Nocera Terinese – Terina’s Mystery

Article by Armando Orlando (Il Reventino)

There has always been talk of Terina located in Nocera Terinese, on the plain known as the Tirena.
Terina, an ancient city of Magna Graecia, rich in historical events, legends, mythical tales, cited by writers of all times and places. Like Lycophron in his “Alexandra”, for example, the Greek poet born around 320 BC and lived in Alexandria, the capital of Hellenistic Egypt founded by Alexander the Great.

It boasts a mythological foundation that takes us back to the time of the Ausoni and Enotri, Italic populations who inhabited Calabria before the arrival of the Greeks. A theory developed by Stephen of Byzantium in the 6th century and followed by Orazio Lupis, history teacher and then rector of the Royal College of Catanzaro in 1808. The Greeks arrive on the primordial center of Ausonic or Enotrian birth, and then take over the colonization by Croton.
«The plateau […] was inhabited during the sixth century BC. on a stable basis. It was most likely a settlement of clay and wood huts; thin-walled, well-purified clay vases of the Greek type were made on site, which suggests the presence of Greek figuli or at least a highly “cultured” artisan class, a phenomenon of far greater importance than the phenomena of simple imports of material Greek in the indigenous sphere», writes Nazzarena Valenza Mele.
Of the existence of «an archaic phase attributable for now to the second half of the sixth century.» the Superintendent Elena Lattanzi speaks in the final communiqué drawn up at the end of the 1982 excavation campaign on the Tirena plain.

In the same press release, it is also written that reconnaissance and excavation «have therefore confirmed the existence of a fortified settlement, datable in its main phase to the mid-fourth century BC.»
Let’s summarize. The first urban settlement on the Piano di Tirena dates back to 550-500 BC, while around 350 BC. “the presence of an urbanistically regular settlement” is attested. Further investigations and research confirm Hellenistic and Roman presences and highlight the existence of buildings, craft activities and walls.
Other excavations bring innovative elements regarding a Brettian inhabited area which is oriented on a road axis and which denotes a regular urban organization, while having identified an area affected by the collapse of a roof has allowed us to verify various phases of occupation of the territory .

8/11/2017 The mystery of Terina – The Piano di Terina is a hill close to the sea, which rises in the lower valley of the Savuto river between the provinces of Catanzaro and Cosenza; bordered on either side by two rivers (Savuto and Grande), it is connected inland and towards the town of Nocera by a short saddle of land and by the small hill of Portavecchia.

And it is precisely in that locality – in Portavecchia – that the latest works to widen the motorway allow one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Calabria to be made in recent times; news reported on the front page of «il Quotidiano» of 1 November 2009: a hundred tombs that highlight a necropolis of the Greek age.
«The find is important because it could constitute the missing piece that would allow us to put an end to the exact location of the ancient Greek city of Terina, which for centuries was located in Nocera Terinese, on the so-called plain of Tirena», he writes « Calabria Ora» on 30 November 2009. And «Gazzetta del Sud» on 4 December 2009 headline: Antica Terina, all the finds archived in great haste. But once the A3 is built no one will know if there is more to the site.
Prophetic words, those of the Gazzetta. Also in 2009, the Superintendency promises a public meeting at the conclusion of the works, “when the interpretative framework of the data collected will be as reliable as possible, useful for a correct reconstruction of the settlement and historical dynamics of the territory”. Eight years pass, and no news is leaked about the contents of the tombs. Nothing on geophysical prospecting of an archaeological type, nothing on stratigraphic surveys, nothing on the collection of data «which will allow for a better historical knowledge of the territory and a precise reconstruction of the ancient landscape, in its most diverse facets, from settlement typologies to necropolis areas, from the exploitation of territory for circulation and trade”.
In short, a mystery. A mystery that fuels suspicions and does not help the search for historical truth. A silence that worries and confuses scholars of the subject, also interested in the events of another ancient city, Temesa, the Italian city mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey.
Talking about Temesa within a reflection on Terina is not accidental, because – as noted by Giuliana D.
Massaro of the University of Perugia – the two cities are close for historical reasons and because often the location of one in certain sites excludes that of the other.

A city – Temesa – which presents an extraordinary mobility of the inhabited area, which the “academics” describe as follows:
1) in the protohistoric and early archaic phase, the urban settlement, structured in huts carved out of the sandstone, is located in Serra d’Aiello;
2) in the 6th century BC. the center of gravity moves towards the sea and starting from 550 BC. the Temesa which is on the ridge of Serra d’Aiello (the Homeric one) develops around Imbelli with small settlements, and occupies the territory in a scattered way under the control of Sibari; 3) in 510 BC. Sybaris is destroyed and Temesa passes under the control of Crotone, which transforms the scattered settlements into a city organized from a political and institutional point of view with headquarters in Campora S. Giovanni; 4) around 470 BC. the temple of Imbelli collapses, Temesa falls under the dominion of Locri, and while its territory is abandoned Crotone colonizes Terina; 5) the Hellenistic and Roman phase sees the settlements headed by Temesa parceled out between the Oliva and Torbido rivers, with an urban center

