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Ancient Ravenna A city of northern Italy and Augustus made it one of the two chief naval stations of the Roman Imperial Fleet on the Sea of Adria.

Ravenna. A town in Northern Italy, now Ravenna. An important place in Gallia Cisalpina, on the river Bedesis, and about a mile from the sea, though it is now about five miles in the interior, in consequence of the sea having receded all along this coast. Ravenna was situated in the midst of marshes, and was only accessible in one direction by land, probably by the road leading from Ariminum. It was said to have been founded by Thessalians (Pelasgians), and afterwards to have passed into the hands of the Umbrians, but it long remained an insignificant place, and its greatness does not begin till the time of the empire, when Augustus made it one of the two chief stations of the Roman fleet. Ravenna thus suddenly became one of the most important places in the north of Italy. When the Roman Empire was threatened by the barbarians, the emperors of the West took up their residence at Ravenna, which, on account of its situation and fortifications, was regarded as impregnable. After the downfall of the Western Empire, Theodoric also made it the capital of his kingdom; and after the overthrow of the Gothic dominion by Narses, it became the residence of the exarchs, or the governors of the Byzantine Empire in Italy, till the Lombards took the town, A.D. 752. Ravenna is remarkable for its possession of many fine specimens of early Christian art, which may be studied here to great advantage. See Finsler, Ravenna in d. röm. Kaiserzeit (Zürich, 1885). - Harry Thurston Peck. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.

Ravenna [ra'ven:a] is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The city is inland, but is connected to the Adriatic Sea by a canal. Ravenna was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until 476. It was later the capital of the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths and the Exarchate of Ravenna until 751. From that year until the invasion of Franks, it was the seat of the king of the Lombards and equalled to Pavia by Aistulf. It is presently the capital of the Province of Ravenna. At 652.89 km² (252.08 sq mi), Ravenna is the second-largest comune in land area in Italy, although it is only a little more than half the size of the largest, Rome. - Wikipedia

Ravenna, a city of the Lingones, in Gallia Cispadana, on Utis fl., near its mouth, bet. Padunum and Ariminum, on Via Flaminia. Founded by the Thessaiian Tyrrheni Pelasgi, and subsequently occupied by the Umbri, and again by the Tyrrheni Etrusci. It was built at first upon piles, among a number of small marshy islets, close to the shore ; but afterwards, by the encroachment of the land upon the sea, brought gradually three miles inland (the communication between the houses being by boats and bridges). It was so healthy, that the gladiators were trained there. A col. of Pompeius Strabo, and the chief naval station of Rome on the Adriatic. Under the eastern empire it was the seat of an exarchate. Ravenna. - Classical Gazetteer


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History of Ravenna. The origin of the name Ravenna is unclear, although it is believed the name is Etruscan[1]. Some have speculated that "ravenna" is related to "Rasenna" (later "Rasna"), the term that the Etruscans used for themselves, but there is no agreement on this point.

Ancient era. The origins of Ravenna are uncertain. The first settlement is variously attributed to (and then has seen the copresence of) the Thessalians, the Etruscans and the Umbrians, afterwards its territory was settled also by the Senones, especially the southern countryside of the city (that wasn't part of the lagoon), the Ager Decimanus. Ravenna consisted of houses built on piles on a series of small islands in a marshy lagoon - a situation similar to Venice several centuries later. The Romans ignored it during their conquest of the Po River Delta, but later accepted it into the Roman Republic as a federated town in 89 BC. In 49 BC, it was the location where Julius Caesar gathered his forces before crossing the Rubicon. Later, after his battle against Mark Antony in 31 BC, Emperor Augustus founded the military harbor of Classe.[2] This harbor, protected at first by its own walls, was an important station of the Roman Imperial Fleet. Nowadays the city is landlocked, but Ravenna remained an important seaport on the Adriatic until the early Middle Ages. During the German campaigns, Thusnelda, widow of Arminius, and Marbod, King of the Marcomanni, were confined at Ravenna.

Ravenna greatly prospered under Roman rule. Emperor Trajan built a 70 km long aqueduct at the beginning of the 2nd century. In 402, Emperor Honorius transferred the capital of the Western Roman Empire from Milan to Ravenna. The transfer was made primarily for defensive purposes: Ravenna was surrounded by swamps and marshes and had ease of access to Imperial forces of the Eastern Roman Empire. However, in 409, King Alaric I of the Visigoths simply bypassed Ravenna, and went on to sack Rome and to take Galla Placidia, daughter of Emperor Theodosius I, hostage. After many vicissitudes, Galla Placidia returned to Ravenna with her son, Emperor Valentinian III and the support of her nephew Theodosius II. Ravenna enjoyed a period of peace, during which time the Christian religion was favoured by the imperial court, and the city gained its most famous monuments, both secular (demolished) and Christian (largely preserved).

