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The heritage chapter

Updated on December 4, 2020

Genzano town and La-Cavallina fountain

This is a photo of Genzano town, at the bottom right is the fountain Cavallina, past the walls is the Greek chasm or ravine. Today a couple of large concrete walls have been build in the chasm to stop the erosion.
This is a photo of Genzano town, at the bottom right is the fountain Cavallina, past the walls is the Greek chasm or ravine. Today a couple of large concrete walls have been build in the chasm to stop the erosion. | Source

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; in this article we want to talk about the history of Genzano di Lucania, and the heritage that the ancient people that lived there left us.

In Genzano di Lucania, there is a chasm called the Greek chasm, this Greek chasm, is the other chasm on the western side of the old town of Genzano; you see, the old town of Genzano was built between two chasms and in our last article we have talked about Saint Antony chasm, this is a chasm on the eastern side of the old town of Genzano where most of the inhabitant of Genzano make wine in the caves dug in the walls of the chasm below the town, but today we are going to talk about what the local call the Greek chasm, which is on the other side of the town below the fountain called LA Cavallina.

Anyhow, some writers that have written about Genzano history believe that a long time ago the Greek were living here in this part of southern Italy, in the chasm that we are talking about, 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 so, if one keeps in mind how the human race migrated from the Middle East to Europe; and also history tells us that 700 BC or there about Greece had colonies in southern Italy, which have lasted until the Romans took over. So, let us assume that the Greeks were there, because what is going to follow, is going to reinforce this assumption. We are going to tell you about, The Madonna story 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.


Fountain & Ancient amphitheatre

The fountain Cavallina of today was very likely an amphitheatre at the beginning of Genzano history. So is this where the Christian martyr of Secondo and Donato took place?
The fountain Cavallina of today was very likely an amphitheatre at the beginning of Genzano history. So is this where the Christian martyr of Secondo and Donato took place?

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. 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) fell in love and eloped with a young princes called San, they went to live in the caves 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.

(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, , let us hope they work)

Now let us talk about more recent history discovered in the archive of Potenza; this writer is Ettore Lorito and he said; the first time 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 we want to describe to you the chasm on the other side of Genzano 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 in 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 name it is understood that a very long time ago there must have been a colony of Greek people living there.

About the Greek people and what happened to them nobody knows today, as there is no trace of them and there are no records to check with. So, we are forced to assume that there was a war, or something like that and they were driven out. Or perhaps they 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.

Recent history of Genzano’s Greek chasm

We know that how time passes lots of things change, 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 while, because most of the people are afraid to go into this chasm the way 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.

This Greek chasm, apart that it is 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 includes 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, 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, how it was done from the young women that lived in those times.

In the Greek chasm today there are a few caves that can be used, and most of the rest 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 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 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 seen as a great improvement.

Now at this point I want 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 also to hide the drainage and sewer system. So, the only thing that can 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 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 we are trying to write about Genzano history, so, let us see how the most hated job of them all was done, in those times.


This large pond is used to water the horses

Near the opening in the wall in the background, that is where the old sewer opening was, in this opening human excrement from a purpose made container were thrown in and then the container washed and taken back home.
Near the opening in the wall in the background, that is where the old sewer opening was, in this opening human excrement from a purpose made container were thrown in and then the container washed and taken back home.

This must be the most hated job

This must have been the most hated job of them all, that the women folks of Genzano had to do; we want to point out to the modern generation to compare those times, when even the best people had to make do, to live a decent life then, as there were no other ways available.

Now looking back at the time when I was young, I still remember how the unspeakable job was done, from the women folks of those unfortunate families that were using the old sewer system; they had to do this horrible job two or three times a week, and they would feel ashamed while they were doing it, because this would expose them in a mental way about lack of privacy, so, they felt ashamed and what a shame it was compared to today privacy and living standard.

Now, there is more to tell about this happening, because in those times young people sometimes were cruel, so, they would enjoy to see the funny part of it, without thinking that their actions would 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 funny, when we would see in the evening 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 little broom which was a sort of brush with a long handle.

They would be coming out of their houses, and they would try to go the back ways as much as they could, and try to be invisible if they could as they didn’t want to be seen. Can you imagine some teenager girls doing this low and unspeakable service, while some teenager boys were 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, it 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 days.

Can you imagine any young girls that are living 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 can 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, as it 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


© 2011 F-Menchise


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