Mediolanum, the ancient Milan, was originally an Insubrian city, but
afterwards became an important Roman city in northern Italy. The city
was settled by the
Insubres around 600 BC, conquered by the Romans in
222 BC, and developed into a key centre of Western Christianity and
capital of the Western Roman Empire. It declined under the ravages of
the Gothic War, its capture by the
Lombards in 569, and their decision
Ticinum the capital of their Kingdom of Italy.
Principate the population was 40,000 in 200 AD; when the
city became capital of the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire under emperor Maximian
(r. 286-305), the population rose to 100,000 people and thus Milan
became one of the largest cities in Roman Italy.
2 Extant structures
3 See also
6 External links
Mediolanum appears to have been founded around 600 BC by the Celtic
Insubres, after whom this region of northern Italy was called
Insubria. According to the legend reported by Livy, the Gaulish king
Ambicatus sent his nephew
Bellovesus into northern Italy at the head
of a party drawn from various Gaulish tribes; this
Bellovesus was said
to have founded
Mediolanum (in the time of Tarquinius Priscus,
according to this legend). The Romans, led by consul Gnaeus
Cornelius Scipio Calvus, fought the
Insubres and captured the city in
222 BC; the chief of the
Insubres submitted to Rome, giving the Romans
control of the city. They eventually conquered the entirety of the
region, calling the new province Cisalpine Gaul— "
Gaul this side of
the Alps"— and may have given the site its Latinized Celtic name: in
Gaulish *medio- meant "middle, center" and the name element -lanon is
the Celtic equivalent of Latin -planum "plain", thus *Mediolanon
(Latinized as Mediolānum) meant "(settlement) in the midst of the
Ruins of the Emperor's palace 45°27′54.43″N 09°10′50.15″E
/ 45.4651194°N 9.1805972°E / 45.4651194; 9.1805972 in Milan.
Here Constantine and
Licinius issued the Edict of Milan.
Mediolanum was important for its location as a hub in the road network
of northern Italy.
Polybius describes the country as abounding in
wine, and every kind of grain, and in fine wool. Herds of swine, both
for public and private supply, were bred in its forests, and the
people were well known for their generosity.
During the Augustan age
Mediolanum was famous for its schools; it
possessed a theater and an amphitheatre (129.5 X 109.3 m). A large
stone wall encircled the city in Caesar's time, and later was expanded
in the late third century AD, by Maximian.
Mediolanum was made the
seat of the prefect of Liguria (
Praefectus Liguriae) by Hadrian and
Constantine made it the seat of the vicar of Italy (
In the third century
Mediolanum possessed a mint, a horreum and
imperial mausoleum. In 259, Roman legions under the command of Emperor
Gallienus soundly defeated the
Alemanni in the Battle of Mediolanum.
Arcadius solidus, from the
Mediolanum mint, c 395-408.
Diocletian moved the capital of the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire from
Rome to Mediolanum. He chose to reside at
Nicomedia in the Eastern
Empire, leaving his colleague
Maximian at Milan.
several gigantic monuments, the large circus (470 x 85 metres), the
thermae or "Baths of Hercules", a large complex of imperial palaces
and other services and buildings of which fewer visible traces remain.
Maximian increased the city area surrounded by a new, larger stone
wall (about 4.5 km long) encompassing an area of 375 acres with
many 24-sided towers. The monumental area had twin towers; one that
was included in the convent of
San Maurizio Maggiore
San Maurizio Maggiore remains 16,60 m
Arena games: ivory cup depicting staged hunts and chariot races, found
in Milan, 4th-5th century.
It was from
Milan that the
Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of
Milan in 313 AD, granting tolerance to all religions within the
Empire, thus paving the way for Christianity to become the dominant
religion of the Empire. Constantine was in
Milan to celebrate the
wedding of his sister to the Eastern Emperor, Licinius. There were
Christian communities in Mediolanum, which contributed its share of
martyrs during the persecutions, but the first bishop of
has a firm historical presence is Merocles, who was at the Council of
Rome of 313. In the mid-fourth century, the
Arian controversy divided
the Christians of Mediolanum; Constantius supported Arian bishops and
at times there were rival bishops. Auxentius of
Milan (died 374) was a
respected Arian theologian.
At the time of the bishop St.
Ambrose (bishop 374-397), who quelled
the Arians, and emperor Theodosius I,
Mediolanum reached the height of
its ancient power.
Roman columns in front of basilica di San Lorenzo.
