History of Italy

History of Italy

Italy, united in 1861, has significantly contributed to the cultural and social development of the entire Mediterranean area. Important cultures and civilizations have existed there since prehistoric times.

Culturally and linguistically, the origins of Italian history can be traced in the 9th century BCE, when earliest accounts date the presence of Italic tribes [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Italic_peoples] in modern central Italy. Linguistics they are divided into: Oscans , Umbrians and Latins. Later the Latin culture became dominant, as Romeemerged as dominant city around 350 BCE.

Other pre-Roman civilizations include Magna Graecia in Southern Italy and the earlier Etruscan civilization, which flourished between 900 and 100 BCE in the Center North.

Roman Republic and Empire that dominated this part of the world for many centuries came an Italy whose people would make immeasurable contributions to the development of European philosophy, science, and art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Dominated by city-states for much of the medieval and Renaissance period, the Italian peninsula, Italy also experienced several foreign dominations. Parts of Italy were annexed to the the Austrian empire, the Spanish empire and Napoleon's empire, while the Vatican mantained control over the central part of it, before the Peninsula was eventually liberated and unified amidst much struggle in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Origins of the name

The name Italy (Italia) is an ancient name for the country and people of Central Italy. Its origin is clear: the name Italia was imposed upon the Roman Republic by the conquering Italic tribes of the contemporary Abruzzo region, centering in the area of Corfinium (Corfinio). Coins bearing the name "Italia" were minted by an alliance of Italic tribes (Sabines, Samnites, Umbrians and others) competing with Rome in the 1st century BC. By the time of Emperor Augustus, the multi-ethnic territory of Italy was included in Italia as the central unit of the Empire; Cisalpine Gaul, the Upper Po valley, for example, was appended in 42 BC. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Lombard invasions, "Italy" or "Italian" gradually became the collective name for diverse states appearing on the peninsula and their overseas properties. Pallotino claims that the name was originally derived from the Itali settled in modern Calabria. The Greeks gradually came to use the name for a greater region, but it was not until the time of the Roman conquests that the term was expanded to cover the entire peninsula (Guillotining, M., History of Earliest Italy, trans. Ryle, M & Soper, K. in Jerome Lectures, Seventeenth Series, p.50)

Prehistoric Italy


Rock Drawings in Valcamonica, made by Camunni civilization, from the neolithic to the middle ages.

Copper Age (37th to 15th c. BC)

Remedello Culture in Pianura Padana

Bronze Age (15th to 8th c. BC)

Terramare culture takes its name from the black earth (terremare) residue of settlement mounds, which have long served the fertilizing needs of local farmers. The occupations of the terramare people as compared with their Neolithic predecessors may be inferred with comparative certainty. They were still hunters, but had domesticated animals; they were fairly skilful metallurgists, casting bronze in moulds of stone and clay, and they were also agriculturists, cultivating beans, the vine, wheat and flax. It is thought the Terremare culture may be an early manifestation of Italic-speaking Indo-Europeans

Iron Age (8th to 5th c BC)

Villanovan culture brought iron-working to the Italian peninsula; Villanovans practiced cremation and buried the ashes of their dead in pottery urns of distinctive double-cone shape. Generally speaking, Villanovan settlements were centered in the Po River valley and Etruria round Bologna, later an important Etruscan center, and areas in Emilia Romagna (at Verruchio and Fermi), in Tuscany and Lazio. Further south, in Campania, a region where inhumation was the general practice, Villanovan cremation burials have been identified at Capua, at the "princely tombs" of Pontecagnano near queer (finds conserved in the Museum of Agro Picentino) and at Sala Consilina.


Culture that is identifiably and certainly Etruscan developed in Italy after about 800 BC approximately over the range of the preceding Iron Age Villanovan culture. The latter gave way in the 7th century to an increasingly orientalizing culture that was influenced by Greek traders and Greek neighbors in Magna Graecia, the Hellenic civilization of southern Italy. The Etruscans are generally believed to have spoken a non-Indo-European language. They were a monogamous society that emphasized pairing. The historical Etruscans had achieved a state system of society, with remnants of the chiefdom and tribal forms. In this they were ahead of the surrounding Italics, who still had chiefs and tribes. Rome was in a sense the first Italic state, but it began as an Etruscan one. The Etruscan system of belief was an immanent polytheism; that is, all visible phenomena were considered to be a manifestation of divine power, and that power was subdivided into deities that acted continually on the world of man and could, by human action or inaction, be dissuaded against or persuaded in favor of human affairs. Rome was founded in Etruscan territory. Despite the words of the sources, which indicated that Campania and Latium also had been Etruscan, scholars took the view that Rome was on the edge of Etruscan territory. Near the Etruscan center of Viterbo, an Etruscan citadel now called Acquarossa was destroyed ca 500 BC and never rebuilt, thus preserving relatively undisturbed Etruscan structures, which have been excavated under the auspices of the Swedish Institute at Rome.

