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The history of Brindisi
The city of Brindisi dates back to the 3rd century BC when it was a Greek entry port during Magna Grecia. The Romans, seeing the city’s potential, conquered Brindisi and quickly built the Appian Way, designed to transport troops and military supplies to the Empire. As a result, the city flourished, becoming a beacon of naval and military importance, and the population swelled to over 100,000. To this, the Romans added temples, baths and amphitheatres. Thus, Brindisi became a busy gateway city, which it remains to this day.
The city would enjoy relative calm for two centuries. Notably, in this period, tragic poet Pacuvius was born here in 220 BC. In 57 BC, Marcus Cicero landed at the port on his return to Italy and was hailed by a public crowd all the way down the 500km road to Rome. Shortly afterwards, Brindisi’s peace would be halted by Julius Caesar. With Pompeius retreating to Greece, Caesar attempted to blockade him at Brindisi’s port. The city then saw damage from the fierce battle between Pompeius and Caesar, both hell-bent on supremacy.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city fell into the hands of the Theodoric The Great-led Ostrogoths. However, the reign did not last long and the city would change hands several times. The Lombards destroyed the city in 675, though it was quickly rebuilt due to the harbour’s importance. Brindisi then came under Norman rule in 1071. The Normans would incorporate the city into the Principality of Taranto.
In 1228, during the Crusades, the city was able to regain some of its previous prestige. A castle was forged from the city’s ancient ruins, to guard the port. This was the Castello Svevo, which survives to this day. A cathedral was also erected. Frederick II, the heir to the crown of Jerusalem, then relaunched the city’s port as the departure point to the Holy Land, reclaiming it for the Christian world.
Soon, the city would fall into the hands of Venician rule, followed by Spanish dominance. Then, a series of devastating events befell Brindisi. In 1348 it was decimated by the Plague. Shortly afterwards, it was plundered twice; first by Louis the Great and then Louis I of Anjou. In 1456, an earthquake would hit the coast of the Adriatic, destroying most of the city.
In the 18th century, Brindisi would again change hands; first, by Austrian rule and then by the Bourbon dynasty. For the next 100 years, it would slowly rebuild its city - and reputation. The building of the Suez Canal gave the city a huge commercial boost, with Brindisi the starting point for the Indian Mail Route.
Brindisi suffered bombing during both World Wars and in the second, served as the temporary government seat of Italy. Since then, the city has enjoyed a huge makeover. To this day, it still plays a crucial role in Italy’s trade (exporting wines from its uniquely fertile soil) and is a major seaport for Turkey and Greece. The city’s main airport also serves as an important NATO base, as well as a hub for two million-plus holidaymakers each year.