Bellegra, Land of Equi and Ernici?

Little is known about history of Bellegra before the Romans,about Bellegra, land of Equi and Ernici there are no written documents but there are some traces of ancient ruins and above all stories and legends that shaped the souls of the locals.

The testimonies at Bellegra are found in the cyclopic (or polygonal) walls and legends that mainly concern the conflict with the Romans.

Bellegra stands on top of Mount Celeste, between the Aniene River Valley and the Sacco River Valley, and gradually rises up to 815m altitude. Mount Celeste is at the centre of an immense amphitheatre of mountains: to the north the Ruffi Mountains, then the mountain arch continues with the Carseolian Mountains and the Simbruini, to the south the Ernici Mountains, to the west the Lepini Mountains and after the narrow flat area through which in ancient times ran Via Latina, we find the Prenestini Mountains that close the amphitheatre that makes Bellegra “the City of Panoramas”.

From different points of view, 40 towns are coming up from in front of the blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The panorama that opens around Bellegra is vast, varied and beautiful in every season of the year with vast plains, delightful hills, austere mountains of many colours and shapes and numerous lands, which during the day remind one of the past and the during nighttimes appear as bright constellations.

“Civitella stands on a high mountain, but its appearance is so beautiful and elegant that it also likes to those who do not want it” (Vincenzo Maria Ronconi 1791).

Civitella was the name of Bellegra before 1880 and we can state that the ancient Civitella existed already in the 6th century BC and perhaps had had more remote origins. Historian Tito Livio tells that “Cneo Marcio Coriolano” took it before marching against Rome.

Another confirmation of its long history is that we have the vast leftovers of polygonal walls of Type I. Vitella was not founded by the Romans, it is thought maybe by the Equi, but from the historical sources available, it is impossible to indicate with certainty the people who gave birth to it, and it is equally likely that it was founded by the Ernici.

Why did Coriolanus not return it to the Equi after his occupation? And why are the majesty of polygonal walls analogous to those of the Ernici and put it right into the land of the Cyclops?

The area between Lazio and Abruzzo was inhabited by the Equi and this was not tolerable by the Romans during their stage of conquest that began with the monarchy of the famous 7 Kings of Rome.

In the struggles between Equi and Romani, Vitellia (Civitella/Bellegra) was captured by Equi (Tito Livio XXIX) and the inhabitants mostly fled to Rome that same year. “The Equi seized Vitellia, a Roman colony, but being occupied by night by betrayers, most settlers had the chance to escape from the other side of the city and reach Rome” (Tito Livio XXXIX).

Vitellia became definitively Roman territory around 491 BC at the time of the defeat suffered by the Ernici at the hands of the Romans. The area was entrusted to Consul L. Lucrezio, who with his army defeated his enemies in the open field and returned to Rome. The fact that the Roman Republic entrusted the area to the consul is demonstrating the importance of the town of Vitellia. Afterwards, the Vitelli wanted to take on the task of defending Vitellia.

The panorama and the history of this proud belligerence against the usurpers have characterized the life of all the Bellegrani to the present day and these traits can be found in the character of a proud people who see far ahead, and who know they must have their own clear strategy on their destiny.