Populonia: the Etruscan city on the sea

Populonia: the Etruscan city on the sea

On the Maremma coast of Tuscany, near Piombino, overlooking the Gulf of Baratti we find Populonia: the Etruscan city-state forming part of the Dodecapoli located in Etruria, the only one of the twelve Etruscan cities overlooking the sea. During the entire period of Etruscan splendor, Populonia never experienced a crisis, continuing to develop thanks to its port, the origin of thriving trade in raw materials such as copper and iron: a condition that allowed it to issue a precious series of silver coins. Together with Volterra, it represented one of the major mining and metallurgical production areas of the Etruscan civilization. Today, the acropolis of the historic city is represented by the Poggi del Castello and that of the Telegraph, south-west of the Gulf of Baratti.

Origins and development of Populonia

The first meeting place originated on the two hills of the Castle and the Telegraph in the 9th century BC.

Subsequently between the XII and the X century B.C. coastal villages arose which, thanks to its favorable geographical position, made Populonia the great metallurgical reality of the Bronze and Iron Ages.

A seaport destination for commercial exchanges and meetings between merchants from all over the Mediterranean, especially from the Tyrrhenian area and the islands.

In Roman times, Populonia supplied a large quantity of iron to the army of Scipio Africanus engaged in the Second Punic War against Carthage.

The Etruscan city, which has always been a friend of Rome, was able to enjoy full economic, financial and political autonomy.

Its decline was marked by Roman internal struggles, political and military: the civil war between Caio Mario and Lucio Cornelio Silla.

Populonia, sided with Mario defeated by Silla, suffered the vengeance of the victor who, out of spite, razed the city to the ground in the 1st century BC, leaving only a few temples standing.

During the Middle Ages, the city was often looted and invaded by barbarian peoples; the fleeing population found shelter on the island of Elba.

After the last looting, which took place in 809 AD, the remaining inhabitants moved south, giving rise to what we know today as Piombino.

Curious notes on Populonia

Thanks to recent excavations, various remains of thermal and residential buildings from the Roman era have emerged.

Among the ruins by the sea, in the locality of Baratti, experts have found clear traces of ancient processes, including those dating back to the Middle Ages concerning fish salting.

In 570 AD. following the Lombard invasion, the population fled to the island of Elba. Among them, a bishop named Cerbone found refuge on the island.

These asked to be buried in Populonia for this reason in the gulf of Baratti there is a church dedicated to San Cerbone, built on the spot where the refugees landed.

Like many other villages, even that of Populonia boasts traces of the ancient walls to defend the village, which in this case date back to the Etruscan era.

Towers were added to these defenses during the 15th century AD. from the Appiano family, who governed Piombino. On the door appears a dragon, the symbol of the Appianos, and for this reason also drawn on the city coat of arms.

In the center of the village there is the Gasparri Museum, small in size but not to be underestimated for this reason; here are most of the archaeological finds found at sea.

For a more complete view of what was found, it is possible to visit the Piombino archaeological museum.

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