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Roman Era

The Territory of Modena from the Republic to late Antiquity

3rd century B.C. – 6th century A.D.


Initiated in the 3rd century B.C., the Romans’ plan to occupy the Po Valley was put into effect with the construction of the Via Aemilia in 187 B.C. Subdivided into plots based on Centuriation, the territory was covered in farms, rural buildings, villas, necropolises and productive structures such as furnaces, as evidenced by the numerous finds on exhibit. 

The early Romanization of the territory of Modena is evidenced by a sanctuary with antefixes dating back to the end of 3rd century B.C. that was discovered at Cittanova. During the age of the Republic, the territory, which was made fertile through reclamation works, became progressively filled with buildings connected to agricultural and breeding activities. Some of these buildings were enhanced with prestigious residential areas complete with mosaics, painted plaster and luxurious décor. At the same time, a profitable manufacturing sector was evolving, primarily linked to the production of ceramics and clay-bricks, which Pliny described as one of the most thriving in the Roman world.

There are also numerous finds pertaining to necropolises with both cremation and burial tombs, located in extra-urban areas, which cover a chronological period ranging from the imperial age to late antiquity. In addition to the grave goods discovered at Cittanova, Baggiovara and Fossalta, of particular note is the famous tomb of the so-called “lovers”, two male individuals buried hand in hand in a necropolis of the late antiquity (4th – 6th centuries), identified in 2009.


After several centuries of prosperity, starting around the middle of the 3rd century A.D., the territory of Modena began to feel the effects of the same crisis that was assailing the Roman Empire; thus began a long period of social and economic decadence.