Civitavecchia in 1795, etching by William Marlow.
The modern city was built over a pre-existing
The harbour was constructed by the
Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the 2nd century. The first occurrence of the name Centum Cellae is from a letter by
Pliny the Younger (AD 107). The origin of the name is disputed: it has been suggested that it could refer to the centum ("hundred") halls of the villa of the emperor.
In the early
Middle Ages (530s), Centumcellae was a
Byzantine stronghold. It became part of the
Papal States in 728. As the port was raided by the
Saracens in 813-814, 828, 846 and finally in 876, a new settlement in a more secure place was therefore built by order of
Pope Leo VII as soon as 854. The Popes gave the settlement as a fief to several local lords, including the Count Ranieri of
Civitacastellana and the
Abbey of Farfa, and the Di Vico, who held Centumcellae in 1431. In that year, pope
Eugene IV sent an army under cardinal
Giovanni Vitelleschi and several
Ranuccio Farnese and Menicuccio dell'Aquila among them) to recapture the place, which, after the payment of 4,000 florins, became thenceforth a full Papal possession, led by a vicar and a treasurer.
The place became a
free port under
Pope Innocent XII in 1696 and by the modern era was the main port of
French Empire occupied it in 1806. On 16 April 1859 the
Rome and Civitavecchia Rail Road was opened for service. The Papal troops opened the gates of the fortress to the Italian general
Nino Bixio in 1870.
World War II,
Allied bombings severely damaged Civitavecchia, and caused civilian casualties.
Louis Till, the father of
Emmett Louis Till was convicted of the rape of two local Italian women and the murder of another in Civitavecchia.