Le Castella

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Myths waft around Le Castella, but it is the millenary history of glory and misfortune which makes this site so fascinating and mysterious. The origin of Le Castella is lost in time, just as the presence of three or two small islands, attested until 1500, not far off the coast, is also surrounded by mystery; in one of these islands, the one called Calipso or Ogigia, Homer's goddess detained Ulysses, hero of the seas, for a lengthy period of time. Concerning this matter Pliny writes: "...Promontorium Lacinium, cuius ante oram insula X milia passuum a terra Dioscoron, altera Calypsus, quam Ogigiam appellasse Homerus exstimatur" (Pliny, Historiae Mundi books XXXVII). But the real history of the place is the one linked to the Castle, a building which had been, and is still today, the barycentre of all the events of this marvellous part of Calabria.
Even the origins of the name are still uncertain. It would seem that Hannibal, closely pursued by the Roman armies and forced to suddenly return back home, ordered the construction of a kind of encampment (or look-out tower) precisely in the place where the mighty Aragonese monument now stands. Around this construction, later on, would be built up the village on the part of the disbanded, the merchants and the various traders who, in ancient times, followed the armies for selling or auctioning their bric-a-brac. The toponym appears for the first time in a treatise drawn up between Rome and Taranto in 304 B.C.; this treatise was to the end of establishing the boundaries of navigation for their respective fleets.
The inhabitants of Taranto, therefore, constructed a tower which, later, was to give Hannibal the idea of using it as a look-out post, having strengthened and perhaps also enlarged it; indeed, Hannibal had many friends amongst the Bruzi who were intolerant towards Roman supremacy. From this came the name Castra Hannibalis, also related by Barrio (De antiquate et situ Calabriae), which was the name assigned to the posting for a certain time. Following Hannibal, as narrated by Titio Livio, the Romans, for strategic reasons, put ashore there about three thousand settlers and called the place Castra.
Once again, the destiny of the settlement was decided by motives of defence and maritime control, and this was to remain so for the following years. In the IX - XI centuries, Le Castella was, perhaps, occupied by the Arabs who had created an emirate in the nearby Squillace and had, therefore, every interest in controlling the whole gulf. As the threat from the Arabs diminished a little, Castella slowly became a well-populated village where two churches were built: the church of Santa Maria and the other of San Nicola, depending from the Abbey of Santa Maria della Matina in San Marco. In Le Castella, around 1251, there are indications of the presence of public officials such as judges and notaries: this is an evident indication that activities of both commercial and social life were being carried on.
But the serenity and industriousness of its inhabitants are then seriously disturbed during the ferocious war between the Angevins and the Aragonese which entailed the siege and consequent plundering of Le Castella on the part of the Admiral Ruggiero di Loria who served in the army of King James of Aragon (1290). Resistance on the part of the villagers who remained faithful to Pietro Ruffo, count of Catanzaro, was to no avail. A few years later, Le Castella was witness of another clamorous dispute between the troops of Guglielmo Estendard, commander of the Angevin troops in Calabria and the same Ruggiero di Loria, who rushed from Messina to defend the territory threatened by Estendard.

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