The Greek Heritage chapter
The heritage chapter 16
The Greek Heritage chapter
Welcome to my page (16) now called, the heritage chapter.
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 one of the old town fountain, called Cavallina of today, it was very likely an amphitheatre at the beginning of Genzano history. So is this where the Christian martyr of Secondo and Donato took place? Near this fountain is also the place where the old sewerage system was.
The Greek Heritage chapter
When we talk about heritage it is obvious that we are looking for things that have come from the past, the word heritage has many uses but here we are using it to tell you about history events, of my native town; we all know that 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 or history of Genzano di Lucania, therefore we are going to mention what sort of heritage we inherited in Genzano, from some ancient people that once lived there.
We would like also to mention here briefly the history of the name of Genzano: it is believed that the name of Genzano comes from the legend of Ian and San and the name is virtually the two names put together, I believe that we have mentioned it already at length somewhere else, so there is no need to repeat that, so let us talk about the other heritage.
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 and now about this chasm, which is the other chasm on the other side of Genzano; for the readers that have not read our previous hubs I repeat here, that the old town of Genzano was built between two chasms and in our last article we have talked about Saint Antuon or Saint Michael chasm where most of the Genzanesi make wine in the caves dug in the walls of the chasm below the town, but here today we are going to talk about what the local call the Greek chasm, which as I have said, it is on the other side of the town and below the town fountain called 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 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 might have lasted until the Romans took over. So let us assume that the Greeks were there anyhow, because what is going to follow later on is only going to reinforce this assumption. As there is also another story about this Madonna of Genzano that we are going to tell you in our future hubs, we can only say here that this Madonna effigy is very much the effigies that the Greek were making about the Roman times.
The town history and heritage
Looking at old history books, we have to 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) fell in love and eloped with a young princes called San, they went to live in the caves that were in the chasm below Genzano and later on started to build the town above the caves a small castle, 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.
Now let us talk for a moment about more recent history that a recent write has discovered in the archive of Potenza; 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 record found written in Genzano history and not much else; so, let us go back to the Greek chasm story.
Because in this hub we would like to tell or 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; 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 one is forced to assume that very likely that 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 things changed and 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.
However nowadays the Greek chasm has been deserted from the people of Genzano for a long while, because most of the people would be afraid to go into this chasm, there is only a small part that is still used and a road that can take you to the other chasm. Now let us see the reasons why this has happened: 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.
In the Greek chasm nowadays there are only a few good caves that can still 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 very beginning of the chasm, and also 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 seen as 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 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 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.
The most hated job of them all
Before we start to tell 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.
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 last 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 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 sometimes were almost cruel and they would enjoy to see the funny part of it all 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 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 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, 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 more days
Can you just imagine any young girls that are living today to do such a shameful job, I have nothing else to say but just compare. 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 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, as it is not my life story and I intend to continue with my story.
So, see you next time, where we are going to tell you about the Madonna story