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Ravenna

A town in Northern Italy, now Ravenna. An important place in Gallia Cisalpina, on the river Bedesis, and about a mile from the sea, though it is now about five miles in the interior, in consequence of the sea having receded all along this coast. Ravenna was situated in the midst of marshes, and was only accessible in one direction by land, probably by the road leading from Ariminum. It was said to have been founded by Thessalians (Pelasgians), and afterwards to have passed into the hands of the Umbrians, but it long remained an insignificant place, and its greatness does not begin till the time of the empire, when Augustus made it one of the two chief stations of the Roman fleet. Ravenna thus suddenly became one of the most important places in the north of Italy. When the Roman Empire was threatened by the barbarians, the emperors of the West took up their residence at Ravenna, which, on account of its situation and fortifications, was regarded as impregnable. After the downfall of the Western Empire, Theodoric also made it the capital of his kingdom; and after the overthrow of the Gothic dominion by Narses, it became the residence of the exarchs, or the governors of the Byzantine Empire in Italy, till the Lombards took the town, A.D. 752. Ravenna is remarkable for its possession of many fine specimens of early Christian art, which may be studied here to great advantage. See Finsler, Ravenna in d. röm. Kaiserzeit (Zürich, 1885).

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