8/11/2017 The mystery of Terina – organized hegemon on the Tirena plain, which around 360 BC. it becomes the Italian town of Temesa which fell into the hands of the Brettii, to then become the seat of the Roman Tempsa. At this point the first questions arise: «What is the city that developed on the Nocera plain? Temesa or Terina?». And furthermore: «If the Piano has been inhabited since the sixth century BC, in the same period in which Temesa has not yet “come down” to Campora and is divided into small settlements scattered around Imbelli and under the control of Sibari, to which city do they belong? the inhabitants of the Plan themselves in the 6th century?».
As for the location of Terina sul Piano, there is an ancient literature that reaches as far as François Lenormant, the archaeologist who arrived in Calabria in 1881 and stayed in Nocera for a few hours, as a guest of the Ventura family. He does not visit the Piano, but observes it from afar, from Campodorato, and subsequently, in his writings, he dwells – it is true – on the location of Terina in S. Eufemia Lamezia, however he specifies «I don’t think that without excavating can ever arrive at absolute certainty. And then, referring to S. Eufemia, he says that «among the ancient localities that are known, this is the one that possesses in the greatest degree the conditions necessary to be identified as Terina; but one would not be able to go beyond a simple probability…».

Therefore, Terina at S. Eufemia is for Lenormant «a simple probability». And even if Paolo Orsi is called to help, one cannot forget the words of the Trentino archaeologist, when he writes: «To sum up, I am of the opinion that many serious reasons militate in favor of Terina-S. Eufemia V., although we still have to wait a long time to have definitive proof of it».
Instead, a Calabrian newspaper – «il Domani» – boldly wrote on 8 August 2006: «As regards the archaeological site of Terina, it is located in Sant’Eufemia Vetere, between west Lamezia and south Lamezia and it is here that the Greek city was found…».
«Have the Greek city been found? When? How? From whom?», writes Adriano Macchione a year later, who continues: «That Terina rose in the Lametino is an assertion of modern scholars, among other things not supported by any evidence […] All the great writers, geographers and historians of the past until 1882, the year of the publication of Lenormant’s work, they believed Terina was located on the Tirena plain».

So is it true? The site of Terina was only recently “moved” to the plain of Sant’Eufemia Lamezia (for reasons that we do not know) and are the numerous and significant archaeological remains found in the Piano di Nocera attributable to the city of Temesa?
These are not trivial questions. These are questions that await answers. To which city does the Greek age necropolis discovered in 2009 in Portavecchia in Nocera and attributed to the 4th or 5th century BC belong?

If the finds lead back to Temesa, why isn’t it mentioned? Why hasn’t the Superintendence and citizens met yet to present the artifacts found in the tombs and explain their meaning? And it doesn’t end there. What happened to the belt with medallion taken in 2008 from a tomb with a skeleton without a skull discovered in Timpa delle Vigne? And where did the objects taken from the numerous tombs discovered and investigated in Fabiano end up, on the road from Portavecchia to San Mango d’Aquino?
Is it possible that there is not a titled writer, a curious history professor, a courageous academic willing to think that the tombs of Portavecchia could bring a glimmer of light (and perhaps turn on the spotlight) on the discussion regarding the location of the city of Terina?

8/11/2017 The mystery of Terina –
As you can see, the mystery about Terina spans the centuries and reaches us. Yes, up to us. In «il Lametino» of 18 July 2017 we read: «Not even a year after the grand inauguration, the excavations of Terina, in the locality of Iardini Renda in Sant’Eufemia Vetere, lie in the most complete abandonment. 3,500 square meters covered in weeds, a barred gate and no possibility of taking guided tours».
A few days later, on 4 August 2017, Manlio Lilli, in «il Fatto Quotidiano», took up Alessandra Renda’s article and said: «The excavations of which he speaks are those at Sant’Eufemia Vetere, in the Lamezia Terme area, on the site of the ancient city of Terina, founded in the fifth century. B.C. Looking from the outside, it is difficult to recognize the planned archaeological park. If it weren’t for the “archaeological excavations (Terina)” sign that emerges from the vegetation, along the fence and, above all, for the other one on the entrance gate that informs about the actions carried out and the type of intervention. You can read “Archaeological park of Terina, excavation, restoration and enhancement.

Actions for the protection, systematization, enhancement and use of the cultural heritage of Calabria made up of Military Areas and Fortifications, archeology areas and structures”. This is one of the interventions of the Calabria Region ERDF 2007/2013 Operational Programme, financed with one million euros in May 2012…».
And all is done. The money has arrived, the Archaeological Park has been created, the Euros have been spent (among other things, 15,000 Euros went for the “Creation of an information system for the promotion and use of the archaeological heritage of the archaeological park”), the whole area is now overrun by brushwood… and the more than one hundred tombs that have come to light in the Portavecchia area of Nocera Terinese are still waiting to be explained.