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Italians
Italiani
Total population
Italians: c. 60 million

Italian ancestry: c. 140 million

Regions with significant populations
Italy Italy: 55,695,126 [1]
Brazil Brazil 23,047,494 [2]
Argentina Argentina 16,427,786 [3]
United States United States 15,728,020 [4]
France France 1,903,890 [5]
Canada Canada 1,445,335 [6]
Uruguay 1,055,220 [7]
Australia Australia 852,418 [8]
Germany Germany 695,160 [9]
Switzerland Switzerland 521,146 [10]
Belgium Belgium 376,091 [11]
United Kingdom United Kingdom 255,403 [12]
Chile Chile 184,997 [13]
Venezuela Venezuela 126,553 [14]
South Africa South Africa 77,400 [15]
Spain Spain 38,694 [16]
Other countries <20,000
Languages

Historically Latin, nowdays Italian and other languages of Italy.
Sicilian · Neapolitan · Corsican · Sardinian · Piedmontese · Ligurian · Lombard · Venetian · Friulan

Religion

Predominantly Roman Catholic.

Related ethnic groups

Other Latin peoples: French • Portuguese people • Romanians • Romansch • Spanish • Walloons
Historically related: Greeks • Maltese people


Italians (Italian: italiani) are a nation and ethnic group native to the Italian Peninsula who share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Legally, Italians are citizens of the Italian Republic, regardless of ancestry or country of residence (though the principle of jus sanguinis is used extensively and arguably more favorably in the Italian nationality law), and are distinguished from people of Italian descent and from ethnic Italians living in territories adjacent to the Italian Peninsula.[17][18]

In 2010, in addition to about 56 million Italians in Italy, Italian-speaking autonomous groups are found in neighboring countries: about half a million in Switzerland, a large population in France,[19] and smaller groups in Slovenia and Croatia, primarily in Istria and Dalmatia. Because of wide-ranging diaspora, about 5 million Italian citizens and nearly 80 million people of full or part Italian ancestry live outside of Italy, most notably in South America, North America, Australia and parts of Europe.

Italians have greatly influenced and contributed to science, arts, technology, cuisine, sports and banking[20] abroad and worldwide.[21] Italian people are generally known for their localism, both regionalist and municipalist,[22] attention to clothing and family values.[23]

EtymologyEdit

The name "Italy" (Italia) can be traced back to ancient times for the peninsula, though it was initially designated for the region of the lower part of Southern Italy by Greek settlers. Mythological roots of the name mention a legendary ancient king named 'Italus', though a more likely origin may be from ancient Oscan VÍTELIÚ, meaning "land of young cattle", since Italy had been a rich agricultural country since ancient times. The name Italia was imposed upon the Roman Republic much later 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.[24] During the Roman Republic and the early centuries of the empire, Italy was not a province, but rather the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status.[25] After Rome's fall, "Italy" or "Italia" gradually became the collective name for diverse sovereign entities appearing on the peninsula.

Archaeologist Massimo Pallottino claimed that the name was actually derived from the Italic tribes settled in modern Calabria. The Greeks gradually came to use the name for a wider region, but it was not until the time of the Roman conquests that the term was expanded to cover the entire peninsula.[24] The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Calabria was once called 'Italy' in honour of its inhabitants who were known as the "Itali" and gave the Italian peninsula its name.[26]

HistoryEdit

Early HistoryEdit

In prehistoric times, the Italian peninsula was rather different from its current shape. During the last Ice Age, the islands of Elba and Sicily were connected to the mainland. The Adriatic Sea was far smaller, since it started at what is now the Gargano peninsula, and what is now the bay of Venice was a fertile plain with a humid climate.

Flint tools uncovered at Pirro Nord show that ancient humans were present in Italy 1.5 million years ago.[27] During the Copper Age, Indoeuropean people migrated to Italy. Approximatively four waves of population from north to the Alps have been identified.


Located in Sardinia and Corsica, the nuraghe civilization lasted from the early Bronze Age (18th century BC) to the 2nd century AD, when the islands were already Romanized. They take their name from the characteristic nuragic towers, which evolved from the pre-existing megalithic culture.

A warrior and mariner people, the ancient Sardinians held flourishing trades with the other Mediterranean peoples. This is showed by numerous remains contained in the nuraghe, such as amber coming from the Baltic Sea, small bronzes portraying African apes and animals, copper nuggets and weapons from Eastern Mediterranean, Mycenaean ceramics. It has been hypothesized that the ancient Sardinians, or part of them, could be identified with one of the so-called Peoples of the Sea (in particular, the Sherden) who attacked ancient Egypt and other regions of eastern Mediterranean.

Other original elements of the Sardinian civilization include the temples known as "Sacred Pits", perhaps dedicated to the holy water related to the Moon and astronomical cycles, the Giants' graves, the Megaron temples, several structures for juridical and leisure functions, and some refined statuettes. Some of them have been discovered in Etruscan tombs, suggesting a strong relationships between the two peoples.

Estruscan CivilizationEdit

The Etruscan civilization flourished in central Italy after 800 BC. The origins of the Etruscans are lost in prehistory. The main hypotheses are that they are indigenous, or that they are the result of invasion from the north or the Near East. A more recent study has suggested a Near Eastern origin.[28] The researchers conclude that their data, taken from the modern Tuscan population, 'support the scenario of a post-Neolithic genetic input from the Near East to the present-day population of Tuscany’. In the absence of any dating evidence there is however no direct link between this genetic input and the Etruscans.

The Etruscans are generally believed to have spoken a non-Indo-European language or an ancient Anatolic language (Luvio). Some inscriptions in a similar language have been found on the Aegean island of Lemnos. Etruscans were a monogamous society that emphasized pairing. The historical Etruscans had achieved a form of state with remnants of chiefdom and tribal forms. The Etruscan religion was an immanent polytheism, in which all visible phenomena were considered to be a manifestation of divine power, and deities continually acted in the world of men and could, by human action or inaction, be dissuaded against or persuaded in favor of human affairs.

Etruscan expansion was focused across the Apennines. Some small towns in the 6th century BC have disappeared during this time, ostensibly consumed by greater, more powerful neighbors. However, there exists no doubt that the political structure of the Etruscan culture was similar, albeit more aristocratic, to Magna Graecia in the south. The mining and commerce of metal, especially copper and iron, led to an enrichment of the Etruscans and to the expansion of their influence in the Italian peninsula and the western Mediterranean sea. Here their interests collided with those of the Greeks, especially in the 6th century BC, when Phoceans of Italy founded colonies along the coast of France, Catalonia and Corsica. This led the Etruscans to ally themselves with the Carthaginians, whose interests also collided with the Greeks.

Around 540 BC, the Battle of Alalia led to a new distribution of power in the western Mediterranean Sea. Though the battle had no clear winner, Carthage managed to expand its sphere of influence at the expense of the Greeks, and Etruria saw itself relegated to the northern Tyrrhenian Sea with full ownership of Corsica. From the first half of the 5th century, the new international political situation meant the beginning of the Etruscan decline after losing their southern provinces. In 480 BC, Etruria's ally Carthage was defeated by a coalition of Magna Graecia cities led by Syracuse.

