Encyclopedia of Southern Italy – D


Da Guardiagrele, Nicola: (b. Guardiagrele [CH]) (fl. AD 15th Century). Artist. He is considered one of the best Abruzzian sculptors and goldsmiths. Although he probably received his native Guardiagrele, a noted center for gold and iron working, his works reveal a definite Tuscan influence. Among his works is a 1431 silver processional cross with enamel and filigree which survives at Guardiagrele.

Daedalus (or Daidalos): A hero of Greek mythology. A native of Athens, he gained fame as an accomplished architect, inventor and craftsman. After designing the famous Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete to house the Minotaur, Daedalus aided the hero Theseus to defeat that monster and successfully escape. The enraged Minos had Daedalus and his son Icarus imprisoned in the Labyrinth. The two prisoners escaped using wings designed the inventor, flying from Crete out over the sea. Icarus disobeyed his father’s warning and flew too close to the sun. The wax binding the feathers on his wings melted and the boy plunged to his death into the sea. Daedalus, unable to save Icarus, continued on his own flight, coming to rest finally in Sicily. He came to reside in Camicus (or Inycus), at the court of Cocalus (Kokalos), a Sikan king. Minos set out with a fleet to find the fugitive. Upon reaching Sicily, Minos used a ruse to discover where Daedalus resided. The Cretan king offered a rich reward for anyone who could perform the seemingly impossible feat of passing a thread through a spiral seashell. Desiring this prize for himself, Cocalus approached Daedalus for a solution. Daedalus simply tied a thread to an ant and had the insect pull it through the shell. When Minos learned that the problem had been solved, he knew that only Daedalus could have achieved it. Minos demanded that Cocalus turn the fugitive over or be attacked by his forces. Cocalus knew that he could not defeat Minos but did not wish to give Daedalus up to his fate. Instead, he pretended to cooperate and invited Minos into Camicus to dine before taking away his prisoner. As Minos relaxed in the customary bath prior to the meal, he was murdered by the daughters of Cocalus. With Minos dead, his leaderless forces withdrew and Daedalus was saved. There are several places in Sicily that are associated with Daedalus. The River Platani (Halykos), which winds its way through the Sikanian Kamico Mountains to a mouth midway between Agrigento and Sciacca, was part of Cocalus’s kingdom. The name of ancient Eraclea Minoa, located near Montallegro and the mouth of the river Platani, appears to be inspired by Minos. The mythographer-historian Diodorus Siculus claimed that Minos was buried here. In reality the city was named by its Greek founders after the Greek island of Minoa.

                Some sources say that Daedalus landed at Cumae instead of Sicily, and that he built a temple there in honor of Apollo. This version, however, may have been the result of mistaking the name of Camicus for Cumae.

D’Agnese, Ercole: (fl. late 18th Century). Statesman. Member of the provisional government of the Parthenopean Republic. He served as President of the Executive Commission (April 15 to June 5, 1799) and President of the Executive Directory (June5-23, 1799).

D’Aguillo, Corradino: (b. 1868 in Agnone). Composer. Having received his training at the Naples Conservatory, he traveled to Buenos Aires in South America for the first time in 1888. After returning to Italy for a time, he made a second trip to Buenos Aires in 1892, this time settling there permanently. He became a professor of harmony at the Cattelani Conservatory and later was a professor of piano at St. Cecilia Institute. Among the operas he composed were Il Leone di Venezia and La Zingara.

Dahlgren (aka DeRohan), William: (b. Philadelphia; fl. mid-19th Century). American sea captain and soldier of fortune. Admiral in the Italian Navy. Born into a wealthy Philadelphia family, he became involved in the expedition of Garibaldi against the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Using his own money he purchased 3 ships (the Franklin, the Washington, and the Oregon) at the French port of Marseilles which he used to transport troops, ammunition and supplies to Garibaldi’s expedition in Sicily. Over three-quarters of Garibaldi’s reinforcements were transported on these ships in July, 1860. Dahlgren appears to have represented important, if understated, American participation in Garibaldi’s campaign. His ships carried American papers secured at the American consulate at Genoa and flew under American colors.

