History of Padua

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The city of Padova

Legend has it that Antenore, friend of Enea, was the founder of Patavium in the 10th century BC, it was a marshy village full of humble farmers. Soon the patavini became sailors and merchants with the Laguna Veneta (Venice lagoon), with the Greeks and the Etruscans the patavini began to prosper. They made use of the Medoacus river (today known as Brenta) and the enormous oaks nearby were made into boats, some can be seen in the archaelogical section of the Museo Civico Eremitani.

In 302 BC, Padova officially entered into history: Titus Livius gave notice of the victory over the armies of the Spartan king Cleonymus, who were advancing across the fertile province making raids on the harvests and on the flocks. A century later after the 'Great Gallic War', there were direct, friendly links with the Romans, culminating in 43 BC with the recognition of the Veneti as 'civies' ie Roman citizens and the transformation of Patavium into a municipium (Roman town). This was the beginning of a period of marvellous prosperity for the city, destined to continue late into the period of the Roman Empire, thanks to its good geographical positioning and excellent roads.

Just like the nearby towns of Aquileia and Verona, Patavium was the home of the bishopric of Venezia euganea, it was the place of trials and martyrdoms of the early Christians, and amongst these was Saint Giustina in 304 AD. In 569, the Longobards and king Agilulfusin invaded the Roman city (up until then Patavium was protected by the Byzantines) and the patavins surrendered in 602 after a long siege. Historians recount that the 'humble' fled to the countryside and returned to live amongst the 'mura' (walls), while the 'betters' (wealthy) in the population moved to Laguna.

The crisis lasted until the middle of the 10th century, Charlemagne demolished the Longobards, and the Hungarians invaded the city. The 'civitas regia', Patavium became an urban 'commune' under the protection of the Vescovi, and run by representatives from the Holy Roman Empire, until the liberation of Italy under the 'Lega di Pontida'. It was destroyed by fire in 1174, and was entirely reconstructed: not only the walls and the Justice administration, with the Palazzo della Ragione, but also culture, with the birth of one of the oldest universities in the world, which began in 1221.

During this time, the Commune were ruled by the tyrannical Ezzelino da Romano from 1237 to 1256, whose rule came to an end without blood shed (thanks to Pope Alexander IV in June 1256), during the festivities for Saint Antonio, who died in Padova in 1231 and who became known as the 'patron and defender of the city', the Basilica stands as a testimony to this fact, created as a remembrance offering by the people of Padova. There followed 60 years of prosperity, the area spread further outwards, culture became more important, due to the poets, scientists, philosophers and artists.

Between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the city witness to the 'dance' between the noble families and the emperors: the Scaligeri and the Carraresi family in particular sought to take hold of the city. There was a long political decline during this time, and the city was subject to Venice, whose rule began in 1405 and lasted for 300 years. In the 16th century the city was surrounded by a new bastioned city wall, which defined the citys shape. All that remained of the 'Padovani' was there culture and art, documented by grand works from illustrious names such as Mantegna, Titian, Falconetto and Donatello. Galileo taught at Bo', and the first Anatomical theatre and Botanical Gardens in Europe were inaugurated here first.

The city was liberated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797, and in 1813 was under the rule of Austria, something that was greatly contested by the student world, culminating in a student revolt on February 8, 1848 which transformed the University and the Caffè Pedrocchi into real battlefields, in which students and the common man fought side by side. Padova was set free on July 11, 1866.

The last major historical events of the cittĂ  del Santo saw Padova as a protagonist in the epilogue of the First World War. In the zone of Abano Terme, the Supreme Commander prepared for revenge after Caporetto and the Armistice was signed in Villa Giusti della Mandria at the gates of the city.