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Aquileia (Friulian: Acuilee/Aquilee/Aquilea) is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy, at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of the lagoons, about 10 km from the sea, on the river Natiso (modern Natisone), the course of which has changed somewhat since Roman times. Today, it is one of the main archeological sites of Northern Italy.



Roman Era

Aquileia was founded as a colony by the Romans in 180/181 BC along the Natissa River, on land south of the Julian Alps but about 8 miles north of the lagoons. Apparently named from an indigenous word Akylis, the colony served as a frontier fortress at the north-east corner of transpadane Italy and was intended to protect the Veneti, faithful Roman allies, during the Illyrian Wars and act as a buttress to check the advance of other warlike people, such as the hostile tribes of Carni and Histri. In fact, Aquileia was founded on a site not far from where Gaulish invaders had attempted to settle in 183 BC.

The colony was established with Latin rights by the triumvirate of Publius Scipio Nasica, Caius Flaminius, and Lucius Manlius Acidinus, two of whom were of consular and one of praetorian rank. They led 3,000 pedites (infantry), mainly from Samnium, who with their families formed the bulk of the settlers and were soon supplemented by native Veneti. It is likely that Aquileia had been a center of Venetia even before the coming of the Romans. And Aquileia's strategic military position also served to promote the Venetic trade in amber imported from the Baltic.

Aquileia was connected by road with Bologna probably in 173 BC; and subsequently with Genoa in 148 BC by the Via Postumia, which ran through Cremona, Bedriacum and Altinum, joining the first-mentioned road at Concordia, while the construction of the Via Popilia from Rimini to Ad Portum near Altinum in 132 BC improved the communications still further.

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