A few years later, in 474, Syracuse's tyrant Hiero defeated the Etruscans at the Battle of Cumae. Etruria's influence over the cities of Latium and Campania weakened, and it was taken over by Romans and Samnites. In the 4th century, Etruria saw a Gallic invasion end its influence over the Po valley and the Adriatic coast. Meanwhile, Rome had started annexing Etruscan cities. This led to the loss of their north provinces. Etruscia was assimilated by Rome around 500 BC.

Magna GraeciaEdit

In the eighth and seventh centuries BC, for various reasons, including demographic crisis (famine, overcrowding, etc.), the search for new commercial outlets and ports, and expulsion from their homeland, Greeks began to settle in Southern Italy (Cerchiai, pp. 14–18). Also during this period, Greek colonies were established in places as widely separated as the eastern coast of the Black Sea, Eastern Libya and Massalia (Marseille). They included settlements in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian peninsula.

The Romans called the area of Sicily and the foot of Italy Magna Graecia (Latin, “Great Greece”), since it was so densely inhabited by the Greeks. The ancient geographers differed on whether the term included Sicily or merely Apulia and Calabria — Strabo being the most prominent advocate of the wider definitions.

With this colonization, Greek culture was exported to Italy, in its dialects of the Ancient Greek language, its religious rites and its traditions of the independent polis. An original Hellenic civilization soon developed, later interacting with the native Italic and Latin civilisations. The most important cultural transplant was the introducing of the Greek alphabet, which was adopted by the Etruscans; the Old Italic alphabet subsequently evolved into the Latin alphabet, which became the most widely used alphabet in the world.

Ancient RomeEdit

Founding mythEdit

According to the founding myth of Rome, the city was founded on 21 April 753 BC by twin brothers Romulus and Remus, who descended from the Trojan prince Aeneas[29] and who were grandsons of a Latin King named, Numitor. King Numitor was deposed from his throne by his brother, Amulius, while Numitor's daughter, Rhea Silvia, gave birth to the twins.[30][31] Because Rhea Silvia was raped and impregnated by Mars, the Roman god of war, the twins were considered half-divine.

The new king feared Romulus and Remus would take back the throne, so he ordered them to be drowned.[31] A she-wolf (or a shepherd's wife in some accounts) saved and raised them, and when they were old enough, they returned the throne of Alba Longa to Numitor.[32][33] The twins then founded their own city, but Romulus killed Remus in a quarrel over the location of the Roman Kingdom, though some sources state the quarrel was about who was going to rule or give his name to the city.[34] Rome was then governed by the legendary Seven Kings for the following 150 years.

Roman RepublicEdit

According to tradition and later writers, the Roman Republic was established around 509 BC,[35] when the last of the seven kings of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, was deposed by Lucius Junius Brutus, and a system based on annually elected magistrates and various representative assemblies was established.[36] A constitution set a series of checks and balances, and a separation of powers. The most important magistrates were the two consuls, who together exercised executive authority as imperium, or military command.[37] The consuls had to work with the senate, which was initially an advisory council of the ranking nobility, or patricians, but grew in size and power.[38]


In the 4th century BC the Republic came under attack by the Gauls, who initially prevailed and sacked Rome. The Romans then took up arms and drove the Gauls back, led by Camillus. The Romans gradually subdued the other peoples on the Italian peninsula, including the Etruscans.[39] The last threat to Roman hegemony in Italy came when Tarentum, a major Greek colony, enlisted the aid of Pyrrhus of Epirus in 281 BC, but this effort failed as well.[40][41]

In the 3rd century BC Rome had to face a new and formidable opponent: the powerful Phoenician city-state of Carthage. In the three Punic Wars, Carthage was eventually destroyed and Rome gained control over Hispania, Sicily and North Africa. After defeating the Macedonian and Seleucid Empires in the 2nd century BC, the Romans became the dominant people of the Mediterranean Sea.[42][43] The conquest of the Hellenistic kingdoms provoked a fusion between Roman and Greek cultures and the Roman elite, once rural, became a luxurious and cosmopolitan one. By this time Rome was a consolidated empire – in the military view – and had no major enemies.


In the mid-1st century BC, the Republic faced a period of political crisis and social unrest. Into this turbulent scenario emerged the figure of Julius Caesar. Caesar reconciled the two more powerful men in Rome: Marcus Licinius Crassus, his sponsor, and Crassus' rival, Pompey. The First Triumvirate ("three men"), had satisfied the interests of these three men: Crassus, the richest man in Rome, became richer; Pompey exerted more influence in the Senate; and Caesar held consulship and military command in Gaul.[44]

In 53 BC, the Triumvirate disintegrated at Crassus' death. Crassus had acted as mediator between Caesar and Pompey, and, without him, the two generals began to fight for power. After being victorious in the Gallic Wars and earning respect and praise from the legions, Caesar was a clear menace to Pompey, that tried to legally remove Caesar's legions. To avoid this, Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and invaded Rome in 49 BC, rapidly defeating Pompey. With his sole preeminence over Rome, Caesar gradually accumulated many offices, eventually being granted a dictatorship for perpetuity. He was murdered in 44 BC, in the Ides of March by the Liberatores.[45]

Caesar's assassination caused political and social turmoil in Rome; without the dictator's leadership, the city was ruled by his friend and colleague, Mark Antony. Octavius (Caesar's adopted son), along with general Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, Caesar's best friend,[46] established the Second Triumvirate. Lepidus was forced to retire in 36 BC after betraying Octavian in Sicily. Antony settled in Egypt with his lover, Cleopatra VII. Mark Antony's affair with Cleopatra was seen as an act of treason, since she was queen of a foreign power and Antony was adopting an extravagant and Hellenistic lifestyle that was considered inappropriate for a Roman statesman.[47]

Following Antony's Donations of Alexandria, which gave to Cleopatra the title of "Queen of Kings", and to their children the regal titles to the newly conquered Eastern territories, the war between Octavian and Mark Antony broke out. Octavian annihilated Egyptian forces in the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Mark Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide, leaving Octavianus the sole ruler of the Republic.

Roman EmpireEdit

In 27 BC, Octavian was the sole Roman leader. 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.[48][49] The Senate granted Octavian a unique grade of Proconsular imperium, which gave him authority over all Proconsuls (military governors).[50]

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.

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 epic Aeneid 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.[51] Augustus' enlightened rule resulted in a 200 years long peaceful and thriving era for the Empire, known as Pax Romana.[52]

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. While 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.

The Roman Empire also emerged into a pot of different ethnic groups and regions, including colonies of native Egyptians, Arabs, GermansBerbers and of course, Greeks.

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.

Middle AgesEdit

Odoacer's rule came to an end when the Ostrogoths, under the leadership of Theodoric, conquered Italy. This led to the Gothic War against the armies of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, that devastated the whole country with famine and epidemics, ultimately allowing another Germanic tribe, the Lombards, to take control over vast regions of Italy. In 751 the Lombards seized Ravenna, ending the Byzantine presence in central Italy. 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 establishing the Papal States. In 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by the Pope in Saint Peter's Basilica. After the death of Charlemagne (814), the new empire soon disintegrated under his weak successors. The equilibrium created through the great emperor's charisma fell apart.

