A first snapshot
1500 to 800 BC: the Bronze Age
800 BC: the first 'Italians' are called Etruscans
800 to 500 BC: the Iron Age
500 BC to 500 AD (circa): The Roman Empire
Top ten dates in Italian History
(in chronological order)
1. 753 BC: Foundation of Rome (not of the Roman
2. 327 BC: Empire of Alexander the Great attacks India
3. 202 BC: Hannibal is beaten by Rome
500 AD to 1400 AD (circa): The Middle Ages
4. 27 BC: Foundation of the Roman Empire
15th and 16th Centuries AD: The Italian
5. 312 AD: Roman Emperor Constantine converts to
Christianity - spreads across Europe
1559 to 1814: Period of Foreign Domination and
6. 476 AD: The Roman Empire falls in the West and
modern Europe begins.
1814 to 1861: Risorgimento; working towards a
1861 to 1922: Italian Monarchy
1922 to 1945: Mussolini, fascism and WW2
1945 to today: Italian republic
7. 1088: First university founded in Bologna
8. 1492: Christopher Columbus discovers the New
9. 1861: Italy becomes a unified country
10. 1948: The Italian Republic is born with the signing of
Sicily and Southern Italy
Tuscany, the Po River
Valley and south to the
Tiber River (800 BC)
The founding of Rome
The ancient Romans loved to hear the story of Romulus and Remus. In their
eyes, this story explained why Rome had the right to rule.
According to the legend, Romulus and Remus justified their right to rule
because their mother was a princess and their father was the war god Mars.
The legend of
Romulus and Remus
Rhea was married to Mars, the Roman god of war. Rhea had twin sons.
She loved her boys, but there were plots afoot by other gods and
goddesses to harm her father, herself, her husband, and her children. To
protect the boys, she set them adrift on the river, hoping someone would
find them. Who would not love such beautiful boys?
Sure enough, first they were found by a she-wolf who fed them. Then a
shepherd and his wife adopted the boys.
As the twins grew older, they decided they did not want to take care of
sheep. They wanted to be kings. They decided to build a city on the shores
of the Tiber. They both wanted to be the only king. They quarreled. In a fit
of rage, Romulus picked up a rock, killed his brother, and made himself
That’s how Rome started.
The Roman Empire
Rise and expansion of the Empire
Roman world domination begins (172 BC)
Greatest extent of the Empire (117 AD)
Constantine moves the capital to Constantinople, Turkey in 330 AD
Decline and Fall of Rome
Invasions by the Goths & Vandals (400’sAD)
Conquest of Italy by the Lombards (568 AD)
Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman Emperor (800 AD)
In 843 AD, after Charlemagne’s death, the Empire was divided among his sons.
The Middle Ages
Rule by Germans or Austrians in north
Rule by Normans or Spanish in south
Rise of Feudalism
• Control by wealthy families:
the Sforza and the Visconti
wealthy families elected Doges
The Renaissance: 1400-1600
• Rebirth of all the arts and culture begins in the
City-States of Italy
• Wealthy bankers and merchants support
artists, architects, intellectuals, etc.
• Italian ideals set enduring standards for art in the
Western world, influenced writers & architects, and
encouraged intellectual pursuits
The end of the
Rivalry of Spain and France
over territories in Italy
France and Spain’s
rivalry over Italy
among various European
rulers through war,
The Papacy held on to
the Papal States
Spain the chief power
in Italy: 1559-1713
House of Savoy rules
Piedmont & Sardinia
Spain ruled Sicily, Naples & Milan
Napoleon conquers Italy in the 1790’s
Italy remains split into
a dozen separate
states while European
nations are forming
on in the south
1815: Italy after Napoleon
After his defeat in 1815, most
Italian states go back to their
• Lombardy-Venetia to
• Naples and Sicily to
Hatred of foreign rule increases
Under King Victor Emanuel I,
son of Charles Albert, Count
Camillo Cavour, the prime
minister, made a treaty with
France against Austria.
Liberation movement begun by
Giuseppe Mazzini in Piedmont
with the support of Charles
1859: Austria defeated
Albert, king of Sardinia-Piedmont
(House of Savoy)
Scattered revolts in 1848 were
Italy gained Lombardy,
but Austria kept Venetia
The House of Savoy
King Umberto I, son of
Victor Emanuel II, was
Victor Emanuel III
Constitutional Monarchy: 1870 – 1922
Birth of modern Italy
taxation to pay
government new and
strange to many
Towards World War I
In the trenches
In an attempt to increase its international influence
and prestige, Italy joined Germany and Austria in the
Triple Alliance in 1882;
During the 1890s Italy unsuccessfully tried to conquer
Ethiopia; and in 1911 it declared war on Turkey to
obtain the North African territory of Libya.
