, Strab. Pol.; Πίσσαι
, Ptol.; Πίσσα
, Lycophr.; Eth. Pisanus
), an important city of Etruria, situated on the N. bank of the river Arnus, a few miles from its mouth. All authors agree in representing it as a very ancient city, but the accounts of its early history are very confused and uncertain.
The identity of its name with that of the city of Elis naturally led to the supposition that the one was derived from the other; and hence the foundation of the Italian Pisae was ascribed by some authors to Pelops himself (Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 8
), while others assigned it to a body of settlers from the Peloponnesian Pisa who had accompanied Nestor to Troy, and on their return wandered to this part of Italy. (Strab. v. p.222
; Serv. ad Aen. 10.179
.) Epeius, the reputed founder of Metapontum, was, according to some writers, that of Pisae also. (Serv. l.c.
) The Elean, or Alphean, origin of the city is generally adopted by the Roman poets. (Verg. A. 10.179
; Claudian, B. Gild.
483; Rutil. Itin.
1.565.) Cato, however, followed a different tradition, and represented the city as founded by the Etruscans under Tarchon, though the site was previously possessed by a people called the Teutanes, who spoke a Greek dialect. (Cato, ap. Serv. l.c.) Virgil also calls it distinctly an Etruscan city, though he derives its more remote origin from Elis; and the tradition reported by Cato seems to prove at least that it was one of the cities of which the Etruscans claimed to be the founders, and which must therefore have been at one period a genuine Etruscan city. On the other hand, Dionysius mentions it among the cities founded or occupied by the Pelasgi in conjunction with the Aborigines (Dionys. A. R. 1.20
); and there seems to be some reason to regard it as one of the early Pelasigc settlements on the coast of Etruria, which fell at a later period under the power of the Etruscans.
We know almost nothing of Pisae as an Etruscan city, nor are there any remains of this period of its history. But Strabo still found vestiges of its past greatness, and the tradition of its foundation by Tarchon seems to point to it as one of the principal cities of Etruria. Its inhabitants were trained to arms by frequent contests with their neighbours the Ligurians, while they appear to have been one of the principal maritime powers among the Etruscans, and, like most of their countrymen, combined the pursuits of commerce and piracy. (Strab. v. p.223
.) We have no account of the period at which it became a dependency of Rome; but the first historical mention of its name is in B.C. 225, when the consul C. Atilius landed there with two legions from Sardinia, with which he shortly after attacked and defeated the Gaulish army near Telamon. (Pol. 2.27.)
It is clear therefore that Pisae was at this time already in alliance with Rome, and probably on the same footing as the other dependent allies of the republic. Its port seems to have been much frequented, and became a favourite point of departure for the Roman fleets and armies whose destination was Gaul, Spain, or Liguria. Thus it was from thence that the consul P. Scipio sailed to Massilia at the outbreak of the Second Punic War (B.C. 218), and thither also that he returned on finding that Hannibal had already crossed the Alps. (Pol. 3.43, 56; Liv. 21.39
The long-continued wars of the Romans with the Ligurians added greatly to the importance of Pisae, which became the frontier town of the Roman power, and the customary head-quarters of the generals appointed to carry on the war. (Liv. 33.43
It was not, however, exempt from the evil consequences incident to such a position. In B.C. 193 it was suddenly attacked and besieged by an army of 40,000 Ligurians, and with difficulty rescued by the arrival of the consul Minucius (Liv. 35.3
); and on several other occasions the Ligurians laid waste its territory. Hence in B.C. 180 the Pisans themselves invited the Romans to establish a colony in their territory, which was accordingly carried out, the colonists obtaining Latin rights. (Liv. 40.43
.) From this time we hear but little of Pisae; its colonial condition became merged like that of the other “coloniae Latinae,” in that of a municipium by virtue of the Lex Julia (Fest. v. Municipium
): but it seems to have received a fresh colony under Augustus, as we find it bearing the colonial title in a celebrated inscription which records the funeral honours paid by the magistrates and senate of Pisae to the deceased grandchildren of Augustus, C. and L. Caesar. (Orell. Inscr.
It is here termed “Colonia Obsequens Julia Pisana:” Pliny also gives it the title of a colony (Plin. Nat. 3.5 s. 8
), and there seems no doubt that it was at this period one of the most flourishing towns of Etruria. Strabo speaks of it as carrying on a considerable trade in timber and marble from the neighbouring mountains, which were sent to Rome to be employed there as building materials. Its territory was also very fertile, and produced the fine kind of wheat called siligo, as well as excellent wine. (Strab. v. p.223
; Plin. Nat. 14.3. s. 4
. s. 20.) We have no account of the fortunes of Pisae during the declining period of the Roman empire, but during the Gothic wars of Narses it is still mentioned as a place of importance (Agath. B. G.
1.11), and in the middle ages rose rapidly to be one of the most flourishing commercial cities of Italy.
