History of Ivrea


See Ivrea guide for highlights and historic monuments

The place now known as Ivrea was originally colonized by the “Salassi”, a people who lived in the present “Canavese” and “Valle d'Aosta”, whose main activities were the mining of iron, copper, gold and silver.

Since the Salassi occupied a strategic post on the way towards Gaul, the Romans had a victorious war against them and, in 100 BC, they founded “Eporedia”, which then  became a “municipium”.

Roman layout of Eporedia / Ivrea still preserved

According to the typical techniques of Roman institutions, "Eporedia" was built around the two lines formed by the "cardo" and “decumanus”. The plan of Eporedia therefore formed an irregular pentagon because of the hilly nature of the terrain nature. The “decumanus maximus”  corresponded to the present “Via Palestro” and “Via Arduino” (still today the main street of the city), while the “cardo maximus” corresponded to the present “Via IV Martyrs”.

In its Roman glory days Eporedia had several public buildings including a theatre, an amphitheatre, a forum, a temple, some thermae and two bridges over the Dora River.

After the Romans

From the fifth to the ninth century “Eporedia” was the seat of a Longobard duchy, then it became a county of a Frankish kingdom that dominated the “Canavese”, “Novara”, “Lomellina” and part of “Monferrato”.

In the ninth century it became the capital of the “Marca” region of Ivrea. Around the year 1000, the town was dominated by two great men: Bishop Warmondo (930-c.1011), who contributed to the cultural, religious and artistic increase of his city, and the Marquis Arduino (955-1015), the symbol of freedom and independence from the Empire, crowned king of Italy at Pavia in 1002.

Ivrea in the Middle Ages

In the following centuries, during the clash between the Marquis of Monferrato and the Dukes of Savoy, the latter prevailed, and Ivrea swore loyalty to them in 1313, then in 1357 Amedeo VI of Savoy (1334-1383) built the massive castle which still dominates the city.

In 1393 Ivrea was hit by a violent plague, and the century ended with the violent rebellion of the peasants against the lords because of the heavy taxes imposed.

There followed a period of Spanish then French domination. In fact, in the early 19th century, Napoleon's troops took possession of the city, which became the capital of the Department of the Dora.

After the fall of Napoleon, the city returned to the Kingdom of Sardinia until 1859 and it remained capital of the province. In the 19th century the city expanded and substantial transformations to the town were implemented, which gradually lost its ancient medieval structure. In the early decades of the 20th century the city had an important industrialization development.

Origins of the names Eporedia and Ivrea

As regards the etymology of Eporedia, the question is undoubtedly complex, but the best hypothesis is that proposed by G.B. Pellegrini, who writes:

"[...] ‘Eporedia-Ivrea’ is attested by classical authors and inscriptions (see [1] for examples). The city is certainly a Celtic settlement (...) A first response is the Gaulish personal name "Epo-redo-rix" (...) and the Latin term "redarius' (" Driver of a 'reda', a popular Gallic vehicle). We must also note that 'eporediae' were the 'boni equorum domitores' ("the capable horse trainers"); so the term derives therefore from 'epo' (i.e. 'horse'), cf. the Latin word "equus".

A brilliant and precise explanation of the Ivrea name was given by Serra in 1943, who felt that 'Epo-redia' was a term derived from the Gaulish 'epo-reda' ("equestrian cart"), with the same meaning as the German ' Wagen Burg ', i.e.'a barricade of carts ', or a 'place fortified by a barrier of equestrian carts '; (...) Even more clear is the response with the name "Cart-dunum' ('fortress of carts') [ ...]" [2].

In conclusion "Eporedia" means "fortress of carts”. This etymology of G.B. Pellegrini is also supported by other scholars, who noted that:

"[...] The Gallic name of 'Eporedia' has a more clearly relevance in the context of the Gallic name of the military character ‘Vind-dunum’ [from 'Vind Dunum' - the 'White fortress'] and 'Virodunum' [from 'Viro Dunum' - the 'Strong fortress'], especially with the names of particular Gallic military characters such as 'Mundu-essedum', the name of a town in England and 'Tarvessedum', the name of a place in Retia [...]" [3].

See also the Ivrea travel guide for travel and visitor information.

References

1. Tacitus [56-117 AD] (Hist. 1, 70), Cicero [196-43 BC] , "Ad Familiares”, XI, 20, Pliny the Elder [23-79 AD] , III, 123, Strabo [58-25 BC approx.], IV, 6, 7, CIL V 6777)

2. See  G.B. Pellegrini, “Diecimila nomi di città, paesi” ["Ten thousand names of cities, towns ...], Hoepli, 1990: 113

3. See G. Devoto, in "Lingua Nostra", 1943: 52