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History of Nocera Terinese, Italy

See Nocera Terinese guide for highlights and historic monuments

Before looking at the history of 'modern' Nocera Terinese we first need to investigate the ancient city of Temesa, thought to have been located here...

Ancient city of Temesa

Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), describing the Gulf of Policastro, referred to some places such as "The Parthenius port of the Phoceans, and the port of Vibona, the location of Clampetia, and Tempsa which the Greeks also called Temesa".

Today "Temesa" is a problem of great historical importance, as we do not know exactly where the city was located. Leandro Alberti, in the mid-16th century, wrote:

"According to Strabo (60 BC-23 AD), Temesa was the first city by the sea in this region, much-quoted by the Greeks, and also by Pomponius Mela (the great Roman Geographer, born around 43 AD), by Ovid (43 BC-18 AD) in Book 15 ... According to Strabo Temesa was founded by the Ausoni, and it was then inhabited by the Aetolians [...] who then were driven away by the Bruttii. In turn they were defeated by Hannibal (247-182 BC). At the time of Strabo the city was called Tempsa ... Some argue that it was located where today is Policastro" [1].

As we will see, the information provided by L. Alberti in the 16th century was confirmed by contemporary historians, except in one point: the location of the alleged Temesa that Alberti situated at Policastro, that the Romans called "Buxentum".

Today the data about the site of Temesa is more reliable, even if, however, there is still no absolute certainty. The mystery of Temesa, even mentioned by Homer as one of the many places where Ulysses landed, remained through the centuries, and Temesa gave many difficulties to scholars.

The legend of Ulysses, Polite and Euthymus in Temesa

According to a widespread legend that is still under discussion between historians and anthropologists, Ulysses, returning from Troy, came to Temesa. Here one of his companions, Polite, who was drunk, raped a local girl and he was therefore killed by the inhabitants of Temesa. Ulysses was angry about what happened and imposed heavy tribute on the inhabitants of Temesa.

As soon as Ulysses sailed, the spirit of Polite took the form of a demon called Alibante with the appearance of a wolf. Alibante began to kill all he met. The inhabitants of Temesa went to the Oracle of Delphi, which disapproved the killing of Polite, and ordered the people to sacrifice once a year a virgin to the companion of Ulysses. To appease the spirit, the people of Temesa built a temple, where every year they sacrificed a virgin.

One day the Locrian pugilist Euthymus went to Temesa just as the ceremony was taking place, and saved the virgin, waiting and defeating the demon. Alibante abandoned Temesa forever and disappeared. According to L. Pareti, the legend of Euthymus, known for centuries as "the hero of Temesa" overshadows "a local indigenous and barbaric rite relating to human sacrifices that were practiced in Temesa and that ceased when Sybaris occupied and Graecized the city" [2].

As we said, the search for Temesa was long and very controversial, and today it seems that historians are agreed that Temesa was situated between the rivers Oliva and Savuto:

"The archaeological discoveries of recent years reinforce even more the case, although we did not find anything for the time being sure about the precise location of the archaic town" [3].

The fortunes of Temesa derived from its privileged position at the sea mouth:

"[…] Temesa was an important emporium, easily accessible by ship (with) mines and forests in the interior, and hilly wine on the terraces […] Archaeology has shown that the decline of Temesa had happened in the middle of the 5th century BC, when the city of Terina developed. However the site of Temesa was inhabited from the sixth century BC" [4].

Recent excavations suggest that the site was between Campora San Giovanni and Serra d'Aiello, while some necropolis and the ruins of an ancient Heraion (temple) near the place called "Imbelli" were also found [5].

Origins of the name Temesa

The place name of Temesa derives from a Semitic root meaning "foundry", and about this etymology scholars agree. G. Maddoli, a great scholar of ancient Temesa, notes that the:

"possible presence in the sanctuary of a foundry, which perhaps re-used the ex voto for new productions" is not to be overlooked [6].

Ancient history of Temesa

In the 6th century BC Temesa was under the control of Sybaris. After the destruction of Sybaris, the town came under the control of Kroton. All the coinage of the city dates from this period, whose history was recreated by Giulio Giannelli, a great historian of antiquity, who also dwelt at length on the legend of the "Hero of Temesa":

"Probably in the sixth century and in any case before 610 BC the city had been liberated from the oppression of the natives, with the help of the Sybarites […] Some time later Temesa fell into the hands of Crotone, and about 510 began the coinage of alliance between Temesa and Crotone" [7].