There is no doubt that the ancient city stood on the same site with the modern Pisa,
but natural causes have produced such great changes in the locality, that it would be difficult to recognise the site as described by Strabo, were not the identity of the modern and ancient cities fully established.
That author (as well as Rutilius and other writers) describes the ancient city as situated at the confluence of the rivers Arnus and Auser (Serchio
), and distant only 20 stadia (2 1/2 miles) from the sea. (Strab. v. p.222
; Plin. Nat. 3.8. s. 14
; Rutil. Itin.
At the present day it is more than 6 miles from the sea, while the Serchio
does not flow into the Arno
at all, but has a separate channel to the sea, the two rivers being separated by a tract of 5 or 6 miles in width, formed partly by the accumulation of alluvial soil from the rivers, partly by the sand heaped up by the sea.
There are no remains of the Etruscan city visible; it is probable that all such, if they still exist, are buried to a considerable depth by the alluvial soil.
The only vestiges of Roman antiquity which remain are “some mean traces of baths, and two marble columns with [p. 2.633]
composite capitals, probably belonging to the vestibule of a temple of the age of the Antonines, now embedded in the wall of the ruined church of S. Felice.” (Dennis, Etruria,
vol. ii. p. 89.)
But numerous sarcophagi of Roman date, some of them of very superior workmanship, and some fragments of statues are preserved in the Campo Santo,
as well as numerous inscriptions, of which the most interesting are those already alluded to, recording the honours paid by the colony to the deceased grandsons of Augustus.
These have been published with a learned and elaborate commentary by Cardinal Noris (Cenotaphia Pisana,
fol. Venet. 1681); as well as by Gori (Inscript. Etruriae,
vol. ii. p. 10, &c.), and more recently by Haubold (Monumenta Legalia,
p. 179) and Orelli (l.c.
The Maritime Itinerary mentions the PORTUS PISANUS
as distinct from Pisae itself, from which it was no less than 9 miles distant. (Itin. Marit.
p. 501.) Rutilius also describes the port of Pisae, which was in his day still much frequented and the scene of an active commerce, as at some distance from the city itself. (Rutil. Itin.
1.531--540, 558--565, 2.12.)
But the exact site has been a subject of much controversy. Cluverius and other writers placed it at the mouth of the Arno,
while Mannert and Mr. Dennis would transfer it to the now celebrated port of Leghorn
But this latter port is distant 10 miles from the mouth of the Arno,
and 14 from Pisa,
which does not agree with the distance given in the Maritime Itinerary; while the mouth of the Arno
is too near Pisa, and it is unlikely that the entrance of the river could ever have been available as a harbour. Rutilius also describes the port (without any mention of the river) as formed only by a natural bank of sea-weed, which afforded shelter to the vessels that rode at anchor within it. Much the most probable view is that advocated by a local writer (Targioni Tozzetti), that the ancient Portus Pisanus was situated at a point between the mouth of the Arno
but considerably nearer the latter city, near an old church of St. Stefano.
The distance of this spot agrees with that of the Itinerary, and it is certain from mediaeval documents that the Porto Pisano,
which in the middle ages served as the port of Pisa,
when it was a great and powerful republic, was situated somewhere in this neighbourhood. (Targioni Tozzetti, Viaggi in Toscana,
vol. ii. pp. 225--240, 378--420; Zumpt, ad Rutil.
1.527.) Roman remains have also been found on the spot, and some ruins, which may very well be those of the villa called Triturrita, described by Rutilius as adjoining the port, designated in the Tabula as Turrita. (Rutil. Itin.
1.527; Tab. Peut.
) There is every probability that the Porto Pisano of
the middle ages occupied the same site with the Roman Portus Pisanus, which is mentioned by P. Diaconus as still in use under the Lombard kings, and again by a Frankish chronicler in the days of Charlemagne (P. Diac. Hist. Lang.
6.61; Amoin. Rer. Franc.
4.9); and there is no doubt that the mediaeval port was quite distinct from Livorno.
The latter city, which is now one of the most important trading places in Italy, was in the 13th century an obscure village, and did not rise to consideration till after the destruction of the Porto Pisano.
But it seems probable that it was occasionally used even in ancient times, and is the LABRO noticed by Cicero (ad Q. Fr.
2.6) as a seaport near Pisae.
It has been supposed also to be already mentioned by Zosimus (5.20) under the name of Liburnum; but there is really no authority for this, or for the names of Portus Liburni, and Portus Herculis Liburni employed by modern writers on ancient geography. The Antonine Itinerary, however, gives a station “Ad Herculem,” which, as it is placed 12 miles from Pisae, could not have been far from Leghorn.
Pliny alludes to the existence of warm springs in the territory of Pisae (2.103. s. 106).
These are evidently the same now called the Bagni di S. Giuliano,
situated about 4 miles from the city, at the foot of the detached group of Apennines, which divide the territory of Pisa
from that of Lucca.