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BONONIA (Bologna) Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

A Latin colony founded in 189 B.C. where the earlier Etruscan city of Felsina had stood. In 187 it was connected to Ariminum and Placentia by the Via Aemilia Lepidi, and with Arretium by a Via Flaminia never again recorded. At the end of the Republic the community of Bononia was under the patronage of the Antonii. The city was involved, seemingly without injury in the bellum Mutinense in 43 B.C. It was recolonized by Antony and later by Octavian in 32 B.C. It acknowledged the title of parens later when it had become Augustan. Destroyed by fire in A.D. 53, it was restored and enlarged under Claudius as the result of intercession on the part of young Nero. In the Imperial age, it was recorded among the major cities of Italy. In a state of crisis during the Late Empire, the city nevertheless resisted the Visigoths of Alaric in A.D. 410. It was included in the kingdom of Theodoric, and later became part of the Byzantine exarchy, falling to the Lombards in 727. Bononia was a diocesan seat from at least the beginning of the 4th c.

The pre-urban antecedents of Bononia go back to the Iron Age. Huts were concentrated on the plateau at the foot of the mountains between the Aposa and the Ravone rivers, and in the surrounding territory from the Santerno to the Panaro there was a network of sparsely populated settlements. Clearly, the site was favorable for agriculture and even more so for trade, as it was at the intersection of numerous channels of communication. From Pliny (HN 3.5) the name Felsina is known, and its function as the capital of the area. The continuity of life at the site from the Iron Age until the 4th c. B.C. has been verified by the peripheral extension of the necropoleis. The plan of the Latin colony of 189, implemented by a force of 3000 men, was orthogonal and had perhaps a square perimeter. The successive form of the city, was rectangular. The city had as axis the principal E-W avenue, which was not entirely straight. Probably Bononia never had a circuit wall. Its development indicates dense settlement of the suburban area, with both dwellings and productive establishments. The median depth of the Roman level is only ca. 3 m. Thus continual building from the mediaeval period to the present has destroyed the major part of the Roman stratum and also lower strata. Little remains of public and private buildings except mosaics and architectural elements. It appears that the basilica may be identified with remains under the N wing of the municipal building, where Imperial portraits have also been found. Of the bath buildings constructed under Augustus, only epigraphical mention remains. A sanctuary to the Egyptian divinities existed, probably under the group of buildings making up S. Stefano, which in Roman times was in the suburban area. In this zone architectural fragments were used in later construction. Mosaics permit insight into the building history of the city from the end of the Republic to the 3d c. A.D. In Roman times Bononia lacked the dimensions of a great city but was the capital of a vast territory, still largely centuriated, with some later roads as well. It was a center of predominately agricultural and artisan activity, with indications of animal husbandry and metal working. Since many funerary markers were made here, there is opportunity for the study of workshops producing both inscriptions and sculpture.


A. Grenier, Bologne villanovienne et étrusque (1912)MPI; P. Ducati, Storia di Bologna, I: tempi antichi (1928)MPI; E. Andreoli, “Bologna nell'Antichità,” MemPontAcc 3, 6 (1946) 143-82MPI; E. Andreoli & A. Negrioli, Carta arch. d'Italia, foglio 87 (1949)MP; EAA 2 (1959) 125-28 (P. E. Arias)MP; G. C. Susini, Il lapidario greco e romano di Bologna (1960)I; id., “Culta Bononia,” Strenna stor. bolognese 7 (1957) 109, 133; id., “Testimonianze dei culti precristiani nel bolognese,” ibid. 5 (1955) 139-51; G. A. Mansuelli et al., “Lo sviluppo urbano di Bologna,” Bologna centro storico (1970) 21- 36MPI; G. Gualandi, “Problemi urbanistici e cronologici di Felsina,” Atti e mem. Deputaz. di Storia patria Rom. NS 20 (1969) 47-67; F. Bergoazoni, “Un contributo alla conoscenza di Bologna romana,” ibid. 125- 36MPI; D. Scagliarini, “L'insediamento residenziale e produttivo nel suburbio di Bologna romana,” ibid. 137- 92MPI.


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    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
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