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The origins of the town of Orvieto have not yet been cleared, even though recent archaeologic discoveries testify continuity of signs of life since the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. As far as we know for certain, the Etruscans are considered the first inhabitants of the top of this block of tufa, where they settled after having dug what for a long time was its only way of approach. The many suppositions scholars have made, though rich in fascination, have not yet demonstrated what the real political and religious function of this town was within the Etruscan federation, even if its natural position at the centre of a river valley and its prestige (perhaps as the sacred town of the Etruscans) greatly increased its already thriving commercial economy and its importance. The remains that have been found and the Belvedere Temple testify that in that period the town developed all over the tufa block, even though it's difficult to single out according to what kind of urbanistic plan, while some ring-like necropolis at north and the Cannicella one at south-east are still visible today.
After the town was destroyed by the Roman Army (263 B.C.), Orvieto lost all of its prestige and its inhabitants. Later on agricultural and commercial activities developed along both the land and river routes around the large Roman port of Pagliano (III -IV centuries A.D.) on the confluence of the Paglia and Tiber rivers. During the barbaric invasions - a period of great political and social unstahleness - the town, naturally fortified, recovered importance and inhabitants. It becomes a stronghold of the Goths' resistance until 538 when Belisarius suhjugated it to Byzantium. In 605 Orvieto is under Longobard domination and in the year one thousand the "Earldom of Orvieto", perhaps comprised within the borderland of Tuscany, still maintains Longohard feudal codes and the founder of every family of Earls is of Longobard origin. During these years the medieval town starts to take shape, with all its towers and home-towers built by the rural nobles that have moved into town, but also with its churches and its places of worship.
The Commune is born in the XII century, from the contrasts between Arnoldists and Papalists and its first official act is stipulated with Hadrian IV in 1157. The Commune's policy is of autonomy from the two universal powers and even the civil fights and among them the most bloody (as that of the Patarines, allied to the noble Ghibellines, that killed Pietro Parenzo, rector-podestÓ of the town designated by Innocent III in 1199) testity the will of autonomy maintained by the Commune even when the Papal State's interference became more and more strong.
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