The Colonization of the Lower Po Plain

In the Lower Po Plain and Po Delta nature has been playing for millennia a leading role. In the Bronze and Iron Ages, the territory was dominated by woodlands and wetlands. Human settlements developed along the rivers, which frequently changed course and represented the main ways of communication. The Romans made room for agriculture through woodland clearings; moreover, they built equipped ports and large roads.

 

From the Bronze Age to the First Iron Age

Trading activities between Europe and the Mediterranean have been witnessed in the Po Delta area since the Bronze Age. An evidence is represented by Frattesina archaeological site (12th-9th century BC), near Fratta Polesine, consisting of a village and two large necropolises situated along a big branch of the river Po which has now disappeared, the so-called "Po di Adria".

 

Excavation photo of Fondo Zanotto necropolis in Fratta Polesine (Rovigo)

 

The Iron Age

This period was characterized by the particular splendor of two Etruscan towns, Adria and Spina, important emporia linked to the Greek trading routes. As a matter of fact, the Lower Po Plain intersected the so-called "amber road" crossing the whole continent, from north to south. Adria is called in the sources "polis" (town) and the Adriatic Sea has been named after it. When Po di Adria experienced its crisis, Spina partly replaced Adria and Eridano dei Romani became the main branch of the river Po. Ravenna - probably a town of Umbrian origin but with an Etruscan etymon - was also acquiring importance.

Attic black-figure Lekythos representing the arrival of Heracles on Olympus, 510-500 BC. Adria, National Archaeological Museum

Milestone of Via Popilia, 1st century AD. Adria, National Archaeological Museum


Sant'Apollinare in Classe Church (Ravenna)

From Rome to Byzantium

The Romans drained and cultivated large plain areas, enlarging the "centuriations" where environmental conditions allowed (in Romagna, in the north of Adige, and in the north-west of Adria). Elsewhere they preferred to settle along the rivers: the main settlement in the Ferrarese area was Voghenza, along Eridano. In the 1st century BC Adria became a "municipium". An important role was also played by the current S. Basilio area, a maritime port at the mouth of a branch of the river Po. From the first stages of the Roman expansion the plain was crossed by important consular roads, like the coastal Via Popillia and Via Annia, probably dating back to the second half of the 2nd century BC. Their presence is documented by "Tabula Peutingeriana", the most ancient European "road map" we have. In Ravenna, Augustus decided to build the port of Classe so that the fleet defending the Eastern Mediterranean could be quartered there. From the 5th century AD, Ravenna became the capital of the Western Roman Empire and the cornerstone of Byzantine art in Europe.

Blown glass Rhyton with vitreous paste encrustations found in Adria, first half of the 1st century AD. Adria, National Archaeological Museum

Tabula Peutingeriana, published in L. LAGO, Theatrum Adriae from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea in Past Cartography, Trieste 1989

M. BONDESAN, Situation of the territory in the Bronze Age
Ceramic bowl with openwork base (deformed during the baking) found in Frattesina, 11th-10th century BC. Rovigo, Museo dei Grandi Fiumi
M. BONDESAN, Situation of the territory in the Roman Age
Burial objects found in a tomb of Ca' Cima Etruscan necropolis in Adria, 500-480 BC Adria, National Archaeological Museum

Leader+ Community Initiative Measure 2.1 Action 2.1a) "Interterritorial Cooperation"
Project: "Historical-Cultural Heritage Enhancement and Tourist Promotion of the Po Delta Territory"
Action A: Po Delta "Heritage Promotion"