July 3, 2015

A Review of Giuseppe Arduino’s “Iter Volceianum: Viaggio nella Buccino antica e nel suo territorio” by Professor Robert Ross Holloway

Iter Volceianum: Viaggio nella
Buccino antica e nel suo territorio
Buccino, the ancient Volcei, famous for its crystal clear water that issues from its many springs and for its olive oil, prized throughout Campania and nearby Lucania, is no less rich in history and in remains from the past. Badly damaged by the 1980 earthquake, in compensation Buccino today can boast of new discoveries of ancient remains and a new museum. And appropriately at this moment Giuseppe Arduino, experienced archaeologist and knowledgeable student of the area, in this substantial volume paints a panorama not only of the distant past of Buccino but also of the life of Buccino across the centuries.

The "Itinerary" of old Buccino begins at the Porta Consina. Advancing into the heart of the historic district Arduino takes note of two important inscriptions of the Roman period that refer to Augustus and to his unfortunate grandson Agrippa Postumus. Theodor Mommsen, the great master in the field of Roman epigraphy, came to Buccino and published the inscriptions he transcribed there in the tenth volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (1863). Moving along we find the description of the Chiesa Madre with ample references to historical figures among which there stands the philosopher and important economist of the eighteenth century Antonio Genovesi, who passed his formative years here. There are also descriptions of important buildings and the histories of personages connected with them, first and foremost two great names of Buccino: the feudal noble families Caracciolo di Martina and Torella.  Reaching the highest point in the city, through Arduino's pages one sees the Norman-Angevin castle. The author introduces the reader to the historical figures connected with the castle including Pope Urban VI, who, according to sources that must be treated with caution, found refuge in the castle in 1385 during the period of warfare that broke out because of the dispute between Urban and the antipope Clement VII. Built in to the fabric of the castle is a singularly important Roman inscription, the land register of A.D. 323 which catalogues properties in the district of Buccino in the reign of Constantine the Great. Finally in the "itinerary" one pays a visit to the Palace of the Dukes and the Borgo of Buccino.

Professor Robert Ross Holloway
Archaeological Excavations Director
Tufariello (Buccino), 1972
Important archaeological discoveries have been made in the surrounding countryside. First of all the necropolis discovered in 1880 in the area in front of the ex-Monastery of Sant' Antonio, also known as "Tempone." Unfortunately, the tomb groups have been lost, only the Roman period tombstones have been preserved. In the necropolis of the sports grounds, scientifically excavated in 1967 and 1970, tombs of the fifth century B.C. were brought to light. Also hundreds of tombs were excavated in the locality of Santo Stefano in the years following 1981. Here the tomb groups can be dated beginning in the eighth century B.C.  The large fragment of a red figure crater painted by the Paestan artist Asteas is the result of a chance discovery made at the beginning of the last century.  The scene painted on the vase is the theft of the Trojan statue of Athena, the so-called Palladion, by Ajax. The scene is only preserved in part but nonetheless it is a masterpiece of Paestan art of the years around 350 B.C. 

Archaeological research of the last half century in the territory of Buccino has led to important results for which Arduino offers an ample summary in this volume. The Roman villas in the territory of Buccino have been investigated by both Italian and American teams. The results have been impressive and document the high standard of living of their owners in the late Roman Republican period and during the Empire in its flourishing years. Other discoveries have been due to the work of the American expedition. The excavation in the late Hellenistic sanctuary of San Mauro, dedicated to the water divinity of a spring contiguous to the artificial terrace in polygonal masonry where the functions of the cult were performed, led to the discovery nearby of Neolithic pottery shards. The documentation of the Bronze Age is especially important. The chamber tombs of the Gaudo Culture excavated in the Sant' Antonio district had, among their tomb goods, some of the earliest metal blades known in the Italian peninsula. And the village at Tufariello belongs to the phase of transition between the Eneolithic and the Apennine Culture of the Middle Bronze Age.  Arduino summarizes this rich material in a lucid commentary and thus makes accessible to the non-specialist important discoveries which, heretofore, were to be found principally in scientific journals. One must not overlook, finally, the Roman bridge of San Cono which still stands spanning the Bianco river. This is by far the most visible ancient monument that Buccino has to offer. Outside the boundaries of this book is the new archaeological museum "Marcello Gigante," dedicated in 2009, which, however, merits a thoughtful visit by who wishes to appreciate the pas of this ancient city of southern Italy. For his part, Arduino has enriched our knowledge of the artistic patrimony of Buccino by publishing a monograph on the bronze statuette of Hercules discovered by chance at the end of the '30's and subsequently lost in Naples during the Second World War.* The piece in question is notable for its Italic style and because of the limited number comparable works of art coming from the area defined by the Tanagro and Platano rivers.
Vulceiana Civitas

To sum up, this is a book which is valuable as a lucid guide to a richly historical city and a very useful synthesis of its multifaceted archaeological remains and the monuments that are preserved.

R. Ross Holloway, Brown University, USA.

Vulceiana Civitas: Una statuetta di Ercole rinvenuta a Buccino. Scritti di varia antichità su Volcei e Buccino, pp. 17 con 10 tavole. Buccino, Grafica Martino, 2014