History of Adrano, Italy


See Adrano guide for highlights and historic monuments

Adrano is the current name for the ancient Greek town of "Adranòn", later known in Latin as "Hadranum" [1], so we can see that the territory of Adrano is of very ancient settlement.

Adrano in ancient times

In fact, archaeological excavations conducted by P. Orsi (1859-1935) and then continued over the years have brought to light various villages, consisting of huts protected by trenches and some necropolis with oval burial chambers, which clearly indicate the trend of the ancient Sikel populations to settle in lowland areas near rivers.

In particular,  human settlement in the territory of Adrano is represented by the remains of a type of village called "Castelluccio". According to scholars, the “Castelluccio” villages were built in places that were:

"easily defensible, with works made for access with and a system designed on rocky spurs" [2].

Diodorus Siculus (90-27 BC) and other ancient authors identified the site of Adrano with the ancient city of "Inessa", but this is very doubtful, because there are at least two sites where we could identify Inessa:

"Some scholars suggest the identification of Adrano with Inessa; however Savasta [3] sited Etna-Inessa in Paterno, between Catania and Centuripe" [4].

A decisive contribution to the discovery of human settlements in the territory of Adrano was that of P. Orsi [5] and the Superintendence for Archaeological Heritage of Syracuse and Catania. The whole area of Adrano was involved in the expansionist policy of Syracuse, which obtained complete hegemony over central-eastern Sicily.

Origins of the name Adrano

After their conquest, the Syracusans founded a new colony, called “Adranon.” According to Diodorus, Dionysius I (430-367 BC) was the founder of the city in 400 BC. Then the Romans called it "Hadranum", located on the site of the fortified castle of “Giambruno”, where there was the sanctuary of "Adranòs", one of the most important gods of the Sikels.

Hence we find the etymology of the city, which is obviously related to the worship of the God "Adranos', who, according to the legend of the foundation, also had a prominent part in the history of the city, which was troubled by internal struggles between Timoleon and Hiketas.

Legend of the god Adranos

"[...] Adranòs is presented as a warrior god, whose statue miraculously sweats and shakes his lance on arrival of the Corinthian commander, pointing out to the inhabitants of Adrano, undecided if they were on the side of Timoleon or of the tyrant Hiketas, how to make the right decision. Adranòs intervenes the next moment, miraculously saving the live of Timoleon, who was being murdered by two assassins of Hiketas, as he made a sacrifice on the altar of the god.

The Adranos’ action is coherent with his ability to identify and punish those who arrive at his holy dwelling in a position of profanity or sacrilegious intentions. Plutarch also informs us that the cult of Adranos spread to other villages of the island, and this is at least partially confirmed by other epigraphic and numismatic evidences […]” [6].

The Romans arrive in Adrano

The city of Adrano collided hard with the Romans, in opposition to their conquest in 263 BC during the First Punic War, suffering a heavy siege that culminated in the total destruction of the city.

Archaeological researches clearly prove the signs of destruction inflicted on this Greek city, of which there are also the traces of the Roman 'centuriation' [the ways of measuring and dividing territory during the Roman period], which seem to extend to the ancient city called “Mendolito” and other districts.

The city was provided with an important road network with military and economic functions by the Romans [7].

Arab conquest

The so-called “Ponte dei Saraceni” ["Bridge of the Saracens"], which incorporates some elements of typical Roman style also shows that Adrano in the Middle Ages was an important stronghold for the Arab strategic control of the roads along the Simeto river. Under the administration of the Muslims, Adrano once again saw its military function strengthened.

For the Arab conquerors  the territory of Adrano was not just important from the military standpoint. It was rich in waters and springs, and this gave a special impetus to the founding of new villages and hamlets. The cultural contribution of the Arabs was remarkable in terms of agriculture; in fact, they introduced new types of crops such as flax, cotton, vegetables, citrus fruit, mulberry, sugar cane, rice, and agricultural methods of crop irrigation.

Norman conquest of Adrano

After the conquest of Messina and the valley of the Simeto river, the Normans advanced toward Catania, encountering resistance from the Arab hamlets along the Simeto river. Adernò was conquered by the Normans after the fall of the important hamlet called "Bulichiel."

Later, the territory of Sicily was divided into dioceses by Norman Count Roger (1031-1101), and Adrano became part of the County of Catania, and it was enfeoffed (made a fiefdom) to Bishop Angerius.

