Historical Stamps of Sorrento
ORIGINS OF SORRENTO
About the origin of Sorrento the historian Diodoro Siculo, relating to a legend, asserted that the town was founded by Liparos, son of Ausone, who was the king of the Ausoni and son of Ulysses and of the witch Circe. According to this legend, the origin of the town dates back to an ancient Italic population, that of the Ausoni, which accounted for one of the most ancient ethnic groups.
However the town in pre-Roman age was subjected to a certain influence on the part of the Greek culture, whose traces can be easily found in its urbanistic settlement, the remains of the Parsano Gate, Marina Grande Gate, let alone the presence at the headland of the peninsula called Punta Campanella, of the Athenaion. The big sanctuary, where the worshipping of Athens was celebrated, according to the legend, it was founded by Ulysses and in a first moment consecrated to the worship of the Sirens. All these elements could lead us to think of a Greek presence in the period between 474 and 420 b.C., when Sorrento was conquered by the Samniti. Following this Sorrento entered under the Roman's sphere of influence, against which it rebelled in the course of the social war when after joining the 'nucerina alliance' it was reconquered, together with Stabia, by Papius Multius in 90 b.C. and then the following year it was reduced once again to a state of submission by Silla. After the peace Silla sent a colony of veterans there.
Eruption of the Vesuvius of 24th August 79 A.D.
On 24th August 79A.D. the town was seriously damaged by the earthquake, caused by the eruption of the Vesuvius which destroyed the towns surrounding the area such as Pompei, Herculaneum and Stabia.
Sorrento as a holiday resort
During the first half of the Imperial age it became a very popular seaside resort among the wealthy patricians, who considered the entire Gulf of Naples, from the Flegreian Plains to Sorrento, an ideal place to spend the summer months and the otium periods. Therefore several Villae Maritimae were edificated in this area: magnificent lodgings, each with a landing place from the sea, spacious private residences, sometimes also farms where oil and wine were produced with the crops belonging to the dominus.
The fame of Sorrento is also commemorated by Horace and Stazius, who in his work Silvae praised the beautiful sights and in particular the Villa of his friend Pollio Felice.
Sorrento in 420 A.D.
Sorrento had an archiepiscopal site around 420 A.D., and after the fall of the Roman Empire it was subjected to Byzantium. It was in vain besieged by the Longobard. It became a free Dukedom and had to defend itself from raids by the Saracens; it struggled against Amalfi, one of the powerful Maritime Republics, to claim its independance.
Sorrento from 1133 to 1656
In 1133 it was conquered by Ruggero the Norman and from that moment its fate was tied up to that of the King of Naples. On the 13th June 1558 it was plundered by the pirates, who had been assisted in this by a slave, who by the legend, betrayed his fellow citizens and opened the city gates to the robbers. This episode persuaded the Sorrentines to fortify the walls sorrounding the town and this work was completed in 1567. One of the most critical times for Sorrento took place in 1648, when a riot broke out against the Spaniards, headed by Giovanni Grillo. With the support of the inhabitants of Piano and Massa Lubrense, he tried to seize the government of the town where the nobles were faithful to the Spanish power. The big plague epidemic of 1656, shocked the population further on. But notwithstanding these series of negative events, Sorrento continued to be an outstanding centre among the province's towns.
Sorrento in 1799
In 1799 it joined the Parthenopean Republic and was a theatre of fights between the republicans and Bourbons. Back to the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, under the Bourbon' s rule, it underwent remarkable changes during the XIXth century both from an urbanistic and a political point of view: some of the coastal boroughs were ruled by the counsel of the civic nobility, while others became self-governing. In the economic and social field an increase was registered in agriculture, tourism and trade.
The Kingdom of Ferdinand II
Under the rule of Ferdinand II the road leading from Castelammare to Sorrento was opened. In 1861 it was officially incorporated to the Kingdom of Italy, by means of a plebiscite, which established the annexion of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies to the Kingdom of Sardinia. Already in XVIIIth century Sorrento was rediscovered as a pleasant holiday resort when it became the destination of a refined and intellectual tourism. Among its illustrious guests we recall above all Lord Byron, John Keats, Walter Scott and Goethe. Finally it must not be forgotten that Sorrento was the country home of Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), author of the Gerusalemme Liberata and regarded as one of the greatest poets of the XVIth century.