Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Town of Luni

The site of the Ruins of Luni

Roman amphitheatre

«Se tu riguardi Luni e Orbisaglia
come sono ite, e come se ne vanno
di retro ad esse Chiusi e Sinigaglia,

udir come le schiatte si disfanno
non ti parrà nova cosa né forte,
poscia che le cittadi termine hanno.»

(Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia - Par.XVI-73,79)

"Consider Luni, Urbisaglia, how
they went to ruin (Sinigaglia follows,
and Chiusi, too, will soon have vanished); then,

if you should hear of families undone,
you will find nothing strange or difficult
in that-since even cities meet their end."

Founded by the Romans in 177 BC with the name Luna, it was a military stronghold for the campaigns against the Ligurians.

In the 5th century it was still notable, as it was chosen as the site of an episcopal see. Captured by the Goths in the following century, it was reconquered by the Byzantines in 552, who however lost it to the Lombards in 642. The latter damaged the city's economy, favouring the trades routes that passed through the nearby Lucca.

In 1015 it was conquered by the caliph Mujāhid al-‘Āmirī with his Sardinian ships: when Pisa and Genoa beat back his forces, Luni was left destroyed.

The spreading of malaria in the area and the silting up of the port contributed to the steep decline of Luni. In 1058 the whole population moved to Sarzana, while other refugees founded Ortonovo and Nicola.

In 1202 Innocent III transferred the see to Sarzana but the name of Luni within the title of the episcopal see remained. In 1355 Charles IV conferred on the bishops of Luni the title of prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Until the mid twentieth century, the title of the see was "Luni-Sarzana-Brugnato".

In 1306 Dante went to Sarzana, and succeeded in settling a dispute between Bishop Antonio Camulla and Dante`s patron, Marquess Malaspina. The poet's sojourn here inspired the "terzine" of the "Divine Comedy" quoted above.

Ruins are still visible of an amphitheatre, a semicircular theatre, a circus, and an aquarium. Numerous sixth century inscriptions, some of which are Christian, have been found at Luni. Excavations on the site have now proceeded and on site there is an Archaeological Museum. The old Via Aurelia is visible.

A record of its ancient importance survives in the name of Lunigiana.