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Cingoli is a small and pleasant town in the Marches, but over the centuries it has given scholars exceptional problems regarding both its antiquity and etymology.
Cingoli: Older than the Ancient Roman empire
With regard to antiquity, the problem arose from a dubious interpretation of certain assertions in Caesar's (100-44 BC) "Bellum Civile" (I, 15), who wrote:
"[...] Starting from Osimo, Caesar walked the whole territory of Piceno; all Prefectures of the Region received him with a great enthusiasm and they helped in every way his army. From ‘Cingoli’ too, a fortified town which was established by Labienus (100 ca.-45 BC), who had finished the building of it at his own expense, came some ambassadors, who promised they would do everything that He (Caesar) had commanded; he then asked for soldiers, and they sent them."
Some historians, taking the words of Caesar a bit too literally, deduced that “Cingulum” was "founded" by Labienus, who even had built it with his money (“sua pecunia”).
Already by the 19th century some historians had found that interpretation was wrong, because the epigraphic documents had shown that "Cingulum" was much older than the period in which Labienus had lived, and he was, at most, restricted to strengthening the walls, and to building some important building "at his own expense".
Giuseppe Cappelletti, after producing some old documents about Cingoli that were also writing around Labienus, said: "[...] So the colony (of) Cingoli must have been from a more ancient date, and not, therefore, founded by Labienus [...] .
The intuition of G. Cappelletti is amply confirmed by contemporary studies; in reality, Labienus had performed only a re-establishment of the city and its region, transforming it from a "Praefectura" to a “Municipium”. As L. Quilici writes, the re-establishment was:
"driven by patrons of local origin, and well known [here] is the passage of Caesar, who recalls the work of Labienus in the 'oppidum' Piceno of 'Cingulum'" .
In fact, we have epigraphic evidences , attesting to the presence at Cingoli of two "Magistri" (“Magister Terebius and Vibolenus”) in the third century BC.
Cingoli in ancient times
Historically we know that from the 9th century BC, the territory of Cingoli was inhabited by tribes from Piceno.
From the third century BC the Roman expansion began, with the consequent creation of veterans colonies, to which must also be added the foundation of “Cingulum”, which was home to the noble family of “Labieni”, to whom belonged the well known Titus Labienus.
Titus Labienus, Caesar’s General, who fought with him in Gaul (52 BC), had amassed huge wealth so that he could afford “sua pecunia”, that is, of his own pocket, an increase in size and a restructuring of the town.
After the Ancient Romans
After the fall of the Roman Empire Cingoli suffered serious barbarian invasions, especially by the Goths and Lombards. In fact, in the sixth century it was involved in the Gothic-Byzantine war, and then, under the Lombards, it was part of the Duchy of Spoleto.
With the advent of the Carolingian Dynasty, Cingoli were assigned to the Papal States, under whose rule it remained until the Unification of Italy in 1861.
Although it remained a municipality from 1150 to 1861, the city depended on the Bishop of Osimo (1204), and, with the re-arrangement of Pontifical land by Cardinal Albornoz (1310-1367), the City had to recognize the supreme authority of Rome, as his “Podestà” were forced to pledge loyalty to the Papal Legate.
Cingoli was involved in many struggles and battles in the climate that characterized the Italian Middle Ages, that saw the political life of the city torn by internal struggles between factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines.
This led to some attempts by noble families to disengage from the papal authority, but this was restored with vigour. The Papal Legate, Francesco Silvestri, Bishop of Florence from 1342 to 1355, intervened heavily against the most powerful noble families of the city, demanding from some of them not only exile, but also the destruction of their Tower-Houses, which, as we can imagine, , had repercussions on the ancient urban structure of the city, with the irretrievable loss of ancient palaces.
After the period of infighting, between the 16th and 18th centuries, Cingoli had a significant increase in construction, which took shape with the building of several palaces.
This housing boom has continued in recent times too, but outside the walls, with the consequent preservation of the ancient Old Town, which today is one of the main tourist attractions, and a greater pride in the town, which also has its heritage enhanced through the work of important local scholars.
Origins of the name of Cingoli
Much discussion has also arisen about the etymology of "Cingulum". For many years it was accepted without question that the Latin word ("Cingulum" - "Belt") was referring to something "circular", or "round", and some critics thought that perhaps "Cingulum" meant “a city surrounded by round walls”.
As noted by P. Appignanesi, who proposes a different and very interesting etymology: "A [...] Pennacchioni, placing the 'oppidum' on top of the Cingoli mountain, where 'with its natural form it is is not possible to erect a camp surrounded with a square fence', believes that the name may indicate a 'city or fortress with circular walls or oval like a belt.'" .
In more recent years, therefore, the traditional etymology has been questioned, suggesting, even on linguistic data, the idea of a “rocky protrusion". In fact, P. Appignanesi writes: "[...] I believe that the meaning of the name is that of ' a shelf hanging on the side of a mountain' or, a 'rocky protrusion surrounding all or part of a hill' [...]" .
In this sense, the critic also recalls the linguistic studies of G. Battista Pellegrini, who noted that many Romance languages preserve the ancient Latin word meaning "protrusion", as the Dolomites "cengia" ("protrusion of a rock").
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1. See G. Cappelletti, “Le Chiese d'Italia dalla loro origine fino ai nostri giorni” [“The Churches of Italy from their origin to the present day”], 1848, p. 440
2. see L. Quilici, “Urbanizzazione delle campagne nell'Italia Antica” [" The Urbanisation of countryside in ancient Italy], 2001, p. 200, note 79
3. recorded by CIL IX, 5679 (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum)
4. See A. Pennacchioni, “Testimonianze dell'epoca romana in Cingoli” [“Some evidences of the Roman era in Cingoli”, Cingoli, 1972, p. 21 [quoted by P. Appignanesi]
5. See P. Appignanesi - D. Bacelli, “La liberazione di Cingoli e altre pagine di storia di Cingoli” ["The liberation of Cingoli and other pages of Cingoli history], Cingoli, 1986, pp. 383-388