Next it was assigned to the members of the royal family, with a vast territory including Centorbi and Paternò. Under Roger II (1095-1154), the city and its territory were subject to a vast operation of feoffment of the most fertile lands of eastern Sicily to the nobles of Norman origin, often related to Queen Adelasia (1074-1118), under the whose regency we observe a wide phenomenon of immigration of settlers from northern Italy, the so-called "Aleramicis" and the Lombards (Italian "Lombardi").

For the organization of his territory and to be acquainted with it, Roger II instructed Al Idrisi (1099-1166) to do the most important works of the Sicilian medieval geography, that is "The Book of King Roger". According to Al Idrisi, Adrano was a:

"sweet hamlet, almost a small town, it stood on a rocky peak, and had a market, a bathroom, a beautiful castle and it abounded in waters. It was situated at the foot of Etna" [8].

Entering the 16th century

Adrano later expanded not only thanks to the building program initiated by the great feudal lords but also by the monasteries. In 1501 Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada obtained from the king a "licentia populandi" (planning permission), a royal privilege that authorized Guglielmo Francesco Moncada to rebuild and repopulate Adrano.

Repopulating the Sicilian countryside

This phenomenon of repopulation of the countryside was an epochal event in Sicily, and it has been extensively studied. In general, we can say that it was:

"[…] the result of a deliberate choice by a Lord that was then sanctioned by the sovereign powers with a 'licentia populandi'. With this historic event, the feudal colonization lived its golden age in the sixty years between 1590 and 1650. The 17th century 'return to the land' was thus characterized in Sicily by this massive baronial effort to repopulate the countryside" [9].

However, we also note that the repopulation trend of the Sicilian countryside by the local nobles was not only a major historical event, but also a tool for achieving a higher ranking in the "honors of nobility", with also a consequent increase of their political power.

Baroque era in Adrano

The increased resources resulting from the increased industrial and commercial activities produced a process of development of the city. The religious communities built houses, churches and palaces and the religious fervor tied to the Counter-Reformation made room for the development in the Baroque style, which caused much activity in the construction and reconstruction of church buildings, thanks to the economic power reached by various religious institutions in this period.

This church development was accompanied by the construction of new residences for the local nobility designed to adhere to the stylistic features of the Baroque style in architectural and functional terms, so establishing a new harmony with the Baroque urban layout.

Other renovations of convents and monasteries were allowed, which since the mid-16th century had been built within the city. The new religious and civil buildings were built within the residential neighborhoods in the free areas still occupied by gardens.

After the earthquake of 1693

After a long period of decline following the economic and demographic earthquake of 1693, which lasted well into the next century, with the advent of the Bourbons the city experienced a new building development. From 1750 the  population increase caused the expansion of the city to the north to the modern “Piazza Leone XIII”, with the construction of the neighborhood of S. Philip, built around the church dating back to late 18th century, and other additions were made during the 19th century.

Today Adrano, with its historical monuments and rich archaeological and artistic heritage, is a city with a strong disposition for cultural tourism, which is accompanied by a landscape that seduced all foreign observers who, since the 19th century, had the opportunity to visit the ancient "Adranon".

See also the Adrano travel guide.

References

1. See G. Alessio, , “L'elemento greco nella toponomastica della Sicilia”,  in "BCSFLS", 1955, III, p. 31

2. with regard to the archaeological aspects, see the articles contained in M. Coppa, “Storia dell'urbanistica: Dalle origini all'ellenismo”, Turin, Einaudi, 1969, Vol II, pp. 593 ff.

3. in 'Memorie storiche della città di Paternò', I, Catania, 1905, p. 26 ss, I, Catania, 1905, p. 26 ff.

4. See “Scoperta di una città antica sulle rive del Simeto: Etna-Inessa?” in “La parola del passato”,  1972, pp. 473 note

5. “Adrano e la città sicula del Mendolito”, 1898-1909 (edited by P. Pelagatti), in "“Archivio storico siracusano”, p. 137

6. See N. Cusumano, “Siculi”, in “Ethne e religioni nella Sicilia antica”, in “Atti del Convegno internazionale”  (Palermo, 6-7 December 2000) , Rome, 2006, pp. 129-130

7."Itinerarium Antonini" and "Tabula Peutingeriana"

8. See Al Idrisi," The Book of Roger ", edited by M. Amari, Rome, Salviucci, 1883, p. 56

9. See Francesco Benigno, “Vecchio e nuovo nella Sicilia del Seicento: il ruolo della colonizzazione feudale”, in “Studi storici”,  1986 , n. 1, p. 95