Past Cities

Ancona, Marche, Italy

Ancona, the capital of the Marche region in central Italy, is a city with a rich and vibrant history that has shaped its identity and character. Situated on the Adriatic coast, Ancona has been influenced by its strategic location, political dynamics, and diverse cultural interactions.

Ancona's history dates back to ancient times, with evidence of human settlements in the area as early as the Bronze Age. However, it was during the Greek colonization of Italy in the 8th century BCE that Ancona gained prominence. The Greeks established a thriving trade center in Ancona, taking advantage of its natural harbor, which provided a sheltered port on the Adriatic Sea. The city's name itself is derived from the Greek word "ankon," meaning "elbow," describing the shape of the harbor.

During the Roman period, Ancona continued to flourish as a vital port and trade hub. The Romans recognized its strategic importance and constructed defensive walls, a theater, and other infrastructure. The city became a key link in the Roman road network, connecting Rome to the eastern Adriatic and facilitating trade with the Eastern Mediterranean. The Roman presence significantly influenced Ancona's urban layout and architectural heritage.

In the Middle Ages, Ancona faced numerous invasions and struggles for control. The city changed hands multiple times between the Byzantine Empire, Lombards, Franks, and the Papal States. Its strategic location made it a desirable prize for various powers seeking control over the Adriatic Sea. In the 9th century, Ancona fell under the control of the Papal States, and the influence of the Catholic Church became a defining feature of the city's political and cultural life.

During the medieval period, Ancona witnessed the growth of a maritime republic. The city established a powerful fleet and engaged in trade across the Mediterranean. Ancona's merchant class flourished, establishing commercial connections with cities like Venice, Genoa, and Constantinople. This period of prosperity and autonomy came to an end in the 16th century when Ancona was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. The city's economy suffered, and its population declined as trade routes shifted.

Ancona's fortunes changed once again in the 18th and 19th centuries. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the city experienced a resurgence in trade and maritime activities. The construction of the Mole Vanvitelliana, an artificial island and harbor, further boosted Ancona's status as a port city. During this period, Ancona became an important center for Italian unification movements. The city played a significant role in the Risorgimento, a political and social movement that led to the unification of Italy in 1861.

The political environment of Ancona has been shaped by its interactions with various regional powers. Its location along the Adriatic Sea made it a contested territory between different Italian states and foreign powers. The Papal States, the Byzantine Empire, and the Lombards all sought to control Ancona due to its strategic importance. This constant struggle for control influenced the city's political alliances and policies.

The geography of Ancona has played a pivotal role in its history. The city's natural harbor provided a sheltered port and contributed to its development as a trade hub. The surrounding hills offered a defensive advantage, and Ancona's medieval fortifications were constructed to capitalize on this natural protection. Additionally, the city's proximity to the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea facilitated trade and cultural exchanges with neighboring regions and maritime powers.