History of Gualdo Tadino, Italy

See Gualdo Tadino guide for highlights and historic monuments

Gualdo Tadino is a small town in Umbria, located at the western foot of the Apennines. Historical information on the ancient city of the Umbrians is absent, and with regard to "Tadinum" of Roman times it was probably just a "vicus" [staging post] of little importance, so much so that it was mentioned by only a few ancient authors.

Roman era in Giualdo Tadino

It was rightly pointed out by S. Borgia:

"[...] Tadino, although located in the Flaminia Road, was only mentioned by Pliny the Elder and Procopius (500-565 AD); it was not mentioned by Strabo (64 BC-24 AD), Ptolemy (90-168 AD), Pomponius Mela (died 45 AD) , Stephen of Byzantium (6th century AD) and the Itinerary of Antoninus (sixth-century AD) (...) that leads me to believe that Tadino was not among the most illustrious and conspicuous cities of Umbria [...]" [11].

The city was definitely a Prefecture, and according to other scholars also a municipium, but it is doubtful. Bradley was more likely since he wrote that:

“the absorption of Tadinum into the Roman State at the time of the Roman conquest has interesting implications, if correct (...) the tribe of Tadinum is not otherwise known; only Iguvium of the surrounding states was in the Clustumina recorded on the inscription but 'quattuorviri' seem to have been the chief magistrates here." [12].

However, the Roman conquest implied a significant economic development of the city, due to the presence of the Flaminia Road. According to traditional data, Tadino was taken and destroyed by Hannibal (247-182 BC) during the Battle of the Trasimene (217 BC), and during the Civil Wars (49 to 48 BC), it was sacked by Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) for its alliance with Gnaeus Pompeius (106-48 BC).

Tadino after the Romans

With the fall of the Roman Empire Tadinum was subject to the Barbarian incursions, and was destroyed by the Goths in 552 AD (not far from Gualdo Tadino the battle between Narses and the Goths of Totila is presumed to have taken place).

With the advent of the Lombards, Tadinum was taken away and absorbed into the Duchy of Spoleto. Later the city was ruled by the Franks (774 AD), and finally by Otto III (980-1002 AD), under whose rule the city was destroyed and the inhabitants were dispersed.

Gualdo was rebuilt and equipped with a castle in the 13th century under the protection of the Monastery of St. Benedict:

“the inhabitants built a small castle in a land already known in ancient times as Gualdo, near the Monastery of St. Benedict" [13].

The inhabitants were constantly at the mercy of the aims of the local feudal lords, so they decided to leave the village built around the ancient Abbey to build another village near the “Rocca Flea” in the Gorgo Valley, or Valley of Saint Marzio, where there was built a castle called Gualdo. Shortly afterwards, for reasons of safety, Gualdo gave in to nearby Perugia.

In 1237, a fire devastated the town, which was rebuilt farther down the hill called the "Hill of St. Angel", on which the modern town is situated. At the time of Frederick II (1194-1250), Gualdo rallied to his side, and the Emperor showed his gratitude with various privileges, and thanks to which the city grew with the construction of the castle walls, which were reinforced by deep moats and towers, of which there are even today many remains.

There were four Gates of Gualdo and each took its name from a Church that existed outside these walls, namely S. Facondino, S. Martino, S. Donato and S. Benedict.

Gualdo in the following years was again subject to rule by Perugia until 1469, but because of the strategic importance of its area, it was incorporated in the State of the Church with Pope Leo X (1475-1521) in 1513. Pope Gregory XVI (1765-1846) granted it the title of city, adding to "Gualdo" the ancient name of "Tadino."

The city was ruled by the State of the Church until the Unification of Italy in 1861.

Origins of the name Gualdo Tadino

The name "Gualdo" reflects a Germanic-Lombard origin, while the second name, "Tadino", as we shall see, has a long history. The word "Gualdo" was much discussed over the years, but the most accredited hypothesis is that it means "wood" and that it derives from the Lombards.