Daippos: An athlete of ancient Kroton. He was victor in boxing at the Olympian Games in 672 BC.

Dalbono, Edoardo (Eduardo): (b. Naples, 1843; d. 1915). Painter. He specialized in landscapes, as well as historical and mythological scenes. Having received his training at Rome and Naples, he traveled throughout Europe, earning a fine reputation in Italy, France, Austria, and even the United States.

D’Alcamo, Cielo: (fl. 1st half of 13th century). Poet. He was part of the Sicilian School of poetry. His best-known work is a constrasto (a poetic dialogue or dispute) which is known from its first line Rosa fresca aulentissima. Typical of the Italian troubadours of the time, his writing combined the local Sicilian dialect with French and Provençal.

Damarata (Damareta): (fl. 3rd century BC). Syracusan noblewoman. A daughter of Hieron II and Philitis, she married Adranodoros, leader of the pro-Carthaginian faction in Syracuse. After Adranodoros was killed (214 BC) in an unsuccessful attempt to seize power in Syracuse, Damarata, her sister Heraclia, and her mother Philitis, were killed by a mob.

Damareteia: A large 10-drachmae coin-medallion of ancient Syracuse, named for Damareta, the wife of the tyrant Gelon I (r 485 BC– 478 BC). According to Diodorus Siculus, the coin had been struck from the metal of a gold crown given to Damareta by the Carthaginians in gratitude for her interceding of their behalf after the battle of Himera. Other sources believe that its metal came from the Carthaginian loot captured by the Syracusans after that battle.

Damasus I, St.: Pope. (r Oct. 1, 366-Dec 11, 384).

Damasus II: Pope. (rJuly 17-Aug 9, 1048).

Darius Painter: (fl. 340-330 BC). Vase-Painter. An artist centered in ancient Apulia, he decorated vases using the red-figure technique. His actual name is unknown and he is identified from a vase from Naples depicting Darius, the Persian king. The Darius Painter worked on some very large vases, one of the earliest artists to do so. Some of these are over 3 feet in height. He depicted scenes from mythology, some of which were unique in choice. He appears to have been greatly influenced by theatrical productions.

Dasà (VV): A commune in the province of Vibo Valentia.

Dasius: (b. Brundisium; fl. late 3rd century BC). Soldier. In 218 BC, during the 2nd Punic War, he served as commander of the garrison at Clastidium. After accepting a bribe from Hannibal, he surrendered the town to the Carthaginians.

Daspuro, Nicola (aka P. Suardon): (b. Jan. 19, 1853, Lecce; d. Jan. 13, 1941, in Naples or Dec 13, 1941, in Paris). Librettist.

Daunus: A mythological figure closely connected with the area of Daunia Apulia. He was said to have founded some towns in that area, including Arpi. He was the father of Diomedes (1).

D’Avalos, Francesco: (b. April 11, 1930, Naples). Composer, conductor, and music teacher. Born into an aristocratic family, he began his musical education at the age of 12, studying composition with Renato Parodi and piano with Vincenzo Vitale. He later studied Philosophy at the University of Naples. After graduating with high honors from the Conservatory of San Pietro a majella of Naples, he continued his studies at Siena’s Chigiana Academy under the tutelage of Paul van Kempen, Franco Ferrara and Sergiu Celibidache and was soon conducting in Italy and abroad. During his long career he has conducted orchestras throughout Italy and the rest of Europe. His compositions include symphonies, chamber music, and piano music. He was a teacher of Composition at the Bari Conservatory (1972-1979) and at the Naples Conservatory (1979-1998).

Davoli (CZ): A commune in the province of Catanzaro. Population: 5,364 (2006e).

Decina (pl. decine): a sub-division of a mafia family, consisting of 10 members.

Decius Mus, Publius: The name of three related noble Romans who, according to tradition, each sacrificed his life for the sake of his country.

(1). Consul 340 BC. He died in battle against the Samnites in 340 BC. He was the father of (2) and grandfather of (3).

