Chapter III - Abruzzo Peoples: Adriani, Praetutii and Palmensi

«In the present province of Teramo there were three different territories known as Palmense, Praetutianum and Adrianum, whose boundaries were the Adriatic in the north and east, the Tronto river in the south and the Gran Sasso massif and the Piomba river in the west.»

From Enrico Abbate's "Guida d'Abruzzo", Rome 1903.

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Before the Roman conquest these territories, though small, were three different independent regions, added later by Augustus to the Picenum. The connection with the ancient Picentes in the north and these populations is still to be established: The peoples living in the present province of Teramo and those north of the Tronto were probably quite different, even though they are often known under the common name of Picentes. The Palmensi, whose territory was named after a kind of vine called palmae producing an exquisite wine, occupied (according to Plinius topography) the land south of the Tronto river bordering the Adriatic coast as far as the Elvino river, today called Vibrata. Therefore, the Palmensi were bordered by the Adriatic sea in the east, in the west by the Apennines, in the north by the Tronto river which divided them from the Picenum. On the left bank of the river Truentus, nowadays Tronto, the Palmensi had a town which Strabone describes under the name of Civitas Truentina and Plinius with the name of the river itself, Truentum.

The Helvinus river, which is surely present-day Vibrata or Ubrata, flowing from from Garrufo as far as the sea, divided the territory of the Palmensi from the territory of the Praetutii, which was larger, bordering in the north the right bank of the Elvino and the Agrum Palmense and Agrum Ascolanum, and in the south the Vomano river; having its natural limits in the Adriatic in the east and in the west the main Apennine range with the mountains of Pizzo di Sevo, Pizzo di Moscio, Montagna di Roseto and Valle Chiarina, where the Sabinum territory began. Nowadays all these territories correspond to the districts of Giulianova, Notaresco, Teramo, Montorio, Campli and Civitella del Tronto.

But what is the origin of this name Praetutius? It is uncertain, as we already said: the territory may have derived its name from the main town which was in antiquity called Petrut.

The Praetutii, beyond the Salino river (Salinum flumen), had in their hinterland a town called Beregra, of which we only know for certain that it was occupied by a Roman colony under Augustus; we ignore where it was situated, though some scholars think it was Garrufo, near Nereto, others place it in the Fano plain, while still others identify it with either Bisegna or Civitella del Tronto.

Another town if the Praetutii was Castrum Novum, rising 12 miles from Truentum, along the Salaria, which was not - as the name castrum suggests - a mere citadel, but a real town; but nothing is known about its ancient name or history. In the Middle Ages it was called Castrum divi Flaviani and in the XV century the inhabitants were moved three miles to the hinterland, where Giulianova now rises.

But the most important center of the Praetutii was Interamnia (present-day Teramo), their capital at the junction of the Albula (the Vezzola stram today) and the Batinus river (the Tordino). As far as the Adriani are concerned, their region was narrower. The Vomano river (Vomanus fluvium) separated it in the north from the Praetutii and the Matrino (or Piomba), while they were divided from the Vestini by the terrible river about which Silius (Note of Translator: Silius Tiberius Catius Asconius Italicus, about 25 - Campania 101, was a lawyer, poet and politician of the Roman Empire.) said

Stat, fucare colus nec Sidone vilior Ancon
Murice nec Libyco; statque humectata Vomano
Hadria, et inclemens hirsuti signifer Ascli.
(Lib. VIII)
(Note of Translator: translation "Ancona rises, not inferior for the purple dye to Sido or Lybia; and Adria rises, washed by the Vomano river and the pitiless, standard-bearer hairy Ascoli)

with the Apennine range and the Gran Sasso in the south and the west; so that this territory only covered the districts of Atri and Bisenti. But it is doubtful whether these were also the limits of the ancient Hatriana region before the Roman occupation; maybe the opposite is true since Adria, the only city described in this region by ancient geographers, was larger in antiquity, for population and importance, than Interamnia, from which it was 15 miles away. The Atriani had a trade point which later on became castle and was called Matrinum or Macrinum Oppidum; some scholars place it at the mouth of the Piomba, others on the other bank of the Vomano river, where nowadays Scerne is situated.

The territory of the Adriani also comprised Mons Cunarus which, according to Cluverius (Note of Translator: Philipp Clüver, Latinized as Philippus Cluverius, 1580 Danzig – 1622 Leiden, was a German geographer and historian.), was Monte Corno, the highest peak in the Gran Sasso. In order to briefly summarize the histories of the Adriani, Praetutii and Palmensi, we have to say that, apart from the occupation of the Umbri, Siculi and Liburni and possibly other populations called together as Pelasgi, and the wars between all these peoples and other more ancient populations, nothing is known before the Roman occupation. The destiny of the Praetutii seems to have been decided in 461, when Curius Dentatus defeated the Sabines for the second time, and the Samnites accepted his conditions: but the occupation of Castrum and Adria by Roman colonizers shows that maybe they were possibly occupied earlier than that. The Praetutii were allies to the Romans against Hannibal, who maybe for this reason plundered the Agrum Praeututianum and Adrianum. In order to obtain revenge, the Praetutii fought courageously along with the Frentani and the Marrucini against the Carthaginians and contributed to the victory of Roman general Nero at the Metaurum river.

In later times the devastations of the Social War also touched Praetutium and when the Italic allies obtained the Roman citizenship the Praetutii were included with the Piceni to bring votes to Rome. Then a number of noble families went left Rome to live in Praetutium, which had already become a part of the Roman Republic, shared the first Roman successes and adopted Roman language and customs. From those families the names of many modern villages in this territory are derived."