First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Ravenna is an ancient city. It was developed by the Ostrogoths. At one time it was a small town of the Sabines. Emperor Tiberius surrounded this city with walls, which are still in evidence. Because of its closed port it was called the Golden Gate. Now when Theodoric and the Goths came out of Thrace bringing with them their women and children and all their possessions, they finally besieged King Odoacer in this city of Ravenna; but due to the nature of the region this siege consumed more time than the Goths had anticipated; for this city lies on the sea and cannot be besieged very easily. Nor can it be entered readily from the landward side, for the Po River gives it a moat, and it is enclosed by various lakes and marshes. So the siege of the Goths extended itself for almost three years. They took possession of the city according to a treaty; and they furthered and developed it. King Theodoric, master of all Italy, Dalmatia, Hungary, Germany, and no small part of Gaul, lived at Ravenna for forty-two years. And he erected many tall buildings and churches there. Outside the walls may be seen a memorial erected by the same king to the memory of his daughter Amalasuntha.[See Folio CXLIII recto, below.] In it was built the cloister of Saint Mary, symbolically called the Rotunda, because of the high altar and the choir of twenty cloister people, who while singing according to the custom, are covered by a monolith on top of this rotunda. The emperor Valentinian spent many days there during thirty years of his reign. He enlarged the city, and subordinated to its bishop the bishops of twelve other regions. For a time this city was the seat of the Roman exarch;[Provincial governor under the Byzantine Empire.] but now it is subject to the Venetian council, and does not have very many inhabitants. In former times this city had many pious and learned men, namely, Apollinaris;[See Folio CXV verso, above.] Vitalus and his sons Gervasius and Protasius;[See Folio CXXIV recto, above.] also Urcinus;[Probably Johannes Ursinus, the physician.] all crowned with martyrdom. Pope John, of that name the seventeenth in number;[See Folio CLXXXI verso, below.] Peter, the Foricornelian bishop, who understandingly interpreted many of the Holy Scriptures.[Peter Chrysologus of Imola was chosen bishop of Ravenna. He is said to have found a certain amount of paganism in his new diocese and to have completely extirpated it. He often preached before the Augusta (‘Empress’) Galla Placida and her son Valentinian III. He appears to have died about 450 in Imola.] Cassiodorus, the Roman consul and historian of the epistles of the Ostrogothic kings, and who later retired to a monastery.[Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus, distinguished statesman, and one of the few men of learning at the downfall of the Western Empire was born of an ancient and wealthy Roman family at Scylacium, in Bruttium. He enjoyed the confidence of Theodoric the Great and his successors, and under various titles conducted for many years the government of the Ostrogothic kingdom. At 70 he retired to the monastery of Viviera, which he had founded in his native province, and there he passed the last thirty years of his life in study. His most important work ( ), a collection of state papers, drawn up in accordance with instructions of Theodoric and his successors, is still extant. His is a summary of Universal History.] Guilielmus,[Guilielmus, also spelled Gwilhelmus (and anglicized as William). See CCXVI verso, below.] the physician, whom Peter Paul Vergerius highly praises as a most friendly and popular person. Also John (Iohannem),[See Folio CCXXXVI, below.] the highly learned grammarian and orator, of whom Leonardus Aretinus testifies as being the first to reintroduce into Italy, after many years, the art and teaching of oratory as it now flourishes.

Ravenna, an important town in Gallia Cisalpina, on the river Bedesis, and about a mile from the sea, though it is now about five miles in the interior in consequence of the sea having receded all along the coast, was situated in the midst of marshes, and accessible in only one direction by land, probably by the road leading from Ariminum. The town laid claim to a high antiquity. Strabo mentions a tradition that Ravenna was founded by Thessalians (Pelasgians), and afterward it passed into the hands of the Umbrians. However, it long remained an insignificant place, and its greatness does not begin until the time of the Empire, when Augustus made it one of two chief stations of the Roman fleet. He not only enlarged the town, but caused a large harbor to be constructed on the coast, and this he connected with the Po by a canal called Padusa, or Augusta fossa. Ravenna suddenly became one of the most important places in northern Italy. However, in consequence of the marshy nature of the soil, the houses were built of wood; and since an arm of the canal was carried through some of the principal streets, communication was carried on to a great extent by gondolas, as in modern Venice. When the Roman Empire was threatened by the barbarians, the emperors of the West took up their residence at Ravenna, which on account of its situation and fortifications was regarded as impregnable.

Early in the fifth century, Honorius, alarmed by the progress of Alaric in the north of Italy, transferred his court to Ravenna. From this date to the fall of the Western Empire, in 476, Ravenna was the chief residence of the Roman emperors. Here Stilicho was slain; here Honorius and his sister Placidia lived and quarreled; here Valentinian III spent the greater part of his life; here Majorian was proclaimed; here the little Romulus donned the purple robe; here in the pinewood outside the city his uncle Paulus was decisively defeated by Odoacer, who made Ravenna his chief residence. Theodoric’s siege of Ravenna lasted for three years (489-492); ten days after his entry into the city he killed his rival at a banquet in the palace of the Laurel Grove.

After the fall of the Western Empire, Theodoric also made this city the capital of his kingdom. His reign marked another era of magnificence. In the eastern part of the city he built a large palace. The massive mausoleum of Theodoric stands still perfect outside the walls near the northeast corner of the city. It is circular internally and decagonal externally, in two stories, built of marble blocks, and surmounted by an enormous monolith, brought from the quarries of Istria and weighing more than 300 tons. It has been converted into a church dedicated to the Virgin.

After the overthrow of the Gothic kingdom by Narses, Ravenna became the residence of the exarchs or governors of the Byzantine Empire in Italy, until the Lombards took the town in 752. The modern Ravenna stands on the site of the ancient town.

The author’s statement that at one time Ravenna was a small Sabine town is undoubtedly borrowed from Pliny (III.15.20); but the statement is altogether improbable and inexplicable. Strabo gives it an Umbrian origin, and he gives his reasons. When Ravenna received a Roman colony, we do not know. Strabo does not mention the time, and we have no other means of knowing. All we can be reasonably sure of is that this Umbrian town on the verge of Cisalpine Gaul received a Roman colony not before 268 BCE, when Ariminium (now Rienzi) was occupied.

The chronicler’s vague statement that the town was known as the Golden Gate may refer to the gate built by Claudius, called the Porta Aurea (‘Golden Gate’), which was not destroyed until 1582.

Beside the empty tombs of Galla Placida and Theodoric stands the great sarcophagus of Dante Alighieri, who spent the last four years of his life at Ravenna and died there in 1321. It is there that his dear friend Giotto painted his famous portrait. Strange that the chronicler, who informs us that “in former times this city had many pious and learned men,” (a number of whom are now buried in the past, he mentions), does not even name Dante in his story of Ravenna. It is largely as his home and final resting place that one thinks of the city today. A very brief biography of Dante is given at Folio CCXXIII recto, below.