origins of Sassano, as far as its first settlements go, are dated far away in
time. Recently, in fact in the area between the urban center and Silla a grotto
dated around the year 2000 B.C. has
been discovered, as archeological reperts reveal. Of course according to experts
the grotto may be dated further back in time, since the material studied is but
the upper layers of it. Aside this important discovery, during the Roman Empire
there were settlements in the area of what is now Sassano, thus there have been
many discoveries of Roman Villa’s
in the in a location of Sassano called Pantano.
A further and more certain fact is of tombstone, that the people of Sassano call “La Tomba della Principessa” (the princess’s tombstone), in reality it’s a sarcophagus encaved in live-stone, on the side there are scriptures thet experts have dated around the 2nd century A.C., and according to them it was commissioned by a roman landlord for his departured brother. An influence of romans in the culture of Sassano can be found in the dialect, in it there are greek and latin terms, an example for all is the term “ERO’” this dialettical sassanese exclamation that expresess astonishiment for un unexpected or unforseen event, cames from the greek term “ieron” that meant in fact “astonishiment for un unexpected or unforssen event”, and more in the glossary of the Sassanese dialect there are also “Osci” terms, this enforces the fact that Sassano preexisted at the beginning of the Greek and Roman Empires.
A further testimoniance of the origin can be found in the name of Sassano, it is infact wrong the belief that the ethimology of the term “Sassano” derives from “Sasso-Sano” (live rock), this was so because the first settlements are believed to be situated in the upper part of the town, instead the mane Sassano, is stictly related to the land possessions that Roman Lords had in this area, in fact in some documents we can read the words “PRAEDIA SOXSIANI”. The term Soxiani o Sossiano, had to be the surname of a roman landlord who owned lands in this region, supporting this theory ther are the facts that this was a widespread phenomenon in the Region of Campania. As time past the term “Praedia” disapeared and was left only Soxiani or Sozziani, that was in fact the landlord surname. Allthough this part of the history of Sassano needs further and more accurate studies, from the year 900 the history becames more documented, the existence of a roman bridge that is stil in good conditions in the mountain location called Peglio riaffirms that there was a settlements in Sassano, however the first document known that mentions sassano is dated 967 A.C., and is related to a patoral visit that a bishop of that time made in the region since the Roman Church took posession the land that is now the Vallo di diano. Some experts question the authenticity of the document, but there are no doubts about a fallowing document dated 1131 A.C. In this document is stated that the Norman King Ruggiero II gave the concession of the Grancia of Rofrano and other Grancias in the Diano Valley including the Grancia of St.Zaccaria in Sassano to the Basilian Monks, a religious order that settled in the southern part of Italy at first in the Calabria Region and only in later years moved on to reach northeran Italy. In fact the Grancias are a part of the existence of these Basilian Monks, and the Grancia of Sassano, althuoght has undergone many restylings throught out the centuries there are still the evidence of where they first settled, and the evolution of the town of Sassano is stictly related to the movements of these monks. In fact this order among administrating sacraments and monastic practicies, was turned above all toward farming and breeding animals. During the 1500’s the Basilian order which was loosing most of it’s power in the region, sold some stalls and farming land they owned to private citizien of Sassano, this is a further confirmation that the Basilians were dedicated to farming. Around the same period there is also a contract of purchase by the Certosini Monks of mountain land owned by the Basilian Monks. With the accession of the certosini in di Diano Valley the power of the Basilian order was fading, the order of the Certosini Monks were wanted by the powerfull Sanseverino Family in 1306 and dominated the economic and cultural life of the Diano Valley, althought the importance that the Basilian Monks had in the evolving urban settlemet of sassano is undisputed. The first neighborhoods settlements of the newly established Sassano were build in the lower part of the town called Fontana, This area was choosen because rich of springwater, that was an important good for the new farming based society that was settling in Sassano. However the farming land available was situated in the mountains, since the valley was afflicted with waterfloods that made impossible any farming works, in fact they were many controversaries between those who had claimed the farming land and those who had taken possession unlowfully, and this was a widespread conditions trought out the Diano Valley.
The all life of Sassano without enetering in details is characterized by the fact that the town of Sassano was part with the neighboring town of Teggiano, San Giacomo, San Rufo, Sant’Arsenio e San Pietro of the state of Diano. The State of Diano for many centuries was dominated by the powerfull family of Sanseverino, who had their splendor in Teggiano with the construction of the Castle. In the 1600 the Sanseverino Family had lost most of it’s power and new landlords came out as the dominat family of the state of Diano like the Caracciolo and later the Calŕ thet kept the feud or State of Diano up to 1806, In fact by archive documents show that the last feudal landlord is the Count Schippani tha wed a nobble Calŕ. Returning to what is the history of Sassano it’s important to fallow the demographic movements of the popoluation from the first settlements at the Fontana Grande to differanciete it from the “Fontanella” sistuated at the entance of the urban center of the town as it moved upwords in the years that fallowed. The first nobles that settled in Sassano were the families Vecchio e Rossi, in later years they merged as to became the family Vecchiorossi. During the 1600’s new families like the Sabini, Ferri e De Benedictis begun to settle in Sassano, which dominated the economic and political life of Sassano for the caming centuries. Even though Sassano was part of the State of Diano, slowly was gaining it’s authonomy, in a document is stated that the town was rappresentated by a town council and a Mayor, in a lowsuit for unlowfully possession of mountain land during the 1400’s before the court of the State of Diano, Sassano was rappresentated by the mayor of Teggiano, and in a same lowsuit during the 1537 and precissely on jannuary 25th , Sassano is rappresented before the same court by the mayor of Sassano and the town council assembly.
