Campagna and the Gerione Castle

The first official news of Gerione Castle dates back to 1056 in an "instrument"(document) of the Abbey of the SS. Trinity of Cava de 'Tirreni.It was built by Gisulfo II to defend himself from the Normans Umfredo and Guglielmo d'Altavilla, just at the time of Guaimar IV,  the Prince of Salerno. Also Count Riccardo (1082), related to the Lombard princes of Salerno, or Viscount Sico (1095) were hosted in the castle.


Later in the Swabian and Angevin period the castle was used for purely military purposes. It was under the emperor Federico II at least since 1231. After the death of Frederick II (1250), during the minority of Corradino, the "castrum Campanie" was donated by Pope Innocent IV to Filippo of Acerno. With the Angevins the castle of Campagna was included among the main fortifications from the military point of view in the line of defense around Salerno. Various nobles, usually knights following  Charles I of Anjou, alternated themselves in his possession. Some castellans of the castle in the Angevin period are known to us thanks to the registry of the chancellery: between 1269 and 1271 we find Roberto Beloulieu and his successor Stephano de Basiniaco; from 8 th July 1271 to 1 st August 1274 Petrus Corberius, who on 3 rd September 1274 was appointed Provisor of the Principality by Charles 1 and he became castellan of the castle for three years in a row. Until then the castellans remained in office for a maximum of one year, or in the duration of the same they changed frequently; this is a testimony to the importance of the castle. The latest news relating to the castle date back to the sixteenth century, when it was ceded by the noble feudatory Ferdinando Orsini to the Collegiate of the Cathedral of Santa Maria of the Peace of Campagna. The castle is  placed inside the gorge surrounded by mountains, which represents a natural defense against the enemies.


To control the few access roads to the valley it was therefore placed on the small hill of the Girolo, whose elevation is 440 metres above sea level, located at the centre of the gorge; from this position they could control all the gorge of the country and the surrounding areas, which couldn’t be seen from any other place in the valley. It is therefore a strategic position against enemies and perhaps, because of the place where it was erected, the castle was named Gerione. Moreover, climbing up from the Girolo hill there is still a wall defense that connected San Bartolomeo to the fortress. It is a long wall, preserved only for some stretches, which had to separate, the  steep western slope  from the east, now inaccessible because overhanging.

Arrived to  the top of the hill  they entered the manor through a door flanked by two towers that allowed entry into a first courtyard with an irregular plan, perhaps a parade ground. Through a second door and an external ramp lead to a second courtyard with a higher level in which there was the stable. This second courtyard is defended by a square-shaped tower inserted inside the walls of the walls; along the walls small slots to allow the defense of a possible attack. To access the real stronghold it was first necessary to overcome the moat, thanks to a wooden drawbridge stuck in a mighty wall, and then go through a door that allowed entry into the interior. Some remains of the castle are cross-vaulted and barrel vaults. The castle was then flanked by an iron cross from the missionary fathers around the sixties.




The Myth

Brother of Echidna, son of Poseidon (or, according to other mythographers of Crisaore) and Calliroe, then descendant of Medusa. He was a monstrous and cruel king who lived on the island of Eritrea, in the fogs of the extreme West beyond the boundless sea, which the mythographers identified with Spain. He owned herds of oxen supervised by the shepherd Eurizione and the dog Ortro. By order of Eurystheus, Heracles (or Hercules) had to kidnap his oxen to the Giant, but he had to fight first with the dog and then with the shepherd, having the best of both. Gerion himself rushed to defend his servants, but he was defeated ,too and then killed.Heracles could then return to Greece with herds, facing nevertheless endless adventures along the way.


The figure

The figure of Geryon does not have a single image, but most of the time it is identified as a giant with a triple body, and therefore with three heads, three busts, six arms and six legs.



There are various quotes about Gerion in mythology or even in literature. The first poet was Hesiod, who lived in the 7th century BC, in the Theogony. Following this first oral composition, then transcribed, of which there are nothing left but small fragments from which we can’t understand the context, followed by a sort of phenomenon that many call Gerioneide. Participants in this type of "literal movement" were also Stesichorus of Imera, who lived in the sixth century BC .: "[...] Together with Heracles I praise you, Gerion: but what is not dear to Zeus I absolutely tear [...]"