Magna Graecia

In the 8th and 7th centuries, driven by unsettled conditions at home, Greek colonies were established in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian peninsula. During the Early Middle Ages, following the Gothic War that was disastrous for the region, new waves of Byzantine Christian Greeks came to Magna Graecia from Greece and Asia Minor, as southern Italy remained loosely governed by the Eastern Roman Empire until the advent first of the Lombards, then of the Normans. Moreover, the Byzantines found in southern Italy people of common cultural root, the Greek-speaking eredi ellenofoni of Magna Graecia. and as a result the name changed

Romans (5th c. BC to 5th c. AD)

According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus and Remus, and was then governed by seven Kings of Rome. In the following centuries, Rome started expanding its territory, defeating its neighbours (Veium, the other Latins, the Sannites) one after the other.

Italia, under the Roman Republic and later Empire, was the Italian peninsula from Rubicon to Calabria. During the Republic, Italia was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status: for example, military commanders were not allowed to bring their armies within Italia, and Julius Caesar passing the Rubicon with his legions marked the start of the civil war.

The Italian "province" was privileged by Augustus and his heirs, with the construction, among other public structures, of a dense mesh of roads. The Italian economy flourished: agriculture, handicraft and industry had a sensible growth, allowing the export of goods to the other provinces. The Italian population grew as well: Three census were ordered by Augustus, to record the presence of male citizens in Italia. They were 4,063,000 in 28 BC, 4,233,000 in 8 BC, and 4,937,000 in AD 14. Including the women and the children, the total population of Italia at the beginning of the 1st century was around 10 million.

After the death of emperor Theodosius I (395), Italia became part of the Western Roman Empire. Then came the years of the barbarian invasions, and the capital was moved from Mediolanum to Ravenna. In 476, with the death of Romulus Augustulus and the return of the imperial ensigns to Constantinople, the Western Roman Empire ends; for a few years Italia stayed united under the rule of Odovacer, but later it was divided between several kingdoms, and did not reunite under a single ruler until thirteen centuries later.

Middle Ages (6th to 14th c.)

In 476, the last Roman Emperor was overthrown by the Germanic general Odoacer who ruled Italy until 493, largely maintaining Roman customs and culture. Odoacer's rule came to an end when the Ostrogoths under the leadership of Theodoric conquered Italy. This led to the Gothic War during which the armies of Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian won a pyrrhic victory over the Goths in Italy. The Gothic War destroyed the infrastructure of Italy and allowed the more barbarous Germanic tribe, the Lombards to take control of Italy. The Lombards established a kingdom in northern Italy and three principalities in the South. After the Lombard invasion, the popes (for example, St. Gregory) were nominally subject to the eastern emperor, but often received little help from Constantinople, and had to fill the lack of stately power, providing essential services (such as food for the needy) and protecting Rome from Lombard incursions; in this way, the popes started building an independent state. In 751 the Lombards seized Ravenna and the Exarchate of Ravenna was abolished. This ended the Byzantine presence in central Italy, although some coastal cities and some areas in south Italy remained under Byzantine control until the eleventh century. Facing a new Lombard offensive, the papacy appealed to the Franks for aid. In 756 Frankish forces defeated the Lombards and gave the Papacy legal authority over much of central Italy, thus creating the Papal States.

The age of Charlemagne was therefore one of stability for Italy, though it was generally dominated by non-Italian interests. The 11th century signed the end of the darkest period in the Middle Ages. Trade slowly increased, especially on the seas where the four Italian cities of Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice became major powers. The papacy regained its authority, and started a long struggle with the empire, about both ecclesiastical and secular matter. The first episode was the Investiture controversy. In the twelfth century those Italian cities which lay in the Holy Roman Empire launched a successful effort to win autonomy from the Holy Roman Empire; this made north Italy a land of quasi-independent or independent city-states until the 19th century.