"Pieri (1919, Wald = Lombard), Gamillsheg (1934-1936, Wald = Lombard), Meyer -Lübke (1935, Wald = Lombard, Franconian language); Battisti-Alessio, 1950-1962 [Wald = Lombard, but more likely from the Franconian language (= wood)]; Prati, 1951 (Wald = Lombard-Franconian language)" [1].

Many scholars, while admitting the derivation of Gualdo from "Wald" [wood], thought its origins came instead from the Franconian language. E. Toni, however, wrote that Sabatini believed absurd the idea of the origin of Gualdo Tadino from the Franconian language:

"Sabatini, 1963 - 1964, p. 173, note 4, considers the derivation of 'gualdo' from the Franconian language absurd because this name was in some Lombard documents of the first half of the eighth century" [1].

The oscillation of opinion on the origins of "Gualdo" undoubtedly derives from the fact that, in reality, both the Lombards and the Franks dominated these areas. However, as noted by S. Del Lungo, the Lombards came "first" to Umbria, around the 6th century AD, while the Franks took over from the Lombards in 774 AD.

The Franks mantained unchanged some of the place names inherited from the Lombards:

"In (Umbrian names) there are attested some place names such as "Gualdo", as in other areas of Italy, where it was surely (due to) the stable presence of the Lombards. With regard to Gualdo Tadino, it is justified by the persistence of particular words in the legal lexicon of the Franks, who came in 774 into the domain of the Italic peninsula" [2].

In addition, in the Lombard lexicon the term "wald" definitely indicated a wooded area, but later it expanded its semantic field to indicate a sort of tax farm:

"At the time of the Lombards, the term 'wald' indicated, according to its ancient etymology, a tilled or uncultivated land. It later it had a broader meaning to indicate a lot of lands, cultivated or not, wooded or not; and finally 'a meaning very close to that of taxed-farm' [3].

It is confirmed by E. Migliario, who pointed out that the term:

"Gualdus indicated an extension of public lands for forest and pasture exploitation, because they were characterized by the preponderance of forests for grazing"; they were basically "farms subject to a public administrator" [4].

Origins of the name Tadino...

With regard to the second part of the name, "Tadino", the first mention of the ethnic name [Tadinates], was present in the "Tabulae Iguvinae", where some Umbrian tribes were mentioned, including the "Tadinates", who were enemies of Gubbio, and for this reason were subject to a sort of "curse", where, besides the destruction of some tribes, the punishment of the Gods on "tota Tarsìnatem" ("civitas et tribus Tardinatis") was also required [5].

The city that the Romans called "Tadinum" was sought for a long time and today has been located on the hill called "I Mori." The name of the inhabitants of Tadinum has been handed down us by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), who spoke of the "Tadinates" or "Tarinates". With regard to the etymology of "Tadinum", the question is quite intricate.

In the eighteenth century, S. Borgia wrote that, in his opinion, Tadino derived from:

"the word 'Tadin' which means 'ubera' [fertile] ... Tadino may have another origin, and it could come from the Syrian term 'Taga', meaning 'Spring' " [6].

The etymology of "Tadinum" is undoubtedly further complicated because the Umbrian name of the city of the "Tadinates" (of which "Tadinum" was the Roman translation) had many variants: “Tarsina”, “Taginae”, “Tarinae”, “Tarinum” and “Tadinum” [7].

One hypothesis that could have a reasonable basis is the one by which the "Tarsinates" were so-called because they were committed in the territory of Perugia and the Trasimene Lake, which, according to Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (35-95 AD), was also called "Tarsumenus" [Greek "Tarsiméne"]:

"It seems that the 'Tarsinates' were allocated to the lands of Gubbio, not far from the territory of Perugia, and Quintilian informs us that the lake was once called 'Tarsumeno' instead of ‘Trasimeno’. And it is possible that the name 'Sarsinates' [Perugini-Perusians] quoted by Servius (4th century) was a corruption of 'Tarsimnates' " [8].

