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PATA´VIUM (Παταούϊον: Eth. Patavinus: Padova), one of the most ancient and important cities of Venetia, situated on the river Medoacus (Brenta), about 30 miles from its mouth. According to a tradition recorded by Virgil, and universally received in antiquity, it was founded by Antenor, who escaped thither after the fall of Troy; and Livy, himself a native of the city, confirms this tradition, though he does not mention the name of Patavium, but describes the whole nation of the Veneti as having migrated to this part of Italy under the guidance of Antenor. He identifies them with the Heneti, who were mentioned by Homer as a Paphlagonian tribe. (Liv. 1.1; Verg. A. 1.247; Strab. v. p.212; Mel. 2.4.2; Solin. 2.10.) The national affinities of the Veneti are considered elsewhere [VENETI]. The story of Antenor may safely be rejected as mythical; but we may infer from the general accordance of ancient writers that Patavium itself was a Venetian city, and apparently from an early period the capital or chief place of the nation. We have very little information as to its history, before it became subject to Rome, and we know only the general fact that it was at an early period an opulent and flourishing city: Strabo even tells us that it could send into the field an army of 120,000 men, but this is evidently an exaggeration, and probably refers to the whole nation of the Veneti, of which it was the capital. (Strab. v. p.213.) Whatever was the origin of the Veneti, there seems no doubt they were, a people far more advanced in civilisation than the neighbouring Gauls, with whom they were on terms of almost continual hostility. The vigilance rendered necessary by the incursions of the Gauls stood them in stead on occasion of the unexpected attack of Cleonymus the Lacedaemonian, who in B.C. 301 landed at the mouth of the Medoacus, but was attacked by the Patavians, and the greater part of his forces cut off. (Liv. 10.2.)

It was doubtless their continual hostility with the Gauls that led the Venetians to become the allies of Rome, as soon as that power began to extend its arms into Cisalpine Gaul. (Pol. 2.23.) No special mention of Patavium occurs during the wars that followed; and we are left to infer from analogy the steps by which this independent city passed gradually under the dependence and protection of Rome, till it ultimately became an ordinary municipal town. In B.C. 174 it is clear that it still retained at least a semblance of independence, as we hear that it was distracted with domestic dissensions, which the citizens appealed to Rome to pacify, and the consul M. Aemilius was selected as deputy for the purpose. (Liv. 41.27.) But the prosperity of Patavium continued unbroken: for this it was indebted as much to the manufacturing industry of its inhabitants as to the natural fertility of its territory. The neighbouring hills furnished abundance of wool of excellent quality; and this supplied the material for extensive woollen manufactures, which seem to have been the staple article of the trade of Patavium, that city supplying Rome in the time of Augustus with all the finer and more costly kinds of carpets, hangings, &c. Besides these, however, it carried on many other branches of manufactures also; and so great was the wealth arising from these sources that, according to Strabo, Patavium was the only city of Italy, except Rome, that could return to the census not less than 500 persons of fortunes entitling them to equestrian rank, (Strab. iii. p.169, v. pp. 213, 218.) We cannot wonder, therefore, that both he and Mela speak of it as unquestionably the first city in this part of Italy. (Id. v. p. 213; Mela, 2.4.2.)

The Patavians had been fortunate in escaping the ravages of war. During the Civil Wars their name is scarcely mentioned; but we learn from Cicero that in B.C. 43 they took part with the senate against M. Antonius, and refused to receive his emissaries. (Cic. Phil. 12.4) It was probably in consequence of this, that at a later period they were severely oppressed by the exactions of Asinius Pollio. (Macr. 1.11.22.) In A.D. 69 Patavium was occupied without opposition by the generals of Vespasian, Primus, and Varus, during their advance into Italy. (Tac. Hist. 3.6.) From its good fortune in this respect there can be no doubt that Patavium continued down to a late period of the Empire to be a flourishing and wealthy city, though it seems to have been gradually eclipsed by the increasing prosperity of Aquileia and Mediolanum. Hence Ausonius, writing in the fourth century, does not even assign it a place in his Ordo Nobilium Urbium. But its long period of prosperity was abruptly brought to a close. In A.D. 452 it felt the full fury of Attila, who, after the capture of Aquileia, which had long resisted his arms, laid waste almost without opposition the remaining cities of Venetia. He is said to have utterly destroyed and razed to the ground Patavium, as well as Concordia and Altinum (P. Diac. Hist. Miscell. xv. p. 549); and, according to a tradition, which, though not supported by contemporary evidence, is probably well founded, it was on this occasion that a large number of fugitives from the former city took refuge in the islands of the lagunes, and there founded the [p. 2.557]celebrated city of Venice. (Gibbon, ch. 35, note 55.) But Patavium did not cease to exist, and must have partially at least recovered from this calamity, alit is mentioned as one of the chief towns of Venetia when that province was overrun by the Lombards under Alboin, in A.D. 568. (P. Diac. Hist. Long. 2.14.) It did not fall into the hands of that people till near 40 years afterwards, when it was taken by Agilulf, king of the Lombards, and burnt to the ground. (Id. 4.24.) But it once more rose from its ashes, and in the middle ages again became, as it has continued ever since, one of the most considerable cities in this part of Italy, though no longer enjoying its ancient preeminence.

It is probably owing to the calamities thus suffered by Patavium, as well as to the earthquakes by which it has been repeatedly visited, that it has now scarcely any relics of its ancient splendour, except a few inscriptions; and even these are much less numerous than might have been expected. One of them is preserved with great care in the town-hall as containing the name of T. Livius, which has been supposed to refer to the great historian of the name, who, as is well known, was a native of Patavium. But this is clearly a mistake; the inscription in question refers only to an obscure freedman; nor is there the slightest foundation for regarding the sarcophagus preserved with it as the tomb of the celebrated historian. (Biogr. Dict. Vol. II. p. 790.) But at least the supposition was more plausible than that which assigns another ancient sarcophagus (discovered in 1274, and still preserved in the church of S. Lorenzo) as the sepulchre of Antenor! Besides these sarcophagi and inscriptions, the foundations of ancient buildings have been discovered in various parts of the modern city, but nothing now remains above ground.

Patavium was the birthplace also of Thrasea Paetus, who was put to death by Nero in A.D. 66. One of the causes of offence which he had given was by assisting as a tragedian in certain games, which were celebrated at Patavium every 30 years in honour of Antenor, a custom said to be derived from the Trojan founders of the city. (Tac. Ann. 16.21; D. C. 62.26.) We learn also from Livy that in his time the memory of the defeat of the Spartan Cleonymus was preserved by an annual mock fight on the river which flowed through the midst of the town. (Liv. 10.2.)


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • null, 12.4
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.247
    • Tacitus, Annales, 16.21
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 3.6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 1
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