Romantic - yet incorrect - origins to the history of Tricarico

The territory of the old Lucanians around Tricarico was studied from the eighteenth century because of many English and French travelers that became interested in particular about the presence of the Greeks in southern Italy. They were pushed, in particular, by their reading of classical authors of the so called "Megale Hellas" or "Magna Graecia".

So the myth of classicism was the beginning of these studies on Ancient Greece. However, the suggestion of the rediscovery of Greek culture here greatly conditioned the research, directing it towards the old Greek “poleis” [=city-state], thus losing sight of the native element, present in the territory, and the fundamental part of the history of this territory.

When the fifth century BC was just beginning the economic and political domination of the Italic Lucanians quickly led to conflict with the Greeks, who were settling in strategic positions for traffic as in the case of “Civita di Tricarico.”

The archaeological finds show the central role of "Civita di Tricarico" was primarily for political and administrative functions of the city, which, among other things, was the only fortified settlement in central Lucania with a continuity of life even in the next century with the conquest of the Romans.

Ancient history

Tricarico is now a small town in Basilicata, but with a very ancient history and archaeological and artistic heritage that is second to none in Italy. Tricarico probably dates back to the fourth century BC, and was once known as "Civitas" [= city]; it was a settlement of the old Lucanians, which also became very important to the Romans.

Many Lucanian fortifications were settled in the medium Valley of Basento in a mountainous region to the South of Potenza. The fortifications were located on elevated zones, controlling the whole territory.

Tricarico was a fortified city preferred by the Romans for various reasons but in particular for its strategic position (See F. Prontera, “L'Italia méridionale di Strabone”, 1988, pp. 93-109).

Under the Byzantines, the region was then fortified with various "kastra," including the "Kastrum Tricarico."

According to some scholars, the place name derives from the Medieval Latin term "tricalium" with the meaning of “Trivio” [=crossroads] because it was located on three hills ( See L. Ranieri, “Basilicata”, 1972, p. 342). This idea seems supported by analogy with other Italian toponyms such as Trevi di Frosinone, Trebiano, etc. According to other scholars, however, the etymology of Tricarico may derive from "Trigarium," that is a place for riding and managing horses.

Some parts of the ancient city’s walls are still visible with three walls and gates.

During the Middle Ages Tricarico was a fortress of the Lombards in their defense of the “Gastaldato” [=County] of Salerno, which certainly arose on a pre-existing urban core surrounded by walls. Tricarico later passed under the dominion of the Byzantines, who made it as a "Kastron," that is a walled city, surrounded by walls with various gates, such as “Porta Rabatana,” “ Porta Monte” and “Porta Saracena.”

In 1048, after the occupation of the Normans, Tricarico became a Norman county and it was included in the duchy of Apulia and Calabria. The city then belonged to many Lords, such as the Prince of Bisignano, Nicholas Berardino, Francesco Pignatelli, Alessandro Ferrero, Roger Sanseverino, Francesco Sforza and the Revertera family, Dukes of Salandra.

The Diocese of Tricarico

Also the Diocese of Tricarico has an illustrious history; according to tradition it, dates back to 968 AD, when the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nicephorus Phocas, founded the Diocese of Tricarico, which was of Greek rite until the 11th century, under the Normans, when the diocese went to the Latin rite.

Between the ninth and tenth centuries it was under the Arabs’ rule, who left significant traces of their architecture. Also nowadays Tricarico is regarded as an Arab-Norman city.