The subsequent vacuum of authority saw the beginning of Islamic attacks in the southern regions, and the rising power of the communes in the north. In 852, the Saracens took Bari and founded an emirate there. Islamic rule over Sicily was effective from 902, and the complete rule of the island lasted from 965 until 1061. The turn of the millennium marked the end of the darkest period of Italian history. In the 11th century, trade slowly recovered as the cities started to grow again. The Papacy regained its authority, and undertook a long struggle against the Holy Roman Empire.

The Investiture controversy, a conflict over two radically different views of whether secular authorities such as kings, counts, or dukes, had any legitimate role in appointments to ecclesiastical offices such as bishoprics, was finally resolved by the Concordat of Worms in 1122, although problems continued in many areas of Europe until the end of the medieval era. In the north, a Lombard League of communes launched a successful effort to win autonomy from the Holy Roman Empire, defeating Emperor Frederick Barbarossa at the Battle of Legnano in 1176. In the south, the Normans occupied the Lombard and Byzantine possessions, ending the six century old presence of both powers in the peninsula.

The few independent city-states were also subdued. During the same period, the Normans also ended Muslim rule in Sicily. In 1130, Roger II of Sicily began his rule of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. Roger II was the first King of Sicily and had succeeded in uniting all the Norman conquests in Southern Italy into one kingdom with a strong centralized government. In 1155, Emperor Manuel Komnenos attempted to regain Southern Italy from the Normans, but the attempt failed and in 1158 the Byzantines left Italy. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily lasted until 1194 when Sicily was claimed by the German Hohenstaufen Dynasty. The Kingdom of Sicily would last under various dynasties until the 19th century.

Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Italy developed a peculiar political pattern, significantly different from feudal Europe north of the Alps. As no dominant powers emerged as they did in other parts of Europe, the oligarchic city-state became the prevalent form of government. Keeping both direct Church control and Imperial power at arms length, the many independent city states prospered through commerce, based on early capitalist principles ultimately creating the conditions for the artistic and intellectual changes produced by the Renaissance.[53]

Italian towns had appeared to have exited from Feudalism, so that their society was based on merchants and commerce.[54] Even northern cities and states were also notable for their merchant republics, especially the Republic of Venice.[55] Compared to feudal and absolute monarchies, the Italian independent communes and merchant republics enjoyed relative political freedom that boosted scientific and artistic advancement.

Thanks to their favorable position between East and West, Italian cities such as Venice became international trading and banking hubs and intellectual crossroads. Milan, Florence and Venice, as well as several other Italian city-states, played a crucial innovative role in financial development, devising the main instruments and practices of banking and the emergence of new forms of social and economic organization.

During the same period, Italy saw the rise of numerous Maritime Republics, the most notable being Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi. From the 10th to the 13th centuries these cities built fleets of ships both for their own protection and to support extensive trade networks across the Mediterranean, leading to an essential role in the Crusades. Venice and Genoa soon became Europe's main gateways to trade with the East, establishing colonies as far as the Black Sea and often controlling most of the trade with the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic Mediterranean world. The county of Savoy expanded its territory into the peninsula in the late Middle Ages, while Florence developed into a highly organized commercial and financial city-state, becoming for many centuries the European capital of silk, wool, banking and jewelry.

RenaissanceEdit

Italy was a main center of the Renaissance, and is especially important for its arts, architecture, literature, science, historiography, political theory, and its influence on all of Europe.[56][57]

By the late Middle Ages, central and 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 Black Death in 1348 inflicted a terrible blow to Italy, killing perhaps one third of the population.[58] The recovery from the demographic and economic disaster led to a resurgence of cities, trade and economy which greatly stimulated the successive phase of the Humanism and Renaissance (15th–16th centuries) when Italy again returned to be the center of Western civilization, strongly influencing the other European countries with Courts like Este in Ferrara and De Medici in Florence.

The Renaissance was so called because it was a "rebirth" not only of economy and urbanization, but also of arts and science. It has been argued that this cultural rebirth was fuelled by massive rediscoveries of ancient texts that had been forgotten for centuries by Western civilization, hidden in monastic libraries or in the Islamic world, as well as the translations of Greek and Arabic texts into Latin. The migration west into Italy of intellectuals fleeing the crumbling Eastern Roman Empire at this time also played a significant part.

The Italian Renaissance began in Tuscany, centered in the city of Florence. 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. The Renaissance ideals first spread from Florence to the neighbouring states of Tuscany such as Siena and Lucca. Tuscan architecture and painting soon became a model for all the city-states of northern and central Italy, as the Tuscan variety of Italian language came to predominate throughout the region, especially in literature.

Literature, philosophy and scienceEdit

Accounts of Renaissance literature usually begin with Petrarch (best known for the elegantly polished vernacular sonnet sequence of the Canzoniere and for the craze for book collecting that he initiated) and his friend and contemporary Boccaccio (author of the Decameron). Famous vernacular poets of the 15th century include the renaissance epic authors Luigi Pulci (Morgante), Matteo Maria Boiardo (Orlando Innamorato), and Ludovico Ariosto (Orlando Furioso).

Renaissance scholars such as Niccolò de' Niccoli and Poggio Bracciolini scoured the libraries in search of works by such classical authors as Plato, Cicero and Vitruvius. The works of ancient Greek and Hellenistic writers (such as Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, and Ptolemy) and Muslim scientists were imported into the Christian world, providing new intellectual material for European scholars. 15th century writers such as the poet Poliziano and the Platonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino made extensive translations from both Latin and Greek. Other Greek scholars of the period were two monks from the monastery of Seminara in Calabria. They were Barlaam of Seminara and his disciple Leonzio Pilato of Seminara. Barlaam was a master in Greek and was the initial teacher to Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio of the language. Leonzio Pilato made an almost word for word translation of Homer's works into Latin for Giovanni Boccaccio.[59][60][61]

In the early 16th century, Baldassare Castiglione with the Book of the Courtier laid out his vision of the ideal gentleman and lady, while Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, laid down the foundation of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning how to consider politics and ethics.[62][63]

Architecture, sculpture and paintingEdit

Italian Renaissance painting exercised a dominant influence on subsequent European painting (see Western painting) for centuries afterwards, with artists such as Giotto di Bondone, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Titian.

The same is true for architecture, as practiced by Brunelleschi, Leone Alberti, Andrea Palladio, and Bramante. Their works include Florence Cathedral, St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini. Finally, the Aldine Press, founded by the printer Aldo Manuzio, active in Venice, developed Italic type and the small, relatively portable and inexpensive printed book that could be carried in one's pocket, as well as being the first to publish editions of books in ancient Greek.

Yet cultural contributions notwithstanding, some present-day historians also see the era as one of the beginning of economic regression for Italy (due to the opening up of the Atlantic trade routes and repeated foreign invasions) and of little progress in experimental science, which made its great leaps forward among Protestant culture in the 17th century.

