The history of Italy

 

Begins with the arrival of the first hominins 850,000 years ago at Monte Poggiolo. Italy shows evidence of habitation by anatomically modern humans beginning about 43,000 years ago. It is reached by the Neolithic as early as 6000-5500 BC Cardium Pottery and Impressed ware. The Italian Bronze Age begins around 1500 BC, likely corresponding to the arrival of Indo-European speakers whose descendants would become the Italic peoples of the Iron Age; alongside the early Italic cultures, however, the Etruscan civilization in central Italy, Celts in northern Italy and Greek colonies in the south flourished during 8th to 5th centuries BC. Among the Italic peoples, the Latins, originally situated in the Latium region, and their Latin language would come to dominate the peninsula with the Roman conquest of Italy in the 3rd century BC. The Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire dominated Italy for many centuries, and furthermore established the culture and civilization of Western Europe in general, including the adoption and subsequent spread of Christianity as state religion at the end of the 4th century. The decline and collapse of the Western Empire by the end of the 5th century is taken to mark the end of Late Antiquity. A Lombard Kingdom of Italy was established, although parts of the peninsula remained under Byzantine rule and influence until the 11th century. The Lombard kingdom was incorporated into Francia and ultimately the Holy Roman Empire, although the rise of city-states, and especially the powerful maritime republics in the medieval period led to political fragmentation. Ultimately, after the disastrous Italian Wars, the peninsula was divided among the major foreign powers of Early Modern Europe, Spain and Austria, and later fell to the French Empire under Napoleon I, the Papal States being reduced to the control of the Holy See over Rome. With the rise of nationalism and the idea of the nation state in the 19th century, the peninsula was unified in the late 19th century. The new Kingdom of Italy, established in 1861, quickly modernized and built a large colonial empire, colonizing parts of Africa, and countries along the Mediterranean. However, many regions of the young nation (notably, the South) remained rural and poor, originating the Italian diaspora. Part of the victorious allied powers of World War I, Italy defeated its historical enemy, the Austrian Empire. Soon afterwards, however, the liberal state collapsed to social unrest: the Fascists, led by Benito Mussolini, took over and set up an authoritarian dictatorship. Italy joined the Axis powers in World War II, falling into a bloody Civil War in 1943, with the Fascist faction finally defeated in the spring of 1945. In 1946, as a result of a Constitutional Referendum, the monarchy was abolished. The new republic was proclaimed on 2 June 1946. In the 1950s and 1960s, Italy saw a period of rapid modernization and sustained economic growth, the so-called Italian economic miracle. The country, coming back to international politics among Western democratic powers, joined the European Economic Community (which has later constituted the European Union), the United Nations, NATO, the G7 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Italy plays a prominent role in regional and global military, cultural and diplomatic affairs.

 

 

Italy in World War I

See also: Military history of Italy during World War I and Italian Campaign (World War I) The First World War (1914–1918) was an unexpected development that forced the decision whether to honor the alliance with Germany. At first Italy remained neutral, saying that the Triple Alliance was only for defensive purposes. Public opinion in Italy was sharply divided, with Catholics and socialists recommending peace. However, extreme nationalists saw their opportunity to gain their “irredenta” – that is, the border regions that were controlled by Austria. The military cemetery of Redipuglia, resting place of approximately 100,000 Italian soldiers. More than 650,000 died on the battlefields of World War I. The total deaths for Italy amounted to 1,240,000. The nationalists won out, and in April 1915, the Italian government secretly agreed to the London Pact. Italy would declare war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire in exchange for promises of major territorial rewards. Italy entered the war with an army of 875,000 men, but the army was poorly led and lacked heavy artillery and machine guns, their war supplies having been largely depleted in the war of 1911–12 against Turkey. Italy proved unable to prosecute the war effectively, as fighting raged for three years on a very narrow front along the Isonzo River, where the Austrians held the high ground. In 1916, Italy declared war on Germany, which provided significant aid to the Austrians. Some 650,000 Italian soldiers died and 950,000 were wounded, while the economy required large-scale Allied funding to survive. Before the war the government had ignored labor issues, but now it had to intervene to mobilize war production. With the main working-class Socialist party reluctant to support the war effort, strikes were frequent and cooperation was minimal, especially in the Socialist strongholds of Piedmont and Lombardy. The government imposed high wage scales, as well as collective bargaining and insurance schemes. Many large firms expanded dramatically. The workforce at Ansaldo grew from 6,000 to 110,000 as it manufactures 10,900 artillery pieces, 3,800 warplanes, 95 warships and 10 million artillery shells. At Fiat the workforce grew from 4,000 to 40,000. Inflation doubled the cost of living. Industrial wages kept pace but not wages for farm workers. Discontent was high in rural areas since so many men were taken for service, industrial jobs were unavailable, wages grew slowly and inflation was just as bad. Italy blocked serious peace negotiations, staying in the war primarily to gain new territory to the north. The Treaty of St. Germain awarded the victorious Italian nation the Southern half of the County of Tyrol, Trieste, Istria, and the city of Zadar. Italy did not receive other territories promised by the Pact of London, so this victory was considered “mutilated”. Subsequently, after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, Italy formally annexed the Dodecanese, that she had occupied during the war.