In 1155 the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos attempted to invade southern Italy. The Emperor sent his generals Michael Palaiologos and John Doukas with Byzantine troops and large quantities of gold to invade Apulia (1155). However, the invasion soon stalled. By 1158 the Byzantine army had left Italy, with only a few permanent gains.

Renaissance (15th to 16th c.)

By the late Middle Ages, central ; southern Italy, once the heartland of the Roman Empire, was far poorer than the north. Rome was a city largely in ruins, and the Papal States were a loosely administered region with little law and order. Partly because of this, the Papacy had relocated to Avignon in France. Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia had for some time been under foreign domination. The Italian trade routes that covered the Mediterranean and beyond were major conduits of culture and knowledge. The city-states of Italy expanded greatly during this period and grew in power to become de facto fully independent of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Italian Renaissance began in Tuscany, centered in the city of Florence and Siena. It then spread south, having an especially significant impact on Rome, which was largely rebuilt by the Renaissance popes. The Italian Renaissance peaked in the late 15th century as foreign invasions plunged the region into turmoil. From the late fourteenth century, Florence's leading family had been the Albizzi. The Renaissance ideals first spread from Florence to the neighbouring states of Tuscany such as Siena and Lucca. The Tuscan culture soon became the model for all the states of Northern Italy, and the Tuscan variety of Italian came to predominate throughout the region, especially in literature. In 1447 Francesco Persaliano came to power in Milan and rapidly transformed that still medieval city into a major centre of art and learning. Venice, one of the wealthiest cities due to its control of the Mediterranean Sea, also became a centre for Renaissance culture, especially architecture. In 1478 the Papacy returned to Rome, but that once imperial city remained poor and largely in ruins through the first years of the Renaissance. As a cultural movement, the Italian Renaissance affected only a small part of the population. Northern Italy was the most urbanized region of Europe needs citation, but three quarters of the people were still rural peasants.

A series of foreign invasions of Italy known as the Italian Wars that would continue for several decades. These began with the 1494 invasion by France that wreaked widespread devastation on Northern Italy and ended the independence of many of the city-states. Most damaging was the May 6, 1527, Spanish and German troops sacking Rome that all but ended the role of the Papacy as the largest patron of Renaissance art and architecture.

Foreign domination (1559 to 1814)

The War of the League of Cambrai was a major conflict in the Italian Wars. The principal participants of the war were France, the Papal States, and the Republic of Venice; they were joined, at various times, by nearly every significant power in Western Europe, including Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, the Duchy of Milan, Florence, the Duchy of Ferrara, and the Swiss.

The history of Italy in the Early Modern period was characterized by foreign domination: Following the Italian Wars (1494 to 1559), Italy saw a long period of relative peace, first under Habsburg Spain (1559 to 1713) and then under Habsburg Austria (1713 to 1796). During the Napoleonic era, Italy was a client state of the French Republic (1796 to 1814). The Congress of Vienna (1814) restored the situation of the late 18th century, which was however quickly overturned by the incipient movement of Italian unification.

Unification (1814 to 1861)

thumb|right|300px|Map of the regions of Italy after the unification process in 1920. In color are the areas still "irredent": Malta in red, Corsica in purple, Dalmatia in yellow/green, Nizza and Ticino in yellow/green.

The "Risorgimento" was the political and social process that unified different states of the Italian peninsula into the single nation of Italy.

It is difficult to pin down exact dates for the beginning and end of Italian reunification, but most scholars agree that it began with the end of Napoleonic rule and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and approximately ended with the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, though the last "città irredente" did not join the Kingdom of Italy until the Italian victory in World War I.

Monarchy and Fascist period (1861-1945)

Italy became a nation-state belatedly — on March 17, 1861, when most of the states of the peninsula were united under king Victor Emmanuel II of the Savoy dynasty, which ruled over Piedmont. The architects of Italian unification were Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the Chief Minister of Victor Emmanuel, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, a general and national hero. Rome itself remained for a decade under the Papacy, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy only on September 20, 1870, the final date of Italian unification. The Vatican is now an independent enclave surrounded by Italy, as is San Marino.

