History of Citta di Castello, Italy


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History and etymology of Citta di Castello

Città di Castello in Roman times was called "Tifernum Tiberinum."

The historical and linguistic data refer to a presumed Umbrian-Sabine origin of the city; in fact, the term "Tifernus (= Bifernus) seems to derive from an original name" Tifaro ", which first appears like "a Italic Umbrian-Sabine name  and then a Latin name "(See, “Studi Etruschi”, Olschki, 1975, p. 156).

The first mention of Tifernum Tiberinum has been handed down to us by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), but it is quite late; from the point of view of the Umbrian epigraphic sources, about forty inscriptions were discovered in the so-called "Regio VI" to which Tifernum Tiberinum belonged; but "near the Tiber, we observe a significant void of evidences at the districts of Tifernum Tiberinum."

However, "The Latin epigraphic and literary sources. converge to characterize Tifernum Tiberinum as an Etruscan district ( See Various Authors, “Mercator placidissimus: the Tiber Valley in antiquity : new research in the upper and middle river valley”, Quasar, 2008, pp. 57 and 59). In fact, Pliny the Elder [ Nat. Hist. , 3, 144]  wrote: 'De cetero (...) 'Tifernates cognomine Tiberini et alii Metaurenses.' [Among other [people], we recall the 'Tifernates' called 'Tiberini' and those called 'Metaurenses']: "Pliny, in the description of the Augustan Region VI, after having listed the existing colonies and towns of the territory, enumerated the people who lived in those places.

Among these there were the inhabitants of towns having almost the same name, that is 'Tifernum Tiberinum' and 'Tifernum Metaurense', but easily locatable from the topographical point of view. Indeed. 'Tifernum Tiberinum' corresponds to the modern city of Città di Castello, while 'Tifernum Metaurense' is located by archaeologists near San Angelo in Vado, in the valley of the river Metauro "(See A. Trevisiol, “Fonti letterarie ed epigrafiche   per la storia romana di Pesaro e Urbino”, Roma, 1992,  p. 195).

In addition, A. Trevisiol also quotes Ptolemy (90-168 AD) who "pinpoinded a town called 'Tifernum' in the Umbrian territory" (p. 195). In conclusion, the Umbrian origin of "Tifernum Tiberinum" seems certain. It is also supported by the etymology, on which scholars have talked for a long time. In general we can say that the  Tifernum means “the city of the Tiber” [The ‘Tiberina'] "(See, “Studi Etruschi”, 1975, p. 142).

However, the problem is very complex, because "Tifernum" had a different meaning: "The issue is still very doubtful, because the root of the term can connect to the concept of mountain,  river and finally “oppidum” [fortified city] (See, “Studi Etruschi”, Olschki, 1975, p. 134). Thus, for example, the mountains of Matese are called "Tifernum Mons". But, as we said, almost all scholars believe that the origin of Tifernum Tiberinum is the "City of the Tiber.

G. Semeraro suggested that the name derived from a root "ain" [= River]: " Tifernum derives from a base  which corresponds to that of Tiber: Accad. tibu (swim, dive, 'untertauchen') (...) How 'Tiber', the name 'Tifernum' shows a base corresponding to the Phoenician (…) 'or' (= river) and to Akkadian 'harru', followed by the adjectival suffix 'nu' "(See G. Semeraro, “Le origini della cultura europea, 1984, p. 623). G. Romaniello said that, in his opinion, "Tifernum" not only means "River”, but also “River of Ilexes”:" It is, therefore, unlawful to admit that the Umbrians called the Tiber river 'Tifernum'. Since the Etruscan 'Tifa' means 'ilices' ( ilexes), as in 'Tifata' [= hill of ilexes], near Capua, so 'Tifernus' means 'river of ilexes' "(See G. Romaniello,  “Pensiero e linguaggio”,  2004, p. 424)."

The Etruscan origin of Tifernum Tiberinum was questioned for its position on the river Tiber, but according to recent studies, also from a geographical point of view, it seems that the Upper Tiber in ancient time included "Tifernum Tiberinum:" The Tiber was not a border to the upper part of its course, that would develop entirely in Etruscan territory. In fact, the  epigraphic and literary sources placed explicitly in Etruria Arna and 'Tifernum Tiberinum', both to the left of the Tiber.

Arna is located in 'Tuscia' by an inscription found at 'Noviae' and  with regard to 'Tifernum Tiberinum', Pliny the Younger (61-112 AD) told that his villa, near Città di Castello,  was situated 'in Tuscis' [(“Oppidum est praediis nostris vicinum : nome n Tifernum Tiberinum , quod me paene adhuc puerum patronum cooptavit: tanto majore studio, quanto minore judicio” [There is a village near my property, called Tifernum Tiberinum, which selected me as its patron when I was still almost a boy, and showed, by so doing, more affection than judgment (IV, 1)] ( Vedi  S. Sisani, “Dirimens Tiberis? I confini tra Etruria e Umbria”, in F. Coarelli - H. Patterson (a cura di), Mercator placidissimus. The Tiber Valley in antiquity (Atti Roma 2004), Roma 2009, pp. 45-85, p. 46)].

