Italy - History
Italian history can be traced back to the 9th century BC.
The name Italia was imposed upon the Roman Republic by the conquering Italic tribes.
Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus and Remus (legend), and was then governed by the seven Kings of Rome.
The total population of Italia at the beginning of the 1st century was around 10 million.
In 476, with the death of Romulus Augustulus and the return of the imperial ensigns to Constantinople, the Western Roman Empire ended. The last Roman Emperor was overthrown by the Germanic general Odoacer who ruled Italy until 493.
In 751 the Lombards seized Ravenna and the Exarchate of Ravenna was abolished. This ended the Byzantine presence in central Italy.
In 756 Frankish forces defeated the Lombards and gave the Papacy legal authority over much of central Italy, thus creating the Papal States.
In 1155 the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos attempted to invade southern Italy. However, the invasion soon stalled. By 1158 the Byzantine army had left Italy, with only a few permanent gains.
By the Middle Ages Rome was a city largely in ruins, and the Papal States were a loosely administered region with little law and order. The city-states of Italy expanded during this period and grew in power to become de facto fully independent of the Holy Roman Empire.
A series of foreign invasions of Italy known as the Italian Wars began with the 1494 invasion by France that wreaked widespread devastation on Northern Italy and ended the independence of many of the city-states. The Sack of Rome by Spanish and German troops in 1527 all but ended the role of the Papacy as the largest patron of Renaissance art and architecture.
The plague (black death) wreaked havoc in Italy and in the first half of the 17th century a plague claimed some 1,730,000 victims, or about 14% of Italy’s population.
Italy became a nation-state — on March 17, 1861, when most of the states of the peninsula were united under king Victor Emmanuel II. Rome however 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.
With the advent of World War 1, 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. After the war, the Treaty of St. Germain awarded Alto Adige, Trento, Trieste, Istria, and the city of Zadar to Italy.
The government of dictator Benito Mussolini took over in 1922 and led to the alliance with Germany (the Axis) and Japan. This alliance ended indefeat for Italy and its allies. Mussolini was thrown out on July 25, 1943. Mussolini, after being rescued by the Germans, set up the Italian Social Republic in the north of Italy. This remnant government was crushed by the Allies in 1945, with Mussolini executed on April 28, 1945.
Since the conclusion of the second world war Italy has been through a period of political instability with frequent changes of government.
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 reshuffle. The elections in 2006 returned Prodi in the government with a slim majority, lasted only 2 years, until begin 2008. Berlusconi won the elections in 2008.
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