Puglia History – a melting pot of culture
Puglia History, what about it? Puglia is immersed in ancient history. It is a melting pot of many different cultures having been continuously invaded and conquered. From every event Puglia absorbed and retained something. Even now the locals speak more “dialetto” than Italian. Every town apparently having its own dialect.
As many as 4000 dinosaur footprints, believed to have been from five dinosaur species, have been discovered in the De Lucia quarry, near Altamura.
Altamura also boasts the remains of early man. The Man of Altamura, believed to be 150,000 years old and found in the cave of Lamalunga. Altamura is, in fact, an important archaeological area. The National Archaeological Museum of Altamura hosts a wealth of findings dating from the early Bronze Age to the late Hellenistic age.
Around 7000BC, Puglia was inhabited by the Messapians. They came from the Balkans and settled in the Salento and around Foggia. In the olive groves, close to Torchiarolo, the archaeological remains of Valesio, a Messapian inhabited area can be found. There is evidence of habitation from as early as the Iron Age through to the late Middle Ages.
The Greeks too had their hand in forming Puglia and Southern Italy. There were 18 cities established before 600 BC that made up Magna Graecia. Griko (or Grico) is a local dialect based on the Greek language and spoken in an area of Salento. Greco is a common surname in the Salento area.
Brindisi (Brundisium) is a fine example of the different settlements and cultures that, throughout the ages, developed the area. Originally an Ancient Greek settlement it was conquered by the Romans, in 267 BC. It was the Romans who built Via Appia and Via Appia Traiana making the journey between Rome and Brindisi possible in fourteen days. One of the Roman columns marking the end of the Appian Way can be seen in Brindisi; the second column crumbled away, and the ruins were given to Lecce to hold the statue of Sant’Oranzo in Piazza Oranzo.
Brindisi was conquered by the Goths and then re-conquered by the Byzantine Empire in 6th century. In 674, it was destroyed by the Lombards but rebuilt by the Saracens in the early 9th century. The Saracens also conquered Taranto and Bari and eventually Rome. The Saracens were followed by the Normans (1070), then the Austrians (1707-1734) followed by the Bourbons until the unification of Italy (1861).
Wherever you go in Puglia, you will see and hear signs of the ancient and not so ancient Puglia history and cultures that combine to make Puglia the fascinating land that it is today.
Image courtesy of Emily Fayer