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Before Luna

Today it is a hamlet near Ortonovo town, projecting out onto the strip of land on which Liguria and Tuscany meet, and nodal point of a whole area which takes its name from it - Lunigiana. Luni is this and much more despite the fact that a great many features of the area have changed over the centuries to the extent that it is difficult to grasp the original context from which this ancient Latin city emerged.

Luni is notoriously often identified with its Roman colony but actually the area it was founded on had been populated since the 3rd century B.C., well before it was conquered, as the archaeological finds confirm.

The ancient sources on the period preceding the colony are not extensive but there is no doubt that it was founded in 177 B.C. during operations for the Roman conquest of Liguria. We know, however, that the area had been populated by Apuan Ligurians and that it was probably involved in the first Roman-Ligurian wars between 238 and 223 B.C. and saw the Second Punic War.

It would seem that, at that time, ‘portus lunae’, as the Greeks also called it according to historian Strabo, already existed.
Livy recounts, on the other hand, that Consul Cato the Elder chose it in 195 B.C. as a naval base for a military expedition to Spain and brought his fleet and army there before setting sail. It was there that a messenger from the Senate hurried in vain to meet Praetor Gaius Calpurnius Piso - who had left a few days earlier for Hispania - there in 186 B.C.

At the time the region was destroyed by the war between the Romans and the seafaring Ligurians who laid waste to the Luni area in 193 B.C. and pushed on to beyond Pisa forcing Consul Quintus Minucius Thermus to call for the help of two urban legions from Arezzo. In 185 B.C. the Roman army attacked the Ligurian Inguani and Apuan tribes and created a passage as far as the Magra river and Luna port.

From Rome to decay

At this historical juncture, with the backdrop of the Apuan Alps and on a now silted up port at the mouth of the Magra river, ancient Luni was founded.
The fortunes of the city were based on its focal position on the trade and communications networks as the large numbers of amphorae found here in archaeological excavations shows.

At the time the colony was founded it was equipped with a ring of walls which was initially intended to defend the new city but later served purely to contain its urban fabric.
The urban area was 24 hectares in size with an initially rectangular layout divided into quarters whose main streets were the cardo and decumanus maximus.

The layout of the urban space was designed to protect the city against cold north winds and warm and wet southerly winds according to the model established by Vitruvius in his work De Architectura. In the Imperial Era the colony’s new buildings, linked to the city's role as a port, sprang up and improved its trading and seafaring activities.
Archaeological excavations have thrown light on the existence of a forum in a central position punctuated with public spaces probably designed for trading such as tabernae and religious activities such as the Capitoline Temple.
The Domus degli Affreschi and Domus dei Mosaici stand out among the aristocratic houses and were decorated with refined work by local craftsmen. As the city and its urban fabric developed, new buildings were put up for the entertainment of its citizens as well. Thus, to the east of the 2nd century A.D. walls, an oval shaped amphitheatre was built for games and gladiatorial events.

Still in good condition now, this building had a 7000 seat capacity and was accessed by terraces crowned at the top with a porticoed gallery showing the large population of the colony in the Imperial Era.
The two main entranceways were open on the main axis and the other entrances were at intervals along the perimeter of the building and corresponded to internal stairways which gave access to the terraces. Although what is left of the building is entirely in stone, traces of the original high quality local white marble cladding have survived in some sections of the terraces.

The bulk of the riches of ancient Luni came from mining activities in the Apuan Alps and marble exports. In fact, exporting stone to Rome for public building had already begun during the 1st century B.C. but planned and organised mining reached a climax with the Julio-Claudian and Flavian dynasties while large scale work went on in Luna with new civil and religious building complexes in the heart of the city as well as entertainment edifices.

In the early Middle Ages Luna became a Byzantine stronghold against the Goths and the Lombards but also a place of pilgrimage as a result of some of the relics kept in the Cathedral of Santa Maria as well as a departure point for ships to Santiago de Compostela.

After fluctuating fortunes, the city survived into the Middle Ages but was no longer able to maintain past riches and Luna was definitively abandoned in 1058 after a long decline caused by pirate raids and the progressive silting up of the port but its importance survived long after this in the person of the Bishop of Luni whose office symbolised power in Lunigiana and beyond for some time to come.

The theatre

The objective of the work financed with the funds of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013) relates to the building of ancient Luni's theatre.
A fundamentally important step in the development of research is the completion of the archaeological excavations which will be followed by restoration of the finds and management of existing emergencies.

Lastly, the setting up of mobile structures for use in theatrical and musical events on the terraces and stage is planned.
It will also be necessary to set up a service infrastructure involving: building or rebuilding short access roads and road links, areas for public parking, pedestrian and disabled access routes, setting up information signs and panels both fixed and multimedia and interactive, lighting fixtures and devices, toilets, recycling areas and also to prepare the information and educational paperwork.

The intervention

The restoration project included in the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013) envisages the completion of archaeological excavations aimed at uncovering parts of the monument that can clarify its layout and its original entrances. It also intends to restore existing features and those discovered during the excavations planned.
There are also plans to refurbish the cavea and the pulpitum with removable sections so as to hold plays and concerts, as well as to install lighting equipment, following the necessary checks to ascertain the amount of archaeological deposits preserved underground.

There are also plans to install service infrastructure in neighbouring areas with the creation and preparation of areas set aside as public car parks and footpaths for visitors and those with disabilities; the installation of informative and educational signage (in printed, multimedia and interactive formats); the installation of video-surveillance systems and safety systems for the exterior; wiring, plumbing and lighting systems run on renewable energy sources; the construction of toilet facilities for visitors and the fencing off of the area using hedges.
Last but not least, the availability of a storage area designed to house the artefacts uncovered in excavations is also planned.

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