It is said that in Bari nobody is a foreign; and after all, how could it be otherwise, given that in 4000 years of history the Apulian capital was ruled by the most disparate people: from the Ostrogoths to the Lombards, passing by the Byzantines and the Saracens.
Premise: the birth of Bari (2000 BC) The first settlements on the Bari territory date back to 2000 years before Christ. A village stretched for 300 meters in the area of Piazza San Pietro, in Bari Vecchia where there is now an archaeological area.
Illyrians, Peucetians and ancient Greeks (from 1600 BC to 326 BC) In 1600 BC here are the first arrivals of foreigners. The Illyrians from the Balkan peninsula landed in Bari. They took the name of Peucezi and they also settled in the area of Piazza San Pietro. Then from 1150 BC this civilization was “incorporated” into the nascent Magna Grecia. Greeks who dominated the “city” until the advent of the Romans.
The Romans (from 326 BC to 476 AD) 326 BC when the people of Bari ask for help from the Romans to defend themselves against the increasingly pressing invasions of the Samnites, a population from the Apennines. Thus, between peaceful negotiations and military actions, Bari becomes part of the Roman Republic, succeeding in obtaining the title of municipium: it can elect its representatives to the city government and have its own laws, but must pay taxes to the City and participate in life military of the “Capital”. Among the still visible testimonies of this historical period are the columns positioned on the seafront near the Fortino and the ancient floor which is located in Piazza del Ferrarese.
The Ostrogoths (from 476 to 554) On 476 the Roman Empire of the West collapses and the Peninsula crumbles. The population of the Goths, barbarians descended from Sweden and settled in Germanic territory, has various tribes, including the Ostrogoths. They will be under the command of King Theodoric to conquer Italy and Puglia. The Ostrogoths will remain in Bari until 554 when they will be defeated by the Byzantines led by Giustiniano. In the city; there is still evidence of that period and of the war: an inscription inserted in the mosaic floor in the early Christian cathedral (below the Cathedral today) with which a certain Timothy declares to pay for the restoration and embellishment of the mosaic from his own pocket destroyed.
The Byzantines (from 554 to 668) The first Byzantine Bari (a second one will be born; in 876) takes on a “provincial” character, given that in Puglia the Greeks prefer to establish their military and administrative garrison in Otranto and Siponto. Not even obvious signs of that historical period remain, due to the destruction that the city will undergo over the centuries.
The Lombards (from 668 to 847) The Lombards, a Germanic people originating from the lower course of the Elbe, penetrate into Apulia, subtracting many places from Byzantium; coastal including Bari, which they conquered in 668. An important legacy of theirs is the so-called Consuetudines Barenses, a text of laws that will be used in almost all of the South and handed down even in the following centuries almost unchanged, up to the nineteenth century when it will be; replaced by the more famous Code Napoléon. Bari under the Lombards plays a leading role, becoming one of the major “gastaldati” (circumscriptions) of the kingdom. Some historians trace the seat of this high office to the “Portico dei Pellegrini” in front of the Basilica of San Nicola. An unsubstantiated thesis, even if the structure refers to the Lombard architecture present for example in Benevento. It is a building with a loggia on the ground floor and a common saal on the first floor.
The Saracens (from 847 to 872) Bari in 847 is invaded by the Saracens, Berber Arabs from Egypt. Under the emirate of Sawdan, Bari becomes an exclusive gateway to the East: the people of Bari refine the skills of merchants, adopt clothing and oriental fabrics, learn the art of embroidery and cotton cultivation. The Arab presence is also found in the language: in surnames such as Morisco or in dialectal terms including “felusce” used to indicate money.
The return of the Lombards (from 872 to 876) The emirate of Bari does not last long, only 25 years: both for internal discord, but above all for the winning siege by Ludovico, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, who conquers the city; 876. Bari is thus once again a Longobard farm, which in the meantime had come under the control of the Empire.
The return of the Byzantines (from 876 to 1071) The Lombards were again defeated by the Byzantines in 876. And this time the Greeks make the city; one of their outposts, elevating it to Catepanato, the maximum political expression of the Empire. The remains are still visible today, for example with the church of Vallisa (from the IX century) and with that of San Gregorio (erected in 1015). Bari in that period had to face numerous incursions: one of the most famous will be; that of 1002 by the Saracens who laid siege to the city; then saved thanks to the help of Venice. The festival of the “Vidua Vidue” recalls the liberation of Bari.
The Normans (from 1071 to 1189) The Normans, a Scandinavian people settled in Normandy, a region in the north of France, were taken to the city; by the lords of Bari, paid to wage a war against the Byzantines. The objective was reached and Roberto il Guiscardo conquered Bari in 1071. It is from this period that the relics of St. Nicholas of Myra were transferred to Bari, in 1087. They were taken over by the abbot Elia and placed in the monastery of San Benedetto, until it was decided to build a new church for the saint, the current Basilica. However, during the Norman domination Bari was razed to the ground. In 1156 King William the Bad to punish the people of Bari who had rebelled by devastating the Castle set fire to everything leaving only the sacred buildings standing. The people of Bari are thus forced to leave the city; rebuilt only from 1160 with the accession to the throne of the son of the “Malo”: Guglielmo “the Good”.