(Bowra, fragment 70); «[...] the law of all sovereign (νόμοσ βασιλεύσ - veneranda law), of mortals and immortals, guides you by making the most violent action right with a supreme hand. I testify him with the acts of Heracles: because of Gerion the herds to the Cycladic residence of Eurystheus neither requested nor bought led [...] "(Bowra, fragment 150); «[...] looking like a thief, who wanders alone with the club, the skin of the Nemean lion (= Nemea) and the bow [...]» (Bowra fragment 229); «[...] The dart that. in the tip there was the destiny of death, soaked in the blood ... and in the bile, for the pains of the hydra that men kill, with a streaked neck.

In silence, furtively in the forehead he stuck: and tore flesh and bones at the behest of a god. At the top of the heads the dart remained fixed, and of purple blood it contaminated the armor and the bloodstained limbs. Gerione reclined his neck to the side, as sometimes a poppy, when, disfiguring the tender body, he drops the petals [...] ». Another writer who told of this monster is believed to have been Pisandro of Rodi in 600 BC. in the tenth effort of Hercules, gathered together with the others in the Eracleia. Later he quoted Virgil in the Aeneid (written between 29 BC and 19 BC) without naming it, but alluding only to its forms "[...] forms tricorporis umbrae [ ...] »(Eneide, book sixth, verse 289) and« [...] tergeminus Geryon [...] »(Eneide, book 8, verse 202). After him talking about it was Ovid in his Heroides, a composition of which we do not have a certain date of writing that we associate therefore to the life of the poet between 43 BC. and 20 AD: «[...] prodigium triplex, herds dives Hiberi Geryones, in tribus unus [...]» ("neither the triple monster, Geryon, rich of the Iberian oxen, one being in three bodies"; ninth book, verses ninety-one and ninety-two).

In the same period Horace also appointed him in one of his odes composed between 23 BC. and on the 13th a.C .: «[...] ter amplum Geryonen [...]» ("that the triple Geryon", second book, verse 14). Finally another poet who quoted the giant was Boccaccio in his work Genealogiae deorum gentilium composed in 1365: «[...] Eam scilicet iusti hominis habere faciem, corpus reliquum serpentum varius distinctum maculis atque coloribus, et eius caudam terminari in scorpionis aculeum, eamque Cociti innare undis adeo ut illis excepta facie totum contegat horridum corpus, eamque Gerionem cognominat. [...] et inde Gerion dicta, quia regnans apud Baleares insulas Gerion myths vultu, blandisque verbis et omni comitate consueverit hospites stiripere, et demum sub hac benignitate sopitos occidere. [...] »(first book, chapter 21).


The Gerione of Dante Alighieri

In his great work, The Divine Comedy, Dante in the seventeenth canto of Hell meets the monster, called by Virgil, who will help him to continue his mystical journey. The poet gives to Gerione a new image: he is no longer a giant with a threefold body, but a hellish being from the body of a multiple nature, inspired by various poets like the master Brunetto Latini or Pliny the Younger: man in the face, lion in the paws clawed, snake in the remaining parts of the body (remembering Medusa, of which is the nephew) and finally scorpion in the tail,a poisonous forked tail. The reason why this creature was so terribly horrible is due to the fact that Dante was looking for a monster that incarnated fraud. The same poet feels disgust to climb him on the back to go down into the group below, but nevertheless he clings to his shoulders. It is important to remember that Gerion has no wings, but is suspended in the air from the air coming from the bottom of Hell. Dante describes it to us (Canto 17, verses 7-17, 25-27):

[…] And that uncleanly image of deceit
Came up and thrust ashore its head and bust,
But on the border did not drag its tail.
The face was as the face of a just man,
Its semblance outwardly was so benign,
And of a serpent all the trunk beside.
Two paws it had, hairy unto the armpits;
The back, and breast, and both the sides it had
Depicted o’er with nooses and with shields.
With colours more, groundwork or broidery
Never in cloth did Tartars make nor Turks,[…]
[…]His tail was wholly quivering in the void,
Contorting upwards the envenomed fork,
That in the guise of scorpion armed its point.[…]