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|History of Italy|
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The Italian city-states were a political phenomenon of small independent states mostly in the central and northern Italian Peninsula between the 9th and the 15th centuries.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, urban settlements in Italy generally enjoyed a greater continuity than in the rest of western Europe. Many of these towns were survivors of earlier Etruscan, Umbrian and Roman towns which had existed within the Roman Empire. The republican institutions of Rome had also survived. Some feudal lords existed with a servile labour force and huge tracts of land, but by the 11th century, many cities, including Venice, Milan, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Lucca, Cremona, Siena, Città di Castello, Perugia, and many others, had become large trading metropoles, able to obtain independence from their formal sovereigns.
Among the earliest city-states of Italy was the Duchy of Naples, Duchy of Amalfi, Gaeta and Venicewhich, although nominally under Byzantine control, was effectively independent.
The other first Italian city-states to appear in northern and central Italy arose as a result of a struggle to gain greater autonomy when not independent from the German Holy Roman Empire.The Lombard League was an alliance formed around at its apex included most of the cities of northern Italy including Milan, Piacenza, Cremona, Mantua, Crema, Bergamo, Brescia, Bologna, Padua, Treviso, Vicenza, Verona, Lodi, Reggio Emilia and Parma, though its membership changed through time. Other city-states were associated to these "commune" cities, like Genoa, Turin and, in central Italy, the city states of Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, Ancona, Città di Castello, Perugia, Assisi among others.
South of Rome and the Papal States were the duchies of Salerno, Amalfi, Duchy of Naples and Duchy of Gaeta. Other independent cities were Bari and Trani, which in 1130 were united in the newly created Norman Kingdom of Sicily..
Amalfi, Gaeta and Venice in the 11th century were already autonomous maritime republics. Around 1100, Genoa, Pisa and Ancona emerged as independent maritime republics too: trade, shipbuilding and banking helped support their powerful navies in the Mediterranean in those medieval centuries.. For them – nominally – the Holy Roman Emperor was sovereign.
Between the 12th and 13th centuries, Italy was vastly different from feudal Europe north of the Alps. The Peninsula was a melange of political and cultural elements, not a unified state.
Marc Bloch and Fernand Braudel have argued that geography determined the history of the region; other scholars emphasize the absence of central political structures. The very mountainous nature of Italy's landscape was a barrier to effective inter-city communication. The Po plain, however, was an exception: it was the only large contiguous area, and most city states that fell to invasion were located there. Those that survived the longest were in the more rugged regions, such as Florence or Venice, which was protected by its lagoon. The rugged terrain of the Alps prevented the Holy Roman Emperors or various German princes and lords from attacking the northern part of Italy, safeguarding the country from permanent German political control. Largely for these reasons, no strong monarchies emerged as they did in the rest of Europe: authority of the Holy Roman Empire over northern Italian territory, especially after the year 1177, was de facto only nominal; instead there emerged the autonomous (sometime de facto independent) city-states.
While those Roman, urban, republican sensibilities persisted, there were many movements and changes afoot. Italy first felt the changes in Europe from the 11th to the 13th centuries. Typically there was:
In recent writing on the city states, American scholar Rodney Stark emphasizes that they married responsive government, Christianity and the birth of capitalism.He argues that these states were mostly republics, unlike the great European monarchies of France and Spain, where absolute power was vested in rulers who could and did stifle commerce. Keeping both direct Church control and imperial power at arm's length, the independent city republics prospered through commerce based on early capitalist principles, ultimately creating the conditions for the artistic and intellectual changes produced by the Renaissance.
Cambridge University historian and political philosopher Quentin Skinnerhas pointed out how Otto of Freising, a German bishop who visited central Italy during the 12th century, commented that Italian towns had appeared to have exited from feudalism, so that their society was based on merchants and commerce. Even northern cities and states were also notable for their merchant republics, especially the Republic of Venice. Compared to absolutist monarchies or other more centrally controlled states, the Italian communes and commercial republics enjoyed relative political freedom conducive to academic and artistic advancement. Geographically, and because of trade, Italian cities such as Venice became international trading and banking hubs and intellectual crossroads.
Harvard historian Niall Fergusonpoints out that Florence and Venice, as well as several other Italian city-states, played a crucial innovative role in world financial developments, devising the main instruments and practices of banking and the emergence of new forms of social and economic organization.
It is estimated that the per capita income of northern Italy nearly tripled from the 11th century to the 15th century. This was a highly mobile, demographically expanding society, fueled by rapidly expanding commerce.
In the 14th century, just as the Italian Renaissance was beginning, Italy was the economic capital of Western Europe: the Italian States were the top manufacturers of finished woolen products. However, with the Bubonic Plague in 1348, the birth of the English woolen industry, and general warfare, Italy temporarily lost its economic advantage. However, by the late 15th century Italy was again in control of trade along the Mediterranean Sea. It found a new niche in luxury items like ceramics, glassware, lace and silk as well as experiencing a temporary rebirth in the woolen industry.
