Mutina Splendidissima


The foundation of Modena in 183 B.C. was an additional step in the occupation of the Po Plain on the part of the ancient Romans. Modena’s ideal location, at the crossroads of crucial transport routes, gave it great strategic importance. Indeed, it was the setting for memorable battles, such as the one between Gaius Cassius Longinus and the rebellious slave Spartacus (72 B.C.) and the “war of Modena” between Marc Antony and Decimus Brutus (43 B.C.). In his Philippics (V, 24) Cicero calls the city “firmissima ac splendidissima”, and some of the urban homes were indeed splendid as early as the late Roman Republic. The domus at the former Capitol cinema, with its many rooms and courtyards, gives an idea of what a luxurious home from the late 1st century B.C. looked like. The furniture in one of the dining rooms (triclinium) comprised two beds, a small table, and an oil lamp holder, while a fountain’s decorations testify to the comfort and sophistication of aristocratic homes. One of the sources of wealth for the inhabitants of Modena and is surroundings was the raising of cattle, sheep, and hogs. West of the city, near what is now Magreta (known as Campi Macri during the Roman era), a famous trade fair was held every year since pre-Roman times and until the late 1st century A.D. Meats, dairy products, wool, and leather were all traded there, and indeed Columella, Pliny, and Martial (1st century A.D.) all wrote that the sheep that were raised here were among the most prized in all of Italy. Modena was also renowned for the softness and beauty of its wool, as mentioned by the Greek geographer Strabo (1st century A.D.).