The Cilento is an outstanding cultural landscape. The dramatic groups of sanctuaries and settlements along its three east–west mountain ridges vividly portray the area’s historical evolution: it was a major route not only for trade, but also for cultural and political interaction during the prehistoric and medieval periods. The Cilento was also the boundary between the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia and the indigenous Etruscan and Lucanian peoples. The remains of two major cities from classical times, Paestum and Velia, are found there.
Cilento National Park is essentially a mountainous region cut by several river valleys sloping down to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The earliest human occupation identified in this region dates back over 250,000 years, when Homo erectus was living in caves along the coast. Homo sapiens sapiens replaced his Neanderthal cousin during the Upper Palaeolithic period and established seasonal camps during this and the subsequent Mesolithic period. Neolithic settlements have been discovered in a number of places across the area of the park. During the Bronze and Iron Ages small groups of warriors and traders moved into to the region. By the end of the 2nd millennium, trade with Mycenae had become substantial, and many of the sophisticated cultural and technological elements of late Bronze Age Greece were introduced. With the collapse of Mycenae this trade with the Eastern Mediterranean declined greatly, to be replaced by active trade within the peninsula itself, as Cilento was also an important boundary zone with the Etruscan cultures of northern Italy. Greek colonization began in the late 7th century with coastal trading settlements being established at Agropoli and Poseidonia (Roman Paestum) in the northern part of Cilento. Elea (Velia) was founded in 540 BC and was to become one of the most influential centres of learning in the ancient world. At the end of the 5th century BC, the Lucanians of the interior defeated the league of Greek coastal cities, apart from Elea. The region was incorporated into the territories of Rome in the later 3rd century BC. It was not until the western Roman Empire crumbled and its roads and bridges fell into disrepair that the earlier network of communication and settlement came into its own again. During the Middle Ages feudal castles and religious foundations were established; within the pre-Roman framework, the Greek and Lucanian towns revived.
Since 1998 it is a Unesco site.
Thanks to Martina for the postcard.
Thanks to Alessandro for the postcard.