History of Salerno


    The first evidence (even if maybe Greeks and Phoenicians lived in this area in IX century b.C.) of a community dates back to the Etrurian-Campana society called Irna o Marcina (now the Etrurian archaeological area of Fratte).

    Between 197 and 194 b.C. Salerno was a Roman colony (to control the rebel Picentini people, that supported Hannibal during the Second Punic War) under the name of Salernum, from Salum (sea) and Irnum (Irno rivers that crosses the town).

    Since 395 a.C. Salerno was invaded by barbaric populations: Visigothes led by Alarico and Vandals led by Genserico. Then, there was the Byzantine government (from 536 to 646). The town flourished thanks to Longobards. Under the prince Arechi I, Salerno became the capital of Longobardia Minore, thus becoming also an Episcopal seat.

    In 787 Arechi II moved the seat of Benevento Ducat to Salerno to flow away from the attacks led by Carlo Magno and to ensure the government of a strategic area. In this period the development of the glorious School of Medicine began: it is the most ancient medical institution of the Western world.

    In 839 Salerno became the capital of a princedom, independent from Benevento and became rich and powerful thanks to Guaimario V, between 1027 and 1052. The Normans (forty knights, according to the tradition) defeated the Saracen invaders and in 1076 their domination began, under Princess Sichelgaita's husband's government, Roberto il Guiscardo. He developed the School of Medicine and started the construction of the Cathedral, consecrated in 1084, by Pope Saint Gregory VII (who is buried there).

    At the end of XII century, there was the beginning of Svevian domination: they developed the trade, for example Federico II of Svevia instituted Saint Matthew Fair or Salerno Fair (at that age of the most important in Southern Italy) and the creation of the port. At the end of Svevian domination, in 1266, a period of decline began during Angevin domination. In 1280 Carlo II d’Angiò accepted the first statute that declared the School of Medicine a General Studium of Medicine.

    In 1142 Salerno entered the Aragon kingdom and the cultural and economic decline continued, with plagues and terrible earthquakes. During this period the School of Medicine was split in two: Studium and Collegium. In the Studium there were lessons of medicine, philosophy, theology, law and liberal arts, while the Collegium, a corporation of doctors recognized by Alfonso d’Aragona, gave medicine and philosophy degrees. In 1799 Salerno entered the Neapolitan republic and its expansion began again, it continued after the Unity of Italy.

    In 1811 Murat suppressed with a decree the School of Medicine. On 12th September 1943 the landing of the allied forces took place in Salerno and from 12th February to 17th July 1944 Salerno was the seat of Badoglio government.



    written by: Stefania Maffeo - Linda Liguori