In Rocca San Felice, there is the suggestive archaeological area of the Ansanto Valley, also called Mephitis. The scenery is that of an arid and desolate flat area of grayish color with yellow stains (sulfur), without vegetation. Under a precipice, there is the little lake called Mephitis, characterized by the gases that come out from the subsoil, which, in contact with the surface water, make it boil, springing gaseous, noisy and toxic fumes, rich in carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid. There are also vortexes that swallow all you throw in it (to return it, sometimes, after some period, completely dehydrated as many ancient objects).
To well understand the meaning of the Mephitis, you need to start from the XI-X centuries BC, with the Etruscan expansion and the demographic growth of the Osci that induced some of their tribes to move along the Apennines towards the South.
The last destination was not predefined, but it depended on the direction taken by the guide-animal: for the part named Samnites it was the wild boar, for the Hirpini it was the wolf (hirpus).
A part of Hirpini arrived to the Mephitis, chosen as new settlement place, building villages, meeting for defense reasons and to elect the magistrates. Since the environmental context presented rather hard, as well as ‘mysterious’, characteristics for the human being, the Hirpini, who venerated the Goddess Juno Mephiditae, as the other Italians populations of almost all Southern Italy, started to sacrifice animals in favor of the goddess and to present her with precious personal goods, to win her protection.
Over the centuries, the diffusion of stories that told ‘extraordinary’ events attracted more and more believers towards the holy valley of the Goddess Mephitis, able to protect the devotees, men, women, warriors, shepherds and farmers.
‘There’s a place in Italy, at the foot of high mountains,
famous, and mentioned by tradition, in many lands,
the valley of Amsanctus…
There a fearful cavern, a breathing-hole for cruel Dis,
is shown, and a vast abyss, out of which Acheron bursts,
holds open its baleful jaws.’
Virgil, Aeneid (Book VII, Lines 563-565)