Emilia Romagna was once a stronghold of the Etruscans by the 6th Century BC. However, two centuries later the Gauls forced the Etruscans out of Emilia Romagna. The Romans arrived in the 2nd Century BC and changed the face of the land creating a series of market towns along a road named the Via Emilia. Today those market towns still exists and the road has lent its name to the western portion of Emilia Romagna.
After the fall of Rome, the Byzantines moved into Romagna and created the Exarchy of Ravenna, a period of two hundred year golden age that has left its artistic mark before the Frankish King Pepin conquered the area and donated the area to the Pope. This land grant by Pepin was enforced by the forged "Donation of Constantine", which claimed the Emperor Constantine the Great donated central Italy - including Emilia Romagna - to the Papacy after his conversion.
Map of artistic sites in Romagna - credits e20romagna.it
People from Emilia Romagna successfully defended their freedom from both Emperor Frederick II (Stupor Mundi) as well as aggressive Popes. Eventually the city-states would lose their freedom as Renaissance Pope (and a patron of Michelangelo) Julius II would finally conquer Emilia Romagna for the Papal States. Emilia Romagna would then be parceled out to the house of Bourbon, with Modena and Reggio ruled by the local Este family until the Napoleonic wars of the 19th Century. Emilia Romagna was an early participant in the struggle for Italian unity and joined the early nation in 1859. The citizens decided to revive the ancient Roman name of Emilia; the final step was to join Emilia with Romagna in 1947.
Three times in its history, Ravenna has been the capital of a powerful state with the Byzantine period leaving us today with a wealth of artistic treasures and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Foremost of Ravenna's treasures are its mosaics; the San Vitale Basilica contains some of the best known, depicting the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora. The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia belongs to the sister of Emperor Honorius and houses the oldest mosaics in Ravenna, depicting a starry night sky. Although the Mausoleum of Theodoric the Goth does not contain any mosaics, it was the final resting place of the most famous of the barbarian kings of Italy.