Still, Italy would never regain its strong hold on textiles. And though it was the birthplace of banking, by the 16th century German and Dutch banks began taking away business. Discovery of the Americas as well as new trade routes to Africa and India by the Portuguese (which made Portugal the leading trading power) brought about the shift of economic power from Italyto Portugal in the 16th century, from Portugal to the Netherlands in the 17th century, and from the Netherlands to the United Kingdom in the 18th century.
By the 13th century, northern and central Italy had become the most literate society in the world. More than one-third of the male population could read in the vernacular (an unprecedented rate since the decline of the Western Roman Empire), as could a small but significant proportion of women.
The Italian city states were also highly numerate, given the importance of the new forms of bookkeeping that were essential to the trading and mercantile basis of society. Some of the most widely circulating books, such as the Liber Abaci by Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa, included applications of mathematics and arithmetic to business practiceor were business manuals based on sophisticated numeracy.
Indeed, Luca Pacioli helped create the banking system of the Italian city-states with double-entry bookkeeping.His 27-page treatise on bookkeeping contained the first known published work on that topic, and is said to have laid the foundation for double-entry bookkeeping (of Genoese merchants) as it is practised today.
During the 11th century in northern Italy a new political and social structure emerged: the city-state or commune. The civic culture which arose from this urbs was remarkable. In some places where communes arose (e.g. Britain and France), they were absorbed by the monarchical state as it emerged. They survived in northern and central Italy as in a handful of other regions throughout Europe to become independent and powerful city-states. In Italy the breakaway from their feudal overlords occurred in the late 12th century and 13th century, during the Investiture Controversy between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor: Milan led the Lombard cities against the Holy Roman Emperors and defeated them, gaining independence (battles of Legnano, 1176, and Parma, 1248; see Lombard League).
Similar town revolts led to the foundation of city-states throughout medieval Europe, such as in Russia (Novgorod Republic, 12th century), in Flanders (Battle of Golden Spurs, 14th century) in Switzerland (the towns of the Old Swiss Confederacy, 14th century), in Germany (the Hanseatic League, 14th–15th century), and in Prussia (Thirteen Years' War, 15th century).
Some Italian city-states became great military powers very early on. Venice and Genoa acquired vast naval empires in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, some of which threatened those of the growing Ottoman Empire. During the Fourth Crusade (1204), Venice conquered three-eights of the Byzantine Empire.
The Maritime Republics were one of the main products of this new civic and social culture based on commerce and exchange of knowledge with other areas of the world outside western Europe. The Republic of Ragusa and the Republic of Venice, for example, had important trade communications with the Muslim and Hindu world and this helped the initial development of the Italian Renaissance.
By the late 12th century, a new and remarkable society had emerged in Northern Italy; rich, mobile, expanding, with a mixed aristocracy and urban borghese (burgher) class, interested in urban institutions and republican government. But many of the new city-states also housed violent factions based on family, confraternity and brotherhood, which undermined their cohesion (for instance the Guelphs and Ghibellines).
By 1300, most of these republics had become princely states dominated by a Signore. The exceptions were Venice, Florence, Lucca, and a few others, which remained republics in the face of an increasingly monarchic Europe. In many cases by 1400 the Signori were able to found a stable dynasty over their dominated city (or group of regional cities), obtaining also a nobility title of sovereignty by their formal superior, for example in 1395 Gian Galeazzo Visconti bought for 100,000 gold florins the title of Duke of Milan from the emperor Wenceslaus.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Milan, Venice, and Florence were able to conquer other city-states, creating regional states. The 1454 Peace of Lodi ended their struggle for hegemony in Italy, attaining a balance of power (see Italian Renaissance).
At the beginning of the 16th century, apart from some minor city-states like Lucca or San Marino, only the republican Venice was able to preserve its independence and to match the European monarchies of France and Spain and the Ottoman Empire (see Italian Wars).
Pisa is a city and comune in Tuscany, central Italy, straddling the Arno just before it empties into the Ligurian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower, the city of over 91,104 residents contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces, and various bridges across the Arno. Much of the city's architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics.
The Commercial Revolution consisted of the creation of a European economy based on trade, which began in the 11th century and lasted until it was succeeded by the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century. Beginning with the Crusades, Europeans rediscovered spices, silks, and other commodities rare in Europe. This development created a new desire for trade, and trade expanded in the second half of the Middle Ages. Newly forming European states, through voyages of discovery, were looking for alternative trade routes in the 15th and 16th centuries, which allowed the European powers to build vast, new international trade networks. Nations also sought new sources of wealth and practiced mercantilism and colonialism. The Commercial Revolution is marked by an increase in general commerce, and in the growth of financial services such as banking, insurance and investing.
With 63.2 million tourists a year (2018), Italy is the fifth most visited country in international tourism arrivals. People mainly visit Italy for its rich culture, cuisine, history, fashion and art, its beautiful coastline and beaches, its mountains, and priceless ancient monuments. Italy also contains more World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world (55).
The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a long series of wars fought between 1494 and 1559 in Italy during the Renaissance. The Italian peninsula, economically advanced but politically divided among several states, became the main battleground for European supremacy. The conflicts involved the major powers of Italy and Europe, in a series of events that followed the end of the 40-year long Peace of Lodi agreed in 1454 with the formation of the Italic League.