 

 

Prehistory and antiquity 

Excavations throughout Italy revealed a Neanderthal presence dating back to the Paleolithic period, some 200,000 years ago, modern Humans arrived about 40,000 years ago. The Ancient peoples of pre-Roman Italy – such as the Umbrians, the Latins (from which the Romans emerged), Volsci, Oscans, Samnites, Sabines, the Celts, the Ligures, and many others – were Indo-European peoples; the main historic peoples of possible non-Indo-European heritage include the Etruscans, the Elymians and Sicani in Sicily and the prehistoricSardinians, which includes the Nuragic civilization. Other ancient Italian peoples of undetermined language families but of possible non-Indo-European origins include the Rhaetian people and Cammuni, known for their rock carvings. Between the 17th and the 11th centuries BC Mycenaean Greeks established contacts with Italy, and in the 8th and 7th centuries BC Greek colonies were established all along the coast of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula became known as Magna Graecia. Also the Phoenicians established colonies on the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily. Rome, a settlement around a ford on the river Tiber conventionally founded in 753 BC, grew over the course of centuries into a massiveempire, stretching from Britain to the borders of Persia, and engulfing the whole Mediterranean basin, in which Greek and Roman and many other cultures merged into a unique civilisation. The Roman legacy has deeply influenced the Western civilisation, shaping most of the modern world.[40] In a slow declinesince the third century AD, the Empire split in two in 395 AD. The Western Empire, under the pressure of the barbarian invasions, eventually dissolved in 476 AD, when its last Emperor was deposed by the Germanic chief Odoacer, while the Eastern half of the Empire survived for another thousand years.

 

