History of Patti

See Patti guide for highlights and historic monuments

The discussion about the antiquity of Patti is very complex, because it revolves around Greek documents on parchment translated into Latin, and about which there have been important studies on their dates and authenticity [1].

Known history of Patti

Starting from "pretty certain" things, we can say that the name "Patti" appears for the first time in a document of Count Roger (1031-1101) dating back to 1094 on:

“the large and prestigious Lordship of the Monastery of San Bartolomeo of Lipari and San Salvatore of Patti, donated by Roger to Abbot Ambrose. It included, in addition to the Aeolian Islands and the 'castrum' of  Patti, also the territory of the ancient 'Tyndaris'” [2].

In the document Roger I also established that to the Monastery ‘half of the castle called 'Naso' was granted. It’s therefore likely that the first nucleus of the Old ‘Patti’ was built around the "castellum" and the Monastery of San Salvatore.

Putting things in order, there are no documents about the Patti before 1094, when it appears in three parchements of the Patti Chapter Archive of the Cathedral of Patti, referred to as “Pactes” and “Pactae.” In this document, Count Roger delimited some territories donated to the Monastery of San Salvatore, and in it was mentioned  a river that flowed near Patti, called “flumen de Pactis or Pactes”:

[…] From there indeed [the border] crosses a deep and dark cave, going over the Tower of Voha and ascending to a high mountain (...) [coming] to a source located in the plain and going over the 'Pactes' River” [3].

Basically, the areas marked by Count Roger ranged from the river Timeto (called "flumen de Pactes") to “Fontana del re” ["Fountain of the King"] (“Fontem qui est in plano”). Patti is also mentioned in a placitum in 1193, which recalls a "memoratorium" (a latin Medieval word from “memorare” [“remember”]) between abbot Ambrose of the Benedictine monastery and the “Castrum Pactes”.

So Patti in the 12th century was a fortress, a "castrum", and thereby it was mentioned by Al Idrisi (1099-1165), who wrote that:

“'Baqtus' (Patti) was a fortress that referred to a vast territory, which included a fertile land and numerous hamlets” [4].

So persisting with definitely established information we can say that the foundation of Patti probably dates back to 1094, when Count Roger encouraged the building of a Benedictine Monastery and Church of San Bartolomeo (later rebuilt in the 18th century).

Patti was conquered and subjugated by the Arabs in 1127, and became an important bishopric. It was severely damaged under the reign of Frederick II of Aragon (1272-1337), because the emperor wanted to punish the city for its alliance with the Anjou. However, from the early 14th century it was rebuilt, also earning the privilege of city-State.

Gradually the village around the ancient "Castrum" widened, and the city expanded to the nearby hill, connected with a solid road network. Patti suffered significant destruction and looting in the 16th century, with pirate raids led by Ariadeno Barbarossa (1466-1546), but it continued to expand, above all thanks to the intervention of the Bishop of Naples, who encouraged the rebuilding of the Benedictines and the Franciscans Monasteries  and the construction of a hospice for pilgrims.

Unfortunately, the earthquake of 1693 severely compromised its architectural heritage, and the new center was rebuilt further down towards the sea. Major urban interventions, such as the construction of the aqueduct and the railway station was begun in the 19th century [7].

Does Patti have more ancient origins?

The above gives the established historical data. However, as early as the 19th century, many scholars were convinced that Patti was not founded by Roger I, but it was a city as old as Tindari. About this historical issue, the discussion was very fierce, and as we will see not completely dormant, as even today many believe in the Greek-Roman ancientness of Patti.

It is established that the area where Patti is located is of ancient settlement. Because of the proximity to the ancient Tindari and the lack of documents about the origins of Patti many hypotheses arose, which, especially in the 19th century, raised a lot of discussion by scholars, in particular against the claims of T. Fazello, who flatly denied that Patti could be traced back to ancient time. Fazello wrote:

"[...] No ancient source talks about Patti, and we have information about it only since 1094, thanks to the privilege of Count Roger of Sicily, and public records of other princes, where we read that a Church dedicated to St. Bartholomew was built in this place by  Roger I [...]." [8].

