As in most cities in Europe, the population of Bologna exploded in the latter part of the 19th century (From 115.000 in 1871 to 153.000 in 1897). In the new political situation, Bologna gained importance for its cultural role and became an important commercial, industrial, and communications hub. At the beginning of the 20th century, the old walls were destroyed (except for a few remaining sections) in order to build new houses for the population. Bologna had gained a reputation for the production of many types of food, such as the famous sauce since the 18th century. During the nineteenth century, the city serviced an area where the economy was based essentially on agriculture. The eighth centenary celebrations of 1888 served also as an attempt to revive the city’s economy by linking it more directly to the University.

By 1890 the enlargement of via Rizzoli would lead to a great extent to the destruction of the ancient Mercato di Mezzo. In the same time the via dell’Indipendenza, via Farini and via Garibaldi were well underway. The expansion of the city beyond the walls radically changed the cityscape and moved public opinion and the civic authorities toward a future of an open city. After all the wars between Italian city-states were a thing of the past. The works lasted until 1920 but most of the ancient gates (ten out of twelve) were kept in place. The historic center and was also kept intact. Although the political situation entered a phase of turbulence with the rise of fascism and the economic crisis of the 1920’s with industrial, agricultural, and public service workers being engaged in more than two thousand strikes and countless political dem­onstrations.

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After 1924 any notion of constitutionalism was crushed by the fascists and Mussolini who would not have it easily despite their efforts. Several attempts of assassination against Mussolini were carried out in the first years of his rule. In October of 1926, a shot was fired at Mussolini as he rode in an open car through Bologna but the attempt was unsuccessful. A 15-year-old boy that was supposedly the culprit was lynched by an angry crowd of Mussolini supporters . Many historians today have come to the conclusion the boy was innocent and the affair was either a put-up job or plot between Fascists. The attempt resulted in laws creating Mussolini’s secret police.

Despite the political divisions, the growing labor militancy expressed through a constantly increasing number of strikes and demonstrations, despite the soaring inflation of the 1920’s, the industrial production in Bologna would register its first iconic brand in 1926 with the emergence of the Maserati automobile company, that based its logo (trident) in the famous Neptune fountain of Bologna.

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During the Second World War Bologna was a key transportation hub for the Germans but it was also a centre for the Italian Resistance characterized by the activity of the partisan groups. In July 1943, a massive aerial bombardment destroyed a significant part of the city centre. After the armistice of 1943, Bologna became the centre of the Italian resistance movement. Its capture by the Polish 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division on April 21, 1945 led to the liberation of the Po Valley and the collapse of German defenses in northern Italy. The bombings and battles between allies and Germans would result in the death of more than three thousand people from Bologna up to the end of the war. After World War II the city became a stronghold for the Italian Communist Party. After the conflict, many industries were severely damaged, such as rail and road networks, water, electricity, sewage and gas were severely damaged. Subsequent administrations undertook the massive task of restoring the city to its former splendor.

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One of the epithets that are most often heard in reference to Bologna is “the red”. This not only because of the omnipresent color on buildings, curtains and churches, but also because throughout the second post-war period the municipal administration was the flagship of the left. The name therefore took on a clear political connotation since the establishment of the first post-war government in 1946. The elected mayor, Giuseppe Dozza, became the protagonist of a revolutionary reconstruction project, based on transparency, self-management and the fight against centralism typical of the fascism.

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Between 1951 and 1953 the consensus for Dozza remained constant and the mayor was personally involved in all the phases of reconstruction especially in relations with the central state. On the cultural side, the initiatives put in motion by the local government were numerous, starting with full support for the University of Bologna which was on the way to becoming one of the most advanced universities in Europe. After the victory over Dossetti in 1956, a “second season” of the Dozza government began. In the following ten years of administration, thanks also to the favorable economic situation of the 1960s, the ring road, the popular districts and the large infrastructure projects Bologna became a great modern city.