Incessant warfareEdit

In the 14th century, Northern Italy and upper Central Italy were divided into a number of warring city-states, the most powerful being Milan, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Genoa, Ferrara, Mantua, Verona and Venice. High Medieval Northern Italy was further divided by the long running battle for supremacy between the forces of the Papacy and of the Holy Roman Empire. Each city aligned itself with one faction or the other, yet was divided internally between the two warring parties, Guelfs and Ghibellines.

Warfare between the states was common, invasion from outside Italy confined to intermittent sorties of Holy Roman Emperors. Renaissance politics developed from this background. Since the 13th century, as armies became primarily composed of mercenaries, prosperous city-states could field considerable forces, despite their low populations. In the course of the 15th century, the most powerful city-states annexed their smaller neighbors. Florence took Pisa in 1406, Venice captured Padua and Verona, while the Duchy of Milan annexed a number of nearby areas including Pavia and Parma.

The first part of the Renaissance saw almost constant warfare on land and sea as the city-states vied for preeminence. On land, these wars were primarily fought by armies of mercenaries known as condottieri, bands of soldiers drawn from around Europe, but especially Germany and Switzerland, led largely by Italian captains. The mercenaries were not willing to risk their lives unduly, and war became one largely of sieges and maneuvering, occasioning few pitched battles. It was also in the interest of mercenaries on both sides to prolong any conflict, to continue their employment. Mercenaries were also a constant threat to their employers; if not paid, they often turned on their patron. If it became obvious that a state was entirely dependent on mercenaries, the temptation was great for the mercenaries to take over the running of it themselves—this occurred on a number of occasions.[64]

At sea, Italian city-states sent many fleets out to do battle. The main contenders were Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, but after a long conflict the Genoese succeeded in reducing Pisa. Venice proved to be a more powerful adversary, and with the decline of Genoese power during the 15th century Venice became pre-eminent on the seas. In response to threats from the landward side, from the early 15th century Venice developed an increased interest in controlling the terrafirma as the Venetian Renaissance opened.

On land, decades of fighting saw Florence, Milan and Venice emerge as the dominant players, and these three powers finally set aside their differences and agreed to the Peace of Lodi in 1454, which saw relative calm brought to the region for the first time in centuries. This peace would hold for the next forty years, and Venice's unquestioned hegemony over the sea also led to unprecedented peace for much of the rest of the 15th century. In the beginning of the 15th century, adventurer and traders such as Niccolò Da Conti (1395–1469) traveled as far as Southeast Asia and back, bringing fresh knowledge on the state of the world, presaging further European voyages of exploration in the years to come.

The Italian WarsEdit

The internal wars were bad, but a much worse series of calamities was in store that severely damaged the society and economy for many decades. The 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. Much of Venice's hinterland (but not the city itself) was devastated by the Turks in 1499. The western areas were invaded and plundered by France and the Germans in 1509. In 1528 most of the towns of Apulia and Abrezzi had been sacked. Worst of all was the 6 May 1527 Sack of Rome by Spanish and German troops that all but ended the role of the Papacy as the largest patron of Renaissance art and architecture. The long Siege of Florence (1529–1530) brought the destruction of its suburbs, the ruin of its export business and the confiscation of its citizens' wealth. Italy's urban population fell in half, ransoms paid the invaders and emergency taxes drained the finances. The wool and silk industries of Lombardy collapsed when their looms were wrecked by invaders. The defensive tactic of scorched earth only slightly delayed the invaders, and made the recovery much longer and more painful.[65]

Foreign domination (1559 to 1814)Edit

1559–1796Edit

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.

The Black Death repeatedly returned to haunt Italy throughout the 14th to 17th centuries. The plague of 1575–77 claimed some 50,000 victims in Venice.[66] In the first half of the 17th century a plague claimed some 1,730,000 victims, or about 14% of Italy’s population.[67] The Great Plague of Milan occurred from 1629 through 1631 in northern Italy, with the cities of Lombardy and Venice experiencing particularly high death rates. In 1656 the plague killed about half of Naples' 300,000 inhabitants.[68]

Napoleonic Wars (1796)Edit

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 Coalition to 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.

On 18 October 1797 Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio, by which the Republic of Venice was annexed to the Austrian state, dashing Italian nationalists' hopes that it might become an independent state. This treaty gave Austrian recognition to the existence of the Cisalpine Republic (made up of Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and small parts of Tuscany and Veneto), and annexed Piedmont to France. Even if, like the other states created by the invasion, the Cisalpine Republic was just a satellite of France, these satellites sparked a nationalist movement. The Cisalpine Republic was converted into the Italian Republic in 1802, under the presidency of Napoleon.

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,[69] 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.[70] 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.

Unification of Italy (1814 to 1861)Edit

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.

As Napoleon's reign began to fail, other national monarchs he had installed tried to keep their thrones by feeding those nationalistic sentiments, setting the stage for the revolutions to come. Among these monarchs were the viceroy of Italy, Eugène de Beauharnais, who tried to get Austrian approval for his succession to the Kingdom of Italy, and Joachim Murat, who called for Italian patriots' help for the unification of Italy under his rule.[71] Following the defeat of Napoleonic France, the Congress of Vienna (1815) was convened to redraw the European continent. In Italy, the Congress restored the pre-Napoleonic patchwork of independent governments, either directly ruled or strongly influenced by the prevailing European powers, particularly Austria.

At the time, the struggle for Italian unification was perceived to be waged primarily against the Austrian Empire and the Habsburgs, since they directly controlled the predominantly Italian-speaking northeastern part of present-day Italy and were the single most powerful force against unification. The Austrian Empire vigorously repressed nationalist sentiment growing on the Italian peninsula, as well as in the other parts of Habsburg domains. Austrian Chancellor Franz Metternich, an influential diplomat at the Congress of Vienna, stated that the word Italy was nothing more than "a geographic expression."[72]

Artistic and literary sentiment also turned towards nationalism; and perhaps the most famous of proto-nationalist works was Alessandro Manzoni's I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed). Some read this novel as a thinly veiled allegorical critique of Austrian rule. The novel was published in 1827 and extensively revised in the following years. The 1840 version of I Promessi Sposi used a standardized version of the Tuscan dialect, a conscious effort by the author to provide a language and force people to learn it.

Those in favour of unification also faced opposition from the Holy See, particularly after failed attempts to broker a confederation with the Papal States, which would have left the Papacy with some measure of autonomy over the region. The pope at the time, Pius IX, feared that giving up power in the region could mean the persecution of Italian Catholics.[73]

Even among those who wanted to see the peninsula unified into one country, different groups could not agree on what form a unified state would take. Vincenzo Gioberti, a Piedmontese priest, had suggested a confederation of Italian states under rulership of the Pope. His book,Of the Moral and Civil Primacy of the Italians, was published in 1843 and created a link between the Papacy and the Risorgimento. Many leading revolutionaries wanted a republic, but eventually it was a king and his chief minister who had the power to unite the Italian states as a monarchy.


One of the most influential revolutionary groups was the Carbonari (coal-burners), a secret organization formed in southern Italy early in the 19th century. Inspired by the principles of the French Revolution, its members were mainly drawn from the middle class and intellectuals. After the Congress of Vienna divided the Italian peninsula among the European powers, the Carbonari movement spread into the Papal States, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the Duchy of Modena and the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia.

