1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mediolanum

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23152701911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 18 — MediolanumThomas Ashby

MEDIOLANUM, or Mediolanium (mod. Milan, q.v.), an ancient city of Italy, and the most important in Gallia Transpadana. Livy attributes its foundation to the Galli Insubres under Bellovesus after their defeat of the Etruscans, in the time of the older Tarquin. According to other authorities, the Etruscan city of Melpum which preceded it was destroyed in 396 B.C. Objects of the Bronze age have been found outside the city on the south. The name itself is Celtic. The Romans defeated the Insubres in 225–222 B.C., and stormed Mediolanum itself in the latter year. Its inhabitants rebelled some twenty years later in the Hannibalic War, but were defeated and finally reduced to obedience in 196 B.C. They probably acquired Latin rights in 89, and full civic rights in 49 B.C., as did those of the other towns of Gallia Transpadana. It appears later on (but not before the 2nd century A.D.) to have become a colony. It acquired a certain amount of literary eminence, for we hear of youths going from Comum to Mediolanum to study. In Strabo’s time it was on an equality with Verona, but smaller than Patavium, but in the later times of the empire its importance increased. At the end of the 3rd century it became the seat of the governor of Aemilia and Liguria (which then included Gallia Transpadana also, thus consisting of the 9th and 11th regions of Augustus), and at the end of the 4th, of the governor of Liguria only, Aemilia having one of its own thenceforth. From Diocletian’s time onwards the praefectus praetorio and the imperial vicar of Italy also had their seat here: and it became one of the principal mints of the empire. The emperors of the West resided at Mediolanum during the 4th century, until Honorius preferred Ravenna, and in 402 transferred his court there. Its importance, described in the poems of Ausonius, is demonstrated by its many inscriptions, and the interest and variety of their contents. In these the rarity of the mention of its chief magistrates is surprising: and it is not impossible that owing to its very importance the right of appointing them had been taken from it (as Mommsen thinks). The case of Ravenna is not dissimilar. The inscriptions indicate a strong Celtic character in the population. Procopius speaks of it as the first city of the West, after Rome, and says that when it was captured by the Goths in 539, 300,000 of the inhabitants were killed. It was an important centre of traffic, from which roads radiated in several directions—as railways do to-day—to Comum, to the foot of the Lacus Verbanus (Lago Maggiore), to Novaria and Vercellae, to Ticinum, to Laus Pompeia and thence to Placentia and Cremona, and to Bergomum. None of these roads had an individual name, so far as we know. To its secular power corresponds the independent position which its Church took in the time of St Ambrose (q.v.), bishop of Milan in 374–397, who founded the church which bears his name, and here baptized St Augustine in A.D. 387, and whose rite is still in use throughout the diocese. Theodosius indeed did penance here at Ambrose’s bidding for his slaughter of the people of Thessalonica. After his death the period of invasions begins; and Milan felt the power of the Huns under Attila (452), of the Heruli under Odoacer (476) and of the Goths under Theodoric (493). When Belisarius was sent by Justinian to recover Italy, Datius, the archbishop of Milan, joined him, and the Goths were expelled from the city. But Uraia, nephew of Vitigis the Gothic king, subsequently assaulted and retook the town, after a brave resistance. Uraia destroyed the whole of Milan in 539; and hence it is that this city, once so important a centre of Roman civilization, possesses so few remains of antiquity. Narses, in his campaigns against the Goths, had invited the Lombards to his aid. They came in a body under Alboin, their king, in 568, and were soon masters of north Italy. They entered Milan in the next year, but Pavia became the Lombard capital.

Of Roman remains little is to be seen above ground, but a portico of sixteen Corinthian columns near S. Lorenzo, which may belong to the baths of Hercules, mentioned by Ausonius, or to the palace of Maximian. Close to the Torre del Carrobio remains of an ancient bridge and (possibly) of the walls of Maximian were found: and many remains of ancient buildings, including a theatre, have been discovered below ground-level. The objects found are preserved in the archaeological museum in the Castello Sforzesco. (See Milan.),

See Th. Mommsen in Corp. inscript. Latin. (Berlin, 1883), v. 617 sqq. (with full bibliography); Notizie degli Scavi, passim.  (T. As.)