the oldest colony under Roman rule in the westernmost
section of the Po valley. The founding of the city dates
to ca. 118-123 B.C., and the principal motivation was its
geographical position. The Via Postumia merged within
the city's borders with the Via Aemilia Scauri to become the great road so valued by Augustus and called
the Via Julia Augusta.
The central axis of the city plan is the present Via
Aemilia, which crosses the city SW to NE and quite
probably retraces the route of the Roman decumanus.
Little is known of the inner plan of the ancient city and
only occasional investigations permit the supposition of
The city was thought at one time to have lacked a
protective circuit wall, but recent investigations on the
castle hill have identified a segment of the fortification
wall. It had a loose rubble core with rough-hewn stones,
and there are remains of a rectangular tower. The curtain wall, following with a stepped incline the natural
slope of the land, seems to date to the earliest years of
Roman influence on this colony, which at the time of
Augustus could be considered one of the major centers
of the Po valley, is also apparent in the large tombs
along the principal road and in the great aqueduct that
carried water from the nearby Scrivia river along the
Via Postumia and into the city.
Numerous inscriptions found in the area of Dertona
identify men who attained high public office, and furnish details of their rise in the senatorial and equestrian
orders. Recent discoveries of Veronese marble statue
bases, some with dedicatory inscriptions, demonstrate
that the city honored its most famous citizens with
portrait statues. These were probably mingled with
statues, commissioned and donated by Rome, of imperial officials.
Numerous mosaics and remains of marble lintels indicate that the city had sumptuous buildings with sophisticated decorations. The splendid sarcophagus of Publius
Aelius Sabinus was found in the territory of Tortona,
and the funeral stele of the bootmaker Publius Latinius
belongs among the funeral stelai produced in the Po
valley. In the territory of Marengo, adjacent to Tortona,
a celebrated silver treasure was discovered and is today
preserved in the Museum of Antiquities in Turin.
Dertona became the oldest episcopal center of Piemonte S of the Po river.
P. Barocelli, “Julia Dertona,” Bollettino
della Società Piemontese di Archeologia e Belle Arti
(1931) 94 nn. 3-4; 16 (1932) 168 nn. 3-4.