The Republic of Florence, also known as the Florentine Republic, was a medieval and early modern state that was centered on the Italian city of Florence in Tuscany. The republic originated in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon the death of Matilda of Tuscany, who controlled vast territories that included Florence. The Florentines formed a commune in her successors' place. The republic was ruled by a council known as the Signoria of Florence. The signoria was chosen by the gonfaloniere, who was elected every two months by Florentine guild members. The Republic, despite having a large degree of autonomy, was formally part of the Holy Roman Empire throughout its existence.
Tuscany is named after its pre-Roman inhabitants, the Etruscans. It was ruled by Rome for many centuries. In the Middle Ages, it saw many invasions, but in the Renaissance period it helped lead Europe back to civilization. Later, it settled down as a grand duchy. It was conquered by Napoleonic France in the late 18th century and became part of the Italian Republic in the 19th century.
The Italian Renaissance was a period in Italian history that covered the 15th (Quattrocento) and 16th (Cinquecento) centuries, spreading across Europe and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to Modernity. Proponents of a "long Renaissance" argue that it began in the 14th century (Trecento) and lasted until the 17th century (Seicento). The French word renaissance means "rebirth" and defines the period as one of cultural revival and renewed interest in classical antiquity after the centuries labeled the Dark Ages by Renaissance humanists. The Renaissance author Giorgio Vasari used the term "Rebirth" in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects in 1550 but the concept became widespread only in the 19th century, after the works of scholars such as Jules Michelet and Jacob Burckhardt.
The Republic of Genoa was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, incorporating Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean.
The Duchy of Milan was a state of the Holy Roman Empire in northern Italy. It was created in 1395 by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, who obtained from Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, the founding diploma. At that time, it included twenty-six towns and the wide rural area of the middle Padan Plain east of the hills of Montferrat. During much of its existence, it was wedged between Savoy to the west, Venice to the east, the Swiss Confederacy to the north, and separated from the Mediterranean by Genoa to the south. The Duchy eventually fell to Habsburg Austria with the Convention of Milan during the War of the Spanish Succession. The Duchy remained an Austrian possession until 1796, when a French army under Napoleon Bonaparte conquered it, and it ceased to exist a year later as a result of the Treaty of Campo Formio, when Austria ceded it to the new Cisalpine Republic.
Medieval communes in the European Middle Ages had sworn allegiances of mutual defense among the citizens of a town or city. These took many forms and varied widely in organization and makeup.
The history of the Italian peninsula during the medieval period can be roughly defined as the time between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance.
The War of the League of Cognac (1526–30) was fought between the Habsburg dominions of Charles V—primarily the Holy Roman Empire and Habsburg Spain—and the League of Cognac, an alliance including the Kingdom of France, Pope Clement VII, the Republic of Venice, the Kingdom of England, the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Florence.
Patricianship, the quality of belonging to a patriciate, began in the ancient world, where cities such as Ancient Rome had a class of patrician families whose members were initially the only people allowed to exercise many political functions. In the rise of European towns in the 12th and 13th century, the patriciate, a limited group of families with a special constitutional position, in Henri Pirenne's view, was the motive force. In 19th century central Europe, the term had become synonymous with the upper Bourgeoisie and cannot be compared with the medieval patriciate in Central Europe. In the German-speaking parts of Europe as well as in the maritime republics of Italy, the patricians were as a matter of fact the ruling body of the medieval town and particularly in Italy part of the nobility.
Northern Italy is a geographical and cultural region in the northern part of Italy. Non-administrative, it consists of eight administrative Regions in northern Italy: Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. As of 2014, its population was 27,801,460. Rhaeto-Romance and Gallo-Italic languages are spoken in the region, as opposed to the Italo-Dalmatian languages spoken in the rest of Italy.
The Republic of Lucca was a historic state of Italy, which lasted from 1160 to 1805 on the central Italian peninsula.
A signoria was the governing authority in many of the Italian city states during the Medieval and Renaissance periods.
The maritime republics of the Mediterranean Basin were thalassocratic city-states in Italy and Dalmatia during the Middle Ages. The best known among them were Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi; less known, but not always less important, are Ragusa, Gaeta, Ancona, and the little Republic of Noli.
Henry VII was the King of Germany from 1308 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1312. He was the first emperor of the House of Luxembourg. During his brief career he reinvigorated the imperial cause in Italy, which was racked with the partisan struggles between the divided Guelf and Ghibelline factions, and inspired the praise of Dino Compagni and Dante Alighieri. He was the first emperor since the death of Frederick II in 1250, ending the Great Interregnum of the Holy Roman Empire; however, his premature death threatened to undo his life's work. His son, John of Bohemia, failed to be elected as his successor, and there was briefly another anti-king, Frederick the Fair contesting the rule of Louis IV.
The Genoese Navy, also known as the Genoese Fleet, was the naval contingent of the Republic of Genoa's military. From the 11th century onward the Genoese navy protected the interests of the republic and projected its power throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The navy declined in power after the 16th century, periodically coming under the control of foreign powers, and was finally disbanded following the annexation of Genoa by the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1815.