The toponym Giffoni is shared by two neighboring territories inCampania: Giffoni Valle Piana and Giffoni Sei Casali.
The first one, that encloses the hamlets of Mercato (town center), Chieve, Curti, Curticelle, San Giovanni, Santa Caterina and Sovieco, has an extension of4.341 hectares; the second, distant around20 Km. from Salerno and enclosing the hamlets of Capitignano, Capocasale, Malche, Prepezzano, Upper Sieti and Lower Sieti, has a surface of3.400 hectaresand approximately 5308 inhabitants.
Both are situated in a fertile sub-Apennine plain that, irrigated by various watercourses, today produces mainly wine, fruit, oil, cereals, wood, hazelnuts (the “Round” of Giffoni) and chestnuts. the etymology of this toponym is uncertain. Some historians of the XVII century as G.C. Glorioso and B. Garofalo, made it derive from the Greek “earth of slaughter, deadly”, to point out the military value of its inhabitants, also remembered by some ancient Picentine medals, as Garofalo reports, where Mars leaning on his Argive shield was engraved.
From the mentioned G.C. Glorioso quoting an expression of Silla, who supposedly had described this rebellious and tenacious population as “halter people”, is derived another etymology: according to the Roman dictator, this fierce people would have finally been won and tamed only through the pitchfork, despite the numerous defeats suffered by the Romans. Other authors like F.M. Cantelli, Ferdinando Ughelli and M. Salmon, drew the toponym from the Latin Jovis Fanum or, like L. Gaurico, B. Garofalo and V. Di Caro, from Junonis Fanum, that isTempleofJupiteror Juno, with reference to a building dedicated to the father of the Gods or to his bride that allegedly had been erect there.
C. Clorioso and B. Garofalo also solved the mystery of the name Giffoni as “earth of sounds”, while some others – on the contrary – derived it from “Earth without sound”, to designate a place lying in a silent and shady valley. For others the term Giffoni would derive from the Gryphon that still stands out on the town coat of arms.
But originally this bird had rather to be a woodpecker, Mars’ sacred bird that, according to Strabo, was the totemic animal of the Picentines, from which they took the name after being driven to victory in the land of the Sabine. Someone has also derived the name from the biblical father of Caleb – Jefunne – that would have been its mythical founder. For others, instead, the foundation of Giffoni should be attributed to theAeolis.
But beyond the classicist and erudite lucubration, more or less philological, going out of the field of the conjectures and relying on more certain historical information, the story of Giffoni is linked to those of the Picenes since the presentterritoryofGiffonistands in the geographical area that belonged to the ancient Picentia. It is therefore worthwhile starting from this data for our historical notes.