How Old Is This Venice ?

While there are no historical records that deal directly with the origins of Venice, the available evidence has led several historians to agree that the original population of Venice comprised refugees from Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileia, Altino and Concordia (modern Portogruaro) who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic invasions and Huns. Some late Roman sources reveal the existence of fishermen on the islands in the original marshy lagoons. They were referred to as incola lacunae (lagoon dwellers).

Beginning in 166-168, the Quadi and Marcomanni destroyed the main center in the area, the current Oderzo. The Roman defences were again overthrown in the early 5th century by the Visigoths and, some 50 years later, by the Huns led by Attila. The last and most enduring irruption was that of the Lombards in 568. This left the Eastern Roman Empire a small strip of coast in current Veneto, and the main administrative and religious entities were therefore transferred to this remaining dominion. New ports were built, including those at Malamocco and Torcello in the Venetian lagoon.

The Byzantine domination of central and northern Italy was subsequently largely eliminated by the conquest of the Exarchate of Ravenna in 751 by Aistulf. During this period, the seat of the local Byzantine governor (the "duke/dux", later "doge") was situated in Malamocco. Settlement across the islands in the lagoon probably increased in correspondence with the Lombard conquest of the Byzantine territories.

In 775-776, the bishopric seat of Olivolo (Helipolis) was created. During the reign of duke Agnello Particiaco (811-827) the ducal seat was moved from Malamocco to the highly protected Rialto (Rivoalto, "High Shore") island, the current location of Venice. The monastery of St. Zachary and the first ducal palace and basilica of St. Mark, as well as a walled defense (civitatis murus) between Olivolo and Rialto were subsequently built here.

In 828, the new city's prestige was raised by the theft of the relics of St. Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, which were placed in the new basilica. The patriarchal seat was also moved to Rialto. As the community continued to develop and as Byzantine power waned, it led to the growth of autonomy and eventual independence.

 

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