In the pre-Roman times, the plains of the region were already inhabited by various peoples: the Oscis (Opici), the Ausonians (Aurunci) and the Samnites. South were Greek colonies, from Cuma to Paestum together with the islands of Ischia and Capri, further south were the Lucanians. All these people, except from the trading cities of the coast, lived mainly of sheep-farming and agriculture.
The ancient origins of Sessa Aurunca (Suessa) are confirmed by the discovery of traces of prehistoric settlements and a burial of the eighth century BC, the time where the Auruncis lived there; they fortified the burial with huge walls covering an area of about 1 hectare, which is probably the original nucleus of Suessa, who joined the federation of the city, know as “Pentapoli Aurunca”.
In the fourth century BC the territory was conquered by the Romans that in 313 BC defeated the Pentapolis Aurunca and settled a colony of Latin law that minted coin from the fourth century until the Second Punic War (219-202 BC). Suessa became with the time an important military, trade and agriculture center and was elevated as “Municipium” in 90 BC.
The name Suessa probably comes from “sessio” (seat) sitting on a hill with a mild climate” in a land called by the Romans “Campania felix”. During the imperial period Suessa knows his greatest urban expansion: the town covers an area almost twice the current one and many important monuments were built.
The plain below, along with the cities of Minturnum and Sinuessa, reached its highest splendour in the first century A.D., also thanks to the opening of another important road junction: the Domitian Road.
The catastrophic earthquake of 375 and the continuous barbarian raids due to the fall of the Roman Empire, forced the inhabitants to move to the mountainous areas further inland and the whole area suffered a depopulation, while on the coast remained firmly attested only the trading settlement of Gaeta.
In the early Middle Ages, the Saracens were able to fix some strongholds on the outfall of the rivers, one of them at the outfall of Garigliano River, which endured until the advent of Norman feudalism, that stopped the presence of Saracens, helped to enhance local autonomy and development of small towns, among them Teano.
The exacerbated tax policies of the rulers succeeded in the years: Swabian, Angevin, Aragonese, the frequent famines and plagues, happened between 1300 and 1600, were further cause to the migration of people from the countryside to the cities, particularly Naples, contributing to worsen the already precarious conditions of hygiene.
The plains of the Volturno and Garigliano become unhealthy and were completely depopulated until the advent of the Bourbon dynasty in the seventeenth century, which abolished feudalism, the privileges of the Church and began the drainage of many areas.
The full land reclamation of the plains was completed only in the last century; this is why the whole area has a rather lower population density than cities in the region and particularly in Naples, that in its province has a population of 2500 inhabitants per square km.
The houses are typical elements of the country, have a compact structure, with one or two floors with external staircase and are built with tuff stone without plaster. In the Roccamonfina area shelters made in the tuff are not uncommon. The villages that were formed after the reclamation and are mainly located on the seaside, just like our Domizia Bay, have become a tourist destination.
The gentle slopes and soil fertility have encouraged the formation of villages on the volcanic hills of Roccamonfina Mount.
The eruptions of the vulcan Roccamonfina, started 6 million years ago, marked the territory until about 100,000 years ago, when a new activity started nearby, built the island of Ischia and ended in 1301 AD. 35,000 years ago a violent volcanic activity destroyed the “Archiflegreo’s Edifice”, and, in its caldera, during several cycles, formed about 50 minor volcanoes; the last one, the New Mount (Monte Nuovo) dates back to 1538.
One of the most recent is the Vesuvius, currently quiescent, that has alternated periods of silence with sudden eruptions; in 79 AD, during these eruptions, it destroyed Pompei and Herculaneum. Currently the area is still active at the Solfatara by Pozzuoli. The plain is crossed by the Garigliano river, that originates from the confluence of the Liri and Gari rivers, it flows between the Aurunci mountains and Roccamonfina and, in the last 38 km of its path, it forms the border between the regions Lazio and Campania.
Further south the closest plain is crossed by the Volturno, 135 kms long, the most important river of the region; between the two plains there is the Massico mountain. Thanks to natural corridors formed by wide valleys, the sea influences the climate also within the internal areas, where we can find some typical Mediterranean vegetation and crops.
On Roccamonfina, over 600 meters, there are chestnut trees, below the 600 meters, there are oaks, olive trees and evergreen plants such as olive, arbutus, myrtle, laurel, cypress, but also broom, oleander, heather, eufobie, juniper and phillyrea: on the coast Bay Domitian, there are pine trees, forming a beautiful green barrier in front of the sea around 10 kms long.
Agriculture, which in Roman times was mixed type (cereals, grapes, olives, fruits) was partially modified by intensive horticultural crops. Besides the livestock breeding (especially the “buffalo” in the lowlands, and sheep farm in the hills), there are today fish plants and small industrial sites, while Tourism is becoming increasingly important.
Today Sessa Aurunca, whose chief town is located at 203 meters above sea level, with 22,000 inhabitants placed on 163 square kilometres, is one of the largest municipality of Italy, it has a particular geographic location with 26 villages spread on a wide hilly area, which starts from 933 meters above sea level, down into the fertile plain of the Garigliano and it reaches the sea at Domizia Bay. Among the distinguished citizens, it is to be mentioned Florimonte Galeazzo (1478-1567), bishop of Sessa Aurunca, who was famous for inspiring Monsignor Giovanni della Casa to write that little book of civil life, known as “Galateo” (book of manners), named after the sessan’s prelate.