The Canon Luigi Natoli, while not supporting the risky hypothesis that Patti could be identified with the ancient "Agatirso", in the "Sicilian Ephemeris" wrote instead:

"Patti existed in the same period in which Tindari existed  (...) but some writers, basing themselves on the authority of Fazello, believed that we did not possess any document about Patti before the Count Roger (...) But there are some authors like Caruso that mention it as an ancient city: "[...] We, too, believed that Patti was a new city, if we had not read in the privileges of the city of Messina that it was called 'foedus' ('pact') and 'foedera' ('Pacts'), from which it derived the name 'Pactae' ("Patti") [...]" [9].

In recent years the issue has been reverted to by local historian Antonino Lo Iacono, who writes:

"[...] I will try to show that not only that Tindari and Patti co-existed, but that Patti, at least to a certain period, was more developed than Tindari  (...)  Few maybe know that there are in the territory of Patti six cemeteries. Five are already almost fully defined in both the location and consistency. The sixth necropolis is still to be specified because I just recently discovered it during some researchs undertaken to verify the thesis substantiated in this book (...) The oldest fragments from this area are attributable to the Early Bronze Age. [...]" [10].

In conclusion, we can say that supporters of the antiquity of Patti have achieved important results, albeit with some compromise with their opponents. "Pactae" was therefore the ancient fortress of Tindari (Latin "Turris Tyndarii"), in which the inhabitants took refuge after the destruction of their city.

Origins of the name Patti

With regard to the etymology, there are some interesting hypotheses developed in recent years. It’s established that the area where the city is situated is of ancient settlement, and according to Uggeri, the same place-name refers to an old landowner of a Roman villa that existed here; according to sources, he would be a "hipatos" or a "consul" (Roman consul) [5].

Today, however, the proposals by Giovanni Alessio have been accepted by which Patti comes from the Latin name "Pactae", from a:

“Doric feminine plural adjective 'Paktos' = 'Pèktos', meaning 'stopped', 'settled', 'stuck' (...) taking into account the variants handed down by Arab writers, it is very likely that it was an ablative plural or a Greek dative plural" [6].

A. Lo Iacono [10] also mentioned the etymology of Patti, whose name derives in his opinion from "Epakten," that is "on high banks." These results were largely accepted; in the "General Report" of the Province of Messina, we read that:

"the city's name comes from the Latin 'Pactae' which means 'established'. The origin of the present town dates back to the migration of survivors of Tindari. The new site was called 'Epi Akten', ie 'on high banks ' and from this name, by subsequent phonetic changes, the name 'Patti' derives (...) " [11].

Overall for the etymology of 'Pactae' the hypothesis of Alessio is accepted, by which Patti comes from the Latin name "Pactae", and before the Latin "Pactae", the place-name had a Greek name " Epì Akten" (“Epakten”, that is “on high banks”).

See the travel guide for Patti.


1. see the studies about these problems by P. Callura, Professor of Latin Paleography at the University of Palermo. See P. Callura, Un sigillo inedito del Gran Conte Ruggero per il Monastero di Lipari” , in "Proceedings of the Academy of Science Letters and Arts of Palermo, 1955: 321 ff.

2. See “Ruggero il Gran Conte e l'inizio dello stato Normanno”, Dedalo, 1991:  241 and note 70

3. See M. Fasolo, “Alla ricerca di Focerò”, Fasolo, 2008: 42

4. See M. Fasolo:  28

5. See M. Fasolo: 28

6. See“Centro Studi filologici e linguistici siciliani”, “Bollettino”, 1962, Vol. 7: 477

7. See a quick summary of the history of Patti by A. Arena, “La chiesa e il convento di San Francesco a Patti”, in “Francescanesimo e cultura nella provincia di Messina”, edited by C. Miceli-A. Passantino, Officina di studi medievali , 2009:  1-2

8. Fazello, “Della storia di Sicilia”, Palermo, 1817

9. See Luigi  Natoli, “Sopra Patti e lo spirito dei cittadini pattesi in ogni tempo”, in “Effemeridi scientifiche e letterarie per la Sicilia”, in April 1840:  30 ff. and in particular footnote 1

10. See the article by Antonino Lo Iacono in the  “Patti-Nauloco” Website

11. See, “Relazione Generale”, in “Provincia Regionale di Messina”: 108