The revolutionaries were so feared that the reigning authorities passed an ordinance condemning to death anyone who attended a Carbonari meeting. The society, however, continued to exist and was at the root of many of the political disturbances in Italy from 1820 until after unification. The Carbonari condemned Napoleon III to death for failing to unite Italy, and the group almost succeeded in assassinating him in 1858. Many leaders of the unification movement were at one time members of this organization. (Note: Napoleon III, as a young man, fought on the side of the 'Carbonari'.)

Two prominent radical figures in the unification movement were Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. The more conservative constitutional monarchic figures included Count Cavour and Victor Emmanuel II, who would later become the first king of a united Italy.

Mazzini's activity in revolutionary movements caused him to be imprisoned soon after he joined. While in prison, he concluded that Italy could – and therefore should – be unified and formulated his program for establishing a free, independent, and republican nation with Rome as its capital. After Mazzini's release in 1831, he went to Marseille, where he organized a new political society called La Giovine Italia (Young Italy). The new society, whose motto was "God and the People," sought the unification of Italy.

The creation of the Kingdom of Italy was the result of concerted efforts by Italian nationalists and monarchists loyal to the House of Savoy to establish a united kingdom encompassing the entire Italian Peninsula.

The Kingdom of Sardinia industrialized from 1830 onward. A constitution, the Statuto Albertino was enacted in the year of revolutions, 1848, under liberal pressure. Under the same pressure, the First Italian War of Independence was declared on Austria. After initial success the war took a turn for the worse and the Kingdom of Sardinia lost.

Garibaldi, a native of Nice (then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia), participated in an uprising in Piedmont in 1834, was sentenced to death, and escaped to South America. He spent fourteen years there, taking part in several wars, and returned to Italy in 1848.

After the Revolutions of 1848, the apparent leader of the Italian unification movement was Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi. He was popular amongst southern Italians.[74] Garibaldi led the Italian republican drive for unification in southern Italy, but the northern Italian monarchy of the House of Savoy in the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia whose government was led by Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, also had the ambition of establishing a united Italian state. Though the kingdom had no physical connection to Rome (deemed the natural capital of Italy), the kingdom had successfully challenged Austria in the Second Italian War of Independence, liberating Lombardy-Venetia from Austrian rule. The kingdom also had established important alliances which helped it improve the possibility of Italian unification, such as Britain and France in the Crimean War.

Southern QuestionEdit

The transition was not smooth for the south (the "Mezzogiorno"). The entire region south of Naples was afflicted with numerous deep economic and social liabilities.[75] Transportation was difficult, soil fertility was low with extensive erosion, deforestation was severe, many businesses could stay open only because of high protective tariffs, large estates were often poorly managed, most peasant had only very small plots, there was chronic unemployment and high crime rates.[76]

Cavour decided the basic problem was poor government, and believed that could be remedied by strict application of the Piedmonese legal system. The main result was an upsurge in brigandage, which turned in a bloody civil war that lasted almost ten years. The insurrection reached its peak mainly in Basilicata and northern Apulia, headed by the brigands Carmine Crocco and Michele Caruso.[77]

With the end of the southern riots, there was a heavy outflow of millions of peasants in the Italian diaspora, especially to the United States and South America. Others relocated to the northern industrial cities such as Genoa, Milan and Turin, and sent money home.[76]

Liberal Italy (1861–1922)Edit

Italy became a nation-state belatedly—on 17 March 1861, when most of the states of the peninsula were united under king Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy, 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. In 1866 Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck offered Victor Emmanuel II an alliance with the Kingdom of Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War. In exchange Prussia would allow Italy to annex Austrian-controlled Venice. King Emmanuel agreed to the alliance and the Third Italian War of Independence began. The victory against Austria allowed Italy to annex Venice. The one major obstacle to Italian unity remained Rome.

In 1870, Prussia went to war with France starting the Franco-Prussian War. To keep the large Prussian army at bay, France abandoned its positions in Rome in order to fight the Prussians. Italy benefited from Prussia's victory against France by being able to take over the Papal State from French authority. Italian unification was completed, and shortly afterward Italy's capital was moved to Rome. Rome itself remained for a decade under the Papacy, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy only on 20 September 1870, the final date of Italian unification. The Vatican City is now, since the Lateran Treaty of 1929, an independent enclave surrounded by Italy, as is San Marino.

In Northern Italy, industrialisation and modernisation began in the last part of the 19th century. The south, at the same time, was overpopulated, forcing millions of people to search for a better life abroad. It is estimated that around one million Italian people moved to other European countries such as France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Parliamentary democracy developed considerably in the 20th century. The Sardinian Statuto Albertino of 1848, extended to the whole Kingdom of Italy in 1861, provided for basic freedoms, but the electoral laws excluded the non-propertied and uneducated classes from voting.

Italy's political arena was sharply divided between broad camps of left and right which created frequent deadlock and attempts to preserve governments, which led to instances such as conservative Prime Minister Marco Minghetti enacting economic reforms appease the opposition such as the nationalization of railways. In 1876, Minghetti lost power and was replaced by the Democrat Agostino Depretis, who began the a period of political dominance in the 1880s, but continued attempts to appease the opposition to hold power.

Depretis began his term as Prime Minister by initiating an experimental political idea called Trasformismo (transformism). The theory of Trasformismo was that a cabinet should select a variety of moderates and capable politicians from a non-partisan perspective. In practice, trasformismo was authoritarian and corrupt, Depretis pressured districts to vote for his candidates if they wished to gain favourable concessions from Depretis when in power. The results of the 1876 election resulted in only four representatives from the right being elected, allowing the government to be dominated by Depretis. Despotic and corrupt actions are believed to be the key means in which Depretis managed to keep support in southern Italy. Depretis put through authoritarian measures, such as the banning public meetings, placing "dangerous" individuals in internal exile on remote penal islands across Italy and adopting militarist policies. Depretis enacted controversial legislation for the time, such was abolishing arrest for debt, making elementary education free and compulsory while ending compulsory religious teaching in elementary schools.[78]

The first government of Depretis collapsed after his dismissal of his Interior Minister, and ended with his resignation in 1877. The second government of Depretis started in 1881. Depretis' goals included widening suffrage in 1882 and increasing the tax intake from Italians by expanding the minimum requirements of who could pay taxes and the creation of a new electoral system called which resulted in large numbers of inexperienced deputies in the Italian parliament.[79] In 1887, Depretis was finally pushed out of office after years of political decline.

