In the second century BC two types of colonies were founded:
those based on Latin law and those based on Roman law. The colonies
based on Latin law (among these Lucca) were independent from Rome
(for example they had their owns armies and right to mint coins),
but they were allied to Rome and populated by Roman and Italic
citizens. The colonies based on Roman law were completely dependent
on Rome, and were entirely populated by Roman citizens. Before
the territory of Lucca became a full-fledged colony (180BC), it
underwent a revision process.
Here is a brief description of how the Romans proceeded:
were cut, or, if necessary, the swamps were reclaimed.
was a river, its course was straightened.
were created, that is roads were built at right angles to each
other, which were called cardus and decumanus.
of all necessary buildings was begun.
The territory was thus divided in:
and assigned (with all the buildings)
common use (for example fields for grazing)
centurie (for possible expansion of the city)
to the native populations
In Lucca the process of creating centurie was carried out as
described below: The first step was construction of the two main
streets, they crossed in the center of the city and formed four
right angles: the street running from North to South was called
the Decumanus Maximus, the one running from East to West was called
the Cardus Maximus. Later other streets, parallel to the main
ones, were built (Cardus and Decumanus). Normally the Forum was
located at the junction of the two main streets (which in Lucca
are the present day Via Fillungo and Via Santa Croce): a square
where it was possible to find temples dedicated for example to
the Capitoline Triad.
Most cities which were founded during the same century as Lucca
have three characteristics:
a grid pattern layout.
is always located near the walls: this was done to take advantage
of the sturdy buildings as a backdrop for all theatrical settings.
is always located outside of the walls for reasons of public safety,
also to avoid any occupation of the theater if a battle or revolt
In the ancient layout of LUCCA one part of the wall was not
perfectly linear but tended to curve due to a branch of the river;
the Serchio river at one time was divided into two branches: the
Auser (which was the main course) and Auserculus (secondary branch).
Over the years the course of the river changed, and thus the main
branch which was the cause of the irregular walls, disappeared,
and the other which still exists and passes outside the present
day walls, changed names and became the Serchio. The importance
of Roman Lucca is seen in the remains and the line of its walls,
which numerous medieval documents and recent findings have made
possible to trace with almost absolute certainty.
||Area sottostante la chiesa di S. Giovanni
The remains of Roman walls in and around the church of the Rose
are interesting. The perimeter of the Roman walls is calculated
at approximately 2,500m., the area of the city 39 hectares, the
height of the walls eight or nine meters, the population around
10,000 inhabitants. The city had four gates: the decumanus connected
the gate which would later be called S. Gervasio (east) with S.
Donato (west), the cardum probably connected S. Frediano (north)
with S. Pietro (south). The center of the city was the Forum,
the present day Piazza S. Michele, which is still called S. Michele
in Foro (forum). In the II century AD, the amphitheater was built
outside the walls and the theater whose remains can be seen was
erected in Piazza S. Agostino, a small theater like all provincial
theatres. Little is known about other important buildings and
the topography of Roman Lucca does not provide exact information.
The baptistery of S. Giovanni definitely sits on the foundation
of an ancient building as does the church of S. Michele in Foro.
Lucca was an important crossroads. The Via Clodia was built after
155 BC and the Via Emilia in 109.
The Via Cassia connected Rome with Florence and from Florence
went towards Pistoia, from here one part continued to Bologna
and another was connected to Lucca. Other important roads for
the Municipium were: Lucca-Pisa connections, Lucca-Luni connections
(Camaiore, Pietrasanta) which met up with the Via Emilia Scaura
for Luni or, more likely, followed the route of the present day
Via Sarzanese which after S. Pietro bridge, turns left and joins
the Via Aurelia at Massaciuccoli. Here there are many remains
of Roman houses and thermal baths, it is possible that the Fossae
Papiriane was also located here. There are traces of other local
roads, for example the one for Pescia, Collodi, Marlia and Ponte
The area around Marlia has interesting Roman remains. Velleiate's
tables from the time of Trajan indicate that Lucca extended to
the province of Reggio Emilia, and Strabone mentioned Lucca for
its strong soldiers (even the current population is remarkably
tall and well-built). Lucca was not able to compete in terms of
trade with Luni, Pisa or Florence. Florence quickly became important
due to its possession of the Arno which gave it a quick connection
with Pisa and the sea.