History of Rodi Garganico


See Rodi Garganico guide for highlights and historic monuments

A decisive event for the birth of Rodi Garganico was the advent of the Lombards in Apulia and Gargano, after having defeated the Byzantines. In fact, the Lombards operated a deep restructuring of the Gargano area, and it is as part of this restructuring that we can glimpse the origins of Rodi Garganico. As S. Fulloni writes:

"[...] the conquest of the Lombards had fundamental consequences for the territory, because now the Lombards counted on a strategic stronghold in the East from which they exercised control functions. Moreover Grimoaldo I (615-661) granted to Bishop Barbato of Benevento (602-683) the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Siponto, which was until now an independent Diocese. The entire Gargano then fell under the influence of the Lombards [...]" [1].

The great difficulty in clearly identifying the original site of Rodi Garganico shows that the location was just one of many "Vici" (villages) or "villas" which was scattered Gargano, and were located next to the small ports - it is useful to recall that, still in the 16th century, the town was called "oppidulum Rode” [“ small fortified town of Rodi"].

The territorial structure of the Gargano region in the Lombard age has been well described by G. Volpe [2], who stresses that:

“housing of the Gargano is largely unknown, but some 'vici' assumed some importance over time with Lombard road development, which accelerated in Gargano because of the birth of the Shrine of St. Michael, to which the Lombards were particularly devout, and that became the subject of an ongoing pilgrimage of the faithful3.

Born therefore as a "fortified vicus" in Lombard age, historical data confirmed that Rodi strengthened under the dominion of the Normans, since in this period:

"the castles of Manfredonia and Monte Sant'Angelo were enlarged, AND the castles Celenza, Valfortore, Panni and Rodi Garganico were built” [3].

From the 12th century in Rodo Garganico

From the Norman-Swabian period the information about the city is more certain. We know the vicissitudes of the city under Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250), when it was destroyed by the Venetians, who at that time were also plying their trade in Apulia.

After the Swabian domain, the city was ruled by the Aragonese, which strengthened further the ancient Norman-Swabian castle, which still constitutes a major point of attraction of the town.

In more recent years the attractions of the castle and historical highlights, combined with the tourist attractions of beautiful beaches with fine sand* and clean sea have made Rodi Garganico a popular attraction for visitors.

* The 16th century poet C. Pinto, in Latin verse, called the town the "Formosa Rhodos nivea arenae" ["The beautiful Rodi with the sand as white as snow"]

Origins of the name Rodi Garganico

As regards the etymology, the issue, according to M. Manicone is as follows:

"[...] The origins of Rodi Garganico, according to tradition, would be connected to the colonization by the Greek Rodians, while others (Sabatini) give it a Lombard place name; and others that it coincide with the "Portus Garneae" that Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) mentions before the 'Lacus Pantanus' [...]" [4].

We find an "ironic" review of the many etymologies proposed for Rodi Garganico in M. Manicone, who writes:

"[...]  Paciucchelli (17th century) believed that Rodi was a colony of Siponto (...) Ambrogio Calepino (1440-1510) and Filippo Ferrari (17th century)  believed that it is the ancient "Uria". Others believe that Rodi is so named because it was founded by the Rodians. Filippo Cluverio (1580-1622) believes that there were two cities, one called "Uriah" and other "Irio”, which was located where today there is Rodi ...

... Alberti (1898-1962) believed that Rodi is derived from the term “Rore”  (dew) (...) And the etymology of Rodi from “Rore” is really ridiculous (...) Several geographers also say that the ancient “Portus Garnae” is where today there is Rodi [...]" [5].

Faced with this list of proposals, certainly M. Manicone is not entirely wrong to write ironically about the value of etymologies. However, even in a situation that is so confused we can make some appropriate considerations.

Many scholars believe that Rodi Garganico is of Lombard origin. It 's true that the area around the city was inhabited even in prehistoric times, but the name "Rodi" has a strong Lombard matrix. Linguistic studies, in this sense, offer a lot of material that is difficult to refute.