In 1887, Depretis cabinet minister and former Garibaldi republican Francesco Crispi became Prime Minister. Crispi's major concerns before during his reign was protecting Italy from their dangerous neighbour Austria-Hungary. To challenge the threat, Crispi worked to build Italy as a great world power through increased military expenditures, advocation of expansionism,[80] and trying to win Germany's favor even by joining the Triple Alliance which included both Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1882 which remained officially intact until 1915. While helping Italy develop strategically, he continued trasformismo and was authoritarian, once suggesting the use of martial law to ban opposition parties.[81] Despite being authoritarian, Crispi put through liberal policies such as the Public Health Act of 1888 and establishing tribunals for redress against abuses by the government.[82]

The overwhelming attention paid to foreign policy alienated the agricultural community in Italy which had been in decline since 1873.".[83] Both radical and conservative forces in the Italian parliament demanded that the government investigate how to improve agriculture in Italy.[84] The investigation which started in 1877 and was released eight years later, showed that agriculture was not improving, that landowners were swallowing up revenue from their lands and contributing almost nothing to the development of the land. There was aggravation by lower class Italians to the break-up of communal lands which benefited only landlords.[84] Most of the workers on the agricultural lands were not peasants but short-term labourers who at best were employed for one year.[84] Peasants without stable income were forced to live off meager food supplies, disease was spreading rapidly, plagues were reported, including a major cholera epidemic which killed at least 55,000 people.[85]

The Italian government could not deal with the situation effectively due to the mass overspending of the Depretis government that left Italy in huge debt. Italy also suffered economically because of overproduction of grapes for their vineyards in the 1870s and 1880s when France's vineyard industry was suffering from vine disease caused by insects. Italy during that time prospered as the largest exporter of wine in Europe but following the recovery of France in 1888, southern Italy was overproducing and had to split into which caused greater unemployment and bankruptcies.[86] In 1913 male universal suffrage was allowed. The Socialist Party became the main political party, outclassing the traditional liberal and conservative organisations.

Starting from the last two decades of the 19th century, Italy developed its own colonial Empire. Italian colonies were Somalia and Eritrea; an attempt to occupy Ethiopia failed in the First Italo–Ethiopian War of 1895–1896. In 1911, Giovanni Giolitti's government sent forces to occupy Libya and declared war on the Ottoman Empire which held Libya. Italy soon conquered and annexed Tripoli and the Dodecanese Islands. Nationalists advocated Italy's domination of the Mediterranean Sea by occupying Greece as well as the Adriatic coastal region of Dalmatia.[87]

Italy in World War IEdit

The First World War (1914–1918) was an unexpected development that forced the decision whether or not 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.[88]

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.[88]

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.[88]

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.[89]

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.[90]

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 (Possedimenti Italiani dell'Egeo), that she had occupied during the war.

The Second Republic (1992–present)Edit

From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as voters disenchanted with political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime's considerable influence collectively called the political system Tangentopoli. As Tangentopoli was under a set of judicial investigations by the name of Mani pulite (Italian for "clean hands"), voters demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The Tangentopoli scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: between 1992 and 1994 the DC underwent a severe crisis and was dissolved, splitting up into several pieces, among whom the Italian People's Party and the Christian Democratic Center. The PSI (along with other minor governing parties) completely dissolved.

The 1994 elections also swept media magnate Silvio Berlusconi (leader of "Pole of Freedoms" coalition) into office as Prime Minister. Berlusconi, however, was forced to step down in December 1994 when his Lega Nord partners withdrew support. The Berlusconi government was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, which left office in early 1996.

In April 1996, national elections led to the victory of a centre-left coalition under the leadership of Romano Prodi. Prodi's first government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly lost a vote of confidence, by three votes, in October 1998. A new government was formed by Democrats of the Left leader and former communist Massimo D'Alema, but in April 2000, following poor performance by his coalition in regional elections, D'Alema resigned.

The succeeding centre-left government, including most of the same parties, was headed by Giuliano Amato (social-democratic), who previously served as Prime Minister in 1992–93, from April 2000 until June 2001. In 2001 the centre-right formed the government and Silvio Berlusconi was able to regain power and keep it for a complete five-year mandate, becoming the longest government in post-war Italy. Berlusconi participated in the US-led multinational coalition in Iraq.

The elections in 2006 returned Prodi in government, leading an all-encompassing centre-left coalition of 11 parties (L'Unione). Prodi won with only a slim majority in the Senate, also due to the new proportional electoral law introduced by Berlusconi and Calderoli in 2005. In the first year of his government, Prodi had followed a cautious policy of economic liberalization and reduction of public debt. His government, in loss of popularity, was anyway sacked by the end of support from centrist MPs led by Clemente Mastella.

Berlusconi won the last snap elections in 2008, with the People of Freedom party (fusion of his previous Forza Italia party and of Fini's Alleanza Nazionale) against Walter Veltroni of the Democratic Party. In 2010, Berlusconi's party saw the splintering of Gianfranco Fini's new faction, which formed a parliamentary group and voted against him in a no-confidence vote on 14 December 2010. Berlusconi's government was able to avoid no-confidence thanks to support from sparse MPs, but has lost a consistent majority in the lower Chamber.

ReligionEdit

Most Italians are adherants to the the Roman Catholic Church, a section within Christianity. The Italian Peninsula is the birthplace of the Roman Catholic Church, and its history is well deep-rooted there and influenced the other European nations (Spain, France, Germany) which were known as Papal states. It is  under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, curia in Rome, and the Conference of Italian Bishops. In addition to Italy, two other sovereign nations are included in Italian-based dioceses, San Marino and Vatican City. There are 225 dioceses in the Italian Catholic Church, see further in this article and in the article List of the Roman Catholic dioceses in Italy.

The pope resides in the Vatican City, in Rome. Rome, and Italy, have been major centres for Christian pilgrimage since the Roman Empire, and Rome is commonly regarded as the "home of the Roman Catholic Church", since it is where St Peter set up the first Christian Church.[91]

Owing to the Italian Renaissance, church art in Italy is extraordinary, including the works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Fra Carnevale (priest and artist), Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Sandro Botticelli, Tintoretto, Titian, Raphael, Giotto, etc.

Italian church architecture is equally spectacular and historically important to Western culture, notably St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Cathedral of St. Mark's in Venice, and Brunelleschi's Florence Cathedral (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore), which includes the "Gates of Paradise" doors at the Baptistery by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

PracticesEdit

The Catholic hierarchy includes cardinals and bishops and is led by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. The Church teaches that it is the one true church divinely founded by Jesus Christ. It also teaches that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles and that the Bishop of Rome, as the successor to the head of the apostles, Saint Peter, has supreme authority over the Church. The Church maintains that the doctrine on faith and morals that it presents as definitive is infallible. Within the Church there are a variety of doctrinal and theological traditions, including the Eastern Catholic Churches, the personal ordinaries and religious communities.

Catholic social teaching emphasizes support for the poor and the afflicted through the corporal works of mercy. These include social programs and institutions throughout the world, including Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, missions and shelters, as well as charities such as Catholic Relief Services and Caritas that help families, the poor, the elderly and the sick. Catholic spiritual teaching emphasizes spread of the Gospel message and growth in spiritual discipline through the spiritual works of mercy.

Prayer ServicesEdit

Roman Catholics, usually the typical Catholic attend church services every Sunday which is considered the Sabbath of the Catholic Church. Even more devout Catholics attend services every Friday night.

Each mass usually lasts an hour or an hour and 30 minutes, the priest leads the congregation and is also accompanied by a decon. They sing church songs known as hymns and prayers regulated by the pope and papacy in Rome and the Vatican.

