Brief History of Italy The Roman Empire to The Renaissance

Key Italian People Dates : A Brief History of Italy

Italy, Amalfi Coast 

It's hard to know where to start when talking about the history of a nation that gave birth to one of the earth's greatest civilisations and is the home of the Roman Catholic church.

But whilst Italian history is more than a little imposing, it is also wonderfully intriguing. The country is literally a cornerstone for the building of our modern world, and one of the most remarkable things about the country's history is that you can still see evidence of it happily living alongside modern day Italy.

After Stone Age gatherers traversed Italy's countryside over 70,000 years ago, the country began to be settled by a number of distinct tribes around 1,800 BC. By the 7th century BC, Greek traders were settling in the south, the Estruscans were forming their own society and a little town called Rome was quickly growing.

Legend had it that Aeneas, the Trojan hero of Virgil's legendary Aeneid, landed on the shores of Italy in 1184 BC. Hundreds of years later his descendants Romulus and Remus, fathered by the Roman God, Mars, are said to have founded what we now know as the modern day city of Rome. A line of kings ruled from then on until a Republic bestowed power on two elected Consuls who ruled with the help of a Senate.

A consul by the name of Gaius Julius Caesar took power in Rome in 59 BC and spent the majority of his reign attempting to conquer Gaul (now modern day France). He was assassinated in 44 BC and after his death was the ascension of a new leader, Octavian, who was bestowed with the moniker Augustus. Augustus was followed in Roman rule by legendary names like Caligula, Claudius, Marcus Aurelius and Commodus.

In its heyday, the Roman Empire exerted dominance over Britain, Gaul, parts of Germany, Greece and the Balkans; as well as modern day Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and parts of Northern Africa. It packed in 1.5 million citizens and led the ancient world as an advanced and egalitarian society. Rome's advances in government, culture, architecture and plumbing cemented its position as the ancient world's most influential society.

Italy was once again at the forefront of new ideas centuries later when free thinking artists, writers, poets and musicians from the country's then separate city states began to revolt against the way culture and the arts were being expressed. This was the time of the Renaissance. Legendary names like Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci produced some of their most influential work over this period, and it was during this time that Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

In the 1850s murmurings began about the establishment of a united Italian nation, but it was after the reign of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and Italy's failed involvement with Germany in World War II that a proper Italian nation was formed.

An Italian Republic was established in 1946, but the country's first government elected didn't take control of the country until 1948. From this time forward, Italy has evolved into a modern nation, whilst at the same time maintaining those traditions that have served it so well over the years.

These days Italy is led by Prime Minister Silivio Berlusconi, who also happens to be one of the world's richest men. His business empire includes TV and radio stations, newspapers, insurance, construction and advertising companies oh, and football club AC Milan!