In the following centuries, Rome started expanding its territory, defeating its neighbours (Veium, the other Latins, the Sannites) one after the other.
After each war, the Romans usually did not try to completely submit the defeated populations, but just forced them to become junior allies of Rome. This wise policy was probably one of the reasons of the strength of Rome. For example, several weak Etruscan or Greek cities in Tuscany and Campania actually asked for Roman protection, rather than confronting with Rome in a war.
At that point Rome controlled most of the Western Mediterranean and its influence was rapidly growing in the East. At the end of 2nd century BC, the Roman state, having defeated the Hellenistic kingdoms of Macedonia and Syria, dominated the whole Mediterranean world with the exception of Egypt.
The establishment of the empire brought substantial benefits to the provinces, which could now appeal to the emperor against rapacious administrators, rather than to the corrupt senatorial class to whom the administrators usually belonged. Furthermore, Roman citizenship was slowly extended to the provinces, and the rule of law became less arbitrary (although largely imperfect).
Despite its military strength, the empire did few efforts to expand its already vast extent; the most notable was probably the conquest of England by emperor Claudius in 47. In the 1st and 2nd century Roman legions were mostly employed in brief civil wars (e.g. in 68, the year of the four emperors) or suppressing insurrections (e.g. the Hebraic insurrection in Judea, ended with the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70, and with the start of the diaspora).
In the politically unstable situation after the fall of the western empire, the Church often became the only stable institution and the only source of learning. Even the barbarians had to rely on clerics in order to administrate their conquests. Furthermore, the catholic monastic orders, such as the Benedictines had a major role both in the economic life of the time, and in the preservation of the classicalculture.
After the Lombard invasion, the popes (i.e. St. Gregory) were nominally subject to the eastern emperor, but often received little help from Constantinoupolis, and had to fill the lack of stately power, protecting Rome from Lombard incursions; in this way, the popes started building an independent state.
At the end of the 8th century the popes definitely aspired to independence, and found a way to achieve it by allying with the Carolingian dynasty of the Franks: the Carolingians needed someone who could give legitimacy to a coup against the powerless Merovingian kings, while the popes needed military protection against the Lombards. As a result, in 774 the Franks invaded and defeated the Lombards, and their leader Charlemagne was proclaimed legitimate king of the Franks by the pope. Later, in 800, Charlemagne was also crowned emperor of the Holy Roman empire by the pope; the new emperor (who was never recognized as such by the Byzantines) immediately conceded direct rule over central Italy to the pope, creating the Papal States.
However, after the death of Charlemagne (814) the new empire soon disintegrated under his weak successors, and even the papacy went through an age of decadence, ended only
in 999 when emperor Otto III selected Silvester II as a pope.
The 11th century signed the end of the darkest period in the middle ages. Trade slowly picked up, especially on the seas, where the four Italian cities of Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa and Venice became major powers. The papacy regained its authority, and started a long struggle with the empire, about both ecclesiastical and secular matter. The first episode was the Investiture controversy.
Meanwhile, the South and Sicily were invaded by Normans, who eventually defeated the Byzantines (in the mainland) and the Arabs (who had conquered Sicily in 900),
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, 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 French armies led by Napoleon invaded Italy; even if the states they created (e.g., Cisalpine Republic) were just satellites of France, they sparked a nationalist movement.
The 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.
At the beginning the new state did not include Rome (under papal rule until 1870) and the north-eastern provinces around Venice (most of which were annexed in 1866, after a new war with Austria).
From 1861 until 1922, Italy was a constitutional monarchy with a parliament, mostly elected with restricted suffrage (in 1913, the first universal male suffrage election was held). The so called Statuto Albertino, which Carlo Alberto conceded in 1848 remained unchanged, even if the kings usually abstained from abusing their extremely large powers (for example, senators were not elected but chosen by the king).
The new state faced immense problems, both because of the widespread poverty and illiteracy (especially in the south), and the deep cultural differences (for example, there existed no common language) between the various parts of Italy: there were even peasant insurrections asking for the return of former rulers.
At the beginning of World War I Italy remained neutral, since the Triple Alliance had only defensive purposes, and the war was started by Austria. However, both the central empires and the Entente tried to attract Italy on their side, and in April 1915 the Italian government agreed to declare war on Austria in exchange for several territories (Trento, Trieste, Istria, Dalmatia). . In October 1917 the Austrians, having received German reinforcements, broke the Italian lines at Caporetto, but the Italian (helped by their allies) stopped their advance on the river Piave, not far from Venice. After another year of trench warfare, and a successful Italian offensive in autumn 1918, the exhausted Austria surrendered to the allies on November 4 1918, soon followed by Germany.
In 1929 Mussolini signed the Lateran Pacts with the Catholic Church (with whom Italy was in conflict since the annexation of Rome in 1870), leading to the formation of the tiny independent state of Vatican City. He was initially in friendly terms with France and Britain, but the situation changed in 1935-36, when Italy invaded Ethiopia despite their opposition (Second Italo-Abyssinian War); because of this and of the ideological affinities with the Nazi party led by Hitler, Italy strengthened its ties with Germany.
At the beginning of World War II Italy remained neutral (with the consent of Hitler), but it declared war on France and Britain on June 10, 1940, when the French defeat was apparent. Mussolini believed that Britain would beg for peace, and wanted "some casualties in order to get a seat at the peace table", but that proved a huge miscalculation. With the exception of the navy, the Italian armed forces were a major disappointment for Mussolini and Hitler, and German help was constantly needed in Greece and North Africa.
After the invasion of Soviet Union failed (1941-42), and the United States entered the war (December 1941), the situation for the Axis started to deteriorate. In May 1943 the Anglo-Americans completely defeated the Italians and the Germans in North Africa, and in July they landed in Sicily. King Victor Emmanuel III reacted by arresting Mussolini and appointing the army chief of staff, Marshal Badoglio, as Prime Minister.
The new government officially continued the war against the Allies, but started secret negotiations with them. Hitler did not trust Badoglio, and moved a large German force into Italy, on the pretext of fighting the Allied invasion. On September 8, 1943 the Badoglio government announced an armistice with the Allies, but did not declare war on Germany, leaving the army without instructions. Badoglio and the royal family fled to the Allied-controlled regions. In the ensuing confusion, most of the Italian army literally melted away (with some notable exception around Rome and in places such as the Greek island of Cefalonia), and the Germans quickly occupied all of central and northern Italy (the south was already controlled by the Allies). The Germans also liberated Mussolini, who then formed the fascist Italian Social Republic, in the German-controlled areas. While the Allied troops slowly pushed the German resistance to the north (Rome was liberated in June 1944, Milan in April 1945) the monarchic government finally declared war on Germany, and an anti-fascist popular resistance movement grew, harassing German forces before the Anglo-American forces drove them out in April 1945.
In the final phases of the war, the discredited king Victor Emmanuel III tried to raise the prestige of the monarchy by nominating his son and heir Umberto II "general lieutenant of the kingdom", and promising that after the end of the war the Italian people could choose its form of government through a referendum. A new constitution was written for the new republic, taking effect on January 1, 1948.
The referendum at the origin of the Italian Republic was however object of deep discussion, mainly because of some Source | Copyright