A N. Province Of Italy, formerly included in Lombardy, but lately attached to Venetia, bordering on Brescia, Verona, Rovigo, Modena, Reggio, Parma, and Cremona; area, 855 sq. in.; pop. in 1872, 288,942. It is an extensive plain, in many parts swampy and insalubrious, but Las been much improved by draining, and is generally very fertile. It is watered by the river Po and its affluents the Mincio and Oglio, and its principal products are grain, flax, silk, hemp, rice, fruits, and wine. The province is divided into the districts of Gonzaga, Mantua, Ostiglia, Revere, and Sermide, and embraces the former duchy of Mantua.
A City, capital of the province, 80 m. E. S. E. of Milan and 22 m. S. S. W. of Verona, on an island in the middle of a lagoon formed by the Mincio; pop. in 1872, 26,687. The swamps and marshes surrounding Mantua, in connection with the formidable works which guard all its approaches and enclose it on every side, once constituted its most important defences, and made it so strong that it was deemed impregnable by any means but famine; but of late years the marshes have been partially drained and diked, and the salubrity of the city is greatly improved. The communication between the island and the mainland is by several bridges, the longest of which, the ponte di San Giorgio, forms the principal approach to the city. The latter is entered by five gates, one of which, the porta Mulina, presents a curious specimen of ancient engineering. Mantua has a desolate appearance, except in the central parts, where there is commercial activity; but it contains many fine streets, the via Larga being the widest avenue.
Among the finest squares are the piazza di Virgilio, surrounded by elegant houses; the piazza delle Erbe, where the market is held; the esplanade or piazza di San Pietro; and the piazza del Argine, with a marble pillar crowned by a bust of Virgil. Great masses of buildings, consisting of feudal castles with their battlemented turrets and Lombard arches, extend from the porta di San Giorgio to the piazza Delpurgo, and include the ancient palatial castle (castello di Corte) of the Gonzagas, now used partly as a prison and partly for public offices. Adjoining it is the immense structure begun in 1302, now comprising the so-called palazzo Imperiale, palazzo Vecchio, and corte Imperiale, containing about 500 apartments, and mainly indebted for its present beauty to the genius of Giulio Romano, whose works as a painter and architect form the greatest artistic glory of the city, but are nowhere displayed to greater advantage than in the decorations of this palace. The palazzo del Te, outside of the city, originally intended for ducal stables, also grew up under the genius of Romano to the dimensions of a vast and magnificent building.
The principal churches are the cathedral of St. Peter, Sant' Andrea, and Sta. Barbara, all more or --rich in paintings, particularly the last, which also contains in its sacristy a golden vase attributed to Benvenuto Cellini. San Maurizio contains the "Martyrdom of St. Margaret," one of the finest works of Ludovico Curracci. The shambles (beceheria) and fish markets (pescheria) were planned and built by Giulio Romano. Mantua is a bishop's see, erected in 808, and contains a number of educational and charitable institutions, a botanic garden, a museum of antiquities, a library of about 80,000 volumes, an academy of science and tine arts (Virgiliana), now chiefly used as a school of drawing, a chamber of commerce and indus- try, a monte di pietd, a general house of cor.-rection, a military arsenal, a theatre, and an elegant amphitheatre. The manufactures, including silk, linen, sail cloth, woollens, soap, paper, and parchment, are limited, and the principal article of trade is silk. - Mantua is supposed to have been founded by the Etruscans 400 years before the building of Rome, and it came under Roman power in 197 B. C. It derives its chief classical celebrity from associations with Virgil, who has celebrated Mantua as the place of his birth in several passages of his works.
Charlemagne gave it its first fortifications, which in modern times were completed in their present form by the Austrians. In the middle ages it was one of the most important cities in Italy, and was greatly improved and embellished by the Gonzaga family, under whom it became with the surrounding territory a duchy. (See Gonzaga.) In 1680 it was seized by the imperialists and subjected to terrible calamities, from which the city has never recovered. In 1796-'7 Bonaparte, hopeless of reducing the fortress by force of arms, kept it under strict blockade for five months till famine compelled it to capitulate, Feb. 2, 1797. The Austrians regained it in July, 1799, and the French again, after Marengo, in 1800. It belonged to the kingdom of Italy till 1814, when it was restored to Austria. In July, 1842, the Jews, who formed a considerable portion of the population, then confined in a separate quarter (ghetto) were subjected to great persecutions. In the war of Sardinia with Austria in 1848, the victory depended on the possession of Mantua; it was blockaded for several months by the troops of Charles Albert, till his defeat by Marshal Radetzky in the battle of Cus-tozza (July 25). During the wars of 1859 and 1866 Mantua was again of high strategical importance, as one of the most formidable strongholds of Austria. By the treaty of Vil-lafranca. July 11, 1859, it was excepted from the territory ceded to the king of Sardinia; but it was annexed to Italy Oct. 11, 1866.