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JULIA DERTONA (Tortona) Italy.

Probably 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 cardines minores.

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 the colony.

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 15 (1931) 94 nn. 3-4; 16 (1932) 168 nn. 3-4.


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