The Catalog of the Exhibition is configured as an update text on the population of the Bolognese plain in Roman times in the northern sector corresponding today roughly to the Municipality of San Pietro in Casale. This territory, thanks to the numerous, important and differentiated evidences, offers various points of reflection on the scientific level and at the same time lends itself to an illustration of the settlement forms of the Roman age of an educational type. The presence of a road route, only partially brought to light by archeology and cited by historical sources, the ancient Via Emilia Altinate (or Via Annia), which connected Bologna to the current Paduan territory, constituted a strong catalyst, both for a widespread agricultural territorial occupation, both for the development of other economic activities functional to the cities that the road put in communication with each other. In this context it is not surprising the presence in San Pietro in Casale, in the locality of Maccaretolo, of a town (vice), probably of considerable proportions, which has been the subject of findings of the highest historical and testimonial value since the first recoveries of the sixteenth century. Through a mending of the data known so far and the available testimonies, we want to restore an overall image of this territory so rich in ferments and presences during the Roman period, so much so as to be able to offer a complexity and multiplicity of points of view, which few other sectors of Bolognese plain can propose for the same period.
Already the title of the Notebook dedicated by the Superintendency of Archeology (now Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape) of Emilia Romagna, edited by Tiziano Trocchi and Raffaella Raimondi, is emblematic of the problematic nature of the interpretations that scholars have given over time to the numerous and rich findings of the area gravitating around the current center of San Pietro in Casale. Street, villa, vice?… But it could also be added meek, the rest and post station along the road routes of the Roman age.
Moreover, the charm of archaeological research often lies in its characteristic of requiring those who practice it to have the ability to adapt their way of thinking to the continuous innovations that the findings add to our knowledge over time, often forcing them to review their positions and to update the interpretations to a new reality.
The territory of San Pietro in Casale lends itself particularly to this type of investigation because the number and quality of recent and less recent finds has long made it possible to identify in the area the presence of a road route from Bologna and, therefore, from Via Emilia led north, beyond the Po and towards the territory of the people who were friends and allies of the Venetians and to their cities rich in tradition even from the protohistoric age. In the imperial age, with the acquisition of new transalpine territories, rich in raw materials, such as Noricum and Pannonia, communications between Rome and north-eastern Italy became even more important and strategic, both economically and military.
It is up to archaeological research and the study of recent finds, both funerary and residential, to evaluate, even with a non-secondary chronological discrimination, what was the level of settlement that undoubtedly had developed in this territory by taking advantage of itinerant opportunities. One or more villas or agricultural settlements with different functions? A post and supply station, la meek for changing and checking means of transport, wagons and animals of different types according to the functions? Or even a town, a vice? Without excluding the possibility of internal evolutions on this scale of possibilities.
Only the study and the systematic edition of the excavations will give us the possibility to choose between the different hypotheses. And this is what this volume and the Superintendence propose, aware that only from knowledge a correct work of protection and an intelligent enhancement derive.
Luigi Malnati, Superintendent of Archeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the metropolitan city of Bologna and the provinces of Modena, Reggio Emilia and Ferrara