The current town of Foligno, or the ancient city of "Fulginium", is situated in a fertile valley at the foot of the Apennines, near the confluence of the Topino and the Menotre (a tributary of the Topino River).
The ancient city was remembered by many Roman writers such as Cato [234-149 BC], Cicero [106-43 BC], Caesar [100-44 BC] and Pliny the Elder [23-79 AD], and developed significantly after the Roman conquest.
Early origins and the Roman era in Foligno
The territory of "Fulginates" (Pliny the Elder) was Romanized from 295 BC. A question arose in the past regarding the site of the ancient city, as it was thought that the site had moved farther north, but apparently, and as indeed some historians asserted in the 18th century, the current site actually seems to be the same as the original location.
During the Roman age Foligno was a Confederate city, before being a "Municipium" and then a "Prefecture", and it had some commercial importance, because it was crossed by a branch of the “Via Flaminia” trade road.
After the Romans - the dark Ages
We can say that, after the fall of Roman Empire, Foligno was subject to various invasions, such as those of the Saracens and Hungarians, then the Goths of Odoacer (435-493) and Theodoric (471-526), until it was recovered by the Byzantine Empire.
In the 6th century it was then conquered by the Lombards, becoming part of the Duchy of Spoleto, where it remained until the end of the 12th century when it entered in the Church State.
Foligno in the Middle Ages
Foligno was occupied in 1235 by Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250) and his descendants until 1254, when it came back under the dominion of the Church State.
In the 14th century Foligno was the center of the struggles between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and it was ruled for some years by Anastasi, a Ghibelline family. Around 1305 there was a very bloody fight between the two parties, and Corrado Anastasi, to save his life, had to flee and take refuge in Todi.
From then the Trinci family ruled the city with the title of Vicars of the Pope until 1439, showing themselves to be, among other things, great patrons, and attracting the best Umbrian artists of the time to their court.
From the mid-15th century Foligno reverted to the Church State until the unification of Italy in 1861.
Origins of the name Foligno : Fulginium
Not all ideas about the etymology of “Fulginium” are in agreement. According to L. Iacobilli, "Fulginium" derives from the Latin verb "fulgeo-ere" ("to shine"):
"[...] From the verb 'fulgeo' came 'Fulginia' and from this name ‘Fulginates’” ... It was then called Foligno by the Italians and it took as badge a golden lily, resplendent in a red field [...]" .
According to Stanislao Bardetti, however:
"[...] 'Fulginium' means 'very strong', from 'ful', augmentative particle, and 'Cyne', 'strong', 'powerful' [...]" .
So the etymology in the 18th century was divided between Foligno "shining city" and “powerful city”. Even more recently there is no agreement among scholars: some derive the name from a noble, "Fulgentius"; some from a local cult of the goddess "Fulginia"; while G. Semerano writes:
"[...] 'Fulginia', 'Fulginea', 'Fulginium': the name of the ancient allocation on a hill, the base testifies to the significance of 'cities of the hill’: accad. 'Abullu' ('district, city gate') and ‘ginum’, ‘ginnum’ ( 'mountain') [...]" . Knowing the reputation and expertise of Professor Semerano, perhaps, his proposal should be taken seriously, because it seems well reasoned.
See also the Foligno travel guide when planning your visit.
1. See L. Iacobilli, “Discorso della Città di Foligno” [" A Sermon on the city of Foligno], Foligno, Agostino Alterij, 1646, p. 3
2. See Stanislao Bardetti, “Della Lingua dei Primi Abitatori dell'Italia” ["About the Language of the First Inhabitants of Italy], Modena, 1772, p. 310
3. See G. Semerano, “Le Origini della Cultura Europea” ["The Origins of European Culture"], Olschki, 1984 , p. 620