However, we must remember that self determination at this time and up to the 1800’s was very limited and the absolute power was in anyway left to the Lord Of the State of Diano or the the Govenor by him appointed to be the ultimate and undisputed lowman. Life in Sassano was dedicated mostly on farming and breeding animals, in fact in the territory of Sassano, and in the location of Silla during the 1600’s is reported to take place an important animal fair, which gathered people from the nearby towns.
As the town evolved in the centuries a struggle begun that sow the people of sassano against those who usurpated or unlowfully had taken possession of the small land avalable for farming. If when first settled the popolation of Sassano was of about 1500 by the early 1800’s the popolation grew up to about 6000 people, however the economic conditions were for most of the people of misery and poverty, and aside the wealthy and nobble families, the only category that didn’t suffer such problems was rappresentated by the shephards. These shepperds begun in Sassano a very productive wealthy business industry of cheese makers, an industry that still today with modern machineries rappresents for Sassano the leadership among the Diano Valley Towns for factories that convert milk into cheese. That breeding sheeps was a locrous job is supported by documents that indicate that some of the heards owned by sheppards were of about 5000 sheeps, and these shepards went as far as the region of Puglia to rent land so that their heards could have what to eat during winter, and by custum’s document show that Sassano was the largest leader buyer of salt, that was necessary so as the forage wouldn’t go bad. In the 1600’s Sassano aside misery and poverty of it’s inhabitants had to face the pestlilence that swept throught out Italy and Europe, that decimated the popolation of the entire Diano Valley.
In all this happening the Church highly influenced the popoluation of the Valley and Sassano, if in the 1400’s the town main church and all documents that were kept in it were destroyed by a tremendous fire, with the shamefull lost of all archive that cuold further explain the period between the 1300’s and the 1600’s. In the 1607, the new mother church was completelly edificated as it’s written on the lintel of the main entrance, the Church is dedicated to St.John the evangelist although the Saint protector of sassano Is St. John the Baptist, and again, stories narrates that those who more heavly contributed to the rebuild if the new mother church were the shepards, in fact as the story goes that one of these shephaerd offered to rebuilt the churh with the only earnings of it’s activity of cheesemaker, of course this is only a legend. After the fire that destroyed the mother church a growing number of chapels were build in Sassano after the 1400’s these chapels are documentated during the various visits that the Bishops of the time made in Sassano.
The first Chapel that we know of is the Chapel of Madonna del Loreto, bilded by the Femminella family, although not documented it’s possible that the very first chapel build is the one in honor of St. Vito on the border line between Sassano and Monte San Giacomo. Afterwords there were build the Chapels of SS.Annunziata, Madonna delle Grazie in the 1600’s, St.Michael, St. Rocco and Madonna del Carmine in the 1700’s, all of these Chapels are so called oitside the walls, because they are all situated in the outskirts of the urban center of what is Sassano. By looking at the chapel and their geographical position in respect to the town thy seem to be disposed in a sort of fortification from all sides or cardinal points, this is so as to the people beilieved that this position of the chapels would save the town and it’s inghabitants from bad luck and pestilence, in fact an old leggend narrates that the town of sassano could never be afflicted by any form wreckness and pestilence and natural catastrophies because these chapels would protect it.
Other events that characterized the history of Sassano is in the 1800’s first whit brigantage and afterords with immigration.
Among the characters that as brigants have captured the fantaies of the people of the time in Sassano was Salvatore Brigante, a Robin Hood type, he stood for justice and protecting those people who lived in misery and poverty and amarginated from society. Immigration started at first toward Brazil and Argentine, afterwords toward the United States of America. It’s important to establish that the reasonm why people emigrated was for the widespread misery that was widespread in the region during that time, entire families emigrated so as if we take a look at the town anagraphic archive it appears clear that surnames once popular in Sassano have now totally disapeared.
Few were the political events that influenced the life of Sassano, and although this aspect of life still needs further studying by historians, is reported between the years 1859-1860 the founding of a secret society. Historians have accertained that this secret society was the first example of a syndacte or of a union labor. The goals of this society was: to upgrade the quality of life, more human working conditions and better pay, the society had a statute, and it’s members had to swear loyalty to it, it was discovered at first by the local police station who notified the Secretary of the police in Naples, and in the trial that fallowed it was defined as an eversive comunist association, and if it’s members wheren’t harsly punished was because in the Reign of Naples in the same time Giusepe Garibaldi entered in Naples to unify Italy (1861).
For the later part of the 1800’s and early 1900’s there aren’t any fact worth of mentioning, the old noble families of Vecchiorossi, Sabini, De Benedictis disappeard and a new class of landlords slowly took their place. We can not, however forgett about those people of Sassano who have died in the two World Wars, few of them were recognized with silver medals for their eroic deeds.