Important linguistic studies aiming to identify   the Latin term Tiber and  "Tifernum" were made in the late nineteenth century by B. Bianchi: "The old name “Tiberinum” was an unconscious ...  translation of Tifernum  In the bronze Tables of Gubbio, there are many terms that remind Tifernum, which was the ancient Umbrian name of the Latin name 'Tiberis' "[Tiber] (See B. Bianchi, “Il dialetto e la etnografia di Città di Castello, 1888 , p. 5 et seq.).

Some important historical data about  Tifernum Tiberinum  were handed down to us by the Letters of Pliny, who possessed "In Tuscis" a villa about which he spoke at length in his letters. For its special climatic conditions, the area was inhabited in ancient times and later by the Romans since the second century BC, with the spread of large farms in the area. Pliny the Younger had a villa in the territory of Tifernum Tiberinum, and he described Tifernum as a very beautiful city, of which he was "Patronus" and where he had also built a temple.

The spread of Christianity in Citta di Castello is attributed by tradition to St. Crescentino or Crescenziano, who lived between the third and fourth centuries AD. The first bishop of Tifernum Tiberinum was presumably Eubodio, who is documented in the year 465. It was later completely destroyed by the Goths of Totila (died 552 AD), but was rebuilt and fortified by the will of Bishop Florido (6th century AD). Over the centuries, the ancient "Tifernum Tiberinum" often changed name. Under the Lombards it was called "Castrum Felicitatis" and around the tenth century "Civitas Castelli": "This indicated that the medieval  'citatas' [city] was closed and protected by high walls of a castle” (See Various Authors, “ Ascoltare il Tevere: viaggio nei nomi di luogo e della natura nella Valle del Tevere”, Era nuova,  2000, p. 148).

As we said, in the sixth century the city was also called "Castrum Felicitatis". In fact, in the so-called Bavarian Code [composed in the seventh century] we have the mention of a 'Donatio quam fecit Imelperga (...) habitatrice in Castello Felicitatis "[ a donation granted by  Imelperga, who lived in the" Castrum Felicitatis "] (See“Codex Traditionum Ecclesiae”, Monachii, MDCCCX (1810), p.37).

The name "Felicitatis" [happiness] was somewhat difficult to interpret, but it is quite likely that it derives from the cult of Santa Felicita: "The cult of  ‘Santa Felicita’ is presumably related to the name of 'Castrum Felicitatis' (the modern City of Castle ) located near the destroyed 'Tifernum', where the cult of the saint has also left toponymic traces in  S. Felicita Paterna "(See “Archivio Storico per le Provincie Parmensi”,  1966, p. 83).

From all accounts, the city of Castello in the Middle Ages  was a  power Common , which   controlled  the entire surrounding area. According to G. Muzi "in 1198 Jacopo and Rapazello lords of the castle of Muccignano subdued the place and people to Citta di Castello in the hands of Armanno, that is the Podesta of Città di Castello and they undertake to ... provide each service and obedience to the  City (…) The city submitted all  the countryside until the eleventh or twelfth century (...) subjecting the feudal lords "(See G. Muzi, “ Memorie civili di Città di Castello”,  1844, p. 28 ff.).

Thus, Città di Castello was a free Guelph Commune, which extended its rule over the neighboring territory towards the Apennines. There were inside fairs struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Closed within  very powerful cities, Città di Castello asked protection to the Popes and  Emperors. Henry VI (1165-1197) in 1196 with a diploma exempted it from the duties which burdened the local clergy. In 1393 it was ruled by Guido Tarlati from Pietramala (died 1327), Bishop of Arezzo.

At his death the city was ruled by his brother Piero Saccone (1261-1356), but in 1334 the people rebelled regaining its freedom. Then it was subjected to the bad government of the French Pope’s Legate Gerard du Puy (died 1389), who in 1376 provoked an uprising of citizens.

In 1429 the city fell into the hands of Braccio da Montone (1368-1424), who after a few years after was ousted. Until the mid-fifteenth century the city was contrasted between the Duke of Urbino and Niccolo della Stella ( died 1435); then it placed itself under the protection of Florence, and finally it was ruled by the Papal Vicars. At this time the city was involved in the struggles between factions headed by the three most powerful families, such as the Vitelli, Giustini and  Fucci,  who aspired to the dominion of it.

The Vitelli managed by killing their enemies, especially the Fucci, while the tini abandoned the city. The Popes tried to help them return to the city, so the Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere (1443-1513) besieged for a long time Citta di Castello, which was defended effectively by Niccolò Vitelli (1414-1486). However, the Pontifical troops, taking advantage of the absence of Niccolò, captured the city, but he recaptured shortly after and kept it under his lordship.

He died in 1486, and  was succeeded by his son Vitellozzo (1458-1502), who was strangled by order of Cesare Borgia (1475-1507) in the fortress of Sinigaglia with Paolo Orsini (died 1502) and Oliverotto of Fermo (1472-1502).

Therefore Città di Castello fell into the hands of Caesar Borgia, who ruled it with the title of Duke until  the death of his father Alexander VI (1433-1503) in 1503. Ever since Città di Castello came under the rule of the Church where it remained, except for the Napoleonic period, until the unification of Italy (1861).