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The Fanes' saga - Short essays


The “Trusani”


The Fassan legend designates with the name “Trusani” a group of enemies, specialists in raping and pillaging, who came down through the mountain passes that bring to the upper valley of the Cordevole or Pettorina streams, usually from pass Fedaia and pass Ombretta, but at times also from the Monzoni area and the pass of St.Pellegrino . We saw that the “Arimanni” who fight against them must be probably dated to the IXth A.D. But we also saw ( >Analysis >the Fassan Trilogy) that some very significant clues (first of all the political behaviour of the “Trusani” in the episode of the occupation of Contrin, but also the name “latrones” given to the same “ Arimanni”, the story of Cadina, those of the legends collected by De Rossi which are certainly applicable to the Roman conquest ) make us believe that the word “Trusani” has been applied by the Fassans to at least two different stocks of invaders, over two separate historical periods: that of the Roman conquest and that of the Lombard “Arimannie”.

We should explain what exactly the word “Trusani” does mean, and how did it enter into use. The Ladinians are unanimous in claiming that “Trusani” means “Trevisani”, i.e. “people from Treviso”. Even the small plain named “Trusan field”, between Canazei and the pass of Fedaia, is also called “tjan trevisan” (field of the people from Treviso). Treviso, however, during the Roman age was only a modest village (Tarvisium). It escaped destruction by all barbarian hords, somewhat by chance, somewhat because of its small importance, and mostly because it was offset from all main roads. Only later, following the destruction of Oderzo, it became a relevant town, the seat of a Lombard duchy and then of a Carolingian mark. Therefore it seems impossible that the word “Trusani” may refer to the Roman Tarvisium; unless the occupation of the Fassa valley had not been assigned to auxiliary troops, who by sheer chance came from the area of Treviso. A fact perhaps not totally impossible, but very unlikely and rather odd.

During the Middle Ages, on the contrary, there actually was a short period when the Fassans might have entered in direct touch with the “Trevisani”: the occupation of Trento (1239-1255), on Imperial mandate, by Ezzelino da Romano. At that time, several peasant riots were quelled in the region. However, even if we admit that the Ghibelline condottiere may have found time and will to personally deal with the Fassa valley, an occurrence not documented at all, in that case his attacks would have been launched from the South or the West, sure not from North-East like those of the “Trusani”; and the period would also be several centuries late for the supposed “Arimanni”.
We must say, however, (see >Essays >Arimanni) that in the Lombard period an “Arimannia” was founded in the area of Roccapietore, and that the territories at least nominally controlled by it ought to have included also the upper Fassa valley down to the Duron stream. (Father F. Ghetta remarks that in the XIXth century the upper valley payed taxes to the bishop of Bressanone as grain measures, while the lower valley payed them in ovine livestock; this different fiscal payment is considered as depending on a different past political dependence). Unfortunately, we don’t know whether the Lombard “Arimannia” at Roccapietore was established by the duke of Treviso or, as it would look more logical, by that of Ceneda, a town located midway between Treviso and the Cordevole stream, from which, as an instance, Belluno itself depended. Even if the first hypothesis were correct, in any case it looks rather hazardous to maintain that the inhabitants of the upper Cordevole valley may have identified themselves, or have been identified by the Fassan people, - in that period of total political confusion, of continuous fratricide fighting and of relaxing of the central power from which feudalism took its roots – with the name of the remote and unfamiliar town in the plain that nominally might have owned legal rights over their territory.

Palmieri proposed instead that the name “Trusani” may not derive from “Trevisani” but from “Drusiani”, i.e. by Tiberius Claudius Drusus’s legionaries, who subjected this sector of the Alps in 15. B.C. after a decisive battle fought against the Rhaetians near Trento. He supports this concept by remarking that the family name “Drusian” is still widespread nowadays in the countryside of Treviso and Oderzo. We must notice, however, that the family name “Drusiani”, on the contrary is rather widespread in the area of Bologna and in some areas of Central Italy [the truncation of the last vowel of a word is a typical feature of the Venetian dialects in the Italian north-east]. The coupling of Bologna with Treviso would make me suspect that these family names are the result of centuriations [land distributions among Roman legionaries after discharge from service] in favour of Drusus’ armies, provided it were possible to demonstrate, 1) that such centuriations actually took place, 2) that Roman legionaries used being personally designated by their general’s name, even after their discharge from the army. By now, I made no progress at all in support of either statement, although I generally remain favourable to Palmieri’s idea.

Coming back to the Fassa valley, however, we must also remark that Drusus founded Pons Drusi [Drusus’s Bridge] near today’s Bolzano and therefore the word “drusiani”, in the sense of “inhabitants of Pons Drusi” might have been generalized by the Fassans to mean “Roman occupants”, independently from the direction they cam from.

Last, we may observe that the original Ladinian word is “trujan”, where the “j” in pronounced french-style, while Wolff writes it “trusan” because of sound similarity, like he writes the Ladinian “Merijana”, as “Merisana”, derived from the Latin “Meridiana”. But an hypothetic Latin “trudiani” results mysterious to me (perhaps from “trudere”, to push forcefully, pursue?); unless new findings appear, this shouldn’t be considered but a false track).

If the word “drusiani”, then, whichever its exact origin, can be dated to the period of the Roman conquest, why should it have sticked to the inhabitants of the Cordevole valley much later than the fall of the Empire?

Drusus’s primary target was sure not taking possession a number of poor and marginal mountain valleys, but the opening of a great and safe communication road to southern Germany, that was to become the future via Claudia Augusta. Therefore he didn’t waste his time in this area to complete his victory, but quickly moved his army towards the Venosta valley and the passes over the main divide of the Alps. On the other hand, the “Trophaeum Alpium” at La Turbie, erected by Augustus in 7/6 B.C. to celebrate the whole submission of the Alpine Arch, mentions among the vanquished peoples the Venostes and the Isarci, but no people that can be reconducted to the area of Trento. We can presume (and this has been explicitly stated by Plinius) that the submission of the small and tiny tribes which were left over was accomplished later, bit by bit, by small expeditionary corps that came from already Romanized areas.

It is well known that the Palaeo-Venetics, whose area of influence included the Cordevole valley since pre-Roman times, spontaneously adhered to the Roman state well earlier than Augustus’s age without being forcefully conquered, and they quickly integrated into it, obtaining advantages and prosperity in exchange. It is therefore quite plausible that the Roman soldiers, already labelled by the Rhaetians as “drusiani”, moved to occupy the upper Fassa valley from bases located in the Cordevole basin, and it is possible that the inhabitants of those Palaeo-Venetic valleys, fully Romanized yet, have been identified by the Fassan Rhaetians as “drusiani” themselves; and that this popular appellative sticked to them until the Lombard period (when, possibly, the sound similarity with Treviso sort of reinforced the association). It’s a fact as curious as proven that the name given to a people by their neighbours has a tendency to remain invariant over time even when its reasons of existing have been removed; so, e.g., in France, Germans are still nowadays named after the “Alemanni”, while in Italy it is customary to name them after the “Teutones”; again, in some Slavic languages Italians are still today named “long-haired” with reference to their Renaissance manes, and the Ladinians themselves call them in despise “Lumberc”, i.e. – historical Nemesis? – Lombards!