History of Cassibile


See Cassibile guide for highlights and historic monuments

The modern town of Cassibile only dates from the 19th century. The history of the name and location are thought to go much further back however, and posibly started around a farmhouse of the same name...

Cassibile - modern town with ancient origins

Cassibile is the name of a very famous river in antiquity, known to the Greeks as "Kakyperis", on which, as Thucydides [460-395 BC] says [1], Demosthenes (died 413 BC) was forced to surrender at Syracuse. Cassibile is also the name of an old farm-house, mentioned by some medieval documents. In fact, Michele Amari says:

“'Cassibari' or 'Cassibilie', a ruined village near the river of the same name, 'Kasbadri', 'Cassibula', certainly dating back to the 17th century [...]" [2].

More specifically, the name "Cassibile" is mentioned in a document of 1093 by Pope Urban II (1035-1099), in which some localities of the Diocese of Syracuse were mentioned:

“[...] In these areas there is Syracuse with all its appurtenances, that are Lentini, Nota, Pantegra, 'Cassibula' (...) Butera, with all its appurtenances , and other castles and farm-houses that were built or will be built within the boundaries mentioned above" [3].

At the time of Urban II, therefore, there was a farm-house called Cassibula. There is also a document of Norman times (1104) dating back to Count Roger II (1095-1154), which refers to:

"A farm-house along the road towards 'Cassibulum'" 4].

About this ancient fortified farm-house, which appears to have been inhabited by some Arab populations, we also have the evidence of Al Idrisi (1099-1164), an Arab historian to the Court of Roger II, who spoke of a farm-house called "ral Qassibari" [5], near the river “Wadi qassibari” (“Flumen Cacyparis”) [6].

According to some contemporary studies it is via the Arab language that we come to the modern name "Cassibile" [...] 'Kakyparis', through the Arabic "qs bari' has become 'Cassibile'" [7]. With regard to the etymology of “Kakyparis”, the proposal of Giovanni A. Massa is still interesting - he wrote:

"[...] The etymology of 'Cacyparis' is related to its vast delta where the river flows and it would be of Carthaginian origin with the meaning of "Sinus Magnus" ("Great Cove ") [...]" [8].

G.A. Massa then added, however, that he believed more in the Arabic origin of the name. In fact, according to some scholars, “Cassibile” derives from an Arabic word which would have to do with a “farm-house with a mill” (Arabic" Manzil "," Asr "=" presser " [“to squeeze”, “to press”] [9].

We must also consider the historical ancient structure of the territory, where the place-names of Arabic origin are very numerous. Patrice Cressier points out that "in the territory of Lentini, from 11th until the 14th century, the names of Arabic origin are more than a third of all" [10].

Apart from the name ("Cassibile") there do not actually exist historically established relations between the old farm-house and the current "Cassibile", the origins of which date back to the mid-19th century.

Among other things, especially in the past, it was suggested that the site of the farm-house of Cassibile could be identified with the ancient city of Avola.

To complcate matters further, according to A. Messina, we do not even know with certainty if the document of Pope Urban II actually was related to this castle or was a more general reference:

"[...] It is unclear whether it relates to the Bishop's document of 1104, which lists the assets of the Diocese of Syracuse ' aliud casale , quod est juxta via quae tendit Cassibulum'. In the last two centuries of the Middle Ages the place-name ‘Cassibile’ indicated only an uninhabited feud and it is mentioned such as a 'castle' [...]"[11].

Coming therefore to more certain things, we can say that the village, since the 14th century, was part of a feud with a castle, a remnant of an old military building. Cassibile was then ruled by numerous feudal families of Sicily, as the Moncada, Arici, Lanza, Speciali, and Branciforte.

In 1797 the Barony passed to the Loffredo. In the mid-19th century, the Marquis Sylvester Loffredo started the construction of a township that would meet the needs of the rural population who worked in his large properties and industries. The village was well built, with a hundred homes, a store with an inn and the church.

See also the Cassibile visitor guide.

References

1. “History of the Peloponnesian War”, VII, 75-86

2. See M. Amari, "Carte Comparée de la Sicile moderne ", Paris, Plon, 1853 : 33

3. See “Patrologiae cursus completus”. “Saeculum XI, Pontificis Romani B. Urbani II Epistolae, Diplomata, Sermones”, 1853: 371-372

4. See A. Messina, "The Rock Churches of Syracuse” , 1979: 115

5. See A. Messina, " Sicilia equestre ", 2008: 26

6. See M. Amari, “L'Italia descritta nel libro di Ruggero”, Salviucci, 1883: 66

7. See “Società italiana di Glottologia”,”La Toponomastica come fonte di conoscenza storica e linguistica”, 1981: 12

8. See G.A. Massa," La Sicilia in prospettiva”, 1709: 308

9. See Henri Bresc, “Le paysage de l'agricolture séche en Sicile [1080-1450]”, in Ghislaine Noyé, “Castrum: structures de l'habitat ...”, 1988, Vol. I: 271 note 24

10. See Patrice Cressier," Le chateau et la ville ", 2008 : 117

11. See A. Messina, “Sicilia rupestre”: 26