The History of Arezzo
The history of Arezzo is set far back in time and is full of events, characters, and highlights that trace, along with the city, the history of humanity itself.
An Ancient History
The Arezzo territory sees the origin of human settlements dating back to prehistory. It is easy to discover that the prehistoric past of the territory is demonstrated by stone findings and by the so-called “Uomo dell’Olmo”.This astonishing discovery dates back 50,000 years, in full Paleolithic. The “Uomo dell’Olmo” is a small pride of Arezzo: it is the first specimen of Homo Sapiens this old found in the Italian peninsula!
The area was inhabited by the first cultures and proto-civilizations from the pre-Etruscan era, as evidenced by the traces of stable settlements found near the Colle di San Cornelio. These archaeological finds are difficult to date since they were subsequently covered by structures dating back to the Roman Empire.
Arretium and the Etruscans
Arezzo i around the 9th century BC had become a real city, already known by a name similar to today’s: Arretium or Aritim. Etruscan mythology sees the origins of the city in the foundation by the goddess Artume, the goddess of night, moon, death, and nature – similar to the Greek Artemis or the Roman Diana. The city arose on the top of the Colle di San Donato, still today the main hill of Arezzo, and grew very much in power.
Arretium became one of the main existing Etruscan cities, probably the seat of one of the 12 lucumonies of the Etruscan Dodecapolis. The glorious Etruscan past of the city today gives us works of art of exceptional value, first of all the Chimera of Arezzo. Today’s symbol of the city, the Chimera is now preserved in Florence.
This idyll of Arretium’s power ended with the rise of Roman power: the army put together by Arezzo, Volterra, and Perugia was defeated in 295 BC, and the conquest by the kingdom of Rome was definitive.
The History of Arezzo in Ancient Rome
Arretium retained its name in Roman times and became a very important city for the domain of the future empire. The strategic position of the city made it a mandatory passage during the crossing of the Apennines, and made Arretium a crossroads of goods and people. This important position was therefore nerve-wracking from a military point of view, and after the invasion of the Senones Gauls, marching towards Rome, Arezzo became a permanent Roman military garrison.
The ancient city grew and grew again, becoming rich and prosperous in the imperial age as at its origins. During this period, many institutions and public buildings arose, such as the amphitheater near where today is the museum named after Gaius Cilnius Maecenas.
Maecenas, very famous and celebrated father of patronage, was indeed a citizen of Arezzo and contributed to the fertility of the city also from a cultural and intellectual point of view.
The History of Arezzo after the Fall of Rome
Arezzo maintained its importance even after the crumbling of the Roman Empire. That was possible due to its position and thanks to the prestige it had assumed in the Roman centuries. The Goths first and later the Lombards arrived in the area with their respective invasions of the Italian peninsula. To the latter, we owe the parish churches and castles that led to the renewed medieval glory of Arezzo. Christianity spread in these centuries, and at the arrival of Charlemagne the Franks had to favor relations with the bishopric, which had become the largest and most influential local power. The bishop of Arezzo began to bear the title of “Count” from after the year 1000 a.d. Today Arezzo is one of the few cities whose episcopal succession is known perfectly from the origins of the institution.
Under the power of the Count Bishops, Arezzo was the protagonist of an international revolution that also influences contemporary history: modern musical notation.
Guido of Arezzo, in the city known as Guido Monaco, is indeed the inventor of modern musical notation and the notes of the C scale: an illustrious character still celebrated today by the city, whose statue stands in the homonymous square near the central station.
Arezzo during the Renaissance
The Renaissance saw the end of the reign of the Count Bishops after the Concordat of Worms, which ended the controversies between empire and papacy. Arezzo then became a Communal City, and saw its area of influence grow until the capture of Cortona. The Municipality equipped itself with its own University and saw the birth of brilliant lyric poets like Guittone d’Arezzo and Cenne da la Chitarra. But there’s more: the first scientific work in the vernacular in the world was written in Arezzo. It’s “The Composition of the World” by Restoro d’Arezzo – and in painting arose Margaritone d’Arezzo and subsequently Cimabue and Lorenzetti. Arezzo finally gave birth to one of the fathers of Renaissance humanism: the famous Francesco Petrarca.
The Battle of Campaldino
Arezzo was directly involved in the contrasts that occurred between the factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. The Ghibelline Municipality suffered a heavy defeat in 1289 by the Florentine armies near Campaldino, near Poppi in Casentino. Dante Alighieri himself participated in the battle on the Guelph side, and during the famous battle the bishop of Arezzo, Guglielmo Ubertini died who passed power to the Signoria dei Tarlati.
The History Arezzo in the Modern Age
In the 16th century, Arezzo was a protagonist in the conflicts between the Republic of Siena and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The city was besieged in 1554 by Florentine troops led by Cosimo de’ Medici. He forced it to surrender after over a month of battles. The Arezzo territory then passed under the control of the Florentine Lords, and the entire city was revolutionized in its organization. Arezzo saw the birth of its “four quarters”, today the protagonists of the Saracen Joust.
Arezzo arrived in the 18th century being able to boast of having given birth to Pietro Benvenuti, a neoclassical painter, Andrea Pozzo, an art theorist, and Francesco Redi, a famous mathematician and scientist.
The Napoleonic Wars and the Nineteenth Century
Vittorio Fossombroni was an illustrious Arezzo citizen, one of the Tuscan protagonists of Grand Ducal diplomacy during the Napoleonic period. Arezzo passed under French influence inserted into the Department of the Arno. The city returned to being part of the Grand Duchy after the fall of Napoleon and found itself, in the 19th century, to be an important industrial center.
In Arezzo textiles, leather, and fine ceramics were produced. The growing industrial wealth also allowed the development of roads and bridges, making the city an important communication center.
From the Twentieth Century and World War II to the present day
Arezzo was heavily bombed during the Second World War . Fortunately, thanks to the commitment of the citizens, the majority of the artistic and historical treasures present in the city were saved. With the reconstruction of its buildings, Arezzo was preparing to return to the important center of production and creativity that it had always been.
Arezzo is today a modern and vibrant city, which can boast of the beauty that its glorious past has given to its villages and its streets, to its culture and its art.