In 476, the Western Roman Empire fell. Eastern Emperor Zeno sent Ostrogoth King Theodoric the Great to re-take the Italian peninsula. After the Battle of Verona, Odoacer retreated to Ravenna, where he withstood a siege of three years by Theodoric, until the taking of Rimini deprived Ravenna of supplies. After Theodoric slew Odoacer, Ravenna was the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy.

Mosaic of the Palace of Theodoric.After 493, Theodoric employed Roman architects for secular and religious structures, including the lost palace near Sant'Apollinare Nuovo; the "Palace of Theodoric" was an outbuilding. Theodoric and his followers were Arians, but co-existed peacefully with the Latins. He allowed Roman citizens within his kingdom to be subject to Roman law and the Roman judicial system. The Goths, meanwhile, lived under their own laws and customs. In 519, when a mob had burned down the synagogues of Ravenna, Theodoric ordered the town to rebuild them at its own expense. Theodoric died in 526 and was succeeded by his daughter Amalasunta, who was killed in 535.

However, the orthodox Christian Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, opposed both Ostrogoth rule and the Arian variety of Christianity. In 535 his general Belisarius invaded Italy and in 540 conquered Ravenna. Ravenna became the seat of Byzantine government in Italy.

The Restauratio Imperii in Ravenna also benefited from the nearby harbour of Classe (Classis), which is sometimes called the Pompeii of Late Antiquity. The most representative remnant of that period is the church of St. Apollinaris (6th-7th century AD), whose relics were laid in the church. Although Classe was founded during the Roman period, it grew mainly during the Late Empire. As Ravenna's port, it was one of the key exchange platforms in the 6th-7th century AD, and the main harbour of the Italian Adriatic seashore. - Wikipedia

RAVENNA (?a??e??a, Strab.; ??ße??a, Ptol. et al.: Eth. Ravennas--atis: Ravenna), one of the most important cities of Gallia Cispadana, situated a short distance from the sea-coast, at the southern extremity of the extensive range of marshes and lagunes, which occupied the whole coast of Venetia from thence to Altinum. (Strab. v. p.213; Itin. Ant. p. 126.) It was 33 miles N. of Ariminum. Though included within the limits of Cisalpine Gaul, according to the divisions established in the days of Strabo and Pliny, it does not appear to have ever been a Gaulish city. Strabo tells us that it was a Thessalian colony, which probably meant that it was a Pelasgic settlement, and was connected with the traditions that ascribed to the Pelasgi the foundation of the neighbouring city of Spina. [SPINA.] But they subsequently, according to the same writer, received a body of Umbrian colonists, in order to maintain themselves against the growing power of the Etruscans, and thus became an Umbrian city, to which people they continued to belong till. they passed under the Roman government. (Strab. v. pp. 214, 217.) Pliny, on the other hand, calls it a Sabine city,--a strange statement, which we are wholly unable to explain. (Plin. Nat. 3.15. s. 20.) It seems probable that it was really an Umbrian settlement, and retained its national character, though, surrounded by the Lingonian Gauls, until it received a Roman colony. No mention of the name is found in history till a late period of the Roman Republic, but it appears to have been then already a place of some consequence. In B.C. 82, during the civil wars of Marius and Sulla, it was occupied by Metellus, the lieutenant of the latter, who made it the point of departure from whence he carried on his operations. (Appian, App. BC 1.89.) Again it was one of the places which was frequently visited by Caesar during his command in Gaul, for the purpose of raising levies, and communicating with his friends at Rome (Cic. Att. 7.1, ad Fam. 1.9, 8.1); and just before the outbreak of the Civil War it was there that he established his head-quarters; from whence he carried on negotiations with the senate, and from whence he ultimately set out on his march to Ariminum. (Id. ib. 2.32; Caes. B.C. 1.5; Suet. Jul. 30; Appian, App. BC 2.32.) Its name again figures repeatedly in the civil wars between Antony and Octavian, especially during the war of Perusia (Appian, App. BC 3.42, 97, 5.33, 50, &c.); and it is evident that it was already become one of the most important towns in this part of Cisalpine Gaul.

