In the area of what is now Italy, traces of human settlement have been found that are 1.3 to 1.7 million years old. Around 44,000 years ago, modern humans (Homo sapiens) can be traced who, like elsewhere, lived here for several millennia together with the Neanderthals.
6100 BC Chr. Hunters and gatherers became sedentary farmers – the Neolithic Age began. Different cultures developed. Each had their own particular way of decorating pottery or burying their dead. They include the Villanova culture or the Este culture.
In the 1st millennium BC Various ethnic groups immigrated to the area. Around 800 BC The Etruscans came, but it is not clear where they came from. They established a culture in central Italy that later had a great influence on that of the Romans. The Greeks founded settlements in southern Italy and Sicily. Phoenicians settled in western Sicily.
The Roman Empire
According to oxfordastronomy, in 753 BC The fabulous founding of Rome is dated. In any case, a city developed here that over time gained more and more power. At first it was ruled by Etruscan kings, then Rome became a republic. It was ruled by two consuls. Rome successfully waged wars against the peoples who lived around the Mediterranean Sea, and so it grew: the Roman Empire came into being. Parts of Central Europe were added later.
In 27 BC The republic became an empire. The first emperor was Augustus. Again and again there were power struggles for rule. In the 3rd century the great empire began to crumble more and more. Eventually it was divided into western and eastern currents. While Westrom went under in 476, Eastrom lived on as the Byzantine Empire.
Italy in the Middle Ages
With the Great Migration, the Goths and later the Lombards came to Italy. The north came with the Pippin donation to the Franconian Empire and later to the Holy Roman Empire.
The south was conquered by Arabs in the 9th century. They founded an emirate in Sicily. In the 11th century the south was conquered by Normans. In 1131 the Kingdom of Sicily came into being, ruled by the Normans. The Hohenstaufen ruled here from 1194, and the French ruling dynasty of Anjou came to the throne in 1268.
In the 14th and 15th centuries there were mainly five powers that ruled what is now Italy. These were the city-states of Milan, Florence and Venice as well as the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples.
Fragmentation and foreign domination
From the 16th century onwards, France and Spain tried to achieve supremacy on the Apennine peninsula during the Italian Wars. In 1525 the Spaniards won the Battle of Padua and now controlled southern Italy and Lombardy.
In the north, the Cisalpine Republic was established at the end of the 18th century under French influence. Their capital was Milan. Napoleon was crowned King of Italy in 1805. After the end of its rule, Italy fell under Austrian control. In the south, the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily remained independent.
History of Italy from 1861 to the present day
Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946)
As in many other regions, a national movement emerged in Italy in the 19th century. They are called Risorgimento, which means resurrection. Italy waged three wars of independence (1848/49, 1859 and 1866). The movement was led by the Kingdom of Sardinia.
In 1860 a troop led by the freedom fighter Guiseppe Garibaldi liberated Sicily from the rule of the Bourbons (“Train of the Thousand”). King of Sardinia-Piedmont had been Victor Emanuel II since 1849. In March 1861 he was proclaimed King of Italy. In 1866 Veneto and Friuli were added to the kingdom, in 1870 Rome was conquered and a year later the capital. The papal state no longer existed. It was not until 1929 that the status of Vatican City was clarified in the Lateran Treaties. The sovereignty of the Vatican was now guaranteed by the Italian state, Rome remained the seat of the Italian government.
Unlike Spain or France, for example, Italy did not yet have any colonies at that time. Eritrea became an Italian colony in 1890 ; efforts in Libya did not lead to the establishment of one until 1934. Italy also claimed in the “Irredenta” areas with a predominantly Italian-speaking population, including Trentino, Dalmatia and Istria.
World War I, Fascism and World War II
In the First World War, Italy joined the Entente and was one of the victorious powers. Through the Paris suburb contracts, it received several areas of Austria, namely Julisch-Venetien (including Istria), South Tyrol and Trentino.
Economic hardship and high unemployment figures followed in the interwar period. In 1919 and 1920, socialists tried to push through a revolution along the lines of the Soviet Union. That didn’t work. Against these revolutionaries, Benito Mussolini founded a fighting league, the “Fasci di Combattimento”. He also founded the National Fascist Party PNF in 1921 and presented himself as the savior of Italy.
King Victor Emmanuel III commissioned Mussolini to form a new government. He marched with 40,000 men to Rome, where he arrived on October 30, 1922. This sealed his takeover of power. Mussolini continued to expand his power and set up a fascist dictatorship in Italy.
In 1935 Mussolini invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and occupied the country. Italy fought on the side of the German Empire during World War II. In 1943 the Allies invaded Italy and Mussolini was deposed. Northern Italy was then occupied by German troops and Mussolini was reinstated there. Fighting continued in Italy until the end of the war in 1945. Since 1900 Viktor Emanuel III was. King of Italy.
Italy as a republic (since 1946)
After World War II, Italy lost all of its colonies. The king, who had supported fascism, resigned in favor of his son Umberto II. A referendum decided in 1946 to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic. King Umberto II went into exile. A new constitution came into force.
Since then the governments in Italy have changed frequently. The north-south divide (see economy), corruption and organized crime, especially in the south, are problems that Italy has been struggling with since then. The country is also heavily in debt.
Until 1990 the Christian Democratic party Demokrazia Cristiana was always involved in the government. From 1994, Silvio Berlusconi was Prime Minister several times. He was followed by Mario Monti, Enrico Letta and Matteo Renzi. Renzi from the PD social democratic party carried out numerous reforms. He announced his resignation in 2016 after a constitutional reform he had sought failed. In December 2016, Paolo Gentiloni became the new Prime Minister of Italy, and in 2018 he was replaced by Guiseppe Conte. Both belong to the PD.