The last capital of the Western Roman Empire the city of Ravenna has a lengthy history that dates back many centuries even before the founding of Rome. Founded by early tribes on a chain of small lagoon islands in the Po River Delta, the town became part of the Roman Republic and later an important port on the Adriatic during the Roman Empire.

Following the sacking of the capital city of Rome in the 5th century the seat of the Roman Empire was transferred to Milan and then in 402 AD to Ravenna. The city was bypassed during the Visigoths raids, and in the years that followed underwent a mini-renaissance in which the city grew in size and stature. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 the city was used as a capital by Odoacer, who had deposed the last Western Emperor and styled himself as King of Italy. King Theodoric the Great of the Ostrogoths in turn slew Odoacer and made Ravenna the capital of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy.

The city was retaken by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century, which were the successors to Rome in the East, and Ravenna was used as a seat of government in Italy. A hundred years later it fell to the Lombards, and then became part of the Papal States. The city suffered greatly after King Charlemagne the Great was authorized by the church to remove anything from Ravenna that he liked. Vast items of Roman history including statues, columns and other art were moved to Charlemagne’s capital city of Aachen.

The city never recovered, and in 1512 was sacked by the French. After brief rule by Venice the city came under control of the Papal States again, and finally part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Today there are still reminders of the city’s majestic and imperial past.