It is uncertain at what period Ravenna received a Roman colony. Strabo speaks of it as having in his time, as well as Ariminum, received a body of Roman colonists (v. p. 217); but the date is not mentioned, and it certainly did not, like Ariminum, pass into the condition of a regular Colonia, numerous inscriptions being extant which give it the title of a Municipium. It is probable that the settlement alluded to by Strabo took place under Augustus, and it is certain that it was to that emperor that Ravenna was indebted for the importance which it subsequently enjoyed during the whole period of the Roman Empire. The situation of the city was very peculiar. It was surrounded on all sides by marshes, or rather lagunes, analogous to those which now surround the city of Venice, and was built, like that city, actually in the water, so that its houses and edifices were wholly constructed on piles, and it was intersected in all directions by canals, which were crossed either by bridges or ferries. The lagunes had a direct communication with the sea, so that the canals were scoured every day by the flux and reflux of the tides,--a circumstance to which Strabo attributes, no doubt with justice, the healthiness of the city, which must otherwise have been uninhabitable from malaria. (Strab. v. p.213; Jornand. Get. 29; Sidon. Apoll. Epist. 1.5; Procop. B. G. 1.1; Claudian, de VI. Cons. Hon. 495.) The old city had a small port at the mouth of the river Bedesis, mentioned by Pliny as flowing under its walls (Plin. Nat. 3.15. s. 20).; but Augustus, having determined to make it the permanent station of his fleet in the Adriatic, constructed a new and spacious port, which is said to have been capable of containing 250 ships of war (Jornand. l.c.), and was furnished with a celebrated Pharos or lighthouse to mark its entrance. (Plin. xxxvi 12. s. 18.) This port was near 3 miles distant from the old city, with which it was connected by a long causeway: a considerable town rapidly grew up around it, which came to be known by the name of PORTUS CLASSIS or simply CLASSIS; while between the two, but nearer to the city, there arose another suburb, scarcely less extensive, which bore the name of Caesarea. (Jornand. l.c.; Sidon. Apoll. l.c.; Procop. B. G. 2.29; Geogr. Rav. 4.31.) In addition to these works Augustus constructed a canal, called from him the Fossa Augusta, by which a part of the waters of the Padus were carried in a deep artificial channel under the very walls of Ravenna and had their outlet at the port of Classis. (Plin. Nat. 3.16. s. 20; Jornand. l.c.)

From this time Ravenna continued to be the permanent station of the Roman fleet which was destined to guard the Adriatic or Upper Sea, as Misenum was of that on the Lower (Tac. Ann. 4.5, Hist. 2.100, 3.6, 40; Suet. Aug. 49; Veget. de R. Mil. 5.1; Not. Dign. ii. p. 118); and it rose rapidly into one of the most considerable cities of Italy. For the same reason it became an important military post, and was often selected by the emperors as their head-quarters, from which to watch or oppose the advance of their enemies into Italy. In A.D. 193 it was occupied by Severus in his march upon Rome against Didius Julian (Spartian, Did. Jul. 6; D. C. 73.17); and in 238 it was there that Pupienus was engaged in assembling an army to oppose the advance of Maximin when he received the news of the death of that emperor before Aquileia. (Herodian, 8.6, 7; Capit. Maximin. 24, 25, Max. et Balb. 11, 12.) Its strong and secluded position also caused it to be selected as a frequent place of confinement for prisoners of distinction, such as the son of the German chieftain Arminius, and Maroboduus, chief of the Suevi. (Tac. Ann. 1.58, 2.63; Suet. Tib. 20.) The same circumstances at a later period led to its selection by the feeble and timid Honorius as the place of his [2.694] residence: his example was followed by his successors; and from the year 404, when Honorius first established himself there, to the close of the Western Empire, Ravenna continued to be the permanent imperial residence and the place from whence all the laws and rescripts of the emperors were dated. (Jornand. Get. 29 ; Gibbon, 100.30.) Even before this period we are told that it was a very rich and populous city, as well as of great strength (Zosim. 2.10): it was the capital of Picenum (as that name was then used) and the residence of the Consularis or governor of that province. (Orell. Inscr. 3649; Backing, ad Not. Dign. ii. pp. 359, 443.) But the establishment of the imperial court there naturally added greatly to its prosperity and splendour, while its inaccessible situation preserved it from the calamities which at this period laid waste so many cities of Italy. Yet Ravenna as a place of residence must always have had great disadvantages. Sidonius Apollinaris, who visited it late in the fifth century, complains especially of the want of fresh water, as well as the muddiness of the canals, the swarms of gnats, and the croaking of frogs. (Sidon. Apoll. Ep. 1.5, 8.) Martial, at a much earlier period, also alludes to the scarcity of fresh water, which he jestingly asserts was so dear that a cistern was a more valuable property than a vineyard. (Martial, 3.56, 57.)