The Age of Napoleon

Italian states in 1796. At the end of the 18th century, Italy was almost in the same political conditions as in the 16th century; the main differences were that Austria had replaced Spain as the dominant foreign power after the War of Spanish Succession (and that too was not true with regards to Naples and Sicily), and that the dukes of Savoy (a mountainous region between Italy and France) had become kings of Sardinia by increasing their Italian possessions, which now included Sardinia and the north-western region of Piedmont. This situation was shaken in 1796, when the French Army of Italy under Napoleon invaded Italy, with the aims of forcing the First Coalitionto abandon Sardinia (where they had created an anti-revolutionary puppet-ruler) and forcing Austria to withdraw from Italy. The first battles came on 9 April, between the French and the Piedmontese, and within only two weeks Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia was forced to sign an armistice. On 15 May the French general then entered Milan, where he was welcomed as a liberator. Subsequently beating off Austrian counterattacks and continuing to advance, he arrived in the Veneto in 1797. Here occurred the Veronese Easters, an act of rebellion against French oppression, that tied down Napoleon for about a week. Napoleon conquered most of Italy in the name of the French Revolution in 1797-99. He consolidated old units and split up Austria’s holdings. He set up a series of new republics, complete with new codes of law and abolition of old feudal privileges. Napoleon’s Cisalpine Republic was centered on Milan. Genoa the city became a republic while its hinterland became the Ligurian Republic. The Roman Republic was formed out of the papal holdings while the pope himself was sent to France. The Neapolitan Republic was formed around Naples, but it lasted only five months before the enemy forces of the Coalition recaptured it. In 1805 he formed the Kingdom of Italy, with himself as king and his stepson as viceroy. In addition, France turned the Netherlands into the Batavian Republic, and Switzerland into the Helvetic Republic. All these new countries were satellites of France, and had to pay large subsidies to Paris, as well as provide military support for Napoleon’s wars. Their political and administrative systems were modernized, the metric system introduced, and trade barriers reduced. Jewish ghettos were abolished. Belgium and Piedmont became integral parts of France. In 1805, after the French victory over the Third Coalition and the Peace of Pressburg, Napoleon recovered Veneto and Dalmatia, annexing them to the Italian Republic and renaming it the Kingdom of Italy. Also that year a second satellite state, the Ligurian Republic (successor to the old Republic of Genoa), was pressured into merging with France. In 1806, he conquered the Kingdom of Naples and granted it to his brother and then (from 1808) to Joachim Murat, along with marrying his sisters Elisa and Paolina off to the princes of Massa-Carrara and Guastalla. In 1808, he also annexed Marche and Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy. In 1809, Bonaparte occupied Rome, for contrasts with the pope, who had excommunicated him, and to maintain his own state efficiently, exiling the Pope first to Savona and then to France. After Russia, the other states of Europe re-allied themselves and defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig, after which his Italian allied states, with Murat first among them, abandoned him to ally with Austria. Defeated at Paris on 6 April 1814, Napoleon was compelled to renounce his throne and sent into exile on Elba. The resulting Congress of Vienna (1814) restored a situation close to that of 1795, dividing Italy between Austria (in the north-east and Lombardy), the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies(in the south and in Sicily), and Tuscany, the Papal States and other minor states in the centre. However, old republics such as Venice and Genoa were not recreated, Venice went to Austria, and Genoa went to the Kingdom of Sardinia. On Napoleon’s escape and return to France (the Hundred Days), he regained Murat’s support, but Murat proved unable to convince the Italians to fight for Napoleon with his Proclamation of Rimini and was beaten and killed. The Italian kingdoms thus fell, and Italy’s Restoration period began, with many pre-Napoleonic sovereigns returned to their thrones. Piedmont, Genoa and Nice came to be united, as did Sardinia (which went on to create the State of Savoy), while Lombardy, Veneto, Istria and Dalmatia were re-annexed to Austria. The dukedoms of Parma and Modena re-formed, and the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples returned to the Bourbons. The political and social events in the restoration period of Italy (1815–1835) led to popular uprisings throughout the peninsula and greatly shaped what would become the Italian Wars of Independence. All this led to a new Kingdom of Italy and Italian unification. Arts emphasizes the benefits the Italians gained from the French Revolution:For nearly two decades the Italians had the excellent codes of law, a fair system of taxation, a better economic situation, and more religious and intellectual toleration than they had known for centuries….Everywhere old physical, economic, and intellectual barriers had been thrown down and the Italians had begun to be aware of a common nationality.

 

 

