The ancient village of Atina rises in a dominant position, close to the Meta mountain group, in the heart of the Mainarde, in the upper Melfa valley, the Comino Valley.
The origins and the legend
There are many opinions on the origin of its name. Those who believe it was founded by Saturn (Saturnus in Latin, Cronos in Greek), believe that he named it after the name of his nephew Anitino; someone says it comes from Ate, goddess of mischief. Others from Atinia, a species of elm; most from Athena, from Pallas, protector of the city which in Greek is Ἀθηνᾶ, read Atina.
An ancient legend tells Saturn was chased away from Jupiter, tooked refuge near Giano, who reigned in the peninsula of Citi (Italy) and ruled with him for a long time.
Saturn was said to have founded the five Saturnian towns of Latium: Aletrium (today Alatri), Anagnia (Anagni), Arpinum (Arpino), Atina and Ferentinum (Ferentino, also known as Antinum) all located in the Latin Valley, province of Frosinone.
Virgil, in the Aeneid, calls it “powerful” (Aen. VII, 630).
M. Valerio Marziale in his epigrams calls it ancient (book X, 92.2).
Cicero, in his oration pro Planco, qualifies it as a rich Prefecture (ch. VIII).
Atina is mentioned by historians Titus Livy, Diodorus Siculus, Caius Pliny the Second, C. Silius Italicus, Claudius Ptolemy, Valerius Maximus, and Frontino, who count it among the Roman colonies.
To these authoritative voices are added others who would like to identify it as a fierce stronghold of the warlike Volsci who, in case of danger, would withdraw with their cattle into the walled circuit.
Studies carried out by Dr. G. R. Bellini of the Soprintendenza Archeologica per il Lazio (Archaeological Superintendence for Latium), have made it possible to attribute to the City a prominent strategic importance from the 4th century B.C. on the occasion of the arrival of Samnite people.
The Samnites in a short time raised a double imposing barrier of polygonal walls, with the task of controlling and defending the access roads to the Sannio (the route from Cassino and then from the coast and, the route from Sora, i.e. from the Middle Liri Valley).
Along these roads you can still meet some sanctuaries, such as that of “Pescarola”, where the cult of water was practiced in honour of the divinities of the woods.
In 293 B.C. the atinate’s territory was sacked (Livio, X, 39.5) by the Roman legions committed to destroy the enemy positions of Aquilonia and Cominium (third Samnite war).
With the Roman occupation of the city began changes in the customs and traditions of the Atinati. A gradual urban transformation was undertaken, creating urban networks consisting essentially of the Forum, the center of the city, and two main axes (cardo and decumanus).
The Atinati continually opposed these transformations and rebelled against the occupation of Rome on several occasions. It became a Cologne and was enrolled in the Teretina tribe, but its inhabitants were not granted any rights. At the beginning of the first century B.C. it was the centre of fights between Italics, Marsi and Samnites against the Romans, and, because of its hostile and rebellious behaviour, it became “municipium” only after Caesar’s death.
After the urban transformations it underwent, Atina became the holiday resort of wealthy aristocratic families, some of which – like the gens. Planco, Pomponio, Saturnina, Rufo – erected splendid villas according to the canons of Hellenistic architecture.
In the meantime, numerous country residences sprang up all over the territory. Among the most important public works we remember the Forum with the Baths, the Imperial Baths, the Amphitheatre and the Aqueduct that from the springs of Chiusi, brought water into the city through an underground conduit.