Travel and Culture in Campania
The name “Surrentum” seems to be connected to the myth of Sirens. They were sea creatures, half women and half fishes, who bewitched the sailors with their songs and forced them to be shipwrecked on the coastal rocks.
As the Odyssey tells us, Ulysses succeded in defeating them by stuffing his mates’ears with wax and asking them to tie him up to the mainmast. According to the legend, the Sirens were so humbled by this action that turned themselves into the rocks which today are called Li Galli, facing Positano.
Sorrento was probably founded by the Phoenicians, but then it was also a Greek colony which later became Roman. Even if it often rebelled against Rome’s dominion, it had never been destroyed and so it became the privileged seat of the Roman patriciate during the imperial period.
Later Sorrento was dominated by the Gothes, by the Longobards and, in 552, by the Byzantines. Then it was transformed into a dukedom in the 9th century, with periods of domination and others of relative freedom.
In 1133 the Norman Conquest arrived and so, from that moment on, Sorrento shared the lot of the region itself. In 1558, in spite of a desperate defence, Sorrento was sacked by the Turkish pirates and so, from now on, it was surrounded by defensive walls, which were built by following the old Roman lay-out.
Sorrento had always been a proud and aristocratic town, often in conflict with the nearby villages. It participated in the Masaniello revolution too, and it had been besieged 14 months long. In 1799 it became part of the Neapolitan Republic and so it became again theatre of fights between Republicans and Bourbonists. Anyway, since the 18th century on, it got the characteristics of a refined holiday resort.