After the fall of the Western Empire Ravenna continued to be the capital of the Gothic kings. Odoacer, who had taken refuge there after repeated defeats by Theodoric, held out for near three years, but was at length compelled to surrender. (Jornand. Get. 57; Cassiod. Chron. p. 649.) Theodoric himself established his residence there, and his example was followed by his successors, until, in 539, Vitiges was after a long siege compelled by famine to surrender the city to Belisarius. (Procop. B. G. 2.28-29.) It now became the residence of the governors who ruled a part of Italy in the name of the Byzantine emperors, with the title of exarchs, whence the whole of this province came to be known as the Exarchate of Ravenna. The Byzantine governors were in a state of frequent hostility with the Lombard kings, and were gradually stripped of a large portion of their dominions; but Ravenna itself defied their arms for more than two centuries. It was besieged by Liutprand about 750, and its important suburb of Classis totally destroyed (P. Diac. 6.49); but it was not till the reign of his successor Astolphus that Ravenna itself fell into the hands of the Lombards. But the exact date, as well as the circumstances of its final conquest, are uncertain. (Gibbon, 100.49.)

The situation of Ravenna at the present day presents no resemblance to that described by ancient writers. Yet there is no doubt that the modern city occupies the same site with the ancient one, and that the change is wholly due to natural causes. The accumulation of alluvial deposits, brought down by the rivers and driven back by the waves and tides, has gradually filled up the lagunes that surrounded and canals that intersected the city; and the modern Ravenna stands in a flat and fertile plain, at a distance of 4 miles from the sea, from which it is separated by a broad sandy tract, covered in great part with a beautiful forest of stone pines. Though Ravenna is one of the most interesting places in Italy for its mediaeval and early Christian antiquities, it presents few remains of the Roman period, and those for the most part belong to the declining years of the Empire. A triumphal arch, known by the name of Porta Aurea, was destroyed in 1585: it stood near the modern gate called Porta Adriana. Several of the ancient basilicas date from the Roman period; as does also the sepulchral chapel containing the tomb of Galla Placidia, the sister of Honorius, and mother of Valentinian III. A portion of the palace of Theodoric still remains in its original state, and the mausoleum of that monarch, just without the walls, is a monument of remarkable character, though stripped of its external ornaments. An ancient basilica, still called S. Apollinare in Classe, about 3 miles from the southern gate of the city, preserves the memory and marks the site of the ancient port and suburb of Classis ; while another basilica, which subsisted down to the year 1553, bore the name of S. Lorezo in Cesarea: and thus indicated the site of that important suburb. It stood about a quarter of a mile from the south gate of the city, between the walls and the bridge now called Ponte Nuovo. This bridge crosses the united streams of the Ronco and Montone, two small rivers which previously held separate courses to the sea, but were united into one and confined within an artificial channel by Clement XII. in 1736. The Ronco, which is the southernmost of the two, is probably the same with the Bedesis of Pliny; indeed Cluverius says that it was in his time still called Bedeso. Hence the Montone must be identified with the VITIS of the same author. The Anemo, which he places next in order, is clearly the same now called the Amone or Lamone, which flows under the walls of Faenza. (Plin. Nat. 3.15. s. 20; Cluver. Ital. p. 300.)

The natural causes which have produced these changes in the situation and environs of Ravenna were undoubtedly in operation from an early period. Already in the fifth century the original port constructed by Augustus was completely filled up, and occupied by orchards. (Jornand. Get. 29.) But Ravenna at that period had still a much frequented port, where the fleets of Belisarius and Narses could ride at anchor. The port of Classis itself is now separated from the sea by a strip of sandy and marshy plain about 2 miles broad, the greater part of which is occupied by a forest of stone pines, which extends for many miles along the sea-coast both to the S. and N. of Ravenna. The existence of this remarkable strip of forest is attested as early as the fifth century, the name of Pineta being already found in Jornandes, who tells us that Theodoric encamped there when he besieged Odoacer in Ravenna. (Jornand. 57.) But it is probable that it has extended its boundaries and shifted its position as the land has gradually gained upon the sea.

The territory of Ravenna was always fertile, except the sandy strip adjoining the sea, and produced abundance of wine of good quality, but it was remarked that the vines quickly decayed. (Strab. v. p.214; Plin. Nat. 14.2. s. 4.) Its gardens also are noticed by Pliny as growing the finest asparagus, while the adjoining sea was noted for the excellence of its turbot. (Plin. Nat. 9.54. s. 79, 19.4. s. 19.)  - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) William Smith, LLD, Ed.


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