Antonella Florio

Department: Doctoral College
Discipline: Classics and Ancient History

Project Summary

Towards an Anthropological History of the Amalfi Coast

The project I propose aims to reconstruct a ‘cultural history’ of communities of the southern slope of the Lattari Mountains (Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy) between the 6th century BCE and the 3rd century CE by means of a linguistic anthropological analysis of the place names of this area. Although neither the Sorrento Peninsula nor the Amalfi Coast experienced Greek settlement (instead facing a strong Etruscan and perhaps proto-Oscan influence), these lands were accessible to Greeks already in the 6th century BCE. On the other hand, as the genesis of the medieval settlements of the Amalfi Coast dates back to the 3rd century CE, this date represents a terminus post quem non. The analysis of place names will therefore serve as a sextant in this wide chronological arc. Because toponyms are attributed at a particular time and within a particular cultural milieu, their analysis, as I hope to show, can be used to shed light on the context in which they came to existence.

I shall investigate how inhabitants of this area perceived this territory and how this perception informed local nomenclature. To do so, I will conduct an analysis of regional places names, encompassing both the coast and hilly hinterlands of this region, from an anthropological-linguistic perspective, and by also taking into account the topographical and archaeological context. This analysis will show that a multi-layered and stratified system of affordances (Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, 1979) constituted by the natural landscape itself, as well as by the mythical repertoire, economic resources, and ideological orientation of the inhabitants in this period, helped determine the onomastics of the area, and shaped a sort of semantic field quite consistent and coherent.

Supervisory Team

Leading Advisor: William Michael Short

Second Advisor: Barbara Borg 

Pastoral Tutor: Richard Flower

Wider Research Interests

Anthropology, Cognitive Linguistics, Linguistics, Ancient Roman Religion