Arpino lies in the shape of St Andrew’s cross on the hills overlooking the Liri valley and is said to have been founded by Saturn. A much recalled legend says that the mythical God Saturn, the god who taught agriculture to men, founded many towns of southern Lazio and these are recognizable by the acropolis and the gigantic polygonal walls.
These walls are made of huge rocks that fit together perfectly without the use of mortar and are also known as ‘cyclopic’ or ‘Pelasgian’ from the name of legendary peoples.
The first people of which there are certain traces in Arpino are the Volsci in the seventh century BC, then the Samnites and the Romans in the third century BC. With the dominion of Rome, Arpino was an important centre thanks to its contribution in the defeat of Hannibal the Carthaginian.
The golden age came with Cicero and the consulate of Caius Marius, two illustrious ‘Arpinati’, while the decline began with the Roman Empire, when the expansion of Rome made people you lose interest in the neighbouring territories.
Arpino was conquered by almost all the Barbarians who arrived in Italy from the Lombards in 702, then the Franks in 860 and also the Hungarians and the Saracens in the tenth century AD. The conquests continued and Arpino was ruled by the Normans in the tenth to the thirteenth century when it was destroyed by Frederick II of Swabia in 1229.
In 1252 Conrad IV also destroyed all the Roman ruins and the population was forced to take refuge in Montenero.
A first round of reconstruction took place with the Anjou of the Kingdom of Naples from 1265 and the construction of castles and towers. After being a fiefdom of the Etendard and Cantelmos families, Arpino passed directly under the control of the King of Naples due to its strategic location at the northern borders of the kingdom. King Ladislaus of Anjou-Durazzo built his Ladislao Castle and spent a lot of time here.
In the fifteenth century it was ruled by feudal lords Marquis d’Avalos and Lady Vittoria Colonna who was a close friend of Michelangelo Buonarroti. From 1583, Arpino entered the Duchy of Sora, a partially autonomous fiefdom of the Kingdom of Naples ruled by dukes Boncompagni.
The Duchy was terminated in 1796 and Arpino became part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until 1860. During these years the name of Arpino become well known for its industry and in particular for the processing of wool.
With the unification of Italy it was part of the province called ‘Terra di Lavoro’ and then, from Ciociaria and Arpino, began the first great migration to Northern Europe and America.
Arpino is the town of Cicero and Caius Marius. The synthesis of history is engraved on a plate placed on the entrance medieval gate, Porta Napoli. The translation reads:
“Oh wanderer, you’re entering Arpino, founded by Saturn, the city of Volsci, Roman community, the home of Marcus Tullius Cicero prince of eloquence and Caius Marius seven times consul. The triumphal eagle took flight from here to the empire, and subjugated all the world to Rome. Recognize its prestige, and live in health.”