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Bologna is today a rich and important industrial and commercial nucleus. The 380,000 inhabitants live at the most important motorway and railway junction in the country; the historical centre (which, after Venice, has remained the most intact of all the Italian cities) is surrounded by modern buildings, centres for trade fairs and conferences and new residential areas. The city and its residents carry their historic heritage with pride and confidence, striving for a progress that does not sacrifice any of the features that make it distinct, timeless, a testimony of architectonic and historic continuum. Bologna is the capital and the largest city of  the Emilia-Romagna of Italy. It is a vibrant, youthful urban center, oozing with culture and Italian vibrato.

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Since the end of the 13th century the disputes between Guelf Bologna and the neighboring Ghibelline city of Modena were continuous. With the support of the Popes, Bolognese troops encroached on the Modenese lands, sheltered exiled Modenese Guelphs, and laid waste to the bordering country. In November 1325 headed by their podestà and aided by allies from Florence and Romagna, the Bolognese besieged the fortress of Monteveglio. Although the Bolognese army clearly outnumbered the Modenese, the outcome of the battle was a triumph for the latter who advanced to the very walls of Bologna and destroyed several castles in the wider region. The lesson was learned and in 1327 the third belt of the stone wall of Bologna known as the Circla started to encircle the city so that all the new suburbs would be protected. After the rule of Taddeo Pepoli (1337-1347), Bologna fell to the Visconti of Milan. At about that time (1348) the epidemic of the Black death visited Bologna as it did Italy and the rest of Europe. One-third of the overall population succumbs to the disease. Despite the shocking depopulation the ax continues to fall on the necks of those who refuse to follow the dictates of the rulers from Milan. Dozens of drawbridges are built and attached to the different gates along the city walls. The control of the city constantly changes hands between Milan and Rome. The university continues to grow with the establishment of the Collegio di Spagna (1364) catering for the needs of an increasing number of Spaniards.

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The series of internal wars and civil strife, and the progressive subjection of the city to the temporal power of the popes is what defines the political situation in 14th century Bologna.  These struggles see the Bentivoglio family as the winner, who will dominate the political life of the city for the whole of the fifteenth century. But life in the city was not all about politics. In terms of architecture this century was probably more decisive for the character of the urban environment than any other period. A legislation that was first introduced in 1288, obliged all buildings inside the city to add a portico in what was in essence private land, but for public use.  In the following centuries an attempt was made to prohibit the use of wood, to avoid offering flammable material in case of fire. In addition, in the historic center the medieval building has been almost completely replaced, while keeping the structure unchanged. If the thirteenth century was the century of the most important urban arrangements, of the great projects with which it was thought to plan the development of future centuries, the fourteenth century, and even more so the fifteenth century, were the centuries in which they began to give architectural form to those plans. Bologna still retains, within the third circle, more than 37 km of arcades.

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The city became a large construction site with the building of S. Maria dei Servi (1383) and the minor basilica of S. Petronio (1390), closing the side of the Piazza Maggiore facing the Palazzo del Podestà. The construction sites of the large public buildings were also opened: the Palazzo del Comune was transformed into a fortress at the time of the papal government, which could no longer count on the consent of citizens to govern; the Loggia della Mercanzia was built by the architect of S.Petronio, Antonio di Vincenzo. The noble palace of Taddeo Pepoli in via Castiglione and of the Collegio di Spagna for Spanish students, were finished.

In the sixteenth century after the exile of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, the last lord of Bologna, a long phase of political stasis began for Bologna in which the Church remained the undisputed master of the city for three centuries. The University strengthened its fame thanks to the presence of distinguished professors of law, medicine, philosophy, mathematics and natural sciences. In 1563 the  was built as the only seat of university teaching. Three years later the monumental civic Fountain of Neptune is placed in Piazza Nettuno, next to Piazza Maggiore, in honor of Pope Pius IV. Bologna also becomes a center of the Italian and European textile industry. Equipped with a hydraulic energy supply system that was among the most advanced in the world, from the fifteenth century Bologna specialized in silk mills: the “Bolognese” silk mills represented the highest expression of European technology up to the eighteenth century.

