History of Terracina


See Terracina guide for highlights and historic monuments

The area of Terracina was inhabited by the Etruscans in the 6th century BC, and later by the Volsci.

Under the Romans rule, in the first decades of the second century BC, many paved streets were built, temples of marble, with columns and statues, villas, shrines, oracles, and also the impressive acropolis, the temple of “Jupiter Anxur” on Mount St.Angel. Under the emperor Trajan (53-117 AD), in the 2nd century, there was the expansion of the port that allowed the city to grow, thanks to new wealth, derived from the new businesses.

Origins of the name Terracina

The etymology of Terracina seems to have its roots in the Etruscan word "Tarchna" or "Tarchuna", which is a family name, "the same name as Tarquin" [1].

Terracina from the Middle Ages

This prosperity that Terracina once enjoyed ended in the early Middle Ages, because the city was devastated during the barbarian invasions, even if it had a moment of revival under King Theodoric ( 454-526), in the 6th century. Important reclamation work took place in the “Pontine” Marshes, focusing especially on the Appian Way and the construction of new and powerful walls, of which there is still impressive evidence.

With Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) the temporal rule of the Church began to take shape and Terracina fell within its sphere of domination. Due to its location on the border with the Kingdom of Naples, Terracina was the seat of the conclave, which elected Pope Urban II (1035-1099), the promoter of the First Crusade (905).

In the following years Terracina assumed a role on the southern border of the Papal States and a military outpost against Barbaric attacks.

In the 13th century it came under the dominion of the Frangipane family, who conquered the city, resulting in a feud. In 1202 the citizens rebelled, however, and attacked and stormed the castle. Eventually, as a remedy for fighting, the town elected Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303) as “Podesta”. From this moment Terracina was occupied for many years by different lords.

Over the following centuries the economic conditions of the city worsened and it suffered a long period of decline, and a resurgence of malaria caused a massive abandonment of the lower city, until by the 18th century many buildings and churches, rich in artistic heritage, were ruined.

The situation only improved slowly during the following centuries.

See the guide for visitors for Terracina.

References

1. See AA.VV., "Circeo, Terracina and Fondi", Institute Polygraphic State Library, 1966, p. 12