History of Italy

History of ItalyThe history of Italy goes far back, and it is very complex–as would be the history of any old, rich culture–so of course an in-depth description evades the scope of a single page, but below you can find some of the most important historical highlights and the contributions of Italy to the development of human civilization.

The Italian peninsula used to be dominated by the Greek colonies in the South (the area known as Magna Graecia in that period in the 8th century B. C.), the Etruscan civilization, as well as other local tribes, of which the Latins rose to prominence. Rome was a humble village founded by Latins that grew into a small kingdom, and, after overthrowing the kings, established itself as a conquering Republic that spread its influence on the Italian peninsula and beyond, to form the mighty Roman Empire spanning from Britain in the Northwest all the way to what we today call the Middle East.

Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, and after the repeated barbarian incursions and finally the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Church of Rome became the primary conserver of Roman culture and civilization and the Latin language. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Italy was disunited, in the words of a famous statesman, “only a geographical expression” (as opposed to a country of its own). Famous Italian city-states, like Venice, Genoa, and Florence, became powerful mainly through their control of the crucial Mediterranean trade routes, and the Papacy, with its own lands the Papal States, exercised spiritual as well as political control over virtually all of Europe.

The movement for Italian unification resulted in an independent Kingdom of Italy established in 1861. It experienced a period of Fascism under Benito Mussolini between 1922-1945, and was on the losing end of World War II, allied with Hitler’s Germany and Imperial Japan. Since then, politically Italy has often been characterized by rather short-lived and unstable governments, but it is also one of the most prosperous economies of the world, and a thoroughly integrated member state of the European Union.