Ravenna was one of the most important Mediterranean cities of the Late Antiquity. It was declared capital city three times between the 5th and 6th century AD: it was first Imperial residence in 402 AD, capital of the Kingdom of the Goths (493-540), later capital of the Exarchate of Ravenna and great archiepiscopal seat. Thanks to its glorious past, in 1996 eight early-Christian monuments of the city entered the UNESCO list and thus became World Heritage Sites.
The roots of its rich and complex history can be traced further back in time, precisely in the first decades of the 6th century BC. At that time, the built-up area of Ravenna consisted of piles spread over a series of small isles inside the Valle Padusa. Under Roman rule, the increasingly relevant role played by the city led to the construction of some new structures: among these, the port of the military fleet controlling the Eastern Mediterranean and an impressive canal (Fossa Augustea) that connected the Po river to a water basin to the south of the city.
After the splendour the city enjoyed after the transfer of the capital to Ravenna in 402 AD and under the following Gothic and Byzantine rule over the city, in the Middle Ages the city retained a certain ideological and territorial influence – though reduced compared to the past centuries – both under the Ottonian Reign, at the time of the city-states and under the Venetian rule.
Recently, the reconstruction of the history of Ravenna has made some important steps forward. Archaeological excavations have brought to light some interesting finds from the past that helped scholars adding elements to the historical overview of the city. Today, many finds are already on show, others will be in a short time.