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At the end of the 16th century a new wave of the plague reduced the population of the city-state from 72,000 to 59,000, and another one in 1630 to 47,000. The population later recovered to a stable 60,000–65,000. The long period of Papal rule resulted in the construction of many churches and other religious establishments, and the restoration of older ones. Bologna had ninety-six convents, more than most other Italian city. Artists working in this age in Bologna established the Bolognese School that includes the Carracci family, Domenichino, Giovanni Lanfranco, and others that reached European fame. The art of music also experienced a heyday with the foundation of Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna in 1666. New theatres like Teatro Malvezzi built in 1651 add even more value to the cultural scene of Bologna.

With the rise of Napoleon, Bologna became the capital of the French Cispadane Republic. After Milan, Bologna became the second most important center of the Repubblica Cisalpina. After the fall of Napoleon, Bologna was once again under the sovereignty of the Papal States. The people however had had enough of the church. In 1831 and again 1849 the Bolognese rebelled and temporarily expelled the Austrian garrisons which controlled the city until 1860. After a visit by Pope Pius IX in 1857, the city voted for annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia on June 12, 1859, the precursor state of unified Italy.

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The resonance of the Studium of law was such that, already in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Bolognese university system was divided into two separate universitas : The Citramontani , made up of the four nations of Lombards, Tuscans, Romans and Campanians; the other of the Ultramontani, which grouped together thirteen European nations. In the struggles between the empire and the popes, the city finally took the part of the latter.  Being on the side of the pope enabled Bologna to assert its autonomy, something that was officially accepted by Emperor Henry V in 1122, a year of reconciliation between the two institutions. Bologna was at the time governed by city consuls. When Frederick I (Barbarossa) became Emperor in 1155 things changed. The city consuls were sidelined and the ones who governed Bologna were the podestas, who were for mostly foreigners who did not feel they had to answer to citizens. The ambitious young emperor wanted to restore the powers of the Holy Roman Empire to what the world had known at the time of Charlemagne. These ambitions would bring him at odds with the municipalities of Northern Italy who were not happy with the extensive powers of the Imperial magistrates. Bologna was among the first (1167) to join the Lombard League  a military alliance of defense against the Emperor. From the accession of Frederick II, Bologna was split into the two factions of Guelphs and Ghibellines, the former being in the majority. In 1184 the cathedral of the city (on the present Via Indipendenza) that had been destroyed in a devastating fire in 1141, is reconstructed and consecrated by Pope Lucius III. In year 1200 the Palazzo del Podestà is erected on the Piazza Maggiore, facing the Basilica of San Petronio.

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On 26 May, 1249, the citizens of Bologna , along with the rest of the Guelph army of the Lombard League would crush the troops of Frederick II in the Battle of Fossalto. The Imperial army of German and Lombard Ghibelline soldiers under the leadership of King Enzo (Ezzelino) although double in size was not even able to protect the king. Enzo was taken prisoner in Bologna where he was paraded in front of a raving crowd in his full armour and decorated helmet, chained on a horse. Neither the threats nor the promises of Frederick II availed to secure his liberty. He remained in captivity his whole life in the Bolognese palace thenceforth named after him, the Palazzo Re Enzo.

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The two schools, that of Roman Law and that of Canon Law, united as one institution the university (or Studio) of Bologna, secured an unwavering attention of the two universal powers of the era, the Empire and the Papacy. The city gradually became the legal mediator of their difficult balance. On the other hand, the Municipality could not afford to arouse discontent among its students, who by coming from all over Italy and Europe, attracted even more artisans and merchants to the city, who flocked to meet their daily needs. This of course led to the direct and indirect enrichment of the entire local economy.  The city was well aware of the international prestige it was obtaining precisely by virtue of its Studio, for which already in 1118 it had been given the title of “The learned one” which a century later it would evolve into “The fat one”.  By the beginning of the 13th century Bologna had grown much more than expected and continued to expand beyond the old wall. The new suburbs could not remain unprotected so in 1206 the new wider circle of walls started with the digging of a new pit but it would last decades until the year 1300. The third and last wall was of course the largest (7.6 km long) was protected by a moat on the outside. Out of the twelve gates, nine remain to this day. A major earthquake struck Bologna on Christmas Day, 1222, causing the collapse of the cathedral ceiling while another severe earthquake occurred on 21 April 1223, centered at Cremona; and a third centered in Bologna in 1229.

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The constitution of the Municipality marked the beginning of a period of great flourishing for the city, which thanks to the university and the freedoms enjoyed by the Municipality reached its heyday in the 13th century. In 1255 the Captain of the People was first introduced. Just as the mayor oversaw the society of the nobles, so the captain of the people oversees the society of the people. A year later Bologna becomes the first European city to abolish serfdom, in 1256. At the time the city became one of the ten most populous centers in Europe, with an urban development equal to that of Paris. The dominant power in the region of Romagna which included several other important urban centers like Modena, Parma and Ferrara, the city becomes a Guelph power-center, receiving many exiles from the cities where the supporters of the Emperor seize power, while sending in the same time many Bolognese to serve as podestas in cities like Ravenna and Imola. Bologna’s economic wealth was increasingly linked to the textile industry (the art of wool). Equipped with one of the most advanced hydraulic energy supply systems in the world, in the following centuries the city specialized in the manufacture of silk: the ‘Bolognese’ silk mills were one of the most advanced discoveries of European technology up to the seventeenth century. The second half of the 13th century saw a rise of two new basilicas that belonged to the new monastic orders that had taken root in the city in the start of the century, the Dominicans and the Franciscans. The Basilica of San Domenico was consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1251. In 1267 the remains of Saint Dominic were placed into the new shrine, decorated by Nicola Pisano. Work would continue on this shrine for almost five centuries. The Basilica of San Francesco was completed in 1263 less than fifty years after the visit of founder of the order himself (St. Francis of Assisi), who had visited the city in 1222 to preach to the people of the city sparking a great interest in the Order he had founded.

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In 1276, in order to secure a greater communal liberty, the citizens of Bologna placed themselves under the protection of the Holy See and Pope Nicholas III sent his nephew, Berotoldo Orsini to serve as his delegate with the task of reconciling the opposing factions. In the years that followed, the powers of the Italian municipalities waned and the republican forms of government degenerated in almost all the city-states which shifted to noble lordships and oligarchy.  In the fourteenth century the preponderance of power was in the hands of the Pepoli family but in 1350 Giovanni and Giacomo Pepoli sold the city to the Archbishop of Milan Matteo Visconti. After ten years however Bologna returned to the papal dominion with the Bentivoglio family holding the reins of power. From the 14th century, alongside the schools of jurists, those of the ‘liberal arts’ also flourished: medicine, philosophy, arithmetic, astronomy, logic, rhetoric and grammar. In Bologna studied, among others the Bolognese poet Guido Guinizzelli, Dante Alighieri who admired Guinizzelli and his compositions, Petrarch and Coluccio Salutati. Its fame attracted numerous and illustrious personalities over the centuries: from the scholar Pico della Mirandola to the humanist and architect Leon Battista Alberti, from Copernicus to the physician and natural scientist Paracelsus.

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In 914 the bishop of Bologna Giovanni is elected pope with the name of Giovanni X, a cleric who had made his career based on his close relationship with Theodora a powerful and influential senatrix of Rome. In general John X was considered a good pope who re-approached the Byzantine Church ending the schism between the two churches, who stood against the aristocratic hold of the papacy and promoted a unified Italy under an imperial ruler but ended up being murdered for his efforts. In the year 922 we have the first documentation of a count in Bologna. From what we know, the countryside escaped the control of the Bolognese count. In 962 Emperor Otto I renews the promises made by Pepin and Charlemagne to the pope. Count Bonifacio, is referred to as the count of Bologna, owner of lands in Modena, Ferrara and Bologna. Five years later Otto came through on his promise and Bologna was returned to the Pope but in essence the emperor was still the one who acted as the ruler of the whole region. In 969 Otto I confirms and strengthens the privileges of the Bolognese canons. In June of that same year in the presence of Otto I  the dispute for the borders between Bologna and Modena for the respective dioceses is resolved. On the threshold of the year 1000, Bologna was in reality just a small village with a few thousand inhabitants and little contact with the outside world.

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What led into Bologna’s resurrection and excellence over other cities, transforming it in a short time into a real medieval metropolis, was its University, which was officially founded around 1088. Compared to the universities founded later, on the initiative of some far-sighted rulers or by the will of some sovereign, the Bolognese one arose spontaneously due to the initiative of some students, gathered in primitive forms of association, which dictated the purposes of the teaching and controlled its correct implementation. The teachers, for their part, paid directly by the pupils, often welcomed the latter into their homes, establishing almost family relationships with them.  Irnerius is erroneously remembered by most as the founder of the Alma Mater Studiorum. The illustrious Bolognese magister , like many others, had already accumulated great experience in the secular teaching of the Liberal Arts (Grammar, Rhetoric and Dialectic) and along with his colleagues he was among the first to study and disseminate the Corpus Juris Civilis, a Roman legal text on which the teaching of the Bolognese legal system was based, as was later the entire legal system of modern Europe. They were complex and revolutionary years, during which the static feudal worlds were shaken by the staggering birth of the Communes and their new social classes and by the increasingly precarious relations between the Empire and the Papacy. There was therefore a need to find legal solutions to order and manage this difficult rebirth and Bologna and its school, now famous, were consulted to write the future destiny of Europe. The first university of Europe did not have a permanent location until the mid 16th century and the construction of the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio where the Schools of the Legisti (Canon and Civil law) and Artisti (philosophy, medicine, mathematics, natural sciences and physics) finally came under one roof.

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11th century saw the rise of the Maritime republics of Venice, Genoa and Pisa which competed with the Byzantines for their share in the naval trade with the East, gaining more power and wealth by the day. In the same time the factional struggles that divided most Italian cities of the time also separated the Bolognese into pro-imperial and pro-papal favored the construction of noble towers in the heart of the city , which gave Bologna the characteristic face of a turreted city. The towers, which can be counted in about eighty towards the middle of the thirteenth century, today have remained about twenty. The Torre Asinelli (tower) built in 1109 and the Torre Garisenda built in 1110 are two of the first and prime examples that stand to this day as symbols of the city.

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Less than thirty years after the Lombard conquest the first king of the Carolingian dynasty of the Franks known as Pepin the Short became entangled in Italian matters. Pepin had become king with the support of the last Byzantine Pope Zachary in 751 and had decided to extend his influence and gain a foothold in Italy by helping his successor Stephen II against the Lombards in Italy. Pope Stephen II travelled to Paris to anoint the Frankish king in an impressive ceremony that became the first recorded crowning of a civil ruler by a pope in history and in return Pepin the Short forced the Lombards to return the former Byzantine lands to the Pope of Rome. The Papal state was thus officially born as an autonomous from the Roman Empire (now based in Constantinople) entity. Bologna would now be considered a part of the Papal lands.

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Between 773 and 774 the successor of Pepin the Short on the throne of Frankia, Charlemagne, came down to Italy following the request for help of Pope Adrian I against the last Lombard King Desiderio. The Lombards had not followed on their promise to return the lands to the Papal Church, Charlemagne and conquered the capital of the Lombard kingdom (Pavia). From then on Charlemagne would call himself “King of the Franks and the Lombards by the Grace of God”, creating a personal union of the two kingdoms. The sovereign kept the Lombard legal system but reorganized the kingdom on the Frankish model. In the same time the Lombard controlled territories that were south of the Papal States continued as an independent Duchy (Duchy of Benevento), Calabria remained under the Byzantine sphere while Naples started to brake off and become increasingly autonomous. Sicily fell to the Arabs.

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In 844 an army with Ludovico II, son of Lothair I comes to Italy sowing death. The Bolognese take refuge in the sacred Etrurian mountains of the Montovolo. The young Ludovico II marched on Rome to depose Sergius II and his army plunders Bologna, treating it as an enemy city. Sergius II had been consecrated in a hurry, without waiting for the consent of Emperor Lothair I who sent his son at the head of an army, to punish the violation of the Roman Constitutio of 824. The new pope acted with common sense and all was finally resolved in a peaceful manner. In June 845 Sergio anointed and crowned Ludovico Regnum Italicum in Rome. At the beginning of the 10th century Bologna was laid waste once more during the incursions of the Hungarians.  It quickly bounced back demographically and economically expansion between the 10th and 11th centuries initially something that led to the opening of two new doors in the walls and then, in the second half of the 12th century, to the construction of a new defensive line of walls.

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After Constantine the Great Christianity became the norm, the power center of the Empire moved east to Constantinople and the Germanic tribes started pushing more and more into the Western Empire’s territories. The decline of the West echoed in every city of Italy until the Western Empire fell to the Goths. Most cities on the Via Emilia were under the rule of the Ostrogothic Kingdom after 488 with the consent of the Byzantine Emperor. Bologna’s perimeter was gradually reduced and religion took the role of the connecting tissue, a primitive social service of a tumultuous time. One such role was  filled to a great extent by the Bishop of the city Petronius. A member of a noble family whose members occupied high positions at the imperial Court at Milan and in the provincial administrations at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries was elected and consecrated Bishop in 432. He erected the Church to Saint Stephen (Santo Stefano) over a temple of the goddess Isis, in imitation of the shrines on Golgotha, the Church of Santa Lucia and Santi Bartolomeo e Gaetano. When his relics were discovered in 1141 another church was erected in his honour, a second San Petronio Basilica at Piazza Maggiore. Saint Petronius is venerated in all Christianity and is still the patron saint of Bologna.

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After the mid 6th century, Constantinople changed its stance. Emperor Justinian I was determined to take back the control of Italy and reunite the Empire. A long and bloody war against the Ostrogoths with General Narses and General Belisarius at the forefront turned Ravenna, capital of the Goths until the year 540 into the capital of the Byzantine Exarchate. The return of the roman rule would have to be imposed with the sword in many areas but in 568 Emperor Giustino II recalled his general back to Constantinople due to protests by the Romans over fiscal oppression. In that same year the Lombards invaded the Italian north.   Around that time a series of stone crosses were placed on ancient overturned columns and were often protected by small chapels, located in the nerve centers of the urban fabric, such as crossroads and squares. The oldest seem to have been placed between the end of the 4th and 5th centuries just outside the selenite circle, at the four cardinal points, near four of the city gates. The stone crosses were rebuilt and replaced several times, and those now visible are all dated between the 12th and 13th centuries. The Byzantines also divided the city into 12 sectors, called horae and at any time of day and night the inhabitants of the sector on duty were entrusted with the defense of the city which was now protected with an encircling wall known as the Circle of Selenite by the blocks of selenite, a chalky mineral very common on the Bolognese hills.

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In 726 the Lombard King Liutprando decided to take advantage of the general discontent caused by the iconoclastic policy of the Byzantine emperor Leo III and the dispute between the Church of Ravenna and Rome. The tax burden imposed by the Byzantines on the Exarchate of Italy was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Revolts broke out against the Byzantine Empire in several cities. Liutprand seized his chance, crossed the Po river and invaded the Exarchate, occupying Bologna. Most of the Byzantine territories fell to the Lombards by 732 when the Eastern Empire tried to reconquer Bologna but was crushed by the Lombard army. The Lombards who were now Christians made a pact with the Pope and the Byzantines kept Sicily. During the Lombard time the city declined to the point of being a simple castle that maintained however its important military and administrative role. Minor disputes between the dioceses of Bologna and Modena were administered by the Lombard king himself. The Lombard presence is evidenced in particular in the addizione longobarda, a group of fortified buildings built close to the Circle of Selenite (first city wall) between the current Strada Maggiore and Via Castiglione. These buildings practically included the first nucleus of the Santo Stefano complex where many of them were buried. Today the evidence can be seen in the circular type of the roads due to the defensive installations of the Lombards. The Bolognese area that was mostly Lombardized appears to be the eastern one while the western part falls into a state of complete neglect.

