The history of Polla comes from the dawn of times and it becomes really difficult, for anybody wants to venture into the long and deep tunnel of the past times, to establish the starting date. Neglecting, at least for now, the told history, let us try instead to analyze an aspect, important in the historiography of a community, connected to the etymology of the word, because also this study can make us understand a beginning, if not the beginning, of its history.

The historian Strabo (60 BC – 23 AD), Pliny the Elder (23 AD – 79 AD) and the geographer Ptolemy (100 AD – 175 AD) have talked about this town.

In particular, we observe that in an epigraph carried from Polla to Atena Lucana, where currently it is, there is a reference to the existence in the territory of Polla of the plebs petelinorum, that is, of the plebeian citizens of Petelia, to confirm the existence in Polla of the ancient Lucanian Petelia.

Analyzing the etymology of the word ‘Petelia’, this surely comes from the join, in Oscan-Lucanian language, of the two words Peth, which means house or town, and Helion, which means light or sun and, so, the Town of the Sun. We know that the sun was considered by the Pelasgians-Oenotrians or by the Primitive Italians the highest god of the universe, later called Apollo, god of the light by the Hellenes. The coat of arms of the Municipality of Polla has the Sun as emblem, which has been chosen many centuries ago as symbol of the same community.

Therefore, it is very likely that between the symbolism of the Sun, well visible in the coat of arms of the Municipality of Polla, and the ancient town of Petelia there is a strict tie.

Moreover, we have to consider that, always talking about the origin of the name, in the district ‘Tempio’ (temple) there is the Mausoleum erected by Isteia Polla, priestess of Livia Augusta, in memory of the Roman Magistrate T.C. Uziano Rufo, who housed her at the tender age of seven years and married her, living with her for fifty-five years. Apollo surely was protector of Livia and of the Gens Julia  and we can suppose that where the Mausoleum was built, there was the Temple where the god Apollo was venerated.

Therefore, the name Polla is an alteration of Apollo for apheresis or elision of the first letter.


Ancient costume of Polla, the ‘Pacchiana’ (garish).

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