Constructed to a rough polygonal design, with a rectangular Piazza del Popolo (Square) in its centre, the city remained enclosed within the ancient city walls for a long period; there are still some traces remaining.

It is of Umbrian-Etruscan origins (the name is almost definitely Etruscan), apart from a legend which states that it was founded by the Tessali.
It is situated by the sea, in a very favourable and strategical position as well as an excellent commercial one.

Its story is not very notable up until the end of the III Century BC, when the city entered into the realms of Rome as Civitas Foederata. Decorated by Roman citizenship in ’89 BC, and therefore established as a Municipality: Its importance was notably augmented when Augusto had the Military Port of Classe constructed, destined to be the main base for the Eastern Mediterranean fleet. During the last centuries of the Empire, it became politically important and was eventually chosen as the New Capital of the Western Empire by Onorio, who was forced to abandon Milan - he was ejected by the invasion of the Visigoti (402). In 476, it was conquered by Odoacre, who in turn, suffered and surrendered after a long siege (490-493) to Teodorico. Being the residence of the King of the Ostrogoths, the City was adorned during the Teodorico times, and shortly after by wonderful buildings, both profane and sacred. It was besieged and conquered by Belisario at the beginning of the war between the Ostrogoths and Byzantines (540). When the Longobards invaded the peninsula, the Emperor Maurizio, under his own initiatives made it the capital of Byzantine Italy; residence of the Head of the Military forces and the civil imperial administration, exarch patricius et exarchus Italiae. The presence of a Byzantine type court increased the honour, prestige and influence of the City, putting it in a position of competition with Rome. Escaping numerous attempts of being conquered by the Longobards, Ravenna was besieged in 728 by King Liutprando during the Romagna invasion; ending under Longobard rule. Shortly afterwards however, the City returned under Byzantine rule (and underwent a further siege in 734) in force under Venetian participation and agreements between the Papacy, Empire and Longobards. The great offensive by Astolfo saw the fall of Ravenna and Longobard possession of the Exarchate (751); but they were soon ejected by the Franco’s of Pipino, who defeated Astolfo (754 and 756) and who included Ravenna, together with its territory, in the huge donation to Pope Stefano II. Ravenna was then under communal governing, first under the Episcopal patronage, then contested amongst the aspiring noble families, amongst which, after a brief preponderance by the Traversari, the Da Polenta family asserted itself as the governing body. The advent of their lordship, initiated by Guido Minore in 1275, coincided with the formal cessation of the Romagna to the Pope on behalf of King Rodolfo of Hapsburg (1276) and with the acceptance of the progressive and ineluctable absorption of Ravenna’s commercial resources by Venice, virtually sovereign of the City since 1410. After sixty years of Venetian domination, Ravenna was reunited to the Pontificate State during the papacy of Giulio II. Occupied by the French in 1796, it followed the fate of the Cispadana republic and that of the Cisalpina, Italian and Italic Reign. On the fall of Napoleon, it returned to the Pope, who conserved it thanks to Austrian help, from 1815 to 1859. The formal annexation of the Ravenna territory to Sardinian rule, predisposed from the uprising of 13th June 1859, was decreed on 18th March 1860.

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