Looking for shipwrecks off the island of Capri
Capri lies just off the headland that separates the Gulfs of Naples and Salerno. It dominates the entrance into the former and it comes as little surprise that it has been occupied by humans since prehistory. The first evidence for human occupation during the prehistoric period came to light during the Roman period. During a construct ion project numerous prehistoric artefacts were discovered. This event is documented by the historian Suetonius (75–140) who goes on to describe how Augustus ordered these discoveries to be displayed in his house in Capri. During the colonization of the Naples area in the 8th century BC, the Greeks settled on Ischia, Cumae and Capri. The remains of walls, built of large limestone blocks and some which are still visible today, bear witness to the fortified Greek town that was situated in the area of the modern town. It is said that a second town existed on Greek Capri but the exact location of this is unknown. Eventually, Capri fell under the dominion of Neapolis until taken over by Augustus.
During the Roman period, the island was famous as Tiberius’ residence. This emperor built a series of impressive villas. He is said to have spent the last years of his life on the island, away from Rome with its intrigues and also the potential of an assassination attempt. After the death of Tiberius, the island seems to have diminished in importance but it is almost certain that a Greek speaking community inhabited it. It is important to note that two of the most important Roman harbours on the western coast of Italy were situated just a few miles across the Gulf of Naples. These were Misenum, the home port of Rome’s main naval fleet and Pozzuoli, a large centre for maritime trade. Capri, would have been an important waypoint for vessels sailing north to these ports.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Capri was ravaged by attacks by raiders and pirates. In 866, Emperor Louis II gave the island to Amalfi, which was then an emerging maritime power. The early medieval town was at the major landing-place (today known as Marina Grande) but this had to be abandoned in the fifteenth century due to increased piratical raids. The inhabitants were forced to re-locate to higher ground. Raids on the island reached their peak during the reign of Charles V. Both Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha and Turgut Reis (Dragut) overran the island in 1535 and 1553 respectively. Barbary corsairs eventually stopped raiding so far north and it was not until the early nineteenth century that the island was fought over once more. In 1806, the island was taken by the English fleet under Sir Sidney Smith but in 1808 it was retaken by the French under Lamarque. In 1813, it was restored to Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.
In the second half of the 19th century, Capri became a popular destination for European artists, writers and other celebrities. These included Norman Douglas, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen, Christian Wilhelm Allers, Emil von Behring, Curzio Malaparte, Axel Munthe, and Maxim Gorky. Since then Capri has become a very popular destination for the jet set who reach the island in their luxurious yachts.