The Swabians (from 1189 to 1268) The male line of the Altavilla dynasty, the Normans who ruled the South, died out. The only heir, Costanza d’Altavilla, married Henry VI and so Bari passed under the scepter of the Germanic Swabian dynasty of the Hohenstaufen, from which Federico II descended. The emperor will be the architect of the restoration and fortification of the castle between 1233 and 1240: the current Frederick portal, the vestibule, the loggia, the ramparts and the inner walls are all dating back to that period. The Swabians leave Bari when the French count Charles I of Anjou conquers southern Italy, including Bari, in 1268.
The Angioinians (from 1268 to 1442) During the Angioini government Bari passed a dark period, continually threatened and conquered by one or other of the members of the same Angiò family and relegated to having to deliver its flourishing trade in the hands of Veneziani, Fiorentini and foreigners in general. The symbol of the presence of the Angevins is the Arch placed at the entrance of Piazza San Nicola, opened by Carlo II. Then under the queen Joanna II of Anjou he became Duke of Bari the Prince of Taranto: Giovanni Antonio del Balzo Orsino.
The Aragonese and the Sforza (from 1442 to 1557) The kingdom of Naples in 1442 was conquered by Alfonso V of Aragon, a lineage originating from a region of eastern Spain. Going to the throne, the king confirmed the lordship of Bari to Giovanni Antonio Orsini del Balzo, strongly hated by the people of Bari to the point that at his death in 1463 the people of Bari destroyed the fort he built in 1440. In 1464 Bari passed to the Sforza, a Milanese family that he had helped the Aragonese in the succession war. In 1501 Isabella of Aragon, wife of Galezzo Maria Sforza, became Duchess of Bari who would rule until 1524, trying to embellish her and help her out of the dark Angevin period. Particular is his attempt to make Bari an island by creating a navigable canal and connecting the city to the outside by bridges. The work never saw the light because the city was overwhelmed by the flood of October 1567: only the toponym of Marisabella remains of it, attributed to the point where the navigable channel began. It was she who then rebuilt the Fort as we see it today. At his death the duchy passed to his daughter Bona Sforza, whose mausoleum is located in the Basilica of San Nicola.
The Spaniards (from 1557 to 1713) After the death of Bona Sforza in 1557, Bari was part of the possessions of the Spanish crown, to which the Kingdom of Naples had been subject for decades. The city, a non-hereditary and therefore unattractive fief, returns to sink into a dark period of abuse, violence and abuse of power. The population is left at the mercy of the Turks, Saracens and pirates who roamed the coasts: easily entering the city; they kidnapped people who then sold to the slave market or for whom they demanded a ransom. There were popular uprisings, one of which coincided in 1647 with that of Masaniello in Naples. But what really destroyed the city was the plague of 1656 which, killing 12,000 souls, reduced the inhabitants of Bari to only 6,000.
The Habsburgs (from 1713 to 1734) In 1713 the Neapolitan passed under the Habsburgs of Austria and their emperor Charles VI. Even this is not a great period for Bari: if Naples began to breathe the air of the Enlightenment and the great culture, the acquired provinces, including Bari, are left to their fate.
The Bourbons of Spain (from 1734 to 1798) The war of Polish succession, after the peace of Vienna, brings on the throne of Naples Charles III Bourbon of Spain. The king visited the city in 1741 with his wife Maria Amalia Walburga and started various public works. At the entrance to the Fortino there is a plaque commemorating the concession of the works. In 1759 the kingdom passed to his son Ferdinand IV who authorized the expansion of the city beyond the medieval walls. However, the work will not be carried out due to the political upheavals that will soon transform Europe and Italy.
The French (from 1799 to 1815) In 1799, during the brief existence of the Neapolitan Republic, Bari gave itself a revolutionary provisional government. In the same year Ferdinand IV reoccupied the throne, but the power of the Bourbons in southern Italy is now compromised and in 1805 the Emperor Napoleon declares them fallen. Mezzogiorno is occupied by his brother Giuseppe Bonaparte, while the Bourbons take refuge in Sicily. In 1806 Giuseppe arrived in Bari as king of Naples to then leave his place to his brother-in-law Gioacchino Murat, in 1808. Bari owes to him the latter having become the capital of the homonymous land subtracting the privilege to Trani. On April 25, 1813, Murat started work on the new extramural village, the Murattiano district. The first stone is placed at the intersection of the present Corso Cavour and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.
The return of the Bourbons (from 1815 to 1860) After the fall of Napoleon and his Empire, Bari returned to the Bourbons of Spain, but the progress of the city wanted by Murat continued. The first buildings began to be built on Corso Ferdinandeo (the current Corso Vittorio Emanuele) and in 1817 the foodstuffs market (Sala Murat) was built, up to the inauguration of the Piccinni municipal theater in 1854.
Bari joins United Italy (October 1860) On 22 May 1860 Ferdinando II dies and leaves the kingdom to his son Francesco II (who had met his wife Maria Sofia Amalia in Bari). But the young king was deposed in October 1860: Bari became part of a united Italy, putting an end to 3 millennia of foreign domination.