After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Italy
remained neutral for almost a year while the
government negotiated with both sides.
In 1915, Italy finally joined the Allies, after having been
promised territories that it regarded as "Italia
irredenta" (un-liberated Italy).
The country was unprepared for a major war, however;
aside from a few victories in 1918, Italy suffered
serious losses of men, material, and morale.
Moreover, despite the efforts of Vittorio Emmanuele
Orlando at the Paris Peace Conference, the treaties
that followed the war gave Italy only Trentino and
Trieste, a small part of the territories it had expected.
These disappointments produced a powerful wave of
nationalist sentiment against the Allies and the Italian
The Rise and Expansionism of Fascism
In 1919, in the midst of these unsettled
conditions, Benito Mussolini, a former
revolutionary socialist, founded a new
movement called "Fascismo". Through a
combination of shrewd political
maneuvering and widespread violence
perpetrated by Mussolini's Black Shirt
squads, the Fascists gained increasing
support. In October 1922, after the Fascists
had marched on Rome, King Victor
Emmanuel III named Mussolini prime
minister. Within four years, Mussolini had
become a dictator, destroying civil liberties,
outlawing all other political parties, and
imposing a totalitarian regime on the
country by means of terror and
constitutional subversion. Public works
projects, propaganda, militarism, and the
appearance of order gained Mussolini
considerable prestige, and the Lateran
Treaty with the papacy in 1929 gave the
"duce" (as he was called) a wide measure of
Mussolini's foreign policy, based on
aggression and expansion, moved Italy closer
to war during the 1930s. In 1935-36 the
Italian army invaded and conquered
Ethiopia, and in 1936, Italy sent troops to
support Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil
War. Later that year Mussolini and Adolf
Hitler, the National Socialist dictator of
Germany, established the Rome-Berlin Axis.
In 1939, Italy took Albania, and the two
dictators then concluded a military alliance
known as the Pact of Steel. In June 1940,
nine months after the outbreak of World
War II in Europe, Italy entered the conflict on
World War II
Mussolini's war effort met with setbacks and defeats on all fronts.
In July 1943 the Allies invaded Sicily.
The Fascist leadership turned against Mussolini, and the king forced him
to resign. Rescued by German paratroopers, Mussolini escaped to Salò in
northern Italy, where he established a puppet government (the Italian
Social Republic) under German protection.
In the south, the king and his new prime minister, Pietro Badoglio,
surrendered to the Allies in September and then joined in the war against
A fierce and heroic anti-Fascist resistance movement fought in the
German-occupied north for two years while underground political leaders
organized the anti-Fascists into the Committee of National Liberation
The Allies pushed the German armies out of Italy with great difficulty, and
in April 1945 the partisans captured and executed Mussolini.
Between 1945 and 1948 a new Italian nation emerged from the disaster of Fascism and war.
On June 2nd, 1946 a popular election abolished the monarchy in favor of a republic; a new constitution was
adopted the next year.
The Christian Democrats, the Communists, and the Socialists became the leading political parties in the country.
The largest of these parties, the Christian Democrats, first under the leadership of Alcide De Gasperi, dominated
the Italian government after 1948. De Gasperi stressed industrial growth, agricultural reform, and close
cooperation with the United States and the Vatican.
With massive U.S. aid, Italy underwent a remarkable economic recovery that saw rapid industrial expansion and a
sharp increase in the standard of living. Italy joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, the European
Coal and Steel Community in 1951, and the European Common Market (European Community) in 1958.
The 1960s were marked by continued prosperity and a lessening of tensions between right and left. In the early
1970s the Italian Communists, led by Enrico Berlinguer, became prominent advocates of Euro communism, a
doctrine stressing independence of the USSR.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s labor unrest, frequent government scandals, and the violence of extremist
groups (especially the left-wing Red Brigades terrorists, who kidnapped and murdered former premier Aldo Moro
in 1978), all contributed to a volatile political situation.
The postwar system was modified somewhat under the long premiership (1983-87) of Socialist Bettino Craxi and
was shaken to its foundations by revelations of widespread corruption involving leaders of all the major parties
New regional parties began to win support among the voters, who demanded fundamental political reforms. At
the same time the government and the judiciary initiated a determined effort to break the power of the Mafia and
other traditional criminal elements in southern Italy and Sicily. In the spring of 1994, Italian voters rejected the
Media mogul Silvio Berlusconi became premier, leading a fragile conservative coalition called the Alliance for