Origin and History of Siena

Siena is a town in Tuscany, Italy. It is the present capital of the province of Siena. Siena is situated in the middle of a large hilly landscape between the Merse valley (south-west), the Arbia river valley (south), the Chianti hills (north-east), the Elsa valley (north), the Crete Senesi (south-east), and the Montagnola Senese (west). 

Siena has produced some of the greatest Italian painters, such as Simone Martini, Duccio, and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Many of their treasures can be found in the town’s museums, especially in the Pinacoteca Nazionale.


Like other Tuscan hill towns, Siena was first inhabited in the time of the Etruscans (900 BCE–400 BCE) when a tribe occupied it called the Saina. The Etruscans were a family of advanced humans who changed the face of Italy through their use of irrigation to rehabilitate previously unfarmable land and their practice of building their foundations in well-defended hill forts. A Roman town called Saena Julia was established at the site at the time of Emperor Augustus. Some archaeologists declare that Siena was controlled for a few years by a Gaulish tribe called the Senones.


Siena was founded by Aschius and Senius, Remus sons and thus nephews of Romulus, after whom Rome was reportedly named. Apparently, after their father’s murder by Romulus, they escaped Rome, taking with them the she-wolf statue suckling the infants, thus reserving that symbol for the city. Additionally, they rode black and white horses, giving rise to the current Balzana, or coat of Siena’s arms with a dark band atop a white band. Some maintain the name Siena derives from Senius. Other etymologies reportedly derive the name from the Etruscan family name Saina, the Roman family name Saenii, or the Latin word senex “old” or its derived form seneo “to be old.”


The earliest aristocratic families in Siena record their line to the Lombards’ submission in 774 CE to Charlemagne. At this point, the city was flooded with a swarm of Frankish overseers who married into the actual Sienese nobility and left a story that can be observed in the abbeys they established throughout the Sienese territory. Feudal power waned, however, and by Countess Matilda’s death in 1115 CE, the border territory of the March of Tuscany, which had been under her family control, the Canossa, broke up into several independent regions. This ultimately resulted in the formulation of the Republic of Siena.

The Republic of Siena existed peacefully for over four hundred years, from the 12th century CE until 1555 CE. During the golden age of Siena before the Black Death in 1348 CE, the town was home to 50,000 people.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.