POTENZA (anc. Potentia), a town and episcopal see of Basilicata, Italy, capital of the province of Potenza, 103 m. by rail E. by S. of Naples. Pop. (1001), 12,313 (town); 16,163 ( commune). Situated 2700 ft. above sea-level on an isolated hill above the Basento (anc. Casuentus), it is much exposed to winds and has a far more northerly climate than its position (40 40' N.) implies, and is indeed one of the coldest places in Italy (mean temp. Jan 37-8, July 70-9, for whole year 53 F.). It has been almost entirely rebuilt since the earthquake of 1857. It has a school of the industrial arts and sciences, grows good wine, and makes bricks.
The ancient Potentia lay some 470 ft. lower, by the river. Its name shows that it was of Roman origin, and its importance was no doubt due to its position at the intersection of the road leading west to the Via Popillia and north-east to the Via Appia, with the Via Herculia. No remains are visible, but a considerable number of inscriptions have been found.
Potentia must be distinguished from Potentia in Picenum, on the Adriatic coast, near the modern Porto di Recanati, a colony founded in 184 B.C., the same year as Pisaurum, but of which little is known.
The abandonment of the old site and the erection of the new town probably date from the earthquake of 1273. By the Angevines Potenza was made a domain of the San Severino family; in the beginning of the 15th century it was held by Francesco Sforza, and in 1435 it passed to the Guevara family; the Loffredi, who succeeded by marriage, continued in possession till the abolition of the great fiefs. In 1694 there was a severe earthquake; and the more terrible earthquake which on the 16th and the 17th of December 1857 passed through southern Italy, and in Basilicata alone killed 32,475 persons, laid the greater part of Potenza in ruins. In 1860 it was the first town to rise against the Neapolitan government.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)