(2). Consul 312, 308, 297, 295 BC. He was killed in battle against the Samnites, Gauls, and Etruscans in 295 BC. He was the son of (1) and the father of (3).

(3). Consil 279 BC. He was killed in 279 BC at the battle of Asculum against Pyrrhus. He was the son of (2) and grandfather of (1).

Decollati: A Sicilian cult which venerates the spirits of executed criminals. Those so-honored had been asked forgiveness for their crimes and had been reconciled with the Church prior to their executions. They are evoked to intercede on behalf of those in danger of accidents while journeying by land or by sea. They are also called upon as a protection against murder and violence. Interestingly, they also protect against haemoptysis, a condition of coughing up bloody discharge. The principal center for this cult is a plain-looking chapel of the Decollati at Palermo, where it was reputed that these spirits gathered together beneath a particular stone. Those requesting their help approached the stone to say their prayers which are said to be answered verbally. A number of other shrines to the Decollati are found in other parts of Sicily. It is not necessary, however, to go to one of their shrines to ask for their help.

Decollatura (CZ): A commune in the province of Catanzaro. Population: 3,370 (2006e).

Decoroso, St.: Bishop of Capua (r AD 660-689).

decumanus inferiore: the second E-W street to be laid down in a Roman town or camp.

decumanus maximus: the main E-W street of an ancient Roman town, castra, or colony. All other E-W streets such as the decumanus inferiore took their orientation from the decumanus maximus. At its mid-point, known as the groma, it is crossed at right angles by the Cardo or Cardus Maximus.

decurionato: a term used in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies for a town council.

Del Duca, Giacomo: (b. c1520, Cefalu;. d. c1601, Messina). Sculptor. A pupil of Michelangelo, he worked on some of that master’s sculptures in Rome, including The Tomb of Julius II (church of S. Pietro in Vincoli), decoration of Porta Pia, Palazzo Pia, Villa Mattei al Celio, and the Church of Madonna di Loreto. In 1588, he relocated to Messina. Principal Works: Tomb of Elena Savelli (Rome).Church of San Giovanni dei Gerolamini (Messina).Loggia dei Mercati (Messina).

Delia (CL): A commune in the province of Caltanissetta. Population: 4,472 (2006e).

Delianuova (RC): A commune in the province of Reggio Calabria.

Delicato (FG): A commune in the province of Foggia, located 43.3 km from Foggia. Population: 4,028 (2006e); 4,117 (2001); 4,304 (1991). Population Designation: Delicetani.

deme: an ancient Greek village.

Demeter: Ancient Greek goddess of agriculture, grain, and bread. In Italy she was identified with Ceres. Her name appears to derive from da (= “earth”) and meter (= “mother”). The island of Sicily was considered especially sacred to Demeter and her daughter Kore (Persephone), where they were usually worshipped in unison. By the Hellenistic period many of the myths concerning them were connected with sites in Sicily. For example, Kore’s Rape and abduction were said to have taken place in a meadow near Enna. Her abductor, Hades, brought her underground at the spring of Cyane near Syracuse. Each year the Syracusans held a festival there in her honor. This was one of many such festivals to the “Two Goddesses”; held in Sicily during the times of harvest and sowing.

                The mystery cult of Demeter was one of the most important in the ancient world. While her most famous shrine was located at Eleusis, on mainland Greece, centers dedicated to the goddess were established through Sicily as well. It was here that she was called Ceres, the name by which she came to be known in Roman times. She had important shrines at Syracuse, Gela, and Enna. On mainland Italy other shrines were established at Locri Epizephyrus and Hipponium.

                Demeter’s shrines were called Megara, and were usually located in sacred groves outside of the towns.

Her cult promised a path to a happy afterlife accessible only to initiates into her mysteries. So sacred were the rites of initiation into her cult that no record of them survives. More is known about her many festivals which tended to be orgiastic in nature and centered on symbols of fertility.

                Demeter was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and thus one of the principal Olympian deities. More than any of the other principal gods, she is has the most direct long-term effects on the earth and on humans. She rules over the seasons and over human sustenance.

