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SPINA Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

An important 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 Grenier (1962) 141-44; EAA 7 (1966) 446-53 (P. E. Arias); G. V. Gentili, “Spina: individuazione dell'abitato,” BdA 52 (1967) 246.


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