City of art and culture, founded as a Roman colony during the era of Emperor Augustus.
Siena, an Italian city with a population of 54,526, is the main city of the Province of Siena in Tuscany. The city is universally known for its artistic heritage and for the considerable stylistic unity of its medieval urban design, as well as for its famous Palio. As a matter of fact, Siena’s historic center was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995.
Siena was founded as a Roman colony during the times of Emperor Augustus and took the name of Saena Iulia.
In the historic center of Siena some Etruscan sites were discovered, which lead to the belief that the city was founded by the Etruscans.
The first known document in which the community of Siena is mentioned dates back to the year 70 and bears the signature of Tacito who, in the 4th book of Le Historiae, recounts the following episode: the senator Manlio Patruito reported back to Rome that he was ill-treated and ridiculed by a fake funeral during his official visit to Saena Iulia, a small military colony in Tuscia. The Roman Senate decided to punish those chiefly responsible and to severely warn the people of Siena to exercise greater respect towards authority.
There is no trace of documents from the Late Middle Ages which could shed light on the civil life in Siena. There are some references to the institution of the episcopate and the diocese, especially regarding matters which arose between the Bishop of Siena and the Bishop of Arezzo, caused by the borders of the jurisdictional areas of each. Lombard King Liutprando intervened, pronouncing a sentence in favor of the Arezzo diocese. But the people of Siena were not satisfied and so, in the year 853 when Italy passed from Lombard domination to Frank domination, they succeeded in obtaining the annulment of the sentence issued by King Liutprando. It seems, therefore, that during the Lombard era Siena was governed by a gastald, a representative of the King. The gastald was then replaced by an Imperial Count following the coronation of Charlemagne. The first count for which concrete evidence exists was Winigi, son of Ranieri, in 867. After the year 900 Emperor Ludovico III reigned over Siena. His reign did not last very long seeing that in 903 records indicated a return of the counts to power under the new government of King Berengario.
During the 10th century the historical center of Siena was at the center of important trade routes which led to Rome and, for this reason, it became an important Medieval city. In the 12th century the city adopted consul-type city ordinances and began to expand its territory and form its first alliances. This situation of politic and economic importance led Siena to fight against Tuscany for the northern dominions of the Tuscan province. From the first half of the 12th century onward, Siena prospered and became an important center of trade and maintained a good rapport with the State of the Church. The bankers of Siena were a point of reference for the Roman authorities, who sought their business for loans and financing.
At the end of the 12th century Siena, supporter of the Ghibellina cause (even though there were some Siena families who sided with the Guelfa cause, as did Florence), found itself once again against Florence and the Guelfas. The victory over the Guelfa Tuscans in the Battaglia di Montaperti in 1260 was famous and was even mentioned by Dante Alighieri. A few years later however the people of Siena had the worst of it in the Battaglia di Colle Val d'Elsa in 1269, which then led in 1287 to the rise of the Guelfa “Governo dei Nove”. Under this new government, Siena reached the height of its splendor, both economic as well as cultural.
Following the plague of 1348, the slow fall of the Repubblica di Siena began. This did not prevent the territorial expansion of Siena which, up to the day of the fall of the Republic, was a third of all of Tuscany. The end of the Repubblica di Siena, perhaps the only western State to put a democracy purely in favor of the people into place, occurred on April 25, 1555. Following a siege that lasted more than a year, the famished city was forced to surrender to the Empire of Carlo V, backed by the Florentines. Siena ceded the territory of the Republic to the Medici - Florence noblemen – as a fiefdom in order to repay them for the expenses incurred during the war. For the ‘umpteenth’ time the people of Siena were able to hold their own against an Emperor who, due only to his immense resources, was able to bend the proud resistance of this small Republic and of its citizens.
After the fall of the Republic a few people from Siena, led no less by exiled Florentine Piero Strozzi, refused to accept their fate. So they fled to Montalcino and created the Repubblica di Siena "refuge" in Montalcino. They maintained their alliance with France, which continued to exercise its power over the southern part of the Republic's territory, creating substantial problems to the Florentine troops. The Republic continued on until May 31, 1559, when it was betrayed by the French allies, to which Siena had always lent its support. By establishing the peace treaty of Cateau-Cambre'sis with Emperor Carlo V, they relinquished the Republic to the Florentines.
The crest of Siena, the "balzana” is a shield divided in two horizontal parts: the top half is white and the bottom half is black picturing the she-wolf nursing Senio and Ascanio. According to legend, it symbolizes the black and white smoke rising from the welcome pyre which the legendary founders of the city, Senio and Ascanio, sons of Remus, supposedly lit to thank the gods after founding of the city of Siena. Another legend has it that the balzana is comprised of the color of the horses, one white and one black, that Senio and Ascanio used to reach Siena in their escape from their Uncle Romulus, who wanted to kill them. For their presumed fiery personality which, it is said, borders on insanity, the people of Siena are also often called “balzani”.