History of Abruzzo I
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A brief but concise history of Abruzzo by Grace Olivo graceo@earthlink.net

Abruzzi, 10th-4th Centuries BC

The Italic Tribes

In the wake of the pre-Indo-European culture of the Piceni (to which can be attributed the statue known as the 'Warrior of Capestrano' in Chieti) Italic tribes moved into the region. Their lifestyle was predominantly pastoral.

The Piceni and the Pretuzi lived along the shores from the Tronto to the Pescara, the Peligni inhabited the Sulmona Valley and the Vestini lived on the plateau between the Aterno and Tirino Valleys. The Marsi dwelt along the banks of the Fucino and the Equi in the mountains between Marsica and Fucino.

Abruzzi-4th Century BC-5th Century AD

The Romans

The legions first crossed Abruzzi to aid Lucera (Apulia, 325 BC). The subsequent conquest of the region was achieved at the cost of a number of wars with the stubborn Samnites. The Romans' failed attempt at expansionism provoked the Italici revolt of 90 BC, during which Italic tribes amassed an army of 100,000 and established their capital at Corfinio, in Peligni territory. Four years of war followed, with 300,000 victims. During the Augustan era, the whole of the present day region (apart from the area around Teramo, which was in Picenum) formed part of the larger area of Sabina and Samnium, which was then subdivided into Valeria and Samnium.

Roman setlements included: Auxanum (Lanciano), Histonium (Vasto), Ortona, Teate (Chieti), Pinna (Penne), Hatria (Atri), Interamia Praetutiorum (Teramo), Sulmo (Sulmona, the home of Ovid) and Amiternum (near L'Aquila, birthplace of the historian Sallust).

ABRUZZI, 6-11th Centuries

Comitatus apruntinus.

The region underwent numerous changes of government because it formed a border between north and south Italy. During the Gothic War in the 6th century, the Byzantine exarch Longinus created the Duchy of Teate (Chieti).  The Lombards divided the region between their duchies of Spoleto and Benevento. During the Caroligian era, the names Aprutium and Comitatus Apruntinus came into being. In 843 the region was called the 'contado della Marsia', and it was subsequently joined to the 'contea di Teate'.

Abruzzi, 12th-20th Centuries

The Southern Kingdom

The Norman King of Sicily, William I, was invested with feudal power over the region by the English Pope Adrian IV in the 12th century. However, the Normans remained mainly in Molise. The Swabian Emperor Frederick I created the smaller region of 'lustitieratus Aprutii' whose chief town was Sulmona.

Thus, Abruzzi became part of the Kingdom of Southern Italy, an area that, despite many difficulties, maintained its own identity until 1860. It appears that L'Aquila was founded in 1254 to sustain the anti-imperial rebellion in western Abruzzi. At the battle of Tagliacozzo in 1268, the last of the Swabians, the Emperor Conrad, was defeated and captured, and the Anjou dynasty finally became rulers of southern Italy. In 1294, Pietro Angeleri, a hermit from Abruzzi, succeeded to the papacy as Celestine V only to resign after a few months. The region fell into combative factions. It took part in the wars that started after the assassination in 1345 of Andrea of Hungary, the husband of Queen Giovanna of Naples, and also in the wars of succession that took place after the Queen's death in 1382. The mercenary leader, Braccio da Montone, made a bid for supremacy in central Italy, but was defeated and killed beneath the walls of L'Aquila in 1424. Alfonso of Aragon, King of Sicily, succeeded Giovanna II. He was deposed once, but finally prevailed in 1442, and the Aragonese dynasty reigned for a short time. 1441 saw the death of the popular preacher St. Bernard of Siena, who had spent the last part of his life wandering in the mountains of Abruzzi. 

Charles VIII of France attempted to regain Naples for the Angevins during the Italian Wars. The Hapsburgs' victory led to a period of Spanish domination of the south, as Charles V had set his sights on the powerful fortress of L'Aquila in 1534. In 1524, Gian Pietro Carafa, bishop of Chieti, founded the Order of the Teatini. He later became Pope Paul IV. In 1684, the province of Teramo was joined to the provinces of L'Aquila and Chieti. After the War of Spanish Succession, which began in the 18th century, the Kingdom of Southern Italy passed from Spain to Austria and then to the Bourbons in 1735. During the Napoleonic Era, the poet Gabriele Rosseti from Vasto was Secretary of Public Education under Napoleon's brother-in-law Joachim Murat. He later lived in exile in London, where his son, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, became one of the founders of the pre-Raphaelite movement. In 1852, a French Company began the work of draining Lake Fucino. Bourbon rule in Naples came to an end in 1860, after Garibaldi's campaign. 

The Bourbon garrison in the fortress at Civitella del Tronto did not surrender until May 20, 1861, three months after Gaeta. Pescara, fourth province in Abruzzi, was established in 1927. Molise was separated from Abruzzi and established as a region in 1963.