The city also possessed a number of basilicas, added in the late
fourth century AD. These are San Simpliciano, San Nazaro, San Lorenzo
and the chapel of San Vittore, located in the basilica of
Sant'Ambrogio. In general, the Late Empire encouraged the development
of the applied arts in Mediolanum, with ivory and silver work being
common in public building projects. In the crypt of the Duomo survive
ruins of the ancient church of Saint Tecla and the baptisty where St.
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo was baptized.
In 402, the city was besieged by the
Goths and the Imperial residence
was moved to Ravenna. In 452, it was besieged again by Attila, but the
real break with its Imperial past came in 538, during the Gothic War,
Mediolanum was laid to waste by Uraia, a nephew of Witiges, King
of the Goths, with great loss of life. The
Lombards took Ticinum
as their capital (renaming it ‘Papia’, hence the modern Pavia),
and Early Medieval
Milan was left to be governed by its archbishops.
Some of the monuments of the Roman
Mediolanum still to be seen in
in the basilica of S. Ambrogio:
the Chapel of S. Vittore, with Late Antique mosaics
the so‑called "Tomb of Stilicho", assembled from a Roman sarcophagus
and other material.
a large collection of inscriptions.
the Colonne di San Lorenzo, a colonnade in front of the church of S.
Roman lapidary material in the Archi di Porta Nuova.
the scant remains of a large amphitheatre, now in an archaeological
park dedicated to their preservation.
a tower (16.6 m high) of the circus, now inside the Convento di San
a bit of moenia (walls) and a tower with 24 sides (Maximian, 3rd
the church of San Lorenzo (IV-V sec.) and the San Aquilino chapel.
ruins of the imperial palace.
some ruins from the Baths of Hercules; further remains of ceilings and
floors are in the archaeological museum.
the body of St.
Ambrose (d. 397) and those possibly of SS.
Gervasius and Protasius
Gervasius and Protasius — or at any rate, of earlier men, found in
St. Ambrose's time, are still seen in the crypt of the church of S.
crypt of San Giovanni in Conca
a bit of the moenia and some remnants of pavements in piazza Missori
and in the namesake station of
Milan#History, for the medieval and modern history of Milan
Walls of Milan
^ Metropolis and Hinterland: The City of Rome and the Italian Economy,
200 BC-AD 200, p. 182, at Google Books
^ A Companion to Latin Studies, p. 356, at Google Books
^ Northern Italy, from Alps to
Florence at Google Books
Ab Urbe condita
Ab Urbe condita 5.34-35.3.
^ Polybius, Histories
^ Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (in
French) (2nd ed.). Paris: Errance. pp. 221–222.
^ Compare G. Quintela and V. Marco '"Celtic Elements in Northwestern
Spain in Pre-Roman times" e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary
Celtic Studies, 2005, referring to "a toponym, clearly in the second
part of the composite Medio-lanum (=Milan), meaning 'plain' or flat
^ Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
(1898): "Gallia Cisalpina"
^ Benario, Herbert W. (1981). "Amphitheatres of the Roman World". The
Classical Journal. 76 (3): 255–258. JSTOR 3297328.
Measurements as given p. 257; it was not, as is sometimes claimed, the
third largest in the world after the Flavian
Amphitheatre in Rome and
the vast amphitheatre in Capua.
Trajan Decius may have struck coinage at Mediolanum, the
sequence begins with Gallienus, c 258; the mint at Mediolanum,
Ticinum by Aurelian, ranked with Rome and Siscia
Sisak in Croatia) as one of the three great mints of the
Empire. Mattingly, H. (1921). "The Mints of the Empire: Vespasian to
Diocletian". Journal of Roman Studies. 11: 254–264 [p. 259].
^ There were Milanese cults of Saints Gervasius and Protasius, St.
Victor Maurus (304), Sts. Nabor and Felix, and Sts. Nazarius and
Celsus and the legendary Saint Sebastian.
^ The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (eds. Richard
Stillwell, William L. MacDonald, Marian Holland McAllister)
^ According to Procopius, the losses at
Milan amounted to 300,000 men.
Polybius (1889). Histories. London, New York: Macmillan. 
Thurston Peck, Harry (1898). Harpers Dictionary of Classical
Antiquities. New York: Harper and Brothers. 
MacDonald Stillwell, Richard; McAlister, William L.; Holland, Marian
(1976). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton:
Princeton University Press. 
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Milano.
Map and some original pics of
Mediolanum in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Roman colonies in Europe
Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa
Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium