Altinum (city)

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Altinum was a city in northeast Italy, on the Venetian lagoon , which was probably built as early as the 8th century BC. BC, and has two necropolises . The city experienced its heyday during the Roman Empire , when it had around 20,000 inhabitants. It was partially abandoned in the 5th and 6th centuries after the raids by the Huns and the Lombards and is considered one of the predecessor settlements of Venice . It was finally given up after 900.

Street in Altinum, 2009

At the site, which has been re-researched since 2007 under the direction of the Paduan archaeologist Paolo Mozzi and the geographer Andrea Ninfo after evaluating aerial photographs, a museum has already been created on the basis of earlier finds under the direction of Margherita Tirelli. It is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Altino .

With an area of ​​around 100 hectares, the city is now considered the largest ancient city in northern Italy, and Mozzi compares it to Pompeii . However, so far only geophysical studies and a few drillings have taken place, such as on the city wall. The archaeological heritage should first be secured.


The well-preserved foundations of Altinum lie to the north of Venice Airport under some 100 hectares of arable land near Quarto d'Altino . Two to three meters higher than the surrounding marshy bay, the area offered favorable settlement space and had been inhabited for at least six centuries before it came to the Roman Empire. The ancient site was surrounded by rivers and canals, including a large canal that ran right through the city and connected it to the lagoon.


Part of a mausoleum from the necropolis

The name of the city possibly goes back to a god of the Venetians called Altino / Altno, after which a local cult site from the early 6th century BC. Chr. Indicates.

Photo of an inscription on Via Claudia Augusta Altinate , which was created between 1935 and 1938 during excavations under the direction of Alessio De Bon on behalf of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti .

End of the 2nd century BC The region became Roman. From 131 B.C. The Via Annia was built , connecting Hadria with Patavium and from there eastward via Altinum and Concordia with Aquileia . The Via Popilia probably also reached the city. The two roads crossed the lagoon that surrounded the city on dams.

Between 89 and 49 BC The increased urbanization began after the residents of the region had received full citizenship and the city had become a municipality .

The city reached its greatest expansion in the 1st century, its heyday was between the 1st century BC. and the 2nd century AD. In the 1st century, the pomerium of the city comprised an area of ​​120 hectares. Numerous finds of weights for looms suggest that wool may have been produced and processed here on a larger scale, especially the Martial there Highlights wool. The same thinks that the villas of Altinum could compete with those of Baiae (Mart. 4,25). Given the great importance of the city, it is perhaps no coincidence that Lucius Verus , co-emperor Marcus Aurelius , spent the last days of his life here. A decline can be seen from the 2nd century onwards, which probably also had ecological causes and intensified in the 3rd century.

The first bishop is Heliodorus († after 404), who took over the office at the end of the 4th century. However, the area around the city began to become swampy as early as the 3rd century, and the city's harbor became increasingly unusable.

Altinum was destroyed by Attila's troops in 452 . If one follows the Venetian historiography, then refugees from Altino founded the settlement on Torcello .

The city was able to withstand the first wave of the Lombard conquest from 568/69, but a few years later it fell to the new rulers of Northern Italy. In 590 a joint venture between Franks and Byzantines succeeded in retaking the city. At first Altinum was the seat of the provincial administration, which, however, had since shrunk to the narrow coastal strip.

The bishopric of Altino was moved to the more easily protected island of Torcello, but Bishop Maurus retained the title of Bishop of Altinum. In 639/640 the Lombards conquered the city and the population fled to the island. In 639 the construction of the church of Santa Maria Assunta began on Torcello.

The archaeological investigations showed, on the one hand, that the Lombards did not settle the city, but that it was settled again by the Byzantines. However, this was done to a significantly reduced extent. On the other hand, it turned out that the island built on Torcello had a special feature that is otherwise only known from two fortifications in Altinum: Its foundation is, for once, not on the otherwise usual wooden posts driven into the ground and a threshold grate, but the eight columns of the The church and its front rest on stone slabs, which in turn rest on bricks and mortar mixed with lime and sand. Channels were drawn between these blocks of columns and filled with sand and ceramic shards. Only this layer was able to react to the strongly fluctuating moisture content of the subsoil due to its porosity, creating a kind of drainage system that allowed buildings to be built on subsoil that was unsuitable for this.

Since the Longobards also conquered Oderzo (Opitergium) around this time, Byzantine rule was finally reduced to the islands in the lagoon. The seat of the provincial administration went to Herakleia , the population of Altinum moved to Torcello. In 643 there was the battle of the Scultenna, in which the Lombards defeated the troops of the exarch Isaac (624 / 25–643) and lost 8,000 men in Byzantium, according to Paulus the deacon .

In 899/900 Hungarian looters reached the lagoon and destroyed the city, the remains of which lie in the area of ​​the town of San Michele del Quarto. Another document from Otto I of July 13, 960 calls the road from Altino via Concordia to Aquileia the "via Ungarorum".

The area, including the city, was completely abandoned, and it was not until the 20th century that bonuses allowed it to be used again for agriculture. However, the ruined city was used as a quarry for several centuries until it was covered by alluvial land.


Altinum was probably surrounded by a shallow lagoon. In the 1st century it was possible to get from Ravenna to Altinum on waterways, i.e. via canals and through the Venice lagoon . The fossa Clodia , which reached as far as Chioggia and which allowed boats to pass Pellestrina , Poveglia and the ancient Malamocco, allowed traffic from Ravenna along these waterways via S. Pietro di Castello, Murano , San Giacomo in Paludo and Torcello to Altino to. Port structures with two magazines (?) Measuring 47 by 42 and 50 by 46 m were found not far from Treporti (Canal Scanello). The Altino, which was abandoned in the 10th century and is now on the mainland, was surrounded by shallow lagoon waters in the early Middle Ages, which overcame the Roman roads on dams.


Finds in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Altino
Lion head

The ruins of the city were never built over and therefore remained in the state of the early Middle Ages. It is unclear how pieces from the field of theater got into the museum as early as the 1950s. The University of Venice, Ca 'Foscari, concentrated its archaeological activities from 1997 on, among other things, on Altino and in 1999 concluded a corresponding agreement with the responsible Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Veneto . This also included the establishment of an excavation school. Five publications dealt with the results of the excavations, including one on the cultic institutions along the Via Annia with a focus on Alinate. Support was provided from 2007 to 2010 by the Via Annia project , which is supported by Arcus, the Veneto region and the municipality of Padua, as well as by several municipalities along the ancient road. The coordinator was Francesca Veronese.

In the particularly dry summer of 2007, aerial photography archaeologists took pictures in the visible and infrared range. This enabled them to get detailed information about the street map and many buildings. A team of geomorphologists from the University of Padua evaluated the photos. City walls, a theater , an odeon , a more than 60 m long basilica and a forum with temples have been found in buildings. Other areas show a street grid with residential developments and two canals that run through the city. In its heyday, the city was a little more than twice the size of Pompeii , which covered 44 hectares. These recordings stimulated research so that even the tourism industry became more aware of the Via Annia and the exhibition venues there.


