WHY CAMPANIA FELIX

Campania Felix is the old name given to the region with Naples as its Regional County Seat. It means happy or lucky Campania; let's find out why the ancients chose this name.

Italy Tours 2022

Buongiorno amici:

We begin a new series segment on food and history. It is very useful in cooking when we have some good knowledge of gastronomy in antiquity. It helps in setting up parameters and technical guidelines, turning cooking into a fun and fear-free experience. Many of you have traveled to Naples, Amalfi, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, Procida, and the coast of Positano. They are the treasures of Campania. Let’s discover why the Romans call the territory “happy land”.

Campania Felix is an ancient denomination with which often, even now, a region with Naples as the main town is called. Translated from Latin, this name means Happy or Lucky Campania. However, the meaning of this denomination is much broader than the strictly literal one and has an ancient origin that perhaps not everyone knows.

Once upon a time, Campania included a vast territory: it went from the Phlegraean area in the south up to Mount Massico in the north. There were developed and prosperous cities within its borders, including Pompeii, Sorrento, and of course Neapolis; it was a land full of culture and traditions, with a mild climate and fertile soil thanks to the presence of a few rivers. It was also strategically perfect for trade, having a wide coastal strip on the Tyrrhenian Sea, with several leading commercial ports of Magna Grecia. The Greek historian Polybius had already identified Campania as a pleased and fortunate land for all these reasons.

A couple of centuries later, Campania still amazed ordinary people, emperors, and men of culture. Plinio il Vecchio (Pliny the Elder), the famous historian who sadly perished during the 79 a.c. Vesuvius eruption loved this region very much and emphasized its wealth and beauty. He coined the name Campania Illa Felix. Pliny, however, referred also to other important factors, which made this region a place like few others within the Roman Empire. 

{Image Attribution via Visit Italy EU}

Through the centuries

During the Augustan age, following a new subdivision of the provinces of the Empire, Campania changed its borders, which extended to include part of Lazio, Rome's region. It was the beginning of a period of unity and political stability, much needed after Hannibal's wars, particularly the one that ended with the disastrous defeat of Capua. From that moment on, Campania developed and became even more prosperous, thanks to the birth of a new administrative system in which cities, ports, and large agricultural settlements coexisted and supported each other. However, that type of structure mainly remained unchanged over time and laid the foundations for the region's luck in the centuries to come, handing down over time to the present day the appellation of Campania Felix.

{Text courtesy of Paola Cirino via Visit Italy EU}

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