Professor N. Francovich Onesti has made an important study on the lexicon in Lombard Italy, with very interesting results about the root "-Rod", which refers to a family name that was very common among the Lombards; in the sense of "fame" or "famous"   “bold”, “valiant”:

"[...] 'Hrod' ('fame') appears as 'Chrotha', 'Rode', Rodel, Rodi, Hrot, Chroth, Rhoda, Roth, Rod, Rot, Rop (...) and form the hypocoristic names Hrodo, Rotto (Lucca), Rodi (Benevento, Rieti) Rodulo-us (Lucca), Rodingo (Lucca) [in linguistics, the 'hypocoristic name' is a phonetic modification of a personal name, a 'shortening']; (...) Then "Hrode '(' bold ') forms  some male names like Rachi, Rode, Rod, Rop [...]" [6].

So the linguistic studies confirm the hypothesis of Professor Sabatini, who believes "Rodi" to be a Lombard name [7].

However, the area of Rodi Garganico was inhabited since prehistory; A. Palma di Cesnola writes that:

"[...] Mount Gargano has revealed a rich industry of the ancient “Clatonian” (...) And the most important site is undoubtedly the mouth of the river "Romandato" (town of Rodi Garganico) [...]" [8].

Turning now to the historical period, only "apparently" more clear, some will almost take for granted that the "Portus Garnae" of Pliny the Elder coincides with the submerged port of Rodi Garganico, a location that, according to the authoritative opinion of the great German historian Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903), coincided with the ancient  town named "Uria Garganica”. But there are many doubts in this regard by contemporary critics:

"Maybe there was a 'Uria Garganica,’ observed Sirago and Volpe, but the interpretation is not so sure" [9].

As for the presence of the port, the uncertainties are even greater:

“We can assume some (...) even landing on the northern coast of the promontory, near the valley of Carpino, Lesina and Varano,  where reported submerged structures were reported, writes G. Volpe, but of those we have few items today. It is difficult to propose a location of ports known by the literary sources, such as the 'Portus Garnae' of Pliny the Elder,” all the more so as we do not know if the famous “Portus” was located in Rodi or Vieste, a problem still debated by scholars" [10].

See the guide for Rodi Garganico for more information.

References

1. See S. Fulloni, “L'Abbazia dimenticata: La Santissima Trinità sul Gargano tra Normanni e Svevi” ["The Lost Abbey: The Holy Trinity on the Gargano between Normans and Swabians"], Liguori, 2006:  41

2. “Contadini, pastori e mercanti nella Apulia Tardoantica” [“Farmers, Herders and Traders in Late Apulia "], Edipuglia, 1996:  192 et seq.

3. See “La Puglia tra Medioevo ed età moderna”  ["Puglia between Medieval and Early Modern Age"], Electa, 1971: 178

4. See "Athenaeum ", 1992, vol. 79: 202, note 20

5. See M. Manicone, "La Fisica  Daunia",  Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005: 48-49

6. See N. Francovich Onesti, “Vestigia Longobarde in Italia (568-774). Lessico e Antroponimia” [Lombards Remains in Italy (568-774): Lexicon and Antroponimy [“Personal names”] " Artemide, 1999:  23 and 223

7. See F. Sabatini, “Riflessi Linguistici della dominazione Longobarda nell'Italia Mediana e Meridionale”, Accademia Toscana di Scienze e Lettere 'La Colombaria', Firenze, XXVIII (1963-'64), pp. 125-149

8. See A. Palma Cesnola, F. Mallegni, "Le Paléolithique Inférieure et moyen en Italie", Edition J. Millon, 1996 : p. 58

9. See V.A.  Sirago, G. Volpe, “Puglia Romana”, Edipuglia, 1993:  11 footnote 27

10. See G.  Volpe, "The Daunia in the Romanization Age", 1990: p. 100