history of the Sabina home

Roman and pre roman Sabina
The Sabina has been inhabited since prehistoric times, remains of human settlement and flint tools dating from the Palaeolithic, (60.000-30.000 B.C.) have been recovered throughout the area. From successive periods the traces are fewer, until 3.000 B.C., the date to which the remains of the ancient city of Eretum, close to modern day Montelibretti, are attributable.
The Sabini, a tribe from the Adriatic coast, arrived in the area around the ninth or tenth century B.C., founding the cities of Reate, Trebula Mutuesca and Cures Sabini. Thanks to it's strategic position close to the river Tiber and the Salaria road, Cures (close to modern day Talocci) became rich, at one time occupying thirty hectares and controlling most of the surrounding lands, which supplied agricultural products. Cures was gradually absorbed into the Roman state in 290 B.C., after the defeat of the Sabini.
The definitive decline of Cures came 174 B.C., after it's destruction by a strong earthquake. This co-incided with a reorganization of the surrounding territory brought about by the need to increase agricultural yields using new systems of production. The many Roman villas built in the area during the second century B.C. are a sign of these changes. Known as villae rusticae, their production was orientated towards the Roman market, reached using the river Tiber, and consisted mainly of viniculture and olive growing with some raising of livestock, including thrushes -a luxury item on the Roman market.

The rise of Farfa Abbey
The period following the decline of the Roman empire was characterized by repeated invasions, depopulation due to plague, and the collapse of centralized power structures, but also the spread of Christianity and the rise of monasticism. Farfa AbbeyFarfa Abbey was founded, according to legend, in the sixth century A.D. After it's destruction by the Longobards and it's refoundation in 680 A.D., the Abbey played a fundamental role in the history of the area during the following centuries. The Abbey belonged to the Benedictine order, a powerful organization covering much of Europe and with it's own political and economic interests, which often contrasted with those of the Papacy. The monasteries also contributed to the conservation and spread of knowledge in an almost completely illiterate world. Farfa Abbey became rich under the protection of the Longobard dukes and, after 775, the empire of Charlemagne, bringing a certain amount of economic and agricultural development to the area, although it was again sacked by the Saracens in 913 A.D.

The medieval castle
During this same period the population was abandoning old settlements in the valley bottoms in favour of more easily defended hilltop sites. This process began in the Sabina around the eighth century A.D. and also represents the concentration of power into local fiefdoms, themselves vassals of more powerful lords, in a system fundamentally based on military power and the ability to raise armies. No better symbol for this system can be found than the medieval castle, of which there are very many in the Sabina. Almost all of the villages and towns in the Sabina were founded during the period between the ninth and the eleventh century A.D. and many of them were vassals of the Abbey. Almost the entire population lived within the walls, going out to work in the fields during the day.

The power of the Roman nobles
During the twelfth century A.D., the Sabina saw the gradual decline in the power of the Abbey and the growth of that of the Pontificate. From this time the history of the Abbey and that of the surrounding area follows that of the Papacy and the Roman nobles who struggled to control it. The hegemony of these noble families is reflected in the very architecture of towns and villages in the Sabina. During the Renaissance some of the medieval castles were transformed into baronial palaces, most notably in Roccasinibalda, Collalto and Orvinio, while other completely new palaces were built, for example Palazzo Camuccini at Cantalupo or Palazzo Orsini at Toffia.

During the eighteenth century the population began to leave the old centres and move into the surrounding countryside, building scattered farms. This process took place most of all in the lower Sabina (closest to the Tiber valley), where the fertility of the soil allowed the introduction of the "mezzadria" or sharecropping system, under which farmers gave half their produce to the landowner in return for the rent of land and farmhouse.



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