campania. It repeats the formula of the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, with reliefs of Trajan's life and exploits of his reign. Some of the sculptures are in the British Museum. Successive emperors seem to have bestowed on the city accessions of territory, and erected, or at least given name to, various public buildings. For administrative purposes it was first included, together with the rest of the Hirpini, in the second region of Augustus, but was afterwards annexed to Campania and placed under the control of the consular of that province. Its inhabitants were included in the Stellatine tribe. (Plin. iii. 11. s. 16; Mommsen, Topogr. degli Irpini, p. 167, in Bull. dell'Inst. Arch. 1847.) Beneventum retained its importance down to the close of the Empire, and though during the Gothic wars it was taken by Totila, and its walls rased to the ground, they were restored, as well as its public buildings, shortly after; and P. Diaconus speaks of it as a very wealthy city, and the capital of all the surrounding provinces. (Procop. B. G. iii. 6; P. Diac. ii. 20; De Vita, Antiq. Benev. pp. 271, 286.)

Beneventum indeed seems to have been a place of much literary cultivation; it was the birth-place of Orbilius the grammarian, who long continued to teach in his native city before he removed to Rome, and was honored with a statue by his fellow-townsmen; while existing inscriptions record similar honors paid to another grammarian, Rutilius Aelianus, as well as to orators and poets, apparently only of local celebrity. (Suet. Gram. 9; Orell. Inscr. 1178, 1185.)

The territory of Beneventum under the Roman Empire was of very considerable extent. Towards the west it included that of Caudium, with the exception of the town itself; to the north it extended as far as the river Tamarus (modern Tammaro), including the village of Pago Veiano, which, as we learn from an inscription, was anciently called Pagus Veianus; on the northeast it comprised the town of Equus Tuticus (modern Sant'Eleuterio, near Castel Franco), and on the east and south bordered on the territories of Aeculanum and Abellinum. An inscription has preserved to us the names of several of the pagi or villages dependent upon Beneventum, but their sites cannot be identified. (Henzen, Tab. Aliment. Baebian, p. 93-108; Mommsen, Topogr. degli Irpini, p. 168-71.)

The city's most ancient coins bear the legend "Malies" or "Maliesa", which have been supposed to belong to the Samnite, or pre-Samnite, Maleventum. Coins with the legend "BENVENTOD" (an old Latin – or Samnite – form for Beneventor-um), must have been struck after it became a Latin colony. Other coins with the . (Millingen, Numismatique de l'Anc. Italie, p. 223; Friedländer, Osk. Münz. p. 67; McClure, British Place-Names etc., p. 33.)

Duchy of Benevento

Main article: Duchy of Benevento.
See also the List of Dukes and Princes of Benevento.


Not long after it had been sacked by Totila and its walls razed (545), Benevento became the seat of a powerful Lombard duchy. The circumstances of the creation of duchy of Benevento are disputed. According to some scholars, Lombards were present in southern Italy well before the complete conquest of the Po Valley: the duchy would have been founded in 576 by some soldiers led by a Zotto, autonomously from the Lombard king.

Zotto's successor was Arechi I (died in 640), from the Duchy of Friuli, who captured Capua and Crotone, sacked the Byzantine Amalfi but was unable to capture Naples. After his reign the Eastern Roman Empire had left in southern Italy only Naples, Amalfi, Gaeta, Sorrento, the tip of Calabria and the maritime cities of Apulia.

In the following decades, Benevento conquered some territories to the Roman-Byzantine duchy, but the main enemies was now the northern Lombard reign itself. King Liutprand intervened in several times imposing a candidate of his own to the duchy's succession; his successor Ratchis declared the duchies of Spoleto and Benevento foreign countries where it was forbidden to travel without a royal permission.

Enlarge picture
The Principality of Benevento as it appeared in 1000 CE.
With the collapse of the Lombard kingdom in 773, Duke Arechi II was elevated to Prince under the new empire of the Franks, in compensation for having some of his territory transferred back to the Papal States. Benevento was acclaimed by a chronicler as a "second Pavia"— Ticinum geminum— after the Lombard capital was lost. The unit of this principality was short-lived: in 851, Salerno broke off under Siconulf and, by the end of that century, Capua was independent as well.

The so-called Langobardia minor was unified for the last time by Duke Pandolfo Testa di Ferro, who expanded his extensive control in the Mezzogiorno from his base in Benevento and Capua. Before his death (March 981), he had gained from Emperor Otto I the title of Duke of Spoleto also. However, both Benevento and Salerno rebelled to his son and heir, Pandulf II.

The first decades of the 11th century saw two more German-descended rulers to southern Italy: Henry II, conquered in 1022 both Capua and Benevento, but returned after the failed siege of Troia. Similar results obtained Conrad II in 1038. In these years the three states (Benevento, Capua, and Salerno) were often engaged in local wars and disputes that favoured the rise of the Normans from mercenaries to ruler of the whole southern Italy. The greatest of them was Robert Guiscard, who captured Benevento in 1053 after the Emperor Henry III had first authorised its conquest in 1047 when Pandulf III and Landulf VI shut the gates to him. These princes were later expelled from the city and then recalled after the pope failed to defend it from Guiscard. The city was a papal city until after 1801.

Papal Benevento

Benevento passed to the Papacy peacefully when the emperor Henry III ceded it to Leo IX, in exchange for the Bishopric of Bamberg (1077). Landulf II, Archbishop of Benevento, promoted reform, but also allied with the Normans. He was deposed for two years. Benevento was the cornerstone of the Papacy's temporal powers in southern Italy. The Papacy ruled it by appointed rectors, seated in a magnificent palace, and the principality continued to be a papal possession until 1806, when Napoleon granted it to his minister Talleyrand with the title of Sovereign Prince. Talleyrand was never to settle down and actually rule his new principality; in 1815 Benevento was returned to the papacy. It was united to Italy in 1860.

