History of Rimini

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The origin of Rimini is very probably Greek. The ancient name of the city, 'Ariminum', is however Umbrian in derivation and Pausanias often mentions the great Umbrian king Arimno in his writings; ancient coins found in the city are evidence of the rule of this king. The area was later inhabited by the Celtic people the Senonian Gauls but in 268 BC the site was occupied by the Romans and a Latin colony was established on the borders of Umbria and Aemilium. The strategic and sea-based location of the city meant it grew in importance and was bestowed with facilities. The censor Flaminius opened the road named in his honour (the Via Flaminia), and later Marcus Aemilius Lepidus extended it to Piacenza following which it was renamed the Via Aemilia. The last consul, Popilius Lenate had a branch extended to Venice and the new section was named the Via Popilia.

In 50 BC, in Ariminum square, today known as Piazza Tre Martiri, Gaius Julius Caesar drew up his military forces after his famous crossing of the Rubicon for which he threw a dice. The rock he stood upon to address the troops can be seen in the Temple of St. Antony , another visitor to Rimini, who stopped in this area centuries later to preach to the local people. Emperor Augustus was also fond of Rimini and it was in his honour that the great triumpal arch known as Augustus' Arch was raised in 27 AD. Emperor Tiberius later terminated construction of the bridge over the river Marecchia that Augustus had begun and now known as Tiberius' Bridge. When the capital of the Italic empire was transferred to Byzantium, Rimini remained part of the western empire and was the setting for disputes between the Goths and the Byzantines until the Exarchate of Ravenna was formed in 567 when Rimini was part of the Pentapolis.

After Rimini, had been raided by Saracens led by the famous Sabba, the city suffered centuries of terror, devastation and bloody sieges by Lombards, Franks, Normans and Swabians who were either for or against the Papacy. It was only with the rise to power of the Malatesta family that the city was returned to its ancient splendour. The founder of the dynasty, whose nickname was Mala Testa, arrived in Rimini for the first time in 1216 and started the family more properly called by some the Malatesti who were to dominate the city for three centuries. Particularly famous members of the family were a lady, Battista Malatesta, who taught philosophy, and Domenico (called Novello) who founded the library in Cesena. The poet Dante recalled the manner in which 'Il Mastin Vecchio' (The Old Mastiff) directed the struggle of the Guelph troops of Romagna in their support of the Pope against the forces of the Ghibellines who supported the Holy Roman Emperor.

The tragic love story of Francesca, daughter of Guido of Ravenna, occurred in 1285. She was married against her will to Gianciotto Malatesta but fell in love with his brother Paolo, an elegant and gentle knight. When their love was discovered, the husband had both put to death. Dante remembered this story in the fifth canto of Inferno, and Boccaccio and Petrarch also dedicated verses to the episode. The Malatesta family were forced by the Church to renounce much of their land and were obliged to submit to its will to have them back though in a much reduced form. Sigismondo Malatesta was the energetic and valiant general and governor that the Church appointed as Captain-General. For the spirit of his rule from 1437-68 he was considered as the prototype of the enlightened Italian Renaissance prince. He was responsible for construction of the famous Castel Sigismondo, built in 1446 and used as a prison until the early 19th century. Sigismondo's most famous love was Isotta degli Atti to whom he dedicated the magnificent Malatesta Temple. He was accused of having had two wives killed in order to marry her. As a great patron of literature and the arts, his court welcomed the most famous men of learning of the period who were buried below the arches of the temple.

After the struggle against Duke Valentino that lost the Malatesta family their lands, in 1503 the Lords sold Rimini to the Venetians. The Venetians restored the city to the Papacy six years later but the Malatesta's were not pardoned by the Church for their betrayal. In 1543, Rimini passed definitively into the dominion of the Church where it remained except for a brief French domination during the Napoleonic wars when the Jacobin troops occupied Ravenna and made all of Romagna part of the Cisalpine Republic. Giaocchino Murat, king of Naples, came to Rimini on several occasions and, when his attempt to make Italy an independent kingdom failed, Rimini was returned to the lands of the Papacy. In 1815, when the kingdom of Rome was divided into a Comarchate (Rome and its surrounding lands), six Legations and thirteen Delegations, Rimini was part of a district in the fourth Legation. The leading administrator of the Comune had the title 'Gonfaloniere' and was assisted by a council of magistrates known as the 'Anziani'. Despite a background of rebellions, public protests and growing economic difficulties, the city was further adorned with public works and development for the benefit of the citizens. In 1824, a public wash-house was built around a huge, pre-existent tank in front of the Palazzo dell'Arengo and the Palazzo del Podestà in what is now Piazza Cavour. Furthermore, works dating back to the Romans and the Malatesta castle (then the prison) were restored. As in many other Italian states, Carbonari opposition to the status quo also arose in the Papal states with the result that the first trials and imprisonments took place that were to make the Italian Risorgimento famous. The revolutionaries of Rimini took the upper hand in March 1831 but their joy only lasted a short time: the immediate intervention of Austria on the basis of the Holy Alliance with the Papacy soon put an end to their dreams of renewal. The battle between the Austrians and the Riminesi led by Carlo Zucchi tested the valour and spirit of sacrifice of the few thousands of revolutionaries who surprised the enemy with their spirited resistance despite being lightly armed. Mazzini described this bitter and courageous clash when he wrote of the 'night of Rimini', 25 March 1831.

Other significant clashes took place in the city in 1844 when the sacrifice of the Fratelli Bandiera took place, to whom a street in the city centre is dedicated today. The following year the city rose up under the leadership of Pietro Renzi but the revolutionaries' control of the city only lasted 3 days as Swiss troops immediately responded and Renzi and other leaders were forced to take refuge beyond the territory's borders. After a relatively quiet decade, in March 1860 Rimini and the entire Romagnolo delegation voted to join the Kingdom of Italy under the goverment of Turin. Since that time, the political parties of all persuasions seen throughout Italy have also been part of the fabric of Rimini.

In the elections before the First World War, Rimini was run by administrations of varying factions until the sides split generally into those who supported intervention and those who preferred to remain neutral. Many men from the city were killed in the first and second world wars and this was disastrous for a city that, located near the eastern Maginot line, suffered particular damage from bombardments that reduced the city to ruins. Rimini came out of the latter conflict ready to rebuilt itself and become the modern capital of seaside entertainment.