Is Narnia a Real Place?


Narni is an ancient hilltown and comune of Umbria in central Italy, with 20,100 inhabitants according to the 2003 census; at altitude 240 m (787 ft) it overhangs a narrow gorge of the Nera River in Terni province.

The area around Narni was already inhabited in the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages, as attested by finds in some of the caves. Around the start of the first millennium the Osco-Umbrian (Ombrikoì in Greek), a people of Indo-European origin that dominated the left bank of the Tiber that vertically cuts the region to the Adriatic sea, settled in the area and called the town Nequinum. Records mention Nequinum as early as 600 BC.

The Romans conquered Nequinum in the 4th century BC and made it a position of force in this key point of the Via Flaminia the famous road which connected the city of Rome to the Adriatic Sea (at that time the road passed through the town descending down to the right bank of the Nera to then carrying on to Carsulae, Acquasparta, Massa Martana and Spoleto). It supported the Gauls with the hope of freeing itself from Rome. The attempt failed and the victorious Romans changed its name to Narnia after the nearby Nar River; as in the case of Benevento (q.v.), the former name was considered of ill augury: in Latin, nequeo means “I am unable”, and nequitia means “worthlessness”.

In 299 BC it became a Roman Municipality, and took the name Narnia. In 209 BC, it was destroyed by the Romans, for refusing to help pay for the war against Carthage. It was later rebuilt, and during the Roman times it was an outpost for the Roman army.

In Late Antiquity it suffered the events of the Greek-Gothic war and was plundered by Totila. Seat of a Lombard gastald (guastaldo), Narni embraced the cause of Otho I of Saxony thanks to the mediation of its bishop, now Pope John XVII. Narni was part of the possessions of the Countess Matilde, once more part of the Dominions of the Church in 726. From the 11th century it began to increase in wealth and power, was opposed to Pope Paschal II in 1112 and rose against Barbarossa in 1167. This insubordination cost Narni a ferocious repression imposed by the archbishop Christian of Mainz, Barbarossa’s Chancellor. In 1242 Narni, prevalently tied to the Guelf party, entered into an alliance with Perugia and Rome against the Empire.

In the following century it was included in the reconquest of the papal patrimony by Cardinal Albornoz, who also had the mighty Rocca built. It was work of Ugolino di Montemarte, known as il Gattapone. He was also author of the plans for the Loggia dei Priori and the Colonnade that faces out onto the Piazza dei Priori together with the 13th‑century Palazzo del Podestà and the 14th‑century fountain.

In 1373 Narni was enfeoffed to the Orsini to whom it returned in 1409. Occupied by Ladislao, King of Sicily in the 15th century, to be soon again reabsorbed by the church, thanks to Braccio da Montone. July 15, 1525 marked a decisive turning-point in Narni’s history. The troops of Charles V, mostly in fact the undisciplined Spanish soldiery and German mercenaries (Landsknechten), put the city to fire and sword; it lost its ancient prosperity. Even the inhabitants of Terni took advantage of the situation to deliver their blame to give vent to their long-repressed hatred of Narni. Its reconstruction gives it a physiognomy characteristic of the cities in Papal territory. It became part of the Roman Republic in 1789. In 1831 it joined the revolt against Gregory XV and was annexed to the Italian Kingdom in 1860.

Like many of the smaller towns of Umbria, Narni is still of strikingly medieval appearance today, with stone buildings, and narrow cobblestone streets. The town is famous for the largest Roman bridge ever built, by which the Via Flaminia crossed the Nera: about half of the bridge still stands; it is some 30 meters high. Albornoz’ Rocca, overlooking the town, is another attraction, now hosting temporary exhibitions.

The imaginary land of Narnia, described in the works of CS Lewis, was named after Narni. It has been said that he came across the name in an atlas as a child.

Answer is apparently: sort of. (via Wikipedia)


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