Roman Empire

Further information: Roman Empire and Roman Italy The Roman Empire at its greatest extent under Trajan in AD 117. The Colosseum in Rome, built in the 1st century. In 27 BC, Octavian was the sole Roman leader. His leadership brought the zenith of the Roman civilization, that lasted for four decades. In that year, he took the name Augustus. That event is usually taken by historians as the beginning of Roman Empire. Officially, the government was republican, but Augustus assumed absolute powers. The Senate granted Octavian a unique grade of Proconsular imperium, which gave him authority over all Proconsuls (military governors). The unruly provinces at the borders, where the vast majority of the legions were stationed, were under the control of Augustus. These provinces were classified as imperial provinces. The peaceful senatorial provinces were under the control of the Senate. The Roman legions, which had reached an unprecedented number (around 50) because of the civil wars, were reduced to 28. This mosaic depicts some of theGladiators entertainments that would have been offered at the games. Under Augustus’s rule, Roman literature grew steadily in the Golden Age of Latin Literature. Poets like Vergil, Horace, Ovid and Rufus developed a rich literature, and were close friends of Augustus. Along with Maecenas, he stimulated patriotic poems, as Vergil’s epicAeneid and also historiographical works, like those of Livy. The works of this literary age lasted through Roman times, and are classics. Augustus also continued the shifts on the calendar promoted by Caesar, and the month of August is named after him. Augustus’ enlightened rule resulted in a 200 years long peaceful and thriving era for the Empire, known as Pax Romana. The Roman Empire in 3rd century. Despite its military strength, the Empire made few efforts to expand its already vast extent; the most notable being the conquest of Britain, begun by emperor Claudius (47), and emperor Trajan’s conquest of Dacia (101–102, 105–106). In the 1st and 2nd century, Roman legions were also employed in intermittent warfare with the Germanic tribes to the north and the Parthian Empire to the east. Meanwhile, armed insurrections (e.g. the Hebraic insurrection in Judea) (70) and brief civil wars (e.g. in 68 AD the year of the four emperors) demanded the legions’ attention on several occasions. After the death of Emperor Theodosius I (395), the Empire was divided into an Eastern and a Western Roman Empire. The Western part faced increasing economic and political crisis and frequent barbarian invasions, so the capital was moved from Mediolanum to Ravenna. In 476, the last Western Empreror Romulus Augustulus was deposed by Odoacer; for a few years Italy stayed united under the rule of Odoacer, but soon after it was divided between several barbarian kingdoms, and did not reunite under a single ruler until thirteen centuries later.

 

 

World War II and the fall of Fascism

Main article: Military history of Italy during World War II. When Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 beginning World War II, Mussolini chose to stay non-belligerent, although he declared his support for Hitler. In drawing out war plans, Mussolini and the Fascist regime decided that Italy would aim to annex large portions of Africa and the Middle East to be included in its colonial empire. Hesitance remained from the King and military commander Pietro Badoglio who warned Mussolini that Italy had too few tanks, armoured vehicles, and aircraft available to be able to carry out a long-term war and Badoglio told Mussolini “It is suicide” for Italy to get involved in the European conflict. Mussolini and the Fascist regime took the advice to a degree and waited as France was invaded by Germany before deciding to get involved. As France collapsed under the German Blitzkrieg, Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940, fulfilling its obligations towards the Pact of Steel. Mussolini hoped to quickly capture Savoy, Nice, Corsica, and the African colonies of Tunisia and Algeria from the French, but Germany signed an armistice (June 22: Second Armistice at Compiègne) with Marshal Philippe Pétain establishing Vichy France, that retained control over southern France and colonies. This decision angered the Fascist regime. In summer 1940, Mussolini ordered the invasion of Egypt, but Italian forces were soon driven back by the British (see Operation Compass). Hitler had to intervene with the sending of the Afrika Korps of General Erwin Rommel, that was the mainstay in the North African campaign. Italian prisoners in El Alamein, November 1942. Continuing indications of Italy’s increasing subordinatation to Germany arose during the disastrous Greco-Italian War. Mussolini had intended the invasion of Greece to prove Italy’s strategic autonomy, but the Greeks humiliatingly put Italian forces on the defensive. Because of a putsch in Yugoslavia, Germany began a Balkans Campaign which had as result the dissolution of this country and Greece’s defeat. On that occasion, Italy gained south Slovenia and part of Dalmatia. But despite territorial achievements, the Italian Empire was apaper tiger by 1942: it was faltering as its economy failed to adapt to the conditions of war, and Italian cities were being heavily bombed by the Allies. Also, despite Rommel’s advances, the campaign in North Africa began to fail in late 1942. Complete collapse came with the decisive defeat at El Alamein. By 1943, Italy was losing on every front. By January of the year, half of the Italian forces serving in Russia had been destroyed, the African campaign had failed, the Balkans remained unstable, and Italians wanted an end to the war. In July 1943, the Allies invaded Sicily in an effort to knock Italy out of the war and establish a foothold in Europe. On 25 July, Mussolini was ousted by the Great Council of Fascism and arrested by order of King Victor Emmanuel III, who appointed General Pietro Badoglio as new Prime Minister. Badoglio stripped away the final elements of Fascist rule by banning the Fascist Party, then signed an armistice with the Allied armed forces and the Kingdom of Italy joined the Allies in their war against Nazi Germany.

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