Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews    entry Jan 2010


Looking south over Eboli to the          
  Alburni Mounts in background
Eboli is about 50 miles (80 km) south of Naples in the province of Salerno in the Campania region. It is about 10 miles (16 km) inland from the long coastal stretch (off to the right in this photo) of the Bay of Salerno. The town is at the foot of Montedoro, a peripheral spur of the Picentini mountains, and lies in the alluvial plain of the Sele river. The population is just under 40,000; in terms of area, it is one of the largest towns in Campania.

Demographically, Eboli has shown a steady increase ever since the unification of Italy in 1861. That means that it has drawn inhabitants from the surrounding villages, which have shown a commensurate decrease as those populations have either moved to larger centers or, as is the case in many places in the south, left Italy altogether. (See Ghost Towns.) Eboli is the "go-to" place for many things in the Campanian outback. Eye-glasses? Computers? Microwave ovens? "Oh, gotta go into Eboli for that, my friend." In English, Eboli is probably best known from the 1945 autobiographical novel by Carlo Levi Cristo si e' fermato ad Eboli, (Christ Stopped at Eboli) the author's lament of the enduring poverty in southern Italy (represented in the title by Eboli.) "Christ stopped at" is not ambiguous to Italians. It means that He never entered. Historically, the town is also connected to Peter of Eboli (See this link), the 12th-century monk and poet. And there are at least six different versions about the origin of the name, Eboli. My favorite is that it comes from Ebalo, son of the nymph Sebeti and Telone, the king of Capri, mentioned by Virgil in the Aeneid. I am, admittedly, a fan of specious mythological etymologies. In any event, the name of the town has no connection to the Ebola virus. I don't think.

Archaeology has shown that the area of Eboli has been inhabited since the Copper and Bronze Ages. Before the Romans, ancient Eboli was a Lucanian city and carried on extensive commerce with the colonies of Magna Grecia such as Paestum and Elea (Velia) along the coast as well as with the southernmost Etruscan towns. Whatever the etymology, Eburum (as it was known to the Romans) was mentioned by Pliny the Elder. Under the Romans, the city had the important status of municipium. At the fall of the western Roman Empire, the town was destroyed by Alaric in 410 AD, and then by the Saracens in the 9th and 10th centuries. Later it was an important part of the Duchy of Salerno, with a massive castle built by Robert Guiscard. More recently, the swamps in the area were drained by the land reclamation projects under the Fascist government in the 1920s and '30s (in similar fashion to the reclamation of the Pontine swamps south of Rome). Ebola was heavily bombed in August of 1943 by Allied aircraft (as were other places on or near the Gulf of Salerno, such as the port city of Salerno, itself, heavily hit in June of '43 in preparation for the impending "Operation Avalanche", the 200,000-man Salerno invasion, which took place along a 25-mile (40 km) front, the entire stretch of the bay of Salerno in September of 1943. (It was, in fact, the largest sea-borne invasion in history, superseded only by the later Normandy invasion in June 1944.) Many sources say Eboli was 80% destroyed by the bombardments. (Since 2012, Eboli, has a museum dedicated to Operation Avalanche. It is located on the premises of the Sant'Antonio monumental complex at no. 5, via Sant'Antonio.) The town was also hit very hard by the great Irpinia earthquake of 1980.

Eboli has a significant museum named The Archaeological Museum of the Central Sele Valley. It has been in existence since the year 2000 and is located in the ex-convent of San Francesco.

top photo: Luca Onesti 

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