Pisa: from marshland to a Seafaring Republic

Pisa lungarni 1

 Nobody knows exactly when Pisa was founded. Dionysius of Alicarnasso described the arrival of Deucalione Greco and his Pelagi Peloponnesians in Italy, he mentions Pisa four centuries before the War of Troy. Pliny, instead, tells us that Pisa was founded by Pelope, King of the Piseans, a good thirteen centuries before Christ; Stradone assures us that Nestor, king of Pilus, founded Pisa after the fall of Troy thirty-two centuries ago. Whether or not these are legends, the courageous Pisans were able to create a legend themselves by becoming one of the four glorious seafaring republics, along with Amalfi, Venice and Genoa, the latter being its bitter enemy. Following the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent conquests by the Barbarian armies, at the beginning of the eleventh century, Pisa started sculpting its name on every single drop of water in the Mediterranean Sea: it conquered Reggio Calabria in 1005 and Sardinia in 1017, defeating the Saracen king Mugahid and also limiting the trade expansion of Genoa. Between 1030 and 1035, the glorious Carthage, Bona and Lipari were conquered. An episode in the history of Pisa is depicted in one of the boxes in the spending ceiling of the Cavalieri church: the capture of four Turkish ships by six Pisan triremes in 1602 in the Aegean Sea.

The work was by Iacopo Chimenti da Empoli. Between 1051 and 1052, the great admiral Iacopo Ciurini occupied Corsica causing the Genoese to become even more resentful. A few years later, in 1063, another Pisan admiral, Giovanni Orlando, conquered Palermo and finally expelled the Saracen pirates who had made it their hideout. In later centuries Pisa was not blessed by good fortune, but this is unimportant because Pisa, a city now with eighty five thousand inhabitants, will always be pervaded by a courageous spirit and deeply connected with the sea. A few years ago, while work was being done by the Italian state railways, a good thirteen triremes reemerged from the depths of the ground (an absolute record) containing objects dating back to between the fifth century b.c. and the fifth century d.c.. Those who were there will never forget it and perhaps the valorous souls of the Pisan seamen wanted to give us a sign of their noble past by granting us this discovery, or better, this privilege!

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