Sacramental RitualsEdit

According to the Council of Trent, Christ instituted seven sacraments and entrusted them to the Church.[92] These are Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Reconciliation (Penance), Anointing of the Sick (formerly called Extreme Unction, one of the "Last Rites"), Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony. Sacraments are visible rituals that Catholics see as signs of God's presence and effective channels of God's grace to all those who receive them with the proper disposition (ex opere operato).[93] The Catechism of the Catholic Church categorises the sacraments into three groups, the "sacraments of Christian initiation", "sacraments of healing" and "sacraments at the service of communion and the mission of the faithful". These groups broadly reflect the stages of people's natural and spiritual lives which each sacrament is intended to serve.[94]

Baptism is the Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also a particular church tradition. The canonical Gospels report that Jesus was baptized—an historical event to which a high degree of certainty can be assigned.

Confirmation is a rite of initiation in several Christian denominations, normally carried out through anointing, the laying on of hands, and prayer, for the purpose of bestowing the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

The feast of the Eucharist, which originates from the Greek name "thanksgiving" (Greek: εὐχαριστία) is when a person recieves Christ's body and blood.

Penance is act of confessing a sin. These are done in private one-to-one sessions between the person confessing the sin and the priest.

LanguageEdit

Italy is home to many native Italic languages, countless numbers spoken across the different parts of the Italian Peninsula and islands in the Mediterranean Sea that are part of Italy.

Italian LanguageEdit

Italian is a Romance language; it derives from Latin and is based off the the Tuscan language, which is native to Tuscany. It is part of the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family. Italian is related most closely to the other two Italo-Dalmatian languages, Sicilian and the extinct Dalmatian.

The birth and emergence of a distinct language is much owed to Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet from the Middle Ages who wrote his most famous work, Divine Comedy and others in the native Italian toungue around him rather than Latin, which was considered the language of education and literature at the time. He is known as the "father of the Italian language".

Italian is known as a "love language", ironically does not play a part in being called a "Romance language". Among other languages such as Spanish, French and Portuguese, the Italian language is an ideal language for drama and romance genres.

It is a well-known language that is tought in schools around the world, and has many speakers outside of Italy.

In Switzerland, Italian is one of four official languages; it is studied and learned in all the confederation schools and spoken, as a native language, in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Grigioni and by the Italian immigrants that are present in large numbers in German- and French-speaking cantons. It is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of the Vatican City. It is co-official in Slovenian Istria and in Istria County in Croatia. The Italian language adopted by the state after the unification of Italy is based on Tuscan, which beforehand was a language spoken mostly by the upper class of Florentine society. Its development was also influenced by other Italian languages and by the Germanic languages of the post-Roman invaders.

Due to heavy Italian influence in Africa during the Italian colonial period, Italian is still widely understood in the countries of Libya and Eritrea. Although it was the primary language since colonial rule, Italian greatly declined under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, who expelled the Italian Libyan population and made Arabic the sole official language of the country. Nevertheless, Italian remains an important language in the education and economic sectors in Libya. In Eritrea, Italian is a principal language in commerce and the capital city Asmara still has an Italian-language school. Italian was also introduced to Somalia through colonialism and was the sole official language of administration and education during the colonial period but declined after government, educational and economic infrastructure was destroyed in the Somali Civil War. Italian remains spoken as a second language by the elderly and the educated and is also used in the new Federal Government of Somalia.

Italian was also used in administration in Ethiopia when the country was briefly occupied by Italy from 1936 to 1941.

Latin languageEdit

Latin  is an ancient Italic language originally spoken by the Italic Latins in Latium and Ancient Rome. Along with most European languages, it is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Influenced by the Etruscan language and using the Greek Alphabet as a basis, it took form as what is recognizable as Latin in the Italian peninsula. Modern Romance languages are continuations of dialectal forms (vulgar Latin) of the language. Additionally many students, scholars, and some members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and it is still taught in some primary, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions around the world.

Latin was the official state language and lingua franca in the Italian Peninsula.

Though a dead language (with few speakers, mostly educated Christian clergymen), Latin has had a profound influence among the world's sciences.

AlphabetEdit

The classical Latin alphabet or Roman alphabet is a writing system which evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, itself a descendant of the Phoenician alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome. The Etruscan alphabet was in turn adopted and further modified by the ancient Romans to write the Latin language.

Latin is the alphabet used for many language in the world today. During the Middle Ages, the Latin alphabet was adapted to Romance languages, direct descendants of Latin, as well as to Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, and some Slavic languages. With the age of colonialism and Christian evangelism, the Latin script was spread overseas, and applied to indigenous American, Australian, Austronesian, Austroasiatic, and African languages. More recently, linguists have also tended to prefer the Latin script or the International Phonetic Alphabet (itself largely based on Latin script) when transcribing or creating written standards for non-European languages, such as the African reference alphabet.

ArtEdit

Etruscan artEdit

Etruscan bronze figures and a terracotta funerary reliefs include examples of a vigorous Central Italian tradition which had waned by the time Rome began building her empire on the peninsula.

The Etruscan paintings that have survived to modern times are mostly wall frescoes from graves, and mainly from Tarquinia. These are the most important example of pre-Roman figurative art in Italy known to scholars.

The frescoes consist of painting on top of fresh plaster, so that when the plaster is dried the painting becomes part of the plaster and an integral part of the wall, which helps it survive so well (indeed, almost all of surviving Etruscan and Roman painting is in fresco). Colors were made from stones and minerals in different colours that ground up and mixed in a medium, and fine brushes were made of animal hair (even the best brushes are produced with ox hair). From the mid 4th century BC chiaroscuro began to be used to portray depth and volume. Sometimes scenes of everyday life are portrayed, but more often traditional mythological scenes. The concept of proportion does not appear in any surviving frescoes and we frequently find portrayals of animals or men with some body-parts out of proportion. One of the best-known Etruscan frescoes is that of Tomb of the Lioness at Tarquinia.

Roman art Edit

The Etruscans were responsible for constructing Rome's earliest monumental buildings. Roman temples and houses were closely based on Etruscan models. Elements of Etruscan influence in Roman temples included the podium and the emphasis on the front at the expense of the remaining three sides. Large Etruscan houses were grouped around a central hall in much the same way as Roman town Large houses were later built around an atrium. The influence of Etruscan architecture gradually declined during the republic in the face of influences (particularly Greek) from elsewhere. Etruscan architecture was itself influenced by the Greeks, so that when the Romans adopted Greek styles, it was not a totally alien culture. During the republic there was probably a steady absorption of architectural influences, mainly from the Hellenistic world, but after the fall of Syracuse in 211 BC, Greek works of art flooded into Rome. During the 2nd century BC, the flow of these works, and more important, Greek craftsmen, continued, thus decisively influencing the development of Roman architecture. By the end of the republic, when Vitruvius wrote his treatise on architecture, Greek architectural theory and example were dominant. With the expansion of the empire, Roman architecture spread over a wide area, used for both public buildings and some larger private ones. In many areas elements of style were influenced by local tastes, particularly decoration, but the architecture remained recognizably Roman. Styles of vernacular architecture were influenced to varying degrees by Roman architecture, and in many regions Roman and native elements are found combined in the same building. By the first century AD, Rome had become the biggest and most advanced city in the world. The ancient Romans came up with new technologies to improve the city's sanitation systems, roads, and buildings. They developed a system of aqueducts that piped freshwater into the city, and they built sewers that removed the city's waste. The wealthiest Romans lived in large houses with gardens. Most of the population, however, lived in apartment buildings made of stone, concrete, or limestone. The Romans developed new techniques and used materials such as volcanic soil from Pozzuoli, a village near Naples, to make their cement harder and stronger. This concrete allowed them to build large apartment buildings called insulae.