In the fourth and third centuries BC. Temesa was conquered by the Brettii and survived in the new political organization with the name "Noukria":

"The centre seems to have survived as Noukria, and under the new political organization of the Bruttians. It became a Roman colony in 194 BC" [8].

Origins and history of Noukria

According to G. Devoto, the name "Noukria" means "New Town":

"The starting point is 'Nokria' which comes from 'Noukria'; this place name exists in two modern toponyms, such as 'I prati di Nokria', north-east of Gubbio [Umbria] and 'Nokria', a village in the upper valley of the Nera river (Castel St. Angelo)" [9].

The variety of information concerning the earliest phases of Temesa contrasts with the documentation relating to the Roman times except for some passages of Livy (59 BC-17 AD) and Cicero (103-43 BC) who inform us, respectively, of the deduction of a colony of Roman citizens in 194 BC. after the occupation by Hannibal, and the devastation caused by the slaves who escaped the defeat of the army of Spartacus in 71 BC. Hannibal destroyed nearby Terina in 203 BC and left intact Temesa that in 194 BC became a Roman colony. We can attribute to Roman Times a villa with a mosaic floor that recently came to light in the place called “Principessa”.

Nocera Terinese from medieval times

In the Middle Ages Temesa is referred to as "Tempsa" or "Temnsa". Today Temesa is identified with Nocera Terinese. The name "Terinese" was added in the second half of the 19th century to commemorate the proximity of Temesa with Terina, an ancient city near Temesa then disappeared. The city, as with the whole of Calabria, was ruled by the Byzantines and then was destroyed by the Saracens.

Occupied by the Normans in the first half of the 11th century, it came under the royal domain. The Normans expanded trade and agriculture, with extensive reclamation and production of vine, olive and chestnut trees. Under the Swabian domination in the 13th century, agricultural development and trade continued. A document of 1231, mentions the city as being under the rule of Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250):

"In 1231 the modern Nocera Terinese was traded, along with its harbour called 'Arata de Navis' and the house of Aprigliano to the abbot of the Benedictine monks of Sant Eufemia in exchange for the ‘castrum’ [fortress] of Nicastro" [10].

In fact, around 1240 Frederick II, in exchange for the fortress of Nicastro, gave to the Benedictine Abbey of St. Euphemia the feudal jurisdiction in the territory and its port. This imperial diploma is the first medieval document in which Nocera Terinese is mentioned.

Towards the end of the 13th century the estate passed to the order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, who ruled it until the early years of the 19th century, when, during the Reign of Napoleon (1769-1821), the French confiscated the assets of the Order of Jerusalem.

Under the rule of the Spanish, the coastal defences and structures were strengthened with the construction of numerous watchtowers called "Coastal Towers" to oppose the Muslim raids Those are part of the defensive system of Nocera Terinese, such as the "Torre di Pietra della nave.”


1. See L. Alberti," Descrittione di tutta Italia ", in Bologna da Alfonso Giaccarelli, MDL (1550), p. 181

2. See L. Pareti, “Storia della regione Lucano-Brezzia nell'antichità”, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1997, edited by A. Russi, Vol. I, p. 158. Different interpretations of this legend were analyzed and summarized by B. Currie, “Euthymos di Locri: uno studio sull'eroizzazione nel periodo classico”, in “ Polis. Studi interdisciplinari sul mondo antico”, Roma, 2003, pp. 85-102

3. See" Proceedings of studies on the Magna Grecia ", 1997, Vol . I, p. 371

4. See F. Mollo, “Ai confini della Brettìa ...”, Rubbettino, 2003, pp. 47-51

5. See C. D'Adamo“Sardi, Etruschi e Italici nella guerra di Troia”, Edizioni Pendragon, 2011, p. 82

6. See G. Maddoli, “Mélanges École français de Rome. Antiquité”, 1989, Parte Seconda, p. 676 and G. Maddoli, “Temesa ed il suo territorio”, in “Atti del colloquio di Perugia e Trevi 1981”,Taranto, 1982, pp. 79-89, and also G. Maddoli, “La Tabula Peutingeriana e il problema dell'ubicazione di Temesa”, in “La Parola del Passato”, 1972, pp. 331-343

7. See G. Giannelli, “Culti e miti della Magna Grecia”, Firenze, 1924

8. See MP Fronda," Between Rome and Carthage ", Cambridge University Press, 2011

9. See G. Devoto, “Gli antichi italici”,Vallecchi, 1967, p. 107

10.See E. Pontieri, “I primordi della feudalità calabrese”, in “Nuova Rivista Storica”, 1920, Vol. IV, p. 579, nota 2