Water is life for man and all the ancient towns built by man were born on the shores of some lake or river. But in the past the river was also a barrier to overcome and so the story of the centres of civilization are also modelled on rivers: this is the story of the river Liri and Ceprano.
The area around Ceprano has been inhabited since prehistoric times a fact that is certain after the discovery of a skull of Homo Cepranensis, also called Argil because it was found in a layer of clay. It is not certain the dating of the skull, and it makes no sense to enter into disputes with experts to know exactly how many thousands of years it has been there. We limit ourselves to telling that it was found in 1994 during an excavation for the construction of a road and it has been saved because of the clay (argilla) in a lake area where the remains of an elephant have also been found.
We also do not know when the Liri River was formed but it is certain that for a long time it formed the natural barrier between the proud Samnites and the Romans: two warring peoples who faced each on opposite river banks.
At Ceprano the Liri River narrowed and allowed the passage of people, goods and armies. The Samnite wars were three and were long, between the sixth and third centuries BC. After the first victory the proud Romans built a city right on the border with the lands of the Samnites. In 328 BC Fregellae was born on the banks of the Liri just where today is located Ceprano, taking its name from a Volscian city.
But on this side of the Liri River other armies from the south must also pass, such as those of Pyrrhus and Hannibal such that Fregellae (Ceprano) has thus found itself in the heart of Roman history – just where history was made.
Its geographical importance, however, did not coincide with its historical importance and the Romans decided to raze the city which had opposed the decision on the Italian citizenship. Fregellae died but the passage of the Liri and its geographical importance did not die.
With the creation of the Papal States, the Liri became a natural border between the two states that had two different ways of conceiving the world’s fate. Spiritual realm and Earthly Realm: Pope and Empire. Ceprano became a customs post.
The difference was marked in a historic episode that took place in 1248 when Manfredi, son of Frederick II of Swabia, had to make an act of submission to Pope Innocent IV. The two were found on horseback on opposite sides of the river and Manfredi dismounted from his horse, crossing the bridge on foot, took the reins of the horse of the pope and walked them across the bridge and back again.
The location of Ceprano is strategic and for this there will not be ownership of land but it will always be under the direct control of the church institutions. The risk could not be taken that some ‘lord’ unfaithful to his responsibilities, may be keen to take center stage.
The wealth of Ceprano has always been connected to the bridge and it declined when the bridge collapsed due to fatigue, earthquakes and floods in 1608. Then in 1614 the pope, at the request of the inhabitants, reconstructed the bridge. During the work a sarcophagus was found containing the remains of their King Manfredi.
Today Ceprano is found on both the left bank and the right of the Liri, but in the countryside people still feel the presence of an invisible border and call the inhabitants of neighboring municipalities members of ‘kingdoms’, i.e. belonging to the two Sicilies.