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The Romans

It was with the victory of the third Samnite war, in 295 BC, that Rome was finally able to expand, both along military lines as well as in terms of civilization, to the other side of the Apennines.  And so the vast conquering of the region around the Po River began as well as the colonization of the area in Italy known as Cisalpine Gaul, or modern day Emilia-Romagna.

 

Ariminum (Rimini - 268 BC) wins the title as the oldest colony founded in Emilia-Romagna territory and functioned both as an outpost between the area taken from the Senones and that which was still under the Boii and as a checkpoint of the passage between central and southern Italy.

 

The romans JPG

 

Despite there being great conflict with the Celts and their allies, over the next forty years the Roman expansion in this area continued thanks to lands being assigned to the rural class, the creation by Gaius Flaminius Nepos of the famous Via Flaminia (220 BC) which connected Rome to Rimini and created a very strong jumping off point towards the North, and with the foundation – at the opposite end of the region – of the twin colonies of Piacenza and Cremona (218 BC), which were created to watch over and protect the roads between northern Etruria, Cisalpine Gaul and the Po River.

 

The arrival of Hannibal along the Alps, however, with the Cisalpine Celts by his side, put an end to Roman expansion towards the north.

 

Some places in the region became the setting for bloody battles, such as the battle of the Trebbia (218 BC) in which the military and strategic superiority of the Carthaginian leader was quite evident, and the ambush of the army of Postumius Albinus in the Litana Silvia woods (216 BC) which was carried out by the Celtic populations who had allied with the Punic general.  The struggles over the next thirty years with the Celtic tribes ended in 191 BC when Scipio Nasica finally vanquished the Boii.

 

From that moment on, the second phase of colonization begun.  The expansion was carried out by way of an persistent occupation of the territory and the creation of an effective network of roads throughout the colonized communities.

 

In 189 BC, where there was once the first Etruscan capital which then became Celtic, the Roman colony of Bononia (Bologna) was founded.  Two years later, in 187 BC, the consul Lepidus created the via Emilia to connect the farthest points of the region, Rimini and Piacenza, an endeavor which , at least at the beginning, was very strategic both in a military as well as civil sense.   Always for military purposes, the consul Gaius Flaminius, a colleague of Lepidus and the son of the builder of the via Flaminia, in the same year opened a trans-Apennines road, known as Flaminia minor – to connect Arezzo with Bononia.

 

Shortly thereafter, two other important colonies were founded: Mutina (Modena) and Parma, both in 183 BC.

 

Along with these important urban sites, there were also many medium sized town that functioned as administrative centers or hubs at the intersections between the Apennine roads and the plains' road.  These towns were known as "forums"or meeting and market areas: Regium Lepidi (Reggio Emilia), Forum Gallorum (near Castelfranco Emilia), Forum Corneli (Imola), Forum Livi (Forlì), Forum Popili (Forlimpopoli), and Caesena (Cesena).

 

A large number of minor centers, municipals, and villages, in existance before Roman domination -  Veleia, Florentiola (Fiorenzuola), Fidentia (Fidenza), Brixellum (Brescello), Tannetum (Taneto, near S. Ilario d'Enza), Sassina (Sarsina), Mevaniola (near Galeata), Forum Druentinorum (Bertinoro) etc. - and postal stations or places to get a new horse along the major traffic ways completed the interweaving networks in the Roman settlements.

 

Alongside of these developments, the confiscated land in this area was also being redistributed.  The plains were divided up using the centuriation method, with the aim of dividing the available space into plots which were then assigned to colonists who were sent to populate the new colonies.

 

This vast change in territorial lines had a huge impact on the original landscape: deforestation of the great wooded areas in the plains, the swamps were dried out, land was used to build houses, while a series of infrastructural elements of organization and management of the territory – sewers, land divisions, internal roads, local roads, etc – planned with great precision, resulted in a very geometric layout of the land which can still be seen today in this region, especially in the areas dedicated to agriculture.

 

Many of the productive, economic, and commercial activities which are still vital to this area today came out of this period, and caused the Greek geographer Strabone to note that the Romans living in this area enjoyed great prosperity in comparison with the rest of Italy: an extensive cereal agriculture, enough pig farms to meet the needs of the entire city of Rome, and some excellent products such as the wine products, prized wool, and the blossoming ceramic industry.

 

Along the Adriatic coast, in the 1st century AD, the ancient Umbrian center of Ravenna, with its particular lagoons, was transformed under the emperor August into the headquarters of the imperial flotilla charged with controlling the eastern Mediterranean, thus becoming a crossroads where people from all over the empire met up.  In the 4th century AD, after a decline when the flotilla left and the port was closed, Ravenna once again enjoyed a period of splendor thanks to the capital being moved here from Milan under Honorius.  This marked the beginning of a new fate for the city, which would take on this role three times – now and then both in the Theodoric and Byzantine eras – throughout the course of history. 
(Text edited by Dr.ssa Fiamma Lenzi - IBC)

 

 

Last modified Jan 10, 2017

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