                Demeter was the mother several children, the most famous of whom was Kore-Persephone. The myth of the abduction of this beloved daughter by Hades is closely associated with ancient Sicily. It was said that the abduction took place while Kore was gathering flowers with her friends in the meadows near Enna. The sacred spring of Cyane was said to mark the spot were Hades entered the underworld with her.

Demetrius: (fl. 2nd half of the 6th century AD). Ecclesiastic. Bishop of Naples. He was directed by Pope Gregory I (rAD 590-604) to receive with compassion any doubters into the Church. In 590, Demetrius was deposed from his see because of several crimes which he had committed.

Denarius (pl. denarii): an ancient Roman silver coin. At its  Under the Emperor Diocletian, it had been reduced to a small copper coin having a nominal value of 756 to one gold aureus.

Dentice, Fabrizio: (b. 1530, 1539, or 1550, Naples. d. 1581 or 1593, Parma). Composer.

Dente di lupo: “Wolf’s tooth”: incised triangular design on local Elymian ware.

Desiderius: King of the Lombard Kingdom of Italy (r 757-774). Having attacked papal territory, he was ultimately deposed by Charlemagne.

Despot: a Byzantine court title, second in rank only to the Emperor. It was normally held by the sons or brothers of a reigning emperor, but was also awarded to others, such as the semi-independent rulers of the Byzantine Morea and of the southern Balkans. A Despot may be a vassal of another ruler or completely independent. The term derives from the Greek despotes (= master).

Di Bianco, Giuseppe: (b. 17 Oct, 1969, Naples). Composer.

Diamante >(CS): A commune in the province of Cosenza. Population: 5,359 (2006e).

Diana (Dia Anna): In her original pre-Roman form, she was an Italic deity associated with the moon, the forest and the hunt, and with childbirth. Because of these characteristics, she was eventually identified with the Greek Artemis. According to some sources, she was originally called Dia Anna, which the Romans later changed to Diana. Her name is associated with the Indo-European dyw- = “the bright one.” Diana had an important shrine on Mt. Tifata (= “holm-oak grove”). At Aricia, in Latium, her worship was associated with the nymph Egeria and an obscure Italian god named Virbius.

Dicaearchia (mod. Pozzuoli): An ancient Greek colony on the coast of Campania. Captured by the Romans during the 2nd Punic War, it was renamed Puteoli

Dictator: Originally the title for a special Roman magistrate chosen to lead the state during times of crisis. A Roman dictator had near-absolute authority but held it only for a limited term.

Didyma: One of the seven principal islands of the Aeoliae Insulae (Aeolian Islands), off the N coast of Sicily.

Dikon: an athlete of ancient Kaulonia. He was victor in the Boys’ Stadion at the Olympian Games in 392 BC. He was paid by the citizens of Syracuse to represent them in future competitions and, under their sponsorship was victor in the Diaulos (or Race in Armor) and the Stadion in 384 BC.

Diocese: A religious jurisdiction over a specific geographic area.

Diocles (Diokles) (1): (fl. late 5th Century BC). Politician. From c413 to 408 BC he was the leading political leader in Syracuse. In 412 BC he revised the Syracusan constitution, replacing the system of politeia, a form of restricted democracy, with a radical democracy. In 409 BC, while serving as a general, he refused to go to the aid of Selinus when it was threatened by the Carthaginians. He was later defeated at Himera and forced to give up that city to the Carthaginian general Hannibal. he appears to have been responsible for the banishment of Hermocrates from Syracuse. Having opposed the latter’s recall, he was himself put on trial and banished in 408 BC.

Diocles (Diokles) (2): (b. Rhegium; fl. 4th century BC). Courtier. A member of the court of Alexander the Great, he proposed turning Mt. Athos in Greece into a giant statue of Alexander.

Diocletian: (b. c AD 245, at Dioclea, Dalmatia; d. AD 313, Salona, Dalmatia). Roman Emperor (rAD 284-305). Although known to Christians chiefly as the perpetrator of the “Great Persecution”, Diocletian must be credited with the reorganization and resulting recovery of the Roman Empire. Of humble birth, he entered the army at a young age and rose through the ranks thanks to his natural talents for leadership and organization.

Diodati, Giuseppe Maria: (fl. 1786-1817). A librettist active in Naples.

Diodorus Siculus: (Diodorus of Sicily). Sicilian historian who lived under Caesar and Augustus, he was born in Agyrium (Agira) in Sicily. His great work was a world history, Bibliotheke (Library), from mythic times to 60 BC. Of the 40 original books, numbers 1 thru 8 and 11 thru 20 have survived completely extant, while only fragments remain of the remaining books. A supporter of Julius Caesar, it would appear that he had intended to extend his work down to 46 BC. The political instability following Caesar’s assassination, however, convinced him that 60 BC was a better ending point. Diodorus seems to have visited Egypt in c60 BC, remaining there until 56 BC. It was during this period that he began to research his great work. Moving to Rome, he utilized the libraries of that city to continue his Library, finally publishing it in 30 BC.

Diognetos: An athlete of ancient Kroton. He was victor in the Stadion at the Olympian Games in 548 BC.

Diomedes (1): A mythological Pelasgic chief often named as the founder of several towns in Daunia. Often mistaken with Diomedes (2), he was the son of Daunus.

Diomedes (2): A mythological Homeric Greek hero. He figures in both the Iliad of Homer and the Aeneid of Vergil. In the latter’s work, as well as in many other legends, he is considered to be a king in Daunia. He is often mixed up with Diomedes one as the founder of many towns in Daunia.

Dionysius I “the Elder”: (Tyrant of Syracuse r405 – 367 BC). He was the father of Dionysius II “the Younger.”

                Dante, in the Divine Comedy, places Dionysius, along with Alexander the Great, in the first round of the 7th Circle of Hell, along with other Tyrants.

Dionysius II “the Younger”:

Dionysius, St.: Pope. (rAD July 22, 259-Dec 30, 274). He was a native of Greece.

Dionysodoros: An athlete of ancient Taras. He was victor in the Stadion at the Olympian Games in 380 BC.

Dioscorus: Antipope (r530).

Dipignano >(CS): A commune in the province of Cosenza. Population: 4,320 (2006e).

Dirillo, River: An early name for the river Acate in Sicily.

Disasters in Southern Italy, Greatest:

AD 63

Earthquake in Campania damages Pompeii and Neapolis (Naples).

AD 79

Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius destroys Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and other settlements in Campania.


(Dec 5) Earthquake strikes the southern Italian mainland from Naples to Brindisi. 30,000 killed.


(Jan 11) Earthquake strikes the southern Italian mainland and E. Sicily. c60,000 killed.


(Feb 4-5) Earthquakes strike Calabria and E. Sicily. c50,000 killed.

Diso (LE): A commune in the province of Lecce. Population: 3,201 (2006e).

Dittaino, River: (anc. Chrysas). A river in Sicily.

Djirdjent: Arabic name for Agrigento.

Doge (Eng. Duke): A nobleman of high status. The ruler of a duchy (ducato) could be a vassal of another, higher ranking ruler like an Emperor, or a sovereign prince in his own right.

Dogliola (CH): A commune in the province of Chieti. Population: 405 (2006e).

Domanico >(CS): A commune in the province of Cosenza. Population: 980 (2006e).

Domicella (AV): A commune in the province of Avellino. Population: 1,753 (2007e); 1,756 (2006e).

Dominj al di la del Faro: (“Kingdom beyond the lighthouse”). A name used during the time of the Two Sicilies to refer to the insular portion of the Regno, i.e. the “Kingdom of Sicily.” The faro (= lighthouse) referred to was the one which stood on the Sicilian side of the Straits of Messina.

Dominj di quà del Faro: (“Kingdom this side of the lighthouse”). A name used during the time of the Two Sicilies to refer to the mainland portion of the Regno, i.e. the “Kingdom of Naples.” The faro (= lighthouse) referred to was the one which stood on the Sicilian side of the Straits of Messina.