World War I

At the beginning of World War I Italy remained neutral. The Italian government claimed that the Triple Alliance was only for defensive purposes. Therefore, the Triple Alliance did not apply to a war that was started by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, both the central empires and the Triple Entente continued efforts to attract Italy on their side. In April 1915, the Italian government agreed to sign the London Pact and to declare war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire in exchange for several territories. The London Pact awarded Trento, Trieste, Istria, and part of Dalmatia to Italy, claimed by the Irredentism.

World War II

The Fascist government of Prime Minister and dictator Benito Mussolini that took over in 1922 led to the alliance with Germany (the "Axis") and Japan. Italy conquered an empire in Ethiopia in 1936 and did an expansionary policy annexing in 1939 Albania. Ultimately the alliance with Hitler's Germany led to defeat in World War II. The Allied Powers invaded Sicily in 1943 and gradually made their way to the Italian mainland. Mussolini was thrown out on July 25, 1943, and a new government under Pietro Badoglio and King Victor Emmanuel III joined the Allied Powers. Initially Badoglio's government only controlled the liberated portions of southern Italy. Mussolini, after being rescued by the Germans, set up the Italian Social Republic in the north of Italy.

After the war, on June 2, 1946, a referendum on the monarchy resulted in the establishment of the Italian Republic, which led to the adoption of a new constitution on January 1, 1948.

Italian Republic (after 1945)

Italy is a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. It joined the growing political and economic unification of Western Europe, including the introduction of the Euro in 1999.

A new constitution was written for the new republic, taking effect on January 1, 1948, while the desperate fascist Salo Republic attempt was crushed by the Allies in April 1945. The referendum at the origin of the Italian republic was, however, the object of deep discussion, mainly because of some contested results. Under the 1947 peace treaty, minor adjustments were made to Italy's frontier with France, the eastern border area was transferred to Yugoslavia, and the area around the city of Trieste was designated a free territory. In the 1950s, Italy became a member of the NATO alliance and an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan.

The following period came to be known as the anni di piombo ("lead years") because of a wave of bombings, attributed to far-right, far-left and secret services' actions. Piazza Fontana bombing in the centre of Milan, on December 12, 1969, marked the beginning of this violent period. The police arrested 4 000 people in left-wing circles, among whom Giuseppe Pinelli, an anarchist who was initially blamed for the bombing. In December 1970, a coup dubbed the Golpe Borghese failed. Christian Democrat (DC) politician Aldo Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigades, a paramilitary group, on March 16, 1978, the day the historic compromise with the Italian Communist Party (PCI), which had embraced eurocommunism with Enrico Berlinguer, was supposed to be enacted, insuring the PCI's return to government for the first time since May 1947. Aldo Moro's corpse was then discovered on May 9, in "via Caetani" in Rome, in a site equidistant between the DC and the PCI headquarters.

In the 1980s, for the first time, two governments were led by a republican and a socialist (Bettino Craxi) rather than by a member of DC (which nonetheless remained the main force behind the government). From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as voters (disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime's considerable influence collectively called Tangentopoli after being uncovered by Mani pulite - "Clean hands") demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The 1994 elections also swept media magnate Silvio Berlusconi (leader of "Pole of Freedoms" coalition, which included Forza Italia, the regionalist far-right "Lega Nord" party and the far-right Alleanza Nazionale) into office as Prime Minister. However, his government collapsed after only a few months because the Northern League split out.

A technocratic cabinet led by Lamberto Dini, supported by the left-wing parties and the Northern League, lasted until Romano Prodi's new center-left coalition won the 1996 general election. In 2001 the center-right took the government and Berlusconi was able to remain in power for the complete five year mandate but having to pass through a crisis and a government's reshuffle. The elections in 2006 returned Prodi in the government with a slim majority, but Berlusconi won the 2008 elections and now the center-right coalition is back in power.

ee also

*History of Sicily
*History of Sardinia
*History of Tuscany
*History of Rome

External links

* [http://www.tricolore.net/ Tricolore.Net] everything about Italy
* [http://eudocs.lib.byu.edu/index.php/History_of_Italy:_Primary_Documents History of Italy: Primary Documents]
* [http://www.italia-liberazione.it/en/enfuturo.php A Memory for the future - constructing the modern history of Italy (from INSMLI, The National Institute for the History of the Liberation Movement in Italy, Milano]
* [http://www.italyrevisited.org/ Italy Revisited (historical photo archives)]


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