  • Andrea Cipolato: Altino survey 2012: le anfore italiche, egeo-orientali e galliche , tesi di laurea, Università Ca 'Foscari, Venice 2015 ( online ).
  • Andrea Ninfo, Alessandro Fontana, Paolo Mozzi, Francesco Ferrarese: The Map of Altinum, Ancestor of Venice , in: Science 325, Issue 5940 (July 31, 2009) 577.
  • Michele Asolati: Altino tardoantica e bizantina attraverso i ritrovamenti monetali , in: Archeologia Veneta 16-19 (1993-1995) 87-132.
  • Robin Brigand: Centuriations romaines et dynamigues des parcellaires. Une approche diachronique des formes rurales et urbaines de la plaine centrale de Venise (Italie) , archaeolog. Diss., Université de Franche-Comté and Università degli Studi di Padova, 2 volumes, December 9, 2010.
  • Andrew Curry: Ancient Roman City Rises Again . In: ScienceNOW Daily News, July 30, 2009 Ancient Roman City Rises Again - ScienceNOW .
  • Christian Hülsen : Altinum 2 . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume I, 2, Stuttgart 1894, column 1697 f.
  • Andrea Ninfo, Alessandro Fontana, Paolo Mozzi, Francesco Ferrarese: The Map of Altinum, Ancestor of Venice , in: Science 325 (July 31, 2009).
  • Bianca Maria Scarfì: Gli scavi e il museo di Altino , in: Aquileia e l'arco adriatico: Atti della 20 Settimana di Studi Aquileiesi, April 22-28, 1989 , Udine 1990, pp. 311-327.
  • Franco Bordin: Da Altino a Venezia. Ccontinuità di una civiltà: storia documentata di Venezia dalle origini alla pace del 1177 , Helvetia, 2008.
  • Margherita Tirelli: Altino. Frontiera lagunare bizantina , in: Gian Pietro Brogiolo (ed.): Città, castelli, campagne nei territori di frontiera (secoli VI-VII). 5. Seminario sul Tardoantico e l'Altomedioevo in Italia Centrosettentrionale, Monte Barro - Galbiate (Lecco), 9-10 giugno 1994 , Mantua 1995, pp 115-120.
  • Margherita Tirelli: Il porto di Altinum , in: Claudio Zaccaria (ed.): Strutture portuali e rotte marittime nell'Adriatico di età romana. Atti della XXIX Settimana di studi aquileiesi, 20-23 maggio 1998 , Collection de l'École française de Rome 280. Antichità Altoadriatiche 46 (2001) 295-316.
  • Margherita Tirelli: Altino antica. Dai Veneti a Venezia , Marsilio, Venice 2011.

Web links

Commons : Altinum  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The Original Venice: Pictures Show Roman Town Beneath Venetian Cornfields ( Memento July 10, 2012 in the web archive ), Heritage Key, August 1, 2009, accessed on November 23, 2015.
  2. Ancient Roman City Rises Again ( Memento from June 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) ( English )
  3. A Grand Canal already ran through ancient Venice . In: Der Spiegel . July 31, 2009 ( full text ).
  4. A. Marinetti: Since Altno- a Giove: la titolarità del santuario. I. La fase preromana , in: G. Cresci Marrone, M. Tirelli (eds.): Altnoi. Il santuario altinate: strutture del sacro a confronto ei luoghi di culto lungo la Via Annia [Atti del Convegno, Venezia, 2006] , Rome 2009, pp. 81–127.
  5. M. Tombolani: Altino , in: G. Cavalieri Manasse (Ed.): Il Veneto nell'età romana. Note di urbanistica e di archeologia del territorio, Verona 1987, pp. 311-344, here: p. 324.
  6. Cottica 2003, p.
  7. Jinyu Liu: Collegia Centonariorum. The Guilds of Textile Dealers in the Roman West , Brill 2009, p. 82.
  8. Jochen Werner Mayer: Imus ad villam: Studies on Villeggiatur in the urban Roman suburbium in the late republic and early imperial times , Franz Steiner Verlag, 2005, p. 75.
  9. Roberto Cessi: Venezia ducale , Vol. I, pp. 49-51.
  10. ^ Paulus Diaconus, Historia Langobardorum, IV, p. 45 (Ed.Black: 252).
  11. Hans-Jürgen Hübner: The Venice lagoon .
  12. Altnoi. Il santuario altinate. Strutture del sacro a confronto ei luoghi di culto lungo la via Annia. Atti del Convegno (Venezia, 4-6 December 2006) (Studi e ricerche sulla Gallia Cisalpina), Venice 2006.
  13. ^ Andrea Ninfo, Alessandro Fontana, Paolo Mozzi, Francesco Ferrarese: The Map of Altinum, Ancestor of Venice . In: Science . tape 325 , no. 5940 , July 31, 2009, p. 577 , doi : 10.1126 / science.1174206 ( full text ).
  14. ^ Lost Roman city photographed for the first time , The History Blog.

Coordinates: 45 ° 32 ′ 58 "  N , 12 ° 23 ′ 29"  E