[[image:Template:Location map Italy|200px|Altinum is located in Template:Location map Italy]]
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Location in modern Italy

Altinum (modern Altino, a frazione of Quarto d'Altino) is the name of an ancient coastal town of the Veneti [1] in Venetia, 15 km SE of Tarvisium (now Treviso), in Italy, on the edge of the lagoons. It is reported to have been very wealthy. Located on the eastern coast of that nation, at the mouth of the river Silis, it was first destroyed by Attila in 452 and gradually abandoned by its inhabitants, who sought refuge in the islands of the lagoon, such as Torcello and Burano, in the area where later Venice would be built.

Altino has today some 100 inhabitants and a historical museum.


All that Strabo had to say of the city was "Altinum too is in a marsh, for the portion it occupies is similar to that of Ravenna", a waterlogged city whose canals were flushed by the tides: "These cities, then, are for the most part surrounded by the marshes, and hence subject to inundations."[2] Altinum was both strategic and beautiful. Finds and Venetic funeral inscriptions show that it was a center as early as the fifth century BC. It increased in importance with the Romanization of the region and, to be specific, with the construction of the Via Annia (131 BC), which passed through, linking Atria with Aquileia. At the end of the Republic, Altinum became a municipium, whose citizens were ascribed to the Roman tribe Scaptia. Augustus and his successors brought it into further importance with the construction of the Via Claudia Augusta, which began at Altino and reached the "limes" of the northeast at the Danube, a distance of 350 m, by way of the Lake of Constance. The place, thus, became of considerable strategic and commercial importance, and the comparatively mild climate (considering its northerly situation) led to the erection of villas that Martial (Epigr. iv. 25) compares with those of Baiae.

Lucius Verus died there in 169 AD.

Altinum became the seat of a bishopric by at least the fifth century AD, the first bishop being Heliodorus of Altino (Eliodoro).[3]

Around 452, Attila the Hun captured the city and burned most of it, along with several other nearby cities. Refugees settled on the islands of the lagoons, forming settlements that eventually became known as Venice. In 568 it was conquered by the Lombards, whose domination spurred further emigration towards the Laguna Veneta. The Catholic diocese was moved to Torcello in 647. In the 10th-11th centuries, the area of Altinum was totally abandoned; a new settlement appeared in the 15th century, which was to become the nearby Quarto d'Altino. The current frazione of the latter was founded in the 19th century.


The foundations of the city have recently been rediscovered near Marco Polo Airport, seven miles north of Venice. They have been examined with a combination of visible and near-infrared photos of the area taken during a drought in 2007, when cropmarks in maize and soybean fields revealed the presence of brickwork and foundations beneath the plow zone. The traditional Roman grid plan, here with a canal that cut through the city, and the recognizable outlines of theaters and other public structures enabled Andrea Ninfo and colleagues from Padua University to make a detailed reconstruction of the city's topography and the network of canals and sluices that drained the marshy environment.[4]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Ptolemy, Geography 3.1.30
  2. Strabo, 5,1
  3. San Liberale
  4. Maps reveal Venice 'forerunner', BBC News, 31 July 2009; Andrea Ninfo et al., "The Map of Altinum, Ancestor of Venice." Science; Dienekes Anthropology blog: Altinum; Ogle Earth: Altinum revealed... and in Google Earth

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 45°32′57.27″N 12°24′3.47″E / 45.5492417°N 12.4009639°E / 45.5492417; 12.4009639de:Altinum es:Altinum it:Altino (Quarto d'Altino) nl:Altino (Quarto d'Altino) no:Altinum pt:Altinum

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