- City on the Adriatic.
- A great March between the Apennines and the Adriatic (see MARCHE, Le).
- A province in central Italy.
Ancona was originally a Greek city and belonged to the Pentapolis, which was recovered by the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century. The Lombards drove the Byzantines out in 751, but their Kingdom was soon destroyed by the Franks. Ancona belonged to the lands that the Pope regarded as his, but as it bordered upon the sea, and, by land, upon whichever power controlled the northeastern sector of southern Italy (whether Lombard Duke, Byzantine governor, or Norman King), it was bound to be of interest to the Holy Roman Emperor. He had the power to make it part of the Marchland protecting the southern borders of the Empire, though for a while, from the mid-1150s to the death of the Emperor Manuel in 1180, the city was allied to the Eastern Emperor. The Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was fully occupied coping with the Lombard cities further north.
From 1198 the influence of the Pope became stronger than the Emperor’s, though the city long enjoyed communal government. It rarely fell under the domination of a single lord, though the Malatesta of Rimini briefly controlled it, 1348-55, as did the condottiere Francesco Sforza in 1433-43. Otherwise the city governed itself, under the protection of the Pope. Eventually the Pope acquired the wherewithal to make good his claims; and from 1532 Ancona was fully Papal, with a new fortress to symbolise the reality of his power.
In 1797 Ancona became a Republic, uniting with the Roman Republic in 1798. The Pope recovered control the following year. In 1805 Ancona became the capital of the Metauro Department in the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, but returned to the Papal States in 1814, and was absorbed into united Italy in 1860.
The province of Ancona, which extends from the coastal plain to the mountains, and includes the Rivers Esino and Misa, is today the smallest but most populous province in the Marche Region.