History of Bevagna


See Bevagna guide for highlights and historic monuments

Bevagna is situated in a fertile valley in Umbria, crossed by the rivers Topino Timia, Clitumnus and Attone, and just 200 meters above sea level. Bevagna, which the Romans called "Mevania, only enters into history with the Roman conquest, although it has a tradition much older.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the territory of Bevagna was already inhabited in prehistoric times, then, in the 7th century BC by the Umbrians - and probably by the Etruscans (since its name appears to originate from an Etruscan origin - see etymology further down).

Thanks to its geographical position and proximity to the Via Flaminia, 'Mevania' developed important handicrafts like pottery, which was inspired by "some Greek products of Alexandrine taste, which will flourish throughout the Roman world."

The ceramics of Mevania, and especially those coming out of the "Popilius" shop, were of the Megara style of great beauty and elegance, with decorative elements such as ivy leaves, dolphins, masks, vine-leafs and many others [5]

Mevania was in a clear decline after the fall of Roman Empire, and suffered serious attacks and destructions both under Frederick Barbarossa (1122-1190) and Emperor Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250).

It became a municipality in the 12th century, and was ruled by their own consuls for several years, but then it came under the dominion of the Duchy of Spoleto, then Perugia, then the Baglioni, and, finally, under the dominion of Church State.

Origins of the name Bevagna

Some Italian and foreign scholars think that the etymology of ancient "Mevania" has its roots in the Etruscan word "Mefana", which refers to a family name. Carlo Pietrangeli writes:

"[...] An indication of the persistence of Etruscans in territory of Mevania could be provided by the place names: the name of 'Mevania' may in fact derive from the noble Etruscan 'Mefana' [...]" [1].

The term was later Romanized into "Mefanas", and "Maefanas". On the other hand, in the Etruscan period it seems there was in the Samnium a "pagus Mefanus", referring to the same noble.

Even J. Marouzeau writes that: “the name Mevania comes, no doubt, from an Etruscan noble” [2], while A.J. Pfiffig, about the existence of a "pagus Mefanus" in Samnium, uses the question mark: "'Mevania' ('Mefana' in Samnium, vgl.. 'Mefanus pagus'?)" [3].

In substance, however, Pfiffig hasn’t denied the etymology. "Mevania" was an important city for the Romans since it is crossed by the “Via Flaminia” and it was mentioned by Latin writers as a “Municipium” [4].

See also the detailed Bevagna travel guide.

References

1. See C. Pietrangeli, "'Mevania' (Bevagna): Regio VI Umbria, Institute of Roman Studies, Rome, 1953: 22.

2. See J. Marouzeau, “Revue des études latines”, Vol. 31-32, 1956: 471

3. See A.J. Pfiffig “Die Etruskische Sprache: Versuch einer Gesamtdarstellung”, 1969: 190

4. Livy [59 BC-17 AD], Pliny the Elder [23-79 AD], Propertius (45 ca-15 BC], Silius Italicus [26-101 AD] and others

5. see P. Puppo, “Le Coppe Megaresi in Italia” [“The Goblets of Megara in Italy”], 1995, p. 23