Norcia was founded by the Sabines, set against the Sibylline Mountains. According to historians the area was inhabited right from the Neolithic age but the first records of continuous settlement date back to the 8th century BC. It really developed at the end of the 5th century BC and its name came from the Etruscan name “Norsia” (the name of the Etruscan goddess of fortune).
Another theory instead maintains that the name originates from Urso, the name of the ancient builder of the town.
Ancient Nursia, as it was also known in Latin, was celebrated in the works of Livy, Plutarch and Virgil. In the Aeneid Virgil mentioned the commander of the Norcian troops, Ufens, alongside Turnus, in the fight against Aeneas. It went on record for the first time in 205 BC, when it offered Scipio, in the alliance with Rome, some volunteers, together with the towns of Rieti and Amiternum, during the 2nd Punic War. In the 2nd century BC Norcia was raised to the rank of Prefecture and then to that of Roman Municipality in the fourth region of the Sabine period.
Set against the fully intact surrounding walls of the town of Norcia are the water meadows (“marcite” in Italian) – zones where water, collected and rationally redistributed by a canal system invented by the Benedictine monks in around 400-500 BC, continuously inundates, in a controlled manner for long periods of the year, extensive areas of land, thus permitting an abundant hay harvest.