Manfred of Sicily lost his life in 1266 in battle with Charles of Anjou not far from the town (see Battle of Benevento).

Main sights

Ancient remains

Enlarge picture
The Arch of Trajan, provided with a portcullis, as it appeared in the 18th century, etching by Piranesi. Some of the bas-reliefs are now in the British Museum.
The importance of Benevento in classical times is vouched for by the many remains of antiquity which it possesses, of which the most famous is the triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan by the senate and people of Rome in 114, with important reliefs relating to its history. Enclosed in the walls, this construction marked the entrance in Benevento of the Via Traiana, the road built by the Spanish emperor to shorten the path from Rome to Brindisi. The reliefs show the civil and military deeds of Trajan.

There are other considerable remains from ancient era:
  • The well-preserved ancient theatre, next to the Cathedral and the Port'Arsas. This grandious building was erected by Hadrian, and later expanded by Caracalla. It had a diameter of 90 meters and could house up to 10,000 spectators. It is currently used for theatral, dance and opera spectacles.
  • A large cryptoporticus 60 m long, known as the ruins of Santi Quaranta, and probably an emporium. According to Meomartini, the portion preserved is only a fraction of the whole, which once measured 520 m in length).
  • A brick arch called Arco del Sacramento.
  • The Ponte Leproso, a bridge on the Via Appia over the Sabato river, below the city center.
  • Thermae along the road to Avellino.
  • The Bue Apis, popularly known as A ufara ("buffalo"). It is a basement in the shape of an ox or bull coming from the Temple of Isis.
Many inscriptions and ancient fragments may be seen built into the old houses. In 1903 the foundations of the Temple of Isis were discovered close to the Arch of Trajan, and many fragments of fine sculptures in both the Egyptian and the Greco-Roman style belonging to it were found. They had apparently been used as the foundation of a portion of the city wall, reconstructed in 663 under the fear of an attack by the Byzantine emperor Constans II, the temple having been destroyed by order of the bishop, St Barbatus, to provide the necessary material (A. Meomartini, 0. Marucchi and L. Savignoni in Notizie degli Scavi, 1904, 107 sqq.).

Santa Sofia

The church of Santa Sofia is a circular Lombard edifice of about 760, now modernized, of small proportions: it can be enclosed within a circle of 23.5 m of diameter. It is one of the most important examples of European architecture of the High Middle Ages. The plant was very original for the times: it consists of a central hexagon with, at each vertex, columns taken from the temple of Isis; these are connected by arches which support the cupola. The inner hexagon is in turn enclosed in a decagonal ring with eight white limestone pilasters and two columns next to the entrance. The church has a fine cloister of the 12th century, constructed in part of fragments of earlier buildings. The church interior was once totally frescoed by Byzantine artists: fragments of these paintings, portraying the Histories of Christ, can be still seen in the two side apses.

Santa Sofia was almost destroyed by the earthquake of 1688, and rebuilt in Baroque forms by commission of the then cardinal Orsini of Benevento (later Pope Benedict XIII). The original forms were hidden, and were recovered only after the discussed restoration of 1951.

The cloister give access to the Samnium Museum, with notable sections of remains from Ancient age and Middle Ages. These include an obelisk, one of the two that once decorated the Temple of Isis. The other one can be still seen in the city, in the central Piazza Papiniano.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, with its fine arcaded façade and incomplete square campanile (begun in 1279) dates from the 9th century. It was rebuilt in 1114. The façade was inspired by the Pisane Gothic style. Its bronze doors, adorned with bas-reliefs, are notable example of Romanesque art which may belong to the beginning of the 13th century. The interior is in the form of a basilica, the double aisles carried on ancient columns. There are ambones resting on columns supported by lions, and decorated with reliefs and coloured marble mosaic, and a candelabrum of 1311. A marble statue of the apostle San Bartolomeo, by Nicola da Monteforte, is also from the 14th century.

The massive bell tower was built in 1269 by the archbishop Romano Capodiferro.

Rocca dei Rettori

The castle of Benevento, best known as Rocca dei Rettori or Rocca di Manfredi, stands at the highest point of the town, commanding the valley of the rivers Sabato and Calore, and the two main ancient roads Via Appia and Via Traiana. The site had been already used by the Samnites, who had constructed here a set of defensive terraces, and the Romans, with a thermal plant (Castellum aquae), whose remains can be still seen in the castle garden. The Benedictines had here a monastery. It received the current name in the Middle Ages, when it became the seat of the Papal governors, the Rettori.

The castle is in fact made by two distinct edifices: the Torrione ("Big Tower"), which was built by the Lombards starting from 871, and the Palazzo dei Governatori, built by the Popes from 1320.

Other sights

  • Sant'Ilario, not far from the Arch of Traian along the first trait of the Via Traiana, is a very ancient, small building dating from the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 7th century.
  • The Palazzo di Paolo V (16th century).
  • The church of San Salvatore, dating from the High Middle Ages.
  • The Gothic church of San Francesco alla Dogana.
  • The Baroque churches of Annunziata, San Bartolomeo and San Filippo.

References

  • This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography by William Smith (1857).
  • von Falkenhausen, Vera (1983). "I Longobardi meridionali", in Giuseppe Galasso ed.: Il Mezzogiorno dai Bizantini a Federico II. Turin: UTET, 251-364. 
  • Cilento, Nicola (1971). Italia meridionale longobarda. Milan-Naples: Ricciardi. 

Notes

1. ^ E. McClure, British Place-Names in their Historical Settings, London (1910), pp. 32-34

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