Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ravenna in the rise and fall of the Roman Empire

Long before anyone had ever heard of Venezia, people in nearby Ravenna paddled around among houses built on small islands in a marshy lagoon.

Today the sea has withdrawn and the boats have been replaced by cars, scooters bicycles and designer shoes perfect for promenading along the prosperous shop-fronts in Ravenna’s central labyrinth of pedestrian streets. In between high-heels and handmade leather, you’ll see a pair of sensible sneakers they are almost inevitably linked to tourists determined to visit all of Ravenna’s eight World Heritage Sites in one go.

But before giving in the study of early Christian mosaics, I’d like to dwell on Ravenna’s role in the rise and decline of the Roman Empire. It was in Ravenna Julius Ceasar gathered his forces after having conquered Gaul and invaded Britain, and from this obscure place he crossed the Rubicon, marched on Rome and became the unrivalled leader of the Roman world. And it was to Ravenna one of the last Roman Emperors, Flavius Honorius, fled when the Western Empire started to crumble. The town offered shelter in the highly inaccessible swamps and marshes and support from the imperial forces of the Eastern Roman Empire. In this way Ravenna enjoyed a peaceful period where early Christian art could flourish and prolonged imperial history in the West for another 70 years.

A happy coincidence for the world’s mosaics heritage and a great example of how history repeats itself – or at least returns to its point of origin.

1 comment:

@Travelwriticus said...

When I visited Ravenna I was especially impressed by the Mausoleum of Theodoric. He played also a role in the end of the Roman Empire.


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