pre-Roman city, which excavations of the last 50 years
have brought to light in the ancient delta of the Po, and
in the lagoon basins ca. 6 km W of Comacchio (province of Ferrara).
Founded by the Pelasgians, or by the Thessalians, or
by Diomedes at the mouth of a branch of the Po (Hellanicus fr. 1 apud Dion. Hal. 1.28.3, 1.18.3-4; Ps.-Scyl. 17; Just. Epit
. 20.1.1; Plin. HN
3.120), the city attained the thalassocracy of the Adriatic and maintained at Delphi a famous thesaurus (Dion. Hal. 1.18.4; Strab. 5.1.7
9.3.8). It was within a road journey of three days from
Pisa and was linked to Adria by a navigable canal built
by the Etruscans. The invasion of the Gauls provoked the
decline and desertion of the city (Dion. Hal. 1.18.5),
and on the site in the Roman period there was no more
than a small village (Strab. 5.1.7
The city's period of greatest prosperity coincided with
the expansion of the Etruscans N of the Apennines beginning in the middle of the 6th c. B.C. Although the sources speak of Greek Spina in Etruscan territory, it was actually an Etruscan city in which Greeks, including
an active group of Athenian merchants, exerted a strong
cultural influence. In this light, the large amount of archaeological evidence, fundamental in understanding the civilization of Spina, may be understood.
Land reclamation in the Trebba valley and in the
Pega valley has opened up for investigation two adjacent necropoleis situated on the sandy dunes of an
ancient shoreline (today ca. 10 km from the sea). From
these have come 4061 earthen graves dating from the
end of the 6th c. to the beginning of the 3d c. B.C. The
prevailing custom is inhumation with the corpse oriented
NW to SE. The burial finds reflect large commercial
enterprises and the economic prosperity of the market
of Spina. Attic red-figure ware abounds, particularly
from the early Classical and Classical periods. The Spina
collection has a documentary unity and an array of the
work of vase painters (of Berlin, of Penthesilea, of the
Niobid Painter, of Boreas, of Peleus, Polygnotos, Polion, Shuvalov) without comparison either in Greece or
elsewhere. Other pottery is Etruscan, Faliscan (from
Magna Graecia), Sicilian, and Boiotian, in addition to
notable local production of the so-called early Adriatic
group. There are Etruscan bronzes and gold jewelry
and some early Venetic bronzes, as well as numerous
examples of glazed ware and amber.
Land reclamation in the Mezzano valley (1960) led to
the identification of the site of Spina W of the necropoleis
and exactly along a middle branch of the ancient Po
delta, called the Padus Vetus in mediaeval documents.
It is a characteristic settlement on a marshy site: an irregular perimeter, protected by multiple palisades and
earthen ramparts, streets on a square grid plan oriented
NW to SE, and wooden dwellings. Two km SE, near
Motta della Girata, a canal, 15 m wide, leaves the river
and cuts across the dunes of the Etruscan shoreline.
This is evidently the work of the Etruscans intent upon
maintaining close connection between the city and the
sea, which kept moving farther away as a result of the
extension of the coastal land. The presence there of the
Early Christian parish church of Santa Maria in Padovetere shows the extreme demographic tenacity of the city which had then disappeared.
Because they demonstrate a knowledge of the N
Etruscan alphabet, the many graffiti on pottery from
Spina are notable. All articles can be found in the National Archaeological Museum in Ferrara.
S. Aurigemma, Il R. Museo di Spina
(1st ed., 1935; 2d ed., 1936); id., La necropoli di Spina
in valle Trebba
, I.1 (1960), I.2 (1965); B. M. Felletti
Mai, “La cronologia della necrop. di Spina . . . ,” StEtr
14 (1940) 43ff; N. Alfieri et al., Spina
(1958); P. E.
Arias, “Due situle paleovenete a Spina,” Hommages
(1962) 141-44; EAA
7 (1966) 446-53 (P. E.
Arias); G. V. Gentili, “Spina: individuazione dell'abitato,” BdA
52 (1967) 246.
N. ALFIERI & G. V. GENTILI