Offida - The Origins

Offida - The Origins

Our town has very ancient origins. The historian G. Allevi of Offida (1834-1896), in his volume "Offida preistorica" (1889), said that the town had likely been founded during the stone age and that the Pelasgi people, coming from Asia Minor, had probably been the first to bring the signs of civilization in our town.

Allevi really believed that, since he had discovered a great number of necropolis in Offida and the surrounding areas (probably in Spinetoli?).

According to Allevi the Pelasgi people, fortunate connoisseurs of iron, rich in amber, bronze and glasses, had moved from the East and, after having wandered over the sea, had eventually landed on the Adriatic coast, on the site where - many centuries later – the actual Marano (Upper Cupra M.) would stand.

Here, to thank and to gain the Goddess’s favour, they built a temple and dedicated it to Cupra (the goddess of fertility).

The cliffs of Offida, above S.Maria della Rocca where, in ancient times, the Lombard castle stood.

Then they moved inland, went up the rivers course giving them the names of Tesino (called Tusein in the Etruscan language) Aso (Aesi) and Tenna (Thina).

Finally they got to the "Offida territory"; once they had subjected the native tribes they founded Offida, named after the “snake Ophite”, to which they devoted a temple.

The remains of the temple, according to Allevi, were discovered in 1878 near lawyer Giovanni Mastrangelo’s land (in Ciafone II area).

The local historian A. Marchionni (1833-1902) too, did believe that the Pelasgi had founded Offida; in his work "Notizie storiche e statistiche di Offida" (1889) he said that among the Pelasgi there was the custom to bury their dead with their heads facing the houses they had lived in; the 400 graves discovered in the Offida territory would finally prove the presence of these people in Offida.

A.F. Marcucci (1717-1778), in his "Saggio delle cose ascolane" (1766), asserted that the word Ophis has the same meaning - both in Greek and in Etruscan - that is "snake"; according to him, then, the Etrurians had founded Offida.

According to others, however, the Etrurians would probably come from the Italian peninsula and, once they had met the native civilized people, had reached themselves a high level of civilization. The Greek rhetorician and historian Dionigi of Alicarnasso, lived in the 1st century B.C., in "Storia antica di Roma" had advanced that thesis.

On the other hand, the Offida historian C. Arduini (1815-1881), who completely disagreed with that thesis, in his work "Memorie istoriche della città di 0ffida" (1844) asserted that the origins of the town should be, most likely, referred to the Lombard occupation of Ascoli in 578 A.D. At that time the Ascoli people, who had managed to escape, hid on the inland hills and later would found the castles of Montalto, Amandola, Comunanza, Appignano and Offida. Moreover, Arduini asserted that Offida, during the Lombard dukes’ rule, had been the biggest and most important castle in the Ascoli County; besides, it had been the residence of a steward (among the Lombards the steward was the officer in charge of the king’s courts or of the towns; he managed the Crown properties and held military offices as well).

According to other historians then, the name Offida comes from "oppidum", that means a fortified town of the Roman times; therefore, the origins and the name of Offida must be referred to the Roman Empire times. The well-known Hellenist and Latin scholar B. Palucci said that the place-name Offida came from "Ypsiida" (up there in the wood) and that to give the name to the original town had been the monks of Farfa (Vita Picena - December 1986).

The historian D. Maggiori (1710?-1788), in his work "De Firmanae urbis origine, atque ornamentis" (1788), thought that the picena town of Offida should be the "Aufidena prope Truentum", quoted in "ltinerario di Antonino" (Antonino the Pious - Roman emperor – 1st century A.D.) and in "Geography" by Tolomeo (Claudio Tolomeo Alessandrino – the Egyptian mathematician, astronomer and geographer – 1st century A.D.).

The first settlement: the Lombard castle (Designed by architect G. Lunerti)

Of the same opinion was the historian A. Rosini (1595-1668) that, in his work "Compendioso racconto historico della terra di Offida" (1654), quoted the XII chapter of the "Naturalis istoria" by Pliny the Elder (1st century A.D.); but O. Arduini did not agree with that and said that "the Aufidena (Offida?) prope Truentum", quoted by the earlier historians, should be a town in the Sannio region.

The historian G. Colucci (1752-1809) in his work "Antichità Picene" (1786) reported that, under the Carolingians and the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, Offida had become an important town as well as the residence of a steward.

It is clear, so far, that there were many divergent opinions about the origins of Offida, some of which even founded. With regard to Allevi’s discoveries, it would seem that the necropolises of the Pelasgi (the Etrurians?), should be referred - according to the last records, to the " picena civilization" and the goddess Cupra was to be the most important divinity among the Piceni people.

Besides, other findings discovered in Offida and surroundings would date from the Lombard and Roman times as well. They are preserved inside the Town Museum. Apart from these interesting theories about the origins of Offida there are historical documents we are going to examine in the following paragraphs.