The city, located on a high position in the Comino Valley, a rich and fertile valley crossed by the Melfa and Mollarino rivers and bounded by high orographic elevations, has always been in an optimal position for controlling fundamental routes.
The origins of Atina are lost in the night of times. According to mythological tradition, the foundation of the city is attributed to Saturn, the god of Olympus, who, dethroned by his son Zeus, took refuge in the Italian soil: here he ruled for a long time sharing power with Janus and giving rise to a fabulous “Golden Age”.
According to the nineteenth-century tradition, instead, he founded five cities characterized by having the letter “A” as an initial and characterized by the presence of imposing defensive fortifications. Today in Atina, Saturn is still remembered: in the municipal coat of arms, in the name of a cave and in the name of a main square. He was so powerful over the centuries that Virgil described him in the Aeneid as one of the cities that made weapons in the imminent war of the Latins against Aeneas.
From the 6th-5th century BC, there was probably a Volscian presence, while in the 4th century the center was definitely under Samnite control. Due to its strategic position and the nearby iron, silver and copper mines in the Meta and Mainarde mountain complex, it entered the sphere of Roman interests whose troops in 293 BC devastated the ager atinatis and incorporated the city into the Roman state. Atina was transformed into a prefecture and later into a thriving Roman “municipium” capable of hosting the villas of wealthy patrician families.
One of these was the large black and white tessera mosaic conserved in the noble hall of the Cantelmo palace.
Homeland of great figures – so much so that according to Cicero no city in Italy could say it was richer – Atina was embellished by the forum, the amphitheater, the aqueduct, and important palaces and temples.
Literary sources recall that in 589 AD it was destroyed by the Lombard duke Zotone.
In the Middle Ages, the city’s history was interwoven with the events of the Duchy of Benevento.
From the 11th century, the city expanded at the “San Marco plateau” and on the hill of Santo Stefano. The village was protected by walls and control towers and the church of Santa Maria Assunta and new places of worship were built. In the power struggles between the different feudal lords, Atina experienced a period of instability until in 1348 it became a possession of the Duchy of Alvito governed by the Cantelmo who began the construction of the ducal palace. Despite belonging to the duchy, it maintained a discreet autonomy, guaranteed by its own governors, which made it possible for a period of remarkable prosperity.
In 1595, after the acquisition of the Duchy of Alvito by the Gallio, it experienced a period of political stability characterized by the construction of many noble palaces and churches. Subsequently, after the overthrow of feudalism, the country continued to be the economic development center of the valley: the Sferracavalli road was built, the paper mill was built, the Royal Ironworks and the cemetery were established.
The modern city, which has a typical conical shape and develops in concentric circles around the ducal palace, is characterized by architectural features that open up almost all along the front of the palace itself: the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the residences of Visocchi and Fasoli, the Prepositural Palace.
In the outer housing fabric stand out the former convent of San Francesco, the collegiate church of Santa Maria, the Archeological Civic Museum, numerous Roman remains.