] Diodoro Siculo says of Elba
after the Argonauts had taken over the Golden Fleece, they sailed the Tirreno Sea and reached an island called Aethalia where they set up an excellent port for their ships and called it Argon, after the name of their ship . Even one of the verses of the Aeneid is dedicated to our island, telling of three hundred expert warriors who took part in the Trojan War, using weapons that had been forged with the iron from the mines in Elba.
From the Bronze Age onwards, because of the richness of its subsoil, the island had been fought over century after century, as far back as its first inhabitants, from Liguria, then by the Etruscans, and during the Iron Age even by the Greek (VI cent. BC) who gave it the name of Aithalia, meaning sooty, because of its forges that burned night and day.
The Etruscan dominion lasted many years and left many archeological finds behind. From 450 BC it was taken over by the Romans, who changed its name to Ilva, from the Ilvates people from Liguria. As well as the iron mines, the Romans exploited the marble and granite quarries on the western side of the island. The remains of the Roman villa in Le Grotte, built between the I cent. BC and the I cent. AD, opposite the harbour in Portoferraio, are particularly significant.
[img index="0" params="format=m&class=image-c][/img]Situated in the centre of important sea courses, and also thanks to its sheltering coasts, Elba has always been fought over, looted and destroyed by hordes of pirates. Elba appears for the first time in Pope Gregorio Magno's "Dialogues", where, so it says, Saint Cerbone, Bishop of Populonia, was exiled in Elba by the Longobards; there is an oratory called after him near Marciana.
Then the Dukes of Longobard took over the island until the end of the Longobard power. In the IX, X centuries, when Sicily was more or less completely in the hands of the Arabs, and Sardinia and Corsica were used as strategic bases for the Muslim sea dominion, almost all the Tirreno coast became uninhabited. Pisa, constantly under Muslim pirate invasions, developped its own naval skills and ended up one of the most important coastal defence cities in Tuscany.
In the beginning of the X century, after their victory over cruel Mughehid, the Pisans had important fortresses and watchtowers built overlooking the sea: in Palmaiola, in Capraia, in Gorgona and also inSan Giovanni in Campo. They also had majestic castles built, like the impregnable Volterraio Castle, or the Fort Luceri on Colle Reciso, possibly built on top of previous Roman or even Etruscan fortresses.
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