Liguria - Places to Visit - Luni
The city of Luna at the mouth of the Magra, because of its position at the border between Liguria and Eturia (region VII which was attributed by Augustus), and said in sources, some ligurian and some etruscan; the city's name has been interpreted as that of the goddess Luna, whose cult is witnessed by inscriptions, or probably deriving from the sweeping line of its port.
Controversial is the identification of the Portus Lunae recorded by ancient sources and especially by Strabone, by some identified with the Gulf of La Spezia, from others with the port at the mouth of the Magra river where in fact segments of the port's pier buried in sand have been brought to light.
Originally the city was at the sea, while today it's almost 2 km away; the ancient coastline has been recognized with the help of aerial photographs and by the examination of the soil.
The city had risen as a roman colony in 177 B.C. to assure definite possession of the ligurian coastal area, protection of the port, and control over the Ligurians. The last revolt of the Ligurians was quelled, as we know from the Fasti Trionfali, in 155 B.C. by M. Claudio Marcello, consul for the second time (inscription lunese on the abacus of a marble column that sustained his statue, in Museum).
The city is crossed by the via Aemilia Scauri, regarded by the censor who had it built in 109 B.C., probably on a pre-existing layout: in reality it's the continuation of the via Aurelia from which its name was taken, built in II A.D. from Rome to Pisa, and subsequently prolonged, beyond Luni, then to Genoa.
The city, that belonged to the Galeria tribe received new colonies under Augustus (their patron) to whom a base was dedicated.
Various literary sources speak about the city, but principle information regarding its everyday life is revealed from the numerous inscriptions that mention magistrates, representatives from the business class (industrial and commercial), professional associations and many cults with different divinities.
The forests covering the Appenines provided wood; Strabone witnessed at that time, as in the Middle Ages that the river transported huge tree trunks all the way to the city, excellent for construction beams. At Luni big forms of Lunian cheese were shipped, which Pliny considered the best in Etruria.
But the richness, after the decline of its importance as a military base during the struggle with the Ligurians, was guaranteed with the marble veins. At first used locally and restrictedly, Lunian marble was soon widespread in Rome, in Italy and in the eastern provinces for statues and in architecture, the quarries became imperial-owned.
Also in the III and IV centuries its economy was not decreased, testified by the numerous oriental and western mint coins; a lunian inscription in bronze (now at the Bologna Museum) patronage board from the gallienic age cites Luni, "splendid city our lunensis".
Proof of the great importance of Luni for the spread of the new Christian religion by one of its citizens, Eutichiano, in 275 A.D. he was elected to the pontificate.
Even after the fall of the Roman Empire, the city, off the course of invasions, continued to thrive as an important maritime center kept by the Byzantines and a bishop's see that exerts administrative and political power besides religious, and under the longobard dominion the rights of a city were represented with the issuing of autonomous coins, even of poor alloy.
The city had suffered destruction from the Rotari and incursions by the Normans and the Saraceni, tormented by floods, malaria and feudal struggles, and still being on the via Romea it was an attractive center for the emperors (the Ottons, Frederick I, etc.).
Only in 1204, with the transfer of the bishop's see to Sarzana, does the city become just a name, and it's called in writings "the cursed", cited by Dante amid the dead city and again mentioned by Petrarca as "once famous and powerful and now only a naked and useless name".