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PLACEN´TIA

PLACEN´TIA (Πλακεντία: Eth. Placentinus: Eth. Πλακεντῖνος, Piacenza), a city of Gallia Cispadana, situated near the S. bank of the Padus, just below the point where it receives the waters of the Trebia. It was on the Via Aemilia, of which it originally formed the termination, that road being in the first instance carried from Ariminum to Placentia; and was 40 miles distant from Parma. We have no account of the existence of a town on the spot previous to the establishment of the Roman colony, which was settled there in B.C. 219, after the great Gaulish war, at the same time with Cremona. (Liv. Epit. xx; Vell. 1.14; Pol. 3.40; Ascon. in Pison. p. 3.) It consisted of not less than 6000 colonists, with Latin rights. But the new colony was scarcely founded, and its walls hardly completed, when the news of the approach of Hannibal produced a general rising of the neighbouring Gauls, the Boians and Insubrians, who attacked Placentia, ravaged its territory, and drove many of the colonists to take refuge at Mutina; but were unable to effect anything against the city itself, which was still in the hands of the Romans in the following year, and became the head-quarters of the army of Scipio both before and after the battle of the Trebia. (Pol. 3.40, 66; Liv. 16.25, 56, 59, 63; Appian, App. Hann. 5, 7.) At a later period of the same war, in B.C. 209, Placentia was one of the colonies which proved faithful to Rome at its greatest need, and came forward readily to furnish its quota of supplies for the war, when twelve of the older colonies failed in doing so. (Liv. 27.10.) Shortly after this it withstood the arms of Hasdrubal, who was induced to lay siege to it, after he had crossed the Alps and descended into Cisalpine Gaul, and by so doing lost a great deal of valuable time. After a protracted siege he was compelled to abandon the enterprise, and continue his march into Italy, leaving Placentia behind him. (Id. 27.39, 43.) A few years later it was less fortunate, having been taken by surprise by the sudden insurrection of the Gauls in B.C. 200, who plundered and burnt the town, and carried off the greater/part of the inhabitants into captivity. (Id. 31.10.) After the victory of the consul L. Furius, about 2000 of the prisoners taken on this occasion were restored to the colony; and a few years afterwards L. Valerius Flaccus, who wintered at Cremona and Placentia, restored and repaired as far as possible all the losses they had suffered during the war. (Id. 31.21, xxxiv, 22.) But they were still exposed to the ravages of the Gauls and Ligurians; and in B.C. 193 their territory was laid waste by the latter up to the very gates of the city. (Id. 34.56.) Hence we cannot wonder to find them, in B.C. 190, complaining of a deficiency of settlers, to remedy which the senate decreed that a fresh body of 3000 families should be settled at each of the old colonies of Placentia and Cremona, while new ones should be established in the district of the Boii. (Id. 37.46, 47.) A few years later the consul M. Aemilius, having completed the subjection of the Ligurians, constructed the celebrated road, which was ever after known by his name, from Ariminum to Placentia (Id. 39.2); and from this time the security and tranquillity enjoyed by this part of Italy caused it to rise rapidly to a state of great prosperity. In this there can be no doubt that Placentia fully shared; but we hear little of it during the Roman Republic, though it appears to have been certainly one of the principal towns of Cispadane Gaul. In the civil war of Marius and Sulla, a battle was fought near Placentia, in which the partisans of Carbo were defeated by Lucullus, the general of Sulla, B.C. 82 (Appian, App. BC 1.92); and in that between Caesar and Pompey, B.C. 49, it was at Placentia that a mutiny broke out among the troops of the former, which at one time assumed a very formidable aspect, and was only quelled by the personal firmness and authority of the dictator. (Appian, App. BC 2.47; D. C. 41.26.) Placentia, indeed, seems to have been at this period one of the places commonly selected as the head-quarters of Roman troops in this part of Italy. (Cic. Att. 6.9) It was again the scene of a somewhat similar mutiny of the legions of Augustus during the Perusian War, B.C. 41. (D. C. 48.10.)

Cicero notices placentia towards the close of the republican period as a municipium: its colonial rank must have been merged in the ordinary municipal condition in consequence of the Lex Julia, B.C. 90. (Cic. in Pison. 23; Fest. s. v. Municipium.) But under the Empire it reappears as a [p. 2.637]colony, both Pliny and Tacitus giving it that title (Plin. Nat. 3.15, s. 20; Tac. Hist. 2.19); it had probably received a fresh colony under Augustus. We learn from Tacitus (l.c.) that it was one of the most flourishing and populous cities of the district of Gallia Cispadana; and though of no natural strength, being situated in an open plain, it was well fortified. For this reason it was occupied in A.D. 69 by Spurinna, one of the generals of Otho, and successfully defended by him against Caecina, the general of Vitellius, who had crossed the Padus, and laid siege to Placentia, but was compelled to abandon it and withdraw to Cremona. (Tac. Hist. 2.17-23.) During the assaults of Caecina, the amphitheatre, which is said to have been the largest provincial edifice of the kind in Italy, and way situated without the walls, was accidentally burnt. (Ib. 21.) From this time we meet with no further mention of Placentia in history till the reign of Aurelian, when that emperor sustained a great defeat from the Marcomanni, under its walls. (Vopisc. Aurel. 21.) But the city still continued to be one of the most considerable places on the line of the Via Aemilia; and though it is noticed by St. Ambrose, towards the close of the fourth century, as sharing in the desolation that had then befallen the whole of this once flourishing province (Ambros. Ep. 39), it survived all the ravages of the barbarians; and even after the fall of the Western Empire was still a comparatively flourishing town. It was there that Orestes, the father of the unhappy Augustulus, was put to death by Odoacer, in A.D. 476. (P. Diac. Hist. Miscell. xvi. p. 558.) Procopius also mentions it during the Gothic wars as a strong fortress and the chief city of the province of Aemilia. It was only taken by Totila, in A.D. 546, by famine. (Procop. B. G. 3.13, 17.) Considerably later it is still noticed by P. Diaconus among the “opulent cities” of Aemilia (Hist. Lang. 2.18); a position which it preserved throughout the middle ages. At the present day it is still a flourishing and populous place, with about 30,000 inhabitants, though partially eclipsed by the superior importance to which Parma has attained since it became the capital of the reigning dukes. There are no remains of antiquity.

Placentia was undoubtedly indebted for its prosperity and importance in ancient times, as well as in the middle ages, to its advantageous situation for the navigation of the Po. Strabo (v. p.215) speaks of the navigation from thence to Ravenna, as if the river first began to be navigable from Placentia downwards; but this is not quite correct. The city itself lay at a short distance from the river; but it had an emporium or port on the stream itself, probably at its confluence with the Trebia, which was itself a considerable town. This was taken and plundered by Hannibal in B.C. 218. (Liv. 21.57; Tac. Hist. 2.19.)

It has been already mentioned that the Via Aemilia, as originally constructed, led from Ariminum to Placentia, a distance of 178 miles. It was afterwards continued from the latter city to Dertona, from whence a branch proceeded across the Apennines to Genoa (Strab. v. p.17); while another line was carried from Placentia across the Padus direct to Mediolanum, a distance of 40 miles; and thus communicated with the whole of Gallia Transpadana. (Itin. Ant. pp. 98, 127, 288; Itin. Hier. p. 616; Tab. Peut.)

[E.H.B]

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