Two thousand years ago the Roman city of Emona was thriving on the site of present day Ljubljana. It was established as a military stronghold just below castle hill. Excavations reveal that it had all the trappings of modern day living as experienced by the Romans at the time. Evidence of Roman activity can be seen in many places, and almost every recent civil construction in central Ljubljana has uncovered a part of the puzzle. So it is not uncommon to see, for example, Roman walls feature in parts of modern buildings and public spaces. The architect, Plečnik, incorporated Roman elements in much of his city-space work. A two kilometre walk connects ten antiques remains from the Roman period.
Savignano sul Rubicone
Situated in northeast Italy in the region of Emilia Romagna, Savignano’s origins are linked to nearby San Giovanni in Compito, an archaeological area of extraordinary importance. Savignano lies on the ancient Roman street, Via Emilia. The Rubicon River which flows through it is significant from an historical point of view because it was there that the one and only Julius Caesar committed a big No-No. In 49BC he crossed the River Rubicon with his army and in so doing committed an act of insurrection. Two expressions have links to this event:
- “Crossing the Rubicon” ~ passing a point of no return
- “alea iacta est” (words of Caesar himself) ~ the die is cast
There was a wooden Roman Bridge that spanned the river, but over two periods of restoration in the 14th and 19th Centuries it was replaced with a stone construction using material from the Roman period and still incorporating the three spans. When the city fortifications were built in the Middle Ages, the river was diverted to surround the outer walls. Here, too, in Savignon sul Rubicone, earthworks continue to uncover Roman remains.
So the two places in which I have found myself, Ljubljana and Savignano sul Rubicone, both have Roman heritage. Like a giant spider web, the Roman Empire extended expansively in every direction and connected two places that otherwise may seem totally discrete.
What does it feel like? What does it mean to know that your town or city was once a Roman settlement? Does it mean that you share a common background, a way of life that stretched beyond borders and boundaries as we know them today? Does it make a difference to how life is lived today? Have traditions and customs, developed over subsequent centuries, created worldviews that unite people? Or separate people? Or both?