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RAVENNA Emilia, Italy.

The city, broken by many canals and marshes, has an insular character which aided its defense and affected its history. The Adriatic gradually receded, necessitating construction of a new port, Classis, ca. 4 km 5, to handle its commerce.

The city's dominant culture in pre-Roman times was Umbrian (Plin. HN 3.15.115; Strab. 5.1.7) though its name and early (6th-4th c. B.C.) art were Etruscan. Ravenna came into Rome's orbit ca. 191 B.C., gained citizenship by the Lex Julia of 89 (CIL XI, 863), was taken from the Marians by Metellus in 82, served as Caesar's base in 49 before he crossed the Rubicon (BCiv 1.5ff), and became the base for Augustus' Adriatic fleet, with capacity of 250 ships. As a result of this last, the city became more commercial and cosmopolitan. Classis rose, 1st c. A.D., to become an early center of Christianity. On account of its defensibility Ravenna was made capital of the Western Empire from 404 to the fall, and of Theodoric's Ostrogothic kingdom till 540, when it became the residence of the Byzantine Exarch of Italy.

Among the monuments mentioned in sources but completely lost are the pharos of the early port, probably near the Mausoleum of Theodoric (Plin. HN 36.18), a circus, amphitheater, theater, and temples to Apollo, outside the Porta Aurea, to Neptune, to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, and others.

The ancient wall, expanded by the Ostrogoths, can barely be reconstructed from remains of Porta Aurea and a round tower of Porta Salustra, both to the SW.

Though pre-Roman strata have not been reached, Etruscan art is represented by the warrior (now at Leida Mus.) and other 6th-4th c. B.C. bronze statuettes in the Mus. Naz. in the convent of S. Vitale. Nothing remains from the Republic, little from the Early Empire. Of Claudius' Porta Aurea, A.D. 43, the dedicatory inscription (CIL XI, 4) and other elements are extant in the Mus. Naz., as well as the marble relief called Apotheosis of Augustus, which may derive from that gate. Foundations of piers of Trajan's 32 km long aqueduct, restored in 503 by Theodoric (Cassiod. Var. 5.38), are still seen in the Ronco, SW of the city.

Numerous 2d-6th c. funerary stelai and sarcophagi with inscriptions and portraits from Ravenna and Classis are housed in the Mus. Naz. There are also collections of ancient glass, coins, ivories, and ceramics. The Mus. Arcivescovile is also rich in epigraphy, including Christian examples, fragments of Roman reliefs, and a notable porphyry torso of a late emperor.

By far the most important remains date from the 5th-6th c. To the NW the tomb of Galla Placidia (d. 450), sister of Honorius, holds supposedly her sarcophagus and those of Constantius and her son Valentinian III, but these identifications have not been verified. In S. Vitale nearby, begun ca. 525, can be seen fragments of a Roman frieze and the famous contemporary mosaic of Justinian and Theodora with retinues, a fine documentation of Imperial costume and portraiture.

To the NE, ca. 1.6 km from town, a barbarian necropolis lies near the Mausoleum of Theodoric. The latter, built ca. 520 of Istrian stone, had a decagonal lower and a cylindrical upper level surmounted by a monolithic cupola ca. 10.98 m in diameter, weighing 300 tons.

S. Apollinare Nuovo to the E, originally built by Theodoric, contains the largest mosaic surface extant from antiquity, depicting his palace and the cities of Ravenna and Classis. Justinian's portrait is above the door. Foundations just to the S may be the actual remains of the palace while the extant so-called palace of Theodoric is thought to be in reality the later palace of the Byzantine Exarch. The oldest standing building, dated ca. 400, is the Neone (Orthodox) Baptistery. S. Apollinare in Classe (ded. 549) is rich in mosaics.

Air-photo studies prior to 1961 helped to define the ancient topography of Chassis, where excavations of 1963-67 turned up Roman foundations of the 1st-4th c. beneath S. Severo. Necropoleis extending over 3 km along Via Romea Vecchia date from Augustus' time to the 4th c. and attest to a large population.


Extensive discussion and bibliogr. up to 1962 in EAA s.v. Ravenna; F. W. Deichmann, Frühchristliche Bauten und Mosaiken von Ravenna (1958); id., Ravenna, Geschichte und Monumente (1969)PI; S. K. Kostof, The Orthodox Baptistery of R. (1965); Atti del Convegno internaz. di studi sulle antichitá di Classe (1968) contains papers on all aspects; G. Bovini, Saggio di biliogr. su R. antica (1968) and Corpus della scultura paleocristiana, biz. ed altomedioevole di R. (1968); G. Bovini, ed., Collana di quaderni di antichità ravennati, cristiane e biz.; R. Heidenreich & H. Johannes, Das Grabmal Theodorichs zu R. (1971). See also Corso di cultura sull'arte ravennate e bizantina (1955ff).


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