Pisa, Italy

The origins of Pisa are poorly understood. The city was located at the confluence of the Arno and Auser (now disappeared). It was suggested that the city was founded by the Pelasgians, the Greeks, the Etruscans and the Ligurians. However, archaeological remains, dating from the fifth century BC. BC attest to the presence of a city along the Ligurian Sea, which traded with the Greeks and Gauls. An Etruscan necropolis was discovered during excavations in the Arena Garibaldi in 1991.

The authors of ancient Rome also speak of Pisa as an old city. Servius wrote that the city was founded in the thirteenth century BC. BC, by Pelops, King of Pisa. Strabo attributed the foundation of Pisa hero Nestor, king of Pylos, after the fall of Troy. As for Virgil in his Aeneid, he writes that Pisa was already, at the time, an important center.

The maritime role of Pisa should have been considerable, since the authorities of antiquity attributed to the invention of Pisa rostrum. The city should benefit from not wearing on the Ligurian coast between Genoa, then a village, and Ostia, the port of Rome. Pisa served as a naval base, where fleets had to fight the Ligurians, Gauls and Carthaginians went.

In 180 BC. AD Pisa is given the status of a colony of Roman law known as Portus Pisanus. In 89 BC. BC, it is given the status of municipality. Emperor Augustus fortified the colony and made ​​it an important port, under the name of Colonia Iulia Obsequens. From 313, the presence of a bishop in Pisa is attested.


During the last centuries of the Roman Empire, Pisa certainly not know the decline of other cities in Italy, thanks to its position along the river and its defensive capabilities. In the seventh century, Pisa with Pope Gregory I by providing numerous vessels in its fight against the Byzantines of Ravenna. Pisa is the only center of Byzantine Ravenna to go without fighting in Lombard lap, by assimilation with the surrounding area where the Pisans are worn by their commercial interests. Pisa begins its ascent to the place of the first port in the north of the Tyrrhenian Sea, focusing on trade between Tuscany and Corsica, Sardinia and the coast of Spain and the south of France.

Following the victory of Charlemagne on the Lombards, under the command of Didier in 774, Pisa enters a short crisis. It becomes, in political terms, a part of the Duchy of Lucca. In 930 Pisa became the county center (which it remained until the arrival of Otto I, in the course of Tuscia. If Lucca is the capital city of Pisa is the largest city, as testify in the middle of the tenth century, Liutprand of Cremona, bishop of Cremona, called Pisa which Tusciae provinciae caput (capital of the province of Tuscia). Moreover, a century later, called the marquis of Tuscia, “Marquis Pisa. ”

From a naval point of view, the pressure exerted by the Saracen pirates from the ninth century forces the city to build a large fleet, which will be used to expand the city. In 808, the Pisans attacked the North African coast. In 871, they participate in the defense of Salerno against the Saracens. In 970, they are supporting Otto I to defeat the Byzantine fleet in front of the coast of Calabria.


The maritime power of Pisa grows and reaches its peak in the eleventh century, a period which time the reputation of being one of the four Italian maritime republics. At the same time, Pisa is an important commercial center and controlled a large part of the merchant marine and war in the Mediterranean. This allows it to expand and plunder in 1005 Reggio Calabria. She also continually struggle against Saracen pirates, who have their bases in Corsica and Sardinia. In 1017, with the help of Genoa, the city capture Sardinia, giving him control of the Tyrrhenian Sea, especially as the Pisans quickly chase the Genoese from Sardinia (which would give rise to the rivalry between the two republics). Between 1030 and 1035, Pisa defeated successively many Sicilian cities and conquered Carthage (and Mahdia in 1088). In 1051-1052 the admiral Jacopo Ciurini invaded Corsica, highlighting the rivalry with Genoa. In 1063 took place the bag of Palermo, under the leadership of Admiral Giovanni Orlando and the Norman king of Sicily, Roger I.. This is the looting of the Saracen town that allows the start of the construction of the cathedral and other monuments of the famous Field of Miracles (Campo dei Miracoli) which later became the Piazza del Duomo.

In 1060, Genoa and Pisa beats consolidates its supremacy in the Mediterranean.


This expansion in the Mediterranean allows Pisa radiate diplomatically and be granted political autonomy. Indeed, in 1077, Pope Gregory VII recognizes the “Laws and customs of the sea” created by the Pisans. More importantly, the Emperor Henry IV endorses the political independence of the city by allowing in 1081 to appoint its own consuls and a council of elders, because, anyway, the Marquis had lost all political prerogative. In 1092, Pope Urban II recognizes Pisa the supremacy over Corsica and Sardinia and promote the city to the archdiocese.

The maritime power of Pisa is then such that the sovereigns of Europe rely on it. It is, in 1092 the king Alfonso VI of Castile, who wanted to drive the Cid of the kingdom of Valencia. Similarly, Pisa participates in the First Crusade by providing more than 120 ships, gigantic figure for the time. Before arriving in Jerusalem, the Pisans also not miss the opportunity, under the leadership of their archbishop Daimbert loot Byzantine islands.


Photos by Ramon Roura (rnyeua), staceymk11


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