Italy is a European country located right in the centre of the European sea, and together with Greece it is acknowledged as being the birthplace of Western Culture. The country share borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and Vatican City with the shape of the country being similar to that of a boot. The country has the 3rd largest GDP in Europe and the 8th largest in the world. However, it is a country that contrasts between the rich north and the poorer south. The country is steeped in history and it has more World Heritage sites, 53, than any other country in the world.
People have been recorded occupying the land since Neanderthal times 200,000 years ago and many separate groups of people such as the Umbrians, the Celts, the Latins and the Sabines occupied the land. The emergence of Rome in 753 BC signified a 244 year period where a monarchial system was in place and Rome was ruled by Kings. From 509 BC the last king was expelled and Rome became ruled by an Oligarchic Republic. From this point Rome grew into a massive empire stretching from Britain in the west to the borders of Persia in the east. At its height the Roman Empire controlled an area of more than 5 million square kilometers. This Roman legacy has shaped much of the western world with there still being evidence with Latin still being used, the numeral policy still in evidence and even the emergence of Christianity as a world religion.
The Empire started to decline from the third century AD with it being split in two in 395 AD. The western half of the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD when the Germanic leader Odoacer conquered Rome and 1000 years of Roman rule in the west was ended. The period that followed the fall of the Empire in the west became known as The Dark Ages as the presence of the Romans had brought great stability to the regions. The loss of education and literacy during this period reflects the name given to it, as little of the events that occurred were ever recorded. Meanwhile back in Italy the following periods were ones of great instability as the country was invaded by different groups’ As the lack of central control emerged so did the creation in the middle ages of the medieval communes.
Towns and cities would regulate themselves with their own councils and even their own armies. In 1176 the Lombard League brought together the towns of Northern and Southern Italy to defeat the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and this virtually created a new Italy. In the South there were similar strong settlements such as Pisa Genoa and Amalfi, and in the 15th century they joined with Sicily to form a unified kingdom. Despite the unity shown in defeating the Germans there was still conflicts between the States and in 1454 the Peace of Lodi brought peace to the area for 40 years From 1494 followed the Italian Wars with most European armies becoming involved with the separate Italian state armies in trying to gain control of certain regions.
The area became under the rule of firstly the Spanish, then the Austrians and finally the French. During the 19th century Italy worked with the French to get rid of Austria out of certain areas of Italy and the patriotic fervor that came with these victories fuelled the country’s desire for total unification. Eventually the French abandoned its garrison in Rome in 1870 and the Italians took over creating the new State of Italy.
The Italians joined the allies in the First World War and were able to reclaim certain parts of the country but the war was an economic disaster for the country. From this desperate situation the Fascist party emerged with Benito Mussolini as its leader. Following the 1922 “March on Rome” Mussolini was appointed prime minister. Over the following years he banned all political parties and formed a dictatorship. After being expelled from the League of Nations in 1935 for invading Ethiopia he joined Germany and Japan in the Second World War.
The defeat left the country in economic turmoil and in 1946 the country became a Republic. In 1949 the country became a member of NATO and buoyed by the Marshall Plan the Italian economy has gone from strength to strength. To find the country in such a strong economic position today after being in such turmoil, shows the fortitude and character the country has shown in the last 70 years.