Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Agnone Adventures

The day after Capua, Mario was going to Rome, so I had him drop me off in Isernia with the intention of catching a bus to Pietrabbondante. As it happened, there was no direct connection, so I went to Agnone first, which is a bit northwest of Pietrabbondante. I had about an hour to kill, and I knew there was a replica of the Oscan 'Table of Agnone' floating around (the original is in the British Museum), so I decided to investigate. At the first bar, I learned that a copy was housed in the church of , and thence I went. The church, however, was closed and locked; since it was only 9:30, I figured I'd try back after 10. In the meantime, I hoofed it to the centro storico looking for picturesque alleyways and maybe some spolia. I was passing the Municipio (town hall) and happened to glance through the open doorway. I spied a courtyard, and since antiquities are often to be found in such places, I stepped in. Two gentlemen strolling under the modest collonade asked my business, and I said I was looking for the reproduction of the Oscan tablet. It seemed I was in luck: there was one in the library upstairs. Upon arrival, however, it was not to be found. I was led down the hall to the office of some petty magistrate whose closet, as it happened, contained a replica in plastic. Just after getting the thing in my greasy little fingers, another man entered and informed us that the more true-to-life copy in bronze was being used for a class, and would I like to sit in? Shortly thereafter I was introduced to a class of about twenty ten-year olds as an "archaeologist from the United States very interested in the Oscan tablet" and shown a seat. The man teaching the class (who incidentally looked a bit like Rex Wallace) then turned to me, raised an eyebrow and said, "I know you." It turned out he was a journalist I'd been introduced to while helping Mario sell cheese at the Truffle Fair in S. Pietro Avellana a week prior... In any case, I got a 45-minute refresher course on Samnite history (in Italian, naturally). After the kids were dismissed, I got to take a look at the replica tablet and talked with NicolĂ  for quite some time.

His three great loves, it turns out, are the Samnites, tratturi, and horses. After picking up his kids from school, he drove me to the outskirts of town to show me the remains of the massive Samnite fortification walls:

We don't know the ancient name of Agnone; NicolĂ  suggested Aquilonia, site of the decisive Roman victory against the Samnite legio linteata in 293 BCE, but that seems to me to be more wishful thinking on his part. Whatever the case, he kept stressing the fact that the site has never been excavated and hinted that it might be a good place for my future work... I think it pained him to live so close to such a site and know so little about it. But it was time for me to catch another bus to Pietrabbondante, as the first one had departed hours before.


Max Greene said...

That sounds like a fantastic time.

Missy said...

Whoa! You grew a beard!

ohiotransplant said...

I realize your post is a year old, but I'm desperate for information. My husband and I are attempting to visit Pietrabbondante in September. (His grandfather was a native.) We'd like to keep this a day trip. Near as I can figure, we take the train from Rome to Isernia and take a bus to Pietrabbondante. Do you have any suggestions? Can we do this in a day? I'm hoping to take an evening train from Isernia to Naples. Is this too ambitious? Thanks! (I was an Italian major but haven't been back to the country in 10 years. This will be an experience!)