The intuition of F. Orioli, for which the "Tarsinates" can have a relationship with Perugia ("Sarsina" = Perugia) and its territory was also overshadowed by contemporary linguistics:

"Sarsina-Perusia (Prusna-Prusina-Prusa?). The fundamental text is from Servius (Aen., X, 201): 'At the beginning Mantua was founded by the Thebans, then more recently by the Etruscans and the Gauls, or, as some say, by the "Sarsinates", who lived in Perugia. Therefore, we have no name mentioning explicitly 'Sarsina' [Perugia], but a vague ethnographic designation [Sarsinatibus]...

...However, that is to be taken into account (and it’s not done) for the proper original name of Lake Trasimeno, and that is of the form "Tarsiméne" (Polyb., III, 82) and in parallel of the name 'Tarsignano', near Perugia. We can therefore postulate a form like 'Tarsina' and 'Tarsimna' for 'Perugia'. At this point, however, this becomes a linguistic problem, since we have to explain the exchange between 's' [S-arsina] and 't' [T-arsina]. The thing is very complicated, but we recall the case of 'Zeus T-arsios’ in Cilicia and ‘Zeus S-arsos' in Paphlagonia" [9].

In addition, some Etruscan inscriptions have handed down to us the gentilitial name "Tadius". Since the Etruscan gentilitial names derived from the name of the city, it was noted that "the name 'Tadinates' can be related to the name 'Tadino', in Umbria, which Vetter connected with the 'Tarinates' of the 'Tabulae Iguvinae'.

The noble 'Tadius' is attested in Roman times (...) in the nearby 'Amiternum' " [10].

In conclusion, the etymology of Gualdo Tadino is double; the most recent (Gualdo) refers to the Lombard concept of "domaine" [farm tax], while the oldest [Tadinum] must be related to the ancient "Tadinates" or "Tarsinates ", that is the Umbrian tribes who were settled along the Lake “Tarsumeno” [Trasimene].

See also the travel guide for Gualdo Tadino.


1. See E. Toni in “Umbria longobarda: la necropoli di Nocera Umbra nel centenario della scoperta”, edited by L. Paroli, Edizioni De Luca, 1996, p. 141

2. See S. Del Lungo, “Il corridoio Bizantino e la via Amerina: indagine toponomastica”, in “Il corridoio Bizantino e la via Amerina in Umbria nell’alto medioevo, edited by Enrico Menestò, Spoleto, 1999, p. 163

3. See E. Cuozzo, “Potere e ricchezza del duca-principe di Benevento”, in  “I Longobardi dei ducati di Spoleto e Benevento: atti del XVI Congresso Internazionale di Studi sull'Alto Medioevo ; Spoleto, 20 - 23 ottobre 2002, Benevento, 24 - 27 ottobre 2002,  Vol. I, p. 576

4. See E. Migliario, “Uomini, terre e strade”,  1995, p. 37

5. See U. Coli, “Scritti di diritto romano”, 1973, Vol I, p. 851 ff.

6. See S. Borgia, “ Breve istoria dell'antica città di Tadino”, Roma, 1751, Part I, Paragraph II

7. See A. Fabretti, "Corpus Inscriptionum Italicarum", Ex Officina Regia, Augusta Taurinorum [Torino], 1867, p. 1758

8. See F. Orioli, “Lezioni d'antichità etrusche”, in “L'Esule. Giornale di letteratura italiana antica e moderna”, Parigi,  1832, Volume II, p. 238 note 1

9. See “Studi classici e orientali”,1962, p. 507

10. See A. De Luigi, “L'immagine degli Equi nelle fonti letterarie”, in  “Studi etruschi”, 2003, p. 175

11. S. Borgia, Section V

12. See G. Bradley, “Ancient Umbria”, Oxford, 2000,  p. 139 e nota 121

13. R. Guerrieri, p. 33