The conflict between Maxentius and Constantine near Verona in 312 AD opened the fourth century. Constantine besieged the city of Verona governed by the prefect Rurucius Pompeianus who was loyal to Maxentius. Once he took it, after the battle of Ponte Milvio, the doors of the empire were opened.
After the large scale persecutions of the third century, the progressive transformation towards a Christian society found its completion in the proclamation of freedom of religion in 313 AD, and the Arles Council of 314 AD. From the beginning of the fourth century people started progressively abandoning many public spaces and buildings where pagan cults were celebrated. These cults were definitely forbidden in 391-392 AD. Several archaeological excavations attest to a diffused state of urban deterioration, even in centres that were kept alive. People stopped visiting the theatre, using warehouses, temples and houses.
Nevertheless, in the fourth century (and for Verona as early as the third century), new forms of development connected to the diffusion of the Christian faith appeared in the cities. They involved marginal areas and also outskirts in which people built the first basilica (Verona, Vicenza, Concordia and some others not long after). Also, between the forth and the fifth century cities and countryside were animated by Christian communities. These developed also in the smallest centres in which famous authors were born such as Rufinus from Concordia, who lived in Aquileia, and Saint Zeno, who lived near Verona.
For the whole of the fourth century, following Constantine’s death (337AD), the region held a very important role,as Veneto was the theatre of many battles for the throne. These took place sometimes in Verona but more often in nearby Aquileia, as in the case of the battles between Constant and Constantine II (340 AD), between Costantius II and Flavius Maxentius (352-353 AD), between Costantius II and Julianus (361-362 AD) and between Theodosius and Maximus (388 AD).
After the death of Theodosius in 395 AD, power was shared between Arcadius and Honoriu., The former ruled over the East and the latter over the West. However, they could not prevent the rapid escalation of the military situation. In 401 AD Athalaric came to Aquileia, while Honorius arrived in Altino and in the following year reached Verona, where he was saved by Stilicho in 403 AD. Radagaidus led other invasions, moving from Retia with Alans, Vandals and Burgundians. Athalaric invaded the region in 410 with the Visigoths and arrived in Rome. Finally, Attila’s invasion produced a huge devastating, but not fatal impact on the whole north-Adriatic area (452 AD).
Despite the repeated legends about Attila’s cruelty, his invasion was not completely destructive and some urban centres managed to survive. Nevertheless, these repeated invasions created many difficulties in the region and people struggled in the face of terror and economic crisis. This is testified to by the strengthening of the walls, for example in Altino between the fourth and the fifth centuries, and the abandoning of entire urban and territorial sectors. The barbarian invasions opened the way to a new era.
Il testo e le immagini (con referenze fotografiche) sono tratti da:
J. Bonetto, I. Venturini, L. Zaghetto, Veneto, Archeologia delle Regioni d’Italia, Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, Roma 2009.