Caulonia 2000


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by Antonio Nicaso

Set upon a rocky mass “in the shape of a scalene triangle”, among a pleasant expanse of orange and lemon blossoms, broom bushes and jasmine, kissed by a clear Mediterranean sun, reflecting on a cobalt blue sea, sits Caulonia, from the height of its three hundred metres, fascinates its visitors with its customs and its remote traditions, and steals their hearts with the discovery of a “Calabria” suspended between fantasy and exultation, between nature and history, where everything combines to give life to surprising sensations. This noble citadel, whose origins are wrapped in the veils of Magna-Grecian culture, owes its birth to the desire for liberty which enabled a colony of strong, young Achaeans, led by Trifone di Egina, to row the currents of the Ionian sea. The place on which Caulonia gradually rose and expanded, was founded around 722 B.C.

Built under the rule of the Crotonians, to the left of the  banks of the Sagra, among happy woods and rolling hills, near Mount Caulone, it soon became an autonomous and independent republic, able to mint coins and dictate their movements. For Caulonia, the doors of the temple of “Giano” opened after three centuries of peace, precisely in 389 B.C., the year during which it was laid under siege, conquered and destroyed by the bloodthirstiness of the Aratusian tyrant Dionisio il Vecchio (the old), with the tacit connivance of the republic of Locri. After the death of Dionisio il Vecchio in 367 B.C., following his defeat on behalf of the Carthaginians of Erice, his son, Dionisio il Giovane (the young), came to the throne of Siracusa and, as his first command, commissioned the Locresi to reconstruct and re-populate Caulonia.

Subsequently passed into the hands of the Bruzi, dominated by the unstoppable force of the Roman eagles, it was handed over to Pirro, king of Epiro. It was then completely destroyed for having sided with the legendary Hannibal, during the Punic wars, by the army of the “Temporeggiatore”, Fabio Massimo, in 200 B.C., following an irrevocable verdict emitted by the Senatus Popolusque Romanus.

The “Cunctator” managed to bury the glorious republic under the rubble but he did not manage to suppress the Caulonians, who transferred their “Penati” to a well fortified place not far from the remains of their superb city. By wish of the conquerors, the Greek name of Caulonia was changed to the Latin name of Castelvetere and, as a consequence, the remaining survivors had to forget their Magna-Grecian traditions. The ancient inhabitants of Caulonia however, found comfort and hope in the Evangelical message of the Redeemer.
With the passage of time, through the turbulent events of that era, Castelvetere once more shone in the firmament of Calabria.

Around the year 1000, the town, “encircled by walls and ramparts”, was, according to the Partenopean archives, a feudal town belonging to Malgeri d’Altavilla, one of the descendants of the Tancredi who took part in the first Crusade and whom the poet Torquato Tasso wrote about in his “Gerusalemme Liberata” as a generous Christian nobleman and a thinker.

From Malgeri d’Altavilla, the town passed on to Roberto Filangeri, then Matteo de Ara, Anselmo de Caprosio, Roberto de Vetro, and on to the Marquis Muscatello, Bardessino Galeoffo and Antonio de Centelles. This last feudal lord betrayed the royal trust and the town was given to Iacopo Carafa, son of Onofrio, by the king, Ferdinando d’Aragona.

In 1497, Castelvetere had the honour of having the Pope, Paolo IV, one of the members of the Carafa family, as its guest. In 1525 it welcomed the winner of the duel of Barletta, Ettore Fieramosca, as a guest of his brother, Cesare, to whom, in 1520, Carlo V had given the iron and the lead mines of Campoli, Stilo and Fabrizia. In 1535 the town had the Emperor of the Hapsburgs and king of Spain and Emperor of Germany, Carlo V, as its guest. He was returning from a expedition  to Africa against the Turkish pirate, Khair-Ad-din, otherwise known as Redbeard. He stopped his galeons in order to visit his friend Giovanbattista Carafa. In 1571 the town took part in the Battle of Lepanto with the “galera del corsale” at the side of the Spaniards, the Venetians, the Popes, the Savoias and the Cavalieri di Malta against the Turks who had occupied Cyprus. Then in October 1594 the town courageously managed to repress the attacks of the “Flagello delle Calabrie”, Sinam Cigalà. In 1738 following the Polish succession war, Castelvetere passed over from the Carafa family to the Bourbons who dominated it until the advent of Garibaldi. On the 30th of June 1862, following the territorial unification of Italy, by the Ministerial Decree N.123830 of the Italian Home Office, Castelvetere changed its name back to the ancient glorious one of Caulonia.

During the Fascist Regime, it had the honour of obtaining, after Milan, the pennant of Italy, while in the sports field it won second place in the “Dux” campsite in Rome. In March 1945 it lived its five days which resulted in the proclamation of “Republic of Caulonia”, by hand of the Elementary teacher Pasquale Cavallaro, which because of a series of unfavourable circumstances, was quickly forgotten. Today, out of all the 96 Municipalities in the Province of Reggio Calabria, Caulonia comes third place for territorial extension, eleventh for number of inhabitants and it counts about twenty fractions both large and small.


by Antonio Nicaso
Tourist's guide -Caulonia
Translated by Alexia Mazza


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