When we mention Pisa, we think of the wonderful balance in the square Piazza dei Miracoli, with its Basilica, the baptistery and the tower, some of the most remarkable monuments in the world.
The modern city of Pisa, along the river Arno, lies about 10 Km. behind the coast, differently from the time when it was founded (most likely during the 8thcentury B.C.). It is hard to understand who were the first settlers in this area, as well as in many other Italian towns, where history and all sorts of legends literally mingle with documents.
According to some old legends Pisa was founded by the Greek Pelopes, who came from the homonymous town in Greece, or even by other missing Greek soldiers, who reached Italy after the battle in Troy. Some other historians assume that the first settlers were Etruscans or Ligurians, or even people coming from Anatolia, in particular from the town of Focea.
In spite of all these different versions, the etymology of the name Pisa should result from some Etruscan words connected to rivers or marshlands. The name Pisa was first mentioned together with Rome during the second Punic war, and later on it became a Roman colony, a privileged one thanks to the good harbour for Roman ships, called “Sinus Pisanus”. This harbour was then enlarged and improved under the emperor Caesar Ottavianus Augustus. During the following centuries the town rises to the status of Rome’s allied city, and finally – in the 1st century B.C. – it is transformed into a Municipium (i.e. municipality) because of the growing importance of its consular roads Aurelia and Aemilia, and its harbour.
During the reign of the emperors Antonino Pio and Adrian the town is enriched with buildings and walls, and its population reaches 12000 already in 1st century A.D.
When Rome’s hegemony in Europe and along the Mediterranean sea came to an end, the Saracen pirates reached the Italian coasts, controlling the greatest islands of the Tyrrhenian sea; but Pisa does not lose its naval importance yet, together with Genoa and Amalfi, starting from 1016, it enlarges its influence all over the Mediterranean sea, until Sardinia and Corsica.