An important pre-Roman city, which excavations of the last 50 years
have brought to light in the ancient delta of the Po, and in the lagoon basins
ca. 6 km W of Comacchio (province of Ferrara).
Founded by the Pelasgians, or by the Thessalians, or by Diomedes at the mouth of a branch of the Po (Hellanicus fr. 1 apud Dion. Hal. 1.28.3, 1.18.3-4; Ps.-Scyl. 17; Just. Epit. 20.1.1; Plin. HN 3.120), the city attained the thalassocracy of the Adriatic and maintained at Delphi a famous thesaurus (Dion. Hal. 1.18.4; Strab. 5.1.7, 9.3.8). It was within a road journey of three days from Pisa and was linked to Adria by a navigable canal built by the Etruscans. The invasion of the Gauls provoked the decline and desertion of the city (Dion. Hal. 1.18.5), and on the site in the Roman period there was no more than a small village (Strab. 5.1.7).
The city's period of greatest prosperity coincided with the expansion of the Etruscans N of the Apennines beginning in the middle of the 6th c. B.C. Although the sources speak of Greek Spina in Etruscan territory, it was actually an Etruscan city in which Greeks, including an active group of Athenian merchants, exerted a strong cultural influence. In this light, the large amount of archaeological evidence, fundamental in understanding the civilization of Spina, may be understood.
Land reclamation in the Trebba valley and in the Pega valley has opened up for investigation two adjacent necropoleis situated on the sandy dunes of an ancient shoreline (today ca. 10 km from the sea). From these have come 4061 earthen graves dating from the end of the 6th c. to the beginning of the 3d c. B.C. The prevailing custom is inhumation with the corpse oriented NW to SE. The burial finds reflect large commercial enterprises and the economic prosperity of the market of Spina. Attic red-figure ware abounds, particularly from the early Classical and Classical periods. The Spina collection has a documentary unity and an array of the work of vase painters (of Berlin, of Penthesilea, of the Niobid Painter, of Boreas, of Peleus, Polygnotos, Polion, Shuvalov) without comparison either in Greece or elsewhere. Other pottery is Etruscan, Faliscan (from Magna Graecia), Sicilian, and Boiotian, in addition to notable local production of the so-called early Adriatic group. There are Etruscan bronzes and gold jewelry and some early Venetic bronzes, as well as numerous examples of glazed ware and amber.
Land reclamation in the Mezzano valley (1960) led to the identification of the site of Spina W of the necropoleis and exactly along a middle branch of the ancient Po delta, called the Padus Vetus in mediaeval documents. It is a characteristic settlement on a marshy site: an irregular perimeter, protected by multiple palisades and earthen ramparts, streets on a square grid plan oriented NW to SE, and wooden dwellings. Two km SE, near Motta della Girata, a canal, 15 m wide, leaves the river and cuts across the dunes of the Etruscan shoreline. This is evidently the work of the Etruscans intent upon maintaining close connection between the city and the sea, which kept moving farther away as a result of the extension of the coastal land. The presence there of the Early Christian parish church of Santa Maria in Padovetere shows the extreme demographic tenacity of the city which had then disappeared.
Because they demonstrate a knowledge of the N Etruscan alphabet, the many graffiti on pottery from Spina are notable. All articles can be found in the National Archaeological Museum in Ferrara.
N. Alfieri & G. V. Gentili, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Spina (Spina, Strab.; Spina, Steph. B.: Eth. Spinates and Spinites),
an ancient city of Italy, situated near the southernmost mouth of the Padus, within
the limits of Gallia Cisalpina. It was, according to Dionysius, a Pelasgic settlement,
and one of the most flourishing cities founded by that people in Italy, enjoying
for a considerable time the dominion of the Adriatic, and deriving great wealth
from its commercial relations, so that the citizens had a treasury at Delphi,
which they adorned with costly offerings. They were subsequently expelled from
their city by an overwhelming force of barbarians, and compelled to abandon Italy.
(Dionys. i. 18, 28.) Strabo gives a similar account of the naval greatness of
Spina, as well as of its treasury at Delphi; but he calls it a Greek (Hellenic)
city; and Scylax, who notices only Greek, or reputed Greek, cities, mentions Spina
apparently as such. Its Greek origin is confirmed also by Justin, whose authority,
however, is not worth much. (Strab. v. p. 214, ix. p. 421; Scyl. p. 6. § 19; Justin,
xx. 1; Plin. iii. 16. s. 20.) But these authorities, as well as the fact that
it had a treasury at Delphi, which is undoubtedly historical, seem to exclude
the supposition that it was an Etruscan city, like the neighbouring Adria; and
whatever be the foundation of the story of the old Pelasgic settlement, there
seems no reason to doubt that it was really a Greek colony, though we have no
account of the period of its establishment. Scylax alludes to it as still existing
in his time: hence it is clear that the barbarians who are said by Dionysius to
have driven out the inhabitants, can be no other than the neighbouring Gauls;
and that the period of its destruction was not very long before the conquest of
Cisalpine Gaul by the Romans. It does not appear to have ever been rebuilt or
become a Roman town. Strabo speaks of it as in his time a mere village; and Pliny
repeatedly alludes to it as a place no longer in existence. (Plin. iii. 16. s.
20, 17. s. 21; Strab. v.p. 214.) No subsequent trace of it is found and its site
has never been ascertained. We know, however, that it must have been situated
on or near the southernmost arm of the Padus, which derived from it the name of
Spineticum Ostium, and which probably corresponded with the modern Po di Primaro.
But the site of Spina must now be sought far from the sea: Strabo tells us that
even in his time it was 90 stadia (11 miles) from the coast; though it was said
to have been originally situated on the sea. It is probably now 4 or 5 miles further
inland; but the changes which have taken place in the channels of the rivers,
as well as the vast accumulations of alluvial soil, render it almost hopeless
to look for its site.
Pliny tells us that the Spinetic branch of the Padus was the one which was otherwise called Eridanus; but it is probable that this was merely one of the attempts to connect the mythical Eridanus with the actual Padus, by applying its name to one particular branch of the existing river. It is, however, probable that the Spinetic channel was, in very early times, one of the principal mouths of the river, and much more considerable than it afterwards became.
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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