Don: a title of Spanish origin introduced into Sicily and southern Italy in the 16th Century. Originally meant as a distinction for a nobleman, it eventually came to be applied to any man of high status.

donativo: an exceptional tax voted by the Parliament of Sicily during the Aragonese and Spanish periods.

Donatus, St.: (fl. AD 7th Century). Ecclesiastic. Born in Ireland, where he was probably called Donagh, he accompanied his brother, St. Cathaldus, to Italy where they settled in Apulia. Donatus became the first bishop of the new see at Lupia/Aletium (mod. Lecce). He and his brother lived for several years as hermits.

Donus: Pope. (rNov 2, 676-Apr 11, 678).

doppio: a gold coin (5.869 grams) minted by the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It was equal to 4 ducati or 18.32 lire. It was also known, at various times, as the doppia napoletana or the doppia napoletana di don Carlos.

Dragoni (CE): A commune in the province of Caserta. Population: 2,173 (2006e).

Drapia (VV): A commune in the province of Vibo Valentia.

Drepanum: Ancient name for the city of Trapani, on the far W coast of Sicily. The name derived from the Greek word for “sickle” and was so-named because of the shape of the promontory where the city was located. Ancient mythology identified the promontory as either a tool dropped by the goddess Demeter or the weapon used by Cronus to castrate his father, Saturn. Both myths would have had their supporters since Demeter was one of the most popular deities in ancient Sicily, while Saturn was the chosen patron god of the city.

Drogo de Hauteville: (d. 1o Aug. 1051). Count of Apulia and Calabria (r1046-1051). He was the son of Tancred of Hauteville and Muriella.

                Drogo was ambushed in the chapel of his castle at Monte Ilaro (mod. Montella) by a band of assassins led by a warrior named Risus. In the ensuing struggle Drogo and several of his followers were killed. While this attack was taking place several other prominent Norman leaders were also attacked and killed, suggesting that Drogo’s assassination was part of a much larger conspiracy attempting to destroy Norman power in southern Italy.

Dryad: In Greek mythology, a tree nymph.

du’ botta: A traditional double base diatonic accordion of Abruzzo.

ducat: A coin, minted in both gold and silver issues, used by many European counties in past centuries. The first coined ducats in Europe appeared in the kingdom of Sicily during the 12th Century, and bore the inscription: Sit tibi Christe, datus, quem Tu regis, iste Ducatus. It was from the last word Ducatus (=duchy) that the coin derives its name. It was suppressed by the Italian government in 1865.

ducato: See ducat.

Dugenta (BN): A commune in the province of Benevento. Population: 2,712 (2007e); 2,686 (2006e).

Duke of Abruzzi (Duca degli Abruzzi): See Luigi Amedeo:

Duni, Egidio Romualdo: b. 11 February 1708, Matera. d. 11 June 1775, Paris. Composer.

Durante, Francesco: b. March 31, 1684, Frattamaggiore (NA). d. Sept. 30, 1755, Naples. Composer. He worked for a short time in Rome, but spent the majority of his life at Naples. He specialized in sacred and instrumental music and became a major influence on the music of Italy as a teacher and directory of several conservatories in Naples. Among his many students were such figures as Giovanni Pergolesi, Giovanni Paisiello, and Niccolo Piccini. His works include 24 Masses, 5 Requiems, 33 Psalm settings and many other vocal pieces. He was the innovator of the “sacred drama”, a technique which attempted to put religious subjects into operatic settings. Unfortunately, these never caught on with his contemporaries and only one such work of his, “San Antonio di Padona” (1753), has survived. He was, however, the inspiration for later operatic composers like Richard Wagner (“Parsifal”), Arthur Honegger, and Olivier Messiaen.

Durazzano (BN): A commune in the province of Benevento. Population: 2,164 (2007e); 2,164 (2006e).

Duronia (CB): A commune in the province of Campobasso. Population: 454 (2006e).

Duronius, Lucius: A Roman praetor who served in Apulia in c.182 BC (Livy 40.18).