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During the 4th century BC, a big group of the Celtic tribe known as Boii, crossed the Alps came in the Po Valley and gradually became integrated with the Etruscan population. Archeological evidence from the settlement of Felsina attest to a more or less peaceful interrelation with many tombs containing both Celtic and Etruscan artefacts. According to ancient Greek historians like Polybius, the Celts drove out the Etruscans but this cannot be confirmed by the excavations. The name of the city did however change into the Celtic Bona (translated into “construction”) but the battles that followed found both Celts and Etruscans fighting side by side against their common enemy, the Romans (see Samnite Wars).  By the end of the Samnite Wars (290 BC) the Romans had laid the foundations of their military prevalence in Italy. Around 283 BC fearing for their expulsion from their own land the Boii, implored the aid of the Etruscans and marched out in full force to meet the Romans. The united armies “gave battle near Lake Vadimon, and in this battle most of the Etruscans were cut to pieces while only quite a few of the Boii escaped.” (Polybius) 

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Many more wars would follow in order for Rome to impose its hegemony in the whole of the Italian peninsula but by the time of the establishment of Roman colony in Bologna in 189 BC, Rome had already managed to come out victorious after the Second Punic War against its greatest rival Carthage, making it the dominant power in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Via Aemilia, constructed by the Romans in 187 BC connected the Roman Colonia of Bononia with the other towns of the Po Valley. At the two extremes of the city, to the east and to the west, two main axes branched off that led to the major centers of the region and to trans-Padane and trans-Apennine destinations. These connections increased the value of Bononia as an important crossroads and the population quickly skyrocketed to more than twenty thousand. A city with paved roads, aqueducts, public buildings, a large theatre and thermae. At the time of Emperor Augustus, Bononia was rebuilt and embellished, and at the time of Emperor Nero major building works were funded necessary after a massive fire in 53 AD.

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Christianity was officially established in Bononia in the third century when the first Christian diocese is recorded. As in most cities the new religion had spread way before the diocese was established although in the first and second century AD, Christianity was mostly prevalent in the regions where Greek, Jewish or Syrian populations were also present, mostly in the south and central Italy. In 304 AD the city witnessed the execution of its first martyrs Saints Vitalis and Agricola. Agricola was a Christian citizen of Bologna who had converted his slave, Vitalis, to Christianity. The latter was first to suffer martyrdom, in the amphitheatre of the city with Agricola being tortured after him but refusing to give up his religion. The two martyrs are still venerated as saints by the whole of Christianity. The Church dei Santi Vitale e Agricola in Arena is believed to have been built sometime before the year 393, over the remains of the amphitheatre where their death took place.

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The wider region of modern day Bologna has traces of human presence that go back to the Bronze Age (3300 BCE to 1200 BCE) but it is in the Early Iron Age, around the 10th-9th century BC when the first important remains of a permanent settlement was discovered at Villanova di Castenaso, 9 km east of Bologna. The people of the so-callled Villanovan culture introduced iron-working in the Italian peninsula and were later influenced by the Greek civilization through the traders who settled in the South of Italy and the northerners through the trade route of the Amber Road. Villanovans cremated their dead, buried their ashes in cone-shaped pottery urns and lived in wooden huts. Many of their various artifacts have been discovered on the burial sites which revealed the existence of this civilization.

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Villanovan culture would evolve into the Etruscan civilization, the dominant cultural counterweight of the Greeks to the South that was in essence formed through its close interaction with Eastern Classical World, also known as the Orientalizing period. In the sixth century BC, the Etruscans founded a city that quickly became one of the most important cities of the Po valley area and was known as Velzna (Felsina in Latin). With the predominance of the Etruscans, the city of Felsina acquired the status of a real capital of the Po Valley. It tightened commercial traffic and artistic and cultural relations with the most important Etruscan cities: Rome, Chiusi and Volterra.

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