The heritage chapter
Genzano the Cavallina, ravines
Genzano Greek Heritage chapter
Welcome to my article (16), the heritage chapter.
Dear readers, in our last article we were talking about wine making the old way, which is a sort of heritage that we have inherited from our previous generations. The word heritage has many uses, but here we are using it to tell you about the ways we used to live and some historic events of my native town. Now as you know, when we look at any place in the world we know that it has got a history of its own, so, we wonder what has happened in that part of the world and what are the sign left of the past that we can use to tell its history, of course there are also things that are still there, and this is the heritage of that place. Now, in this article we are going to discuss about some heritage and the history of Genzano di Lucania, therefore we are going to mention what sort of heritage we inherited in Genzano, from those ancient people that once lived there.
We would like also to mention here, or we should say remind you about the heritage of the name of Genzano: the name of the town of Genzano it is believed that comes from the legend of Ian and San and the name is virtually the two lover names put together, of course, there are also other theories about the name of this town, but, I believe that we have mentioned it already at length somewhere else, so, there is no need to repeat that in full here, now, let us talk about the other heritage that we want to talk about.
In Genzano di Lucania, there is a chasm called the Greek chasm, and perhaps we should have called this article, Genzano Greek chasm heritage chapter, to be more specific; but anyhow, let us discuss here about this Greek chasm, which is the other chasm on the western side of the old town of Genzano; for the readers that have not read our previous articles I repeat here, that the old town of Genzano was built between two chasms, in our last article we have talked about Saint Antuon or Saint Michael chasm, which is a chasm on the eastern side of the old town of Genzano, and it is where most of the people of Genzano make their wine, they make wine in the caves dug in the walls of the chasm below the town. Anyhow, today we are going to talk about what the locals call the Greek chasm, which as I have said, it is on the other side of the town and below the town fountain called la Cavallina.
So, let us try to explain the name of this Greek chasm first; some writers that have written about Genzano history lately all seem to admit that a very long time ago the Greek were living here in this part of southern Italy, and therefore in the chasm that we are going to talk about as well, and that is the reason why it is called the Greek chasm even today from the elders of Genzano.
There are reasons to believe that it is true, you see, if we keep in mind how humans migrated from the Middle East to Europe, this event will make sense. Anyhow, history tells us that about 700 BC or there about Greece had colonies in southern Italy, which lasted until the Romans took over. So, let us assume that the Greeks were there anyhow, because what is going to follow later is only going to reinforce this assumption. As there is also another story to tell, which is about this Madonna of Genzano that we are going to tell you in our future articles, we can only say here, that this Madonna effigy is very much like the effigies that the Greek people were making about the Roman times, so, the Greek must have been there in this chasm.
Fountain & Ancient amphitheatre
The town history and heritage
Looking at old history books, we must admit that there is not much written about Genzano di Lucania town history in the distant past. However the myth says that Genzano is very old and it was named from a legend that tells us that a young guy called Iens (yens) who fell in love and eloped with a young princes called San, they went to live in the caves that were in the chasm, which today are below the town of Genzano, and then, they started to build a small castle, where the old town of Genzano is now, the name is virtually the two name of the lovers put together Iens-san (yensan, or jenzan) I am saying this because I know that in strict dialect of the town even today it is pronounced Yenzan with no G at the beginning and no O at the end. I know that I have already mentioned this before in this article, but I had to explain it a bit more to make sense.
(For those people that can read Italian, I am going to paste here a couple of links that modern writers have written about the history of Genzano di Lucania: One of this is Ettore Lorito, and here is a link that may get you to see his writing works,Scrittori e poeti, another writer has these two link, here,Arch. Pietrapertosa - Storia e dintorni - Genzano di Lucania, this writer has two links and both are very interesting,
http://ass-gentius.blogspot.it/ , let us hope they work)
Now let us talk for a moment about more recent history that a recent write has discovered in the archive of Potenza; this writer is Ettore Lorito and you can find his writings, if you follow the link of (scrittori e poeti, (as shown above)) one of the first times that Genzano is mentioned in the archives is that of two brothers Secondo and Donato who were Christian martyr in the year 258 AD, as they were beheaded in Genzano ordered from council Valeriano, which I guess was a Roman council for that part of Italy. This seems to be the oldest written record found written about Genzano history and not much else; so, let us go back to the Greek chasm story.
Because in this article we would like to tell or describe to you the chasm that we call the Greek chasm, we have to say that this chasm starts about fifty meter from the fountain Cavallina, or perhaps I should say that at the beginning of the Greek chasm is where the fountain Cavallina is, then suddenly the chasm becomes very deep and a real chasm that is hard to go into it, and nobody goes there, unless you have to go there and know the way how to get there; anyhow this part of Genzano is called the Greek chasm, so, by this very name it is understood that a very long time ago there must have been a colony of Greek people living there, and perhaps also in the surrounding country side.
About the Greek people and whatever happened to them nobody seems to know today, as there is no trace of them and there are no records to check with. So, we are forced to assume that very likely there was a war, or something of that sort and they were driven out. Or perhaps they just mixed with the rest of the inhabitants of Genzano and nobody remembers; or perhaps, as time went by lots of other things happened that changed the shape of the chasm, so, it became impossible for them to live in the chasm, because of the erosion and other natural factors which slowly changed the shape of the chasm, and the use of the chasm, there might be other factors as well, but let us now talk about the more recent history of this place.
