The history of Trieste is an intricate patchwork of myth and legend, flights, passion and races, of culture, peoples and painful victories, of elegant worldliness, successes and failures, of surprising contradictions, lives of artists, commercial traffic and pagan rituals.
Traces of its earliest past have almost all been lost, but according to scholars, the first inhabitants of this region lived in large caverns in the upland plains at the beginning of the Ice Age.
However, it was only in two thousand B.C. that a settlement of sorts began to take shape on the summits of the hills. These were the first villages or castellieri which were surrounded by defensive walls, designed to keep out both invaders and bears which were frequently spotted in the surrounding areas. Inhabited by people of Indo-European (rather than Venetian or Gallo-Celtic) descent, these villages rapidly became commercial trading ports, as they were a natural gateway between east and west and between land and sea.
It was on the site of one of these castellieri, probably the one that dominated the hill where the San Giusto Cathedral stands, that the village of Trieste originated. Its name (derived from the Latin Tergeste) indicates its original purpose: Terg is a Paleo-Venetian word meaning market and este means town. There is no shortage of myths and legends surrounding the place: according to ancient texts, it was here that Jason and the Argonauts were said to have landed on their quest for the mythical Golden Fleece; it was also the place where Antenore and Diomedes were said to have disembarked during the battle for Troy.