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Arpino and its People

Arpino is a town situated south of Rome, North of Naples, in the province of Frosinone, Lazio. According to myth Arpino and the surrounding towns of Alatri, Ferentino, Atina, and Anagni were founded by Saturn, the patron god of harvesting. Its believed that its first inhabitants were the Pelasginans, the pre-hellenic people who are believed to be the builders of the huge local fortifications called Cyclopean or Pelasgian walls. These still survive in the old town of Civitavecchia, where the REAS have lived for centuries. One takes the road that winds upward toward the cemetery, and Civitavecchia is situated at the top of Arpino. This is a must for all REAS who have originated from this beautiful picturesque village, high in the mountains.

One of the many popular saints of
Arpino, San Rocco, whose feast day is celebrated on 16th August

Documents from the 7th century BC prove that the first settlers in this region were the Volscians. Some 300 years later Arpino fell to the Samnites, and came under Rome’s rule with the title of CIVITAS SINE SUFFRAGIO. Roman culture spread out across the Liri valley from the town, which was now known as 'Arpinium'. The town was upgraded to full right of Roman citizenship in 188 BC, with the bestowal of the new title of CIVITAS CUM SUFFRAGIO. The history of the local people, or Ciociaria, is firmly rooted in this region; they were Roman farmers, poets, philosophers, senators, generals and legionnaires. During the rule of Caius Marius, a son of Arpino, the land of Arpinos Municipium spanned from the village of Ceretae Marianae, the modern Casamari, to Arce.

With the decline of the Roman Empire Arpino also suffered, and was conquered many times during the dark ages. During most of the 12th century southern Italy was united under the rule of the Normans, who in 1198 were succeeded by the Honenstaufen of Germany. The Angevins ruled the region from 1266 to 1442; they were a French dynasty who occupied large areas of northern Europe, including England to the borders of Scotland. During Angevin rule the capital was moved from Palermo to Naples, and feudalism was strengthened as the powers of the clergy and the nobility grew.

In 1409 the king of Naples, Ladislaus of Anjou-Durazzo, freed Arpino from feudal control and made it crown property. He built a castle, known as Ladislaus Castle, overlooking Civita Falconara rock, which was the headquarters for a large garrison. This was a strategic point for the defence of the northern border of the kingdom, and King Ladislaus spent much of his time there.

By 1442 Alfonso V of Aragon had conquered the kingdom of Naples, beginning more than three centuries of Spanish rule. In the early 19th century the region was annexed to the French empire under Napoleon. Under the ‘10 year rule’ (known as the ‘decesimos’) of his brother-in–law, Lucien Murat, many reforms were made, including the abolishment of feudalism and the codification of law. Yet even after the emancipation (1860) of southern Italy by Garibaldi’s forces, feudal traditions persisted and peasants were still tied to large estates.

In 1583 Arpino was bought by the duke of Boncompagni and became part of the dukedom of Sora until 1795.

The biggest growth in Arpino's fortunes and population occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries fuelled in large part by the development of the wool industry, which made the town renowned across Europe. Wool mills sprang up all over this area using modern manufacturing techniques. Thus the wool industry was established and flourished in this region of southern Italy, employing almost the entire population.

Arpino also became a famous cultural and educational centre, with exceptional boarding schools ran by the Barnabite priests. The king of Naples, Gioacchino Murat, founded the 'Convitto Tulliano' in 1814, in the style of a French high school.

The wool industry sadly declined towards the end of the 18th century, and along with various economic crises there was mass migration of the town’s inhabitants to Northern Europe and America.

 

Statue of Marco Tullio Cicerone, famous Roman philosopher and poet, born in Arpino in 106 B.C
The 'Piazza Municipio' or town square of Arpino, showing the statue of Cicero
The War Memorial near Arpino town hall
The war memorial showing a few of the Reas who died in battle for their country.
Click to enlarge
'La Monumentale Fontana dell'Aquila' or Eagel Fountain, built in the 17th century, near the town square
The arch of Porta del Ponte, showing fountains to the lower right.
One of the many small churches in Arpino