Recent history of Genzano’s Greek chasm
We know that while time passes lots of things slowly change, as we have already mentioned above, this has also happened to the Greek people and their chasm; so, nowadays the Greek chasm has been deserted from the people of Genzano for a long time, because most of the people would be afraid to go into this chasm as it is today; you see, today there is only a small part that can still be used and a track or road that can take you around to the other chasm. Now let us see the reasons why this has happened:
This Greek chasm, apart that it can be dangerous because of the abrupt drops in the level of the land, it can also be unsanitary as lots of rubbish used to be dumped into this chasm, and this would include also the human excrement that used to come out at the bottom of the chasm, when there was no proper sewer laid in town; and plus most of the men that lived in the old town when they had to go, they used to go and squat on the shoulders of the chasm and do it there, in order to save their women folks the extra sanitary work that they had to carry out: And this unpleasant task I am going to write later on how it was done, from the young women that lived in those times. (Now that I think about it, to live in those time was much harder than today.)
In the Greek chasm nowadays, there are only a few good caves that can still be used, and most of the rest of the caves have been abandoned because it is impossible to get at them, since the erosion has made the chasm deeper, so, now some caves are left exposed halfway up the vertical cliff of the chasm.
I believe that the erosion became worse in this chasm because: there is the fountain Cavallina upstream at the very beginning of the chasm, and because, as the town grew larger most of the town’s storm water drainage was diverted into this chasm, and together with this drainage they built also a simple and effective sewerage system for the town of those days. The dunghill masonry was built all underground, except for the opening where they used to drop the dung, and it was connected through a drain which came out at the bottom of the chasm. All this may seem ridiculous today, but I am sure that in those times was a great improvement.
Now at this point I would like to point out to you that there are some large masonry works in this chasm, because across the chasm there are two massive masonry walls, and one of them is so massive that seems as if it wants to hold the banks of the chasm apart. These two walls have been built for several purposes in mind, and the most important one would be to prevent any landslide which would endanger this old part of the town, and to stop the erosion that could undermine this part of the town, and to hide the drainage and sewer system. So, the only thing that could be seen of the sewer system was only a large barred opening about three feet square at ground level, which was situated a short walking distance from the town’s fountain Cavallina; and this archaic but effective old sewer system was still being used when I was young. Not from my family, because we were lucky enough, as we were connected to the modern sewer system long before I was born. But it still was used only from those less fortunate people in the community, which for some reasons of their own had not been able to connect to the modern town’s sewer yet, so they had to use the old system as it was done in the old days, this must have been the most hated job of them all that the young less fortunate women had to do during their lives, so, let me write about it even though I hate doing it, because it is so hateful and at the same time necessary, in order to explain how the people were living in the past. After all here we are trying to write some of Genzano history, so, let us see how the most hated job of them all was done, in those times.
Horse water and woman carrying container
The most hated job
Now, before we start telling you about the most hated job of them all that the women folks of Genzano had to do in those times; we would like to point out to the modern generation to compare those times and the ways that even the best people had to make do, in order to live a decent life then, as there was no other ways available; We know that for the younger generation of today all this may seem crazy even to talk about it, but in those times that was how most things were done, because there was no other way.
Anyhow, today when I look back at the time when I was young, I still remember how this unspeakable job was done, from the women folks of those unfortunate families that were still using the old sewer system; they had to do this horrible job two or three times a week, and they would feel so ashamed while they were doing it, because this would expose them in a mental way about lack of privacy, so, they felt ashamed to do it, and what a shame it was compared to nowadays privacy and living standard.
Now, there is more to tell about this happening, because in those times young people were almost cruel, you see, they would enjoy seeing the funny part of it, without thinking that their actions would greatly upset the other party. Now that I am older and wiser I would have felt sorry for those women that had to use the old sewer system: But then as a young man; I and my teenager male friends thought that it was very funny, when we would see in the evening just before dusk, a couple of women per household come out of their houses with their own dung balanced on their head so to speak. One of them would carry this round and wide rimmed ceramic container balanced on her head, the other would be carrying a bucket and a sort of little broom which was a sort of brush with a long handle.
They would come out of their houses, and they would try to go the back ways as much as they could and try to be invisible, as they didn’t want to be seen. Can you just imagine some teenager girls doing this low and unspeakable service, while some teenager boys would be prying on them from a distance? What a shame! Those girls must have felt terrible to say the least, only because they were doing the most hated job of them all, which was to dispose of their own human excrement; but, this service was necessary and inevitable.
Anyhow, when they reached the square opening of the sewer, they would help each other to bring the contains down from their heads and would throw the dung down the square hole; and then the one with the bucket would go to the fountain and bring a bucket of water to wash the ceramic container. And finally return to their homes relieved that their dirty job was done, and they would be all right for a few more days.
Can you just imagine any young girl today to do such a shameful job, I have nothing else to say but just compare it? So, when old people say that today generations are better off and lucky to be born now and not then, they are telling us the truth, because I am pretty sure that there is no one that would volunteer to do that hateful job. Here we could say a lot more and compare the youths of today with the youths of the past and see what has changed since then, but we will refrain from doing that, since that is not my life story, and I intend to continue with my life story and the history of my native town.
So, see you next time, where we are going to tell you about, The Madonna story, of Genzano.
Other links of interest
- My life my struggles
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- Genzano di Lucania
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- Genzano di Lucania - YouTube
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- Your Life Is Your Story - Autobiography, Life Story, Family History Services and Ideas
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- Prayers of Reconciliation
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- Menfranco Reconciliation
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© 2011 F-Menchise