Wallpaintings decorated the houses of the wealthy. Paintings often showed garden landscapes, events from Greek and Roman mythology, historical scenes, or scenes of everyday life. Romans decorated floors with mosaics — pictures or designs created with small colored tiles. The richly colored paintings and mosaics helped to make rooms in Roman houses seem larger and brighter and showed off the wealth of the owner.[95]

In the Christian era of the late Empire, from 350–500 AD, wall painting, mosaic ceiling and floor work, and funerary sculpture thrived, while full-sized sculpture in the round and panel painting died out, most likely for religious reasons.[96] When Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople), Roman art incorporated Eastern influences to produce the Byzantine style of the late empire. When Rome was sacked in the 5th century, artisans moved to and found work in the Eastern capital. The Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople employed nearly 10,000 workmen and artisans, in a final burst of Roman art under Emperor Justinian I, who also ordered the creation of the famous mosaics of Ravenna.[97]

Renaissance art Edit

During the Middle Ages, painters and sculptors tried to give their works a spiritual quality. They wanted viewers to concentrate on the deep religious meaning of their paintings and sculptures. But Renaissance painters and sculptors, like Renaissance writers, wanted to portray people and nature realistically. Medieval architects designed huge cathedrals to emphasize the grandeur of God and to humble the human spirit. Renaissance architects designed buildings whose proportions were based on those of the human body and whose ornamentation imitated ancient designs.

Arts of the 1300s and early 1400s Edit

During the early 1300s, the Florentine painter Giotto became the first artist to portray nature realistically. He produced magnificent frescoes (paintings on damp plaster) for churches in Assisi, Florence, Padua, and Rome. Giotto attempted to create lifelike figures showing real emotions. He portrayed many of his figures in realistic settings.

A remarkable group of Florentine architects, painters, and sculptors worked during the early 1400s. They included the painter Masaccio, the sculptor Donatello, and the architect Filippo Brunelleschi.

Masaccio's finest work was a series of frescoes he painted about 1427 in the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. The frescoes realistically show Biblical scenes of emotional intensity. In these paintings, Masaccio utilized Brunelleschi's system for achieving linear perspective.

In his sculptures, Donatello tried to portray the dignity of the human body in realistic and often dramatic detail. His masterpieces include three statues of the Biblical hero David. In a version finished in the 1430s, Donatello portrayed David as a graceful, nude youth, moments after he slew the giant Goliath. The work, which is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, was the first large free-standing nude created in Western art since classical antiquity.

Brunelleschi was the first Renaissance architect to revive the ancient Roman style of architecture. He used arches, columns, and other elements of classical architecture in his designs. One of his best-known buildings is the beautifully and harmoniously proportioned Pazzi Chapel in Florence. The chapel, begun in 1442 and completed about 1465, was one of the first buildings designed in the new Renaissance style. Brunelleschi also was the first Renaissance artist to master linear perspective, a mathematical system with which painters could show space and depth on a flat surface.

Arts of the late 1400s and early 1500s Edit

Arts of the late 1400s and early 1500s were dominated by three men. They were Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo excelled as a painter, architect, and poet. In addition, he has been called the greatest sculptor in history.[98] Michelangelo was a master of portraying the human figure. For example, his famous statue of the Israelite leader Moses (1516) gives an overwhelming impression of physical and spiritual power. These qualities also appear in the frescoes of Biblical and classical subjects that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. The frescoes, painted from 1508 to 1512, rank among the greatest works of Renaissance art.

Raphael's paintings are softer in outline and more poetic than those of Michelangelo. Raphael was skilled in creating perspective and in the delicate use of color. He painted a number of beautiful pictures of the Madonna (Virgin Mary) and many outstanding portraits. One of his greatest works is the fresco The School of Athens. The painting was influenced by classical Greek and Roman models. It portrays the great philosophers and scientists of ancient Greece in a setting of classical arches. Raphael was thus making a connection between the culture of classical antiquity and the Italian culture of his time.

Leonardo da Vinci painted two of the most famous works of Renaissance art, the wallpainting The Last Supper and the portrait Mona Lisa. Leonardo had one of the most searching minds in all history. He wanted to know how everything that he saw in nature worked. In over 4,000 pages of notebooks, he drew detailed diagrams and wrote his observations. Leonardo made careful drawings of human skeletons and muscles, trying to learn how the body worked. Due to his inquiring mind, Leonardo has become a symbol of the Renaissance spirit of learning and intellectual curiosity.[99]

The creator of High Renaissance architecture was Donato Bramante, who came to Rome in 1499, when he was 55. His first Roman masterpiece, the Tempietto (1502) at San Pietro in Montorio, is a centralized dome structure that recalls Classical temple architecture. Pope Julius II chose Bramante to be papal architect, and together they devised a plan to replace the 4th-century Old St. Peter's with a new church of gigantic dimensions. The project was not completed, however, until long after Bramante's death.

Humanistic studies continued under the powerful popes of the High Renaissance, Julius II and Leo X, as did the development of polyphonic music. The Sistine Choir, which performed at services when the pope officiated, drew musicians and singers from all of Italy and northern Europe. Among the most famous composers who became members were Josquin des Prez and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

Mannerism Edit

Mannerism was an elegant, courtly style. It flourished in Florence, Italy, where its leading representatives were Giorgio Vasari and Bronzino. The style was introduced to the French court by Rosso Fiorentino and by Francesco Primaticcio. The Venetian painter Tintoretto was influenced by the style.

The mannerist approach to painting also influenced other arts.

In architecture, the work of Italian architect Giulio Romano is a notable example. The Italian Benvenuto Cellini and Flemish born Giambologna were the style's chief representatives in sculpture.[100]

Some historians regard this period as a degeneration of High Renaissance classicism or even as an interlude between High Renaissance and baroque, in which case the dates are usually from c. 1520 to 1600, and it is considered a positive style complete in itself.

ArchitectureEdit

Main Wikipedia Article: Architecture of Italy
Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style, which cannot be simply classified by period, but also by region, due to Italy's division into several city-states until 1861. However, this has created a highly diverse and eclectic range in architectural designs. Italy is known for its considerable architectural achievements, such as the construction of arches, domes and similar structure during ancient Rome, the founding of the Renaissance architectural movement in the late-14th to 16th century, and being the homeland of Palladianism, a style of construction which inspired movements such as that of Neoclassical architecture, and influenced the designs which noblemen built their country houses all over the world, notably in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America during the late-17th to early 20th centuries. Several of the finest works in Western architecture, such as the Colosseum, the Duomo of Milan, Florence cathedral and the building designs of Venice are found in Italy. Italy has an estimated total of 100,000 monuments of all varieties (museums, palaces, buildings, statues, churches, art galleries, villas, fountains, historic houses and archaeological remains).

CuisineEdit


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