History of Ravenna
Ravenna is a relatively small city in eastern Italy, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The whole province of which Ravenna is the capital city is home to around 160,000 people. To some, its modern look hides glorious days of the past in which Ravenna played a very important role in this part of the world.
The origins and the foundations of the city are unknown today. It is known that some kind of settlement existed before the time of the Roman Empire and that during the whole period of ancient history the settlement was surrounded by marshy terrain, easily approachable only by sea. This crucial characteristic made Ravenna an attractive location for many rulers, because it was believed that it cannot be easily concurred due to the specific terrain.
The First Roman Imperator, Augustus, undertook a large scale building project which would allow Ravenna to hold the imperial fleet in charge of controlling the Eastern Mediterranean sea. According to some sources, Ravenna’s port held 10,000 sailors in charge of this fleet.
In 285AD, Roman Imperator Diocletian realized that Roman Empire had grown too large to be governed by only one man. Therefore, he divided the empire into two halves, taking the Eastern Roman Empire and leaving a Western Roman Empire to one of his generals who followed his orders.
After Diocletian’s death, a civil war broke out, in which Constantine the Great came to power and again became the sole ruler of both the east and the west. However, after Constantine, the turmoil continued and the division in the time to come was more and more evident.
Towards the final fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Imperator of the Western Roman Empire, Onorio, transferred the royal residence from Milan to Ravenna. In this period, the city of Ravenna saw large urbanization projects which transformed it into a metropolitan city.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476AD, Ravenna was captured by Goths in 493.
Realizing that the Western Roman Empire was completely under control of the barbarians, the Eastern Roman Emperor, Justinian I, organized its forces in order to capture the lost territories. Soon after, Italy entered under control of Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine) in 540AD. Ravenna was chosen for the capital city of the conquered territories, while the administration was delegated to imperial official called Exarchs.
In 751, the Exarchate of Italy fell, when the last Exarch was killed by the Lombards.
In the 8th century, Pope Adrian I allowed Charles I (the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) to take anything he liked from Ravenna. Consequently, numerous columns, mosaics and treasures were taken to Aachen (Germany) and incorporated into his chapel.
In the Medieval period, Ravenna was at first governed by local noble families. In 1441, the city was taken by the Venetian Republic, while in 1509 the city passed to the Papal State. For the next 350 years, the city was under the rule of the Papal State, while in 1861 the city joined the Kingdom of Italy.
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