An Overview of the Past of Italy

(Last Updated On: February 3, 2022)

An Overview of the Past of Italy

When you think of Italy, it’s nearly impossible to not think of the past. It is rich and complex starting from before ancient Roman times, continuing through the turbulence of fascism, and finally ending with today’s modern country. Italy has it all – mystery, intrigue, religion, beauty, and character, and studying the past of this impressive country can help us all to understand the current culture of Italy.

The earliest recorded mention Italy comes from the Paleolithic era, which occurred over 200,000 years ago.  Italy didn’t really become a fully formed area, however, until the first Greek settlers arrived in the country in the eighth century BC. The name Italy is said to have either come from the name Italus, who was one of the kings of the area, or the Homeric word that meant “bull”.  By the third century BC, the Romans had taken over the entire area of the Mediterranean, which included Italy, and this boot-shaped land became part of the Roman Empire. This Roman era led to prosperity and peace for the land of Italy, and this was continued until around 400 AD.

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The Germanic people became the rulers of Italy around 400 AD. They ruled for roughly 135 years until, in 535, Justinian reclaimed the area for Rome. For the next 1000 years, Italy became a fragmented group of city states, and the paths of the southern and northern parts of Italy differed greatly. In the northern area, the city states of Genoa, Florence, Milan and especially Venice prospered, both in areas of commerce and those of politics. The southern part of Italy, in areas such as Sicily, were taken over first by Muslims in the ninth century and then by the Normans in the 1050’s. The areas of Sicily and Naples were filled with turmoil, but they also produced the climate that fed the Italian Renaissance movement where artists such as Michelangelo produced stunning works.

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By the 1600’s, the Hapsburgs had taken control of the area of Italy and were strong rulers of many city states. Their rule was opposed, however, and by 1861, Italy’s smaller city states had united to form a full country known as Italy. Victor Immanuel II became the first king of Italy, and the country continued under a monarch until 1946, when a republic was developed.

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Since that time, the republic has continued without interruption with one exception. In the 1930s, Mussolini became the elected President, but was for all intensive purposes a fascist dictator. As you know, he was deposed as Italy was defeated in World War II. Since that time, the country has remained a republic.

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