The history of Padua starts around the 12th century BC. Initially a very important city, it lost a lot of its prestige after the fall of the Roman Empire. After a long decline during the Middle Ages, the city got most of its splendor back when the university was founded.
According to legend, Padua was founded in 1184 BC by the Trojan refugee Antenor. In those times it was a very important city and continued to be so under Roman rule. This is evidenced by the presence of several impressive ancient public buildings, such as the arena and the theater.
After the fall of the Roman empire, the city suffered the invasions of the barbarians, who plundered the city repeatedly. This was followed by a long, particularly dark phase, which ended towards the end of the 12th century, when municipal institutions were established.
A period of great economic and cultural fervour began when Padua became a municipality. Numerous monuments were built, but the most important event was the foundation of the university.
Later Padua became a feud of the Carrara family. The city kept on flourishing, even though on several occasions there were problems with the Scaligeri, the Visconti and with nearby Venice. Padua later took the side of the Guelphs in their political and social struggle against the Ghibellines.
In 1405 Padua was conquered by the Venetians and slowly but surely fell into decay. The university remained virtually the only testimony of the city’s former splendour. The sixteenth-century Polish astronomer Copernicus studied medicine and law here.
After the decline of the Venetian Republic and the beginning of the Austrian domination Padua played an important role in the patriotic Risorgimento movement, which led to the unification of Italy.
In 1819, during the Austrian reign, one of the most beautiful and important churches of the city, the Dominican Sant’Agostino Church, was completely demolished.
During the First World War Padua was the seat of the highest military commands. The armistice with Austria was signed at the Villa Giusti.