European Royalty: Italian States

Italy like Germany was not united until the 19th century. Until 1860, Italy was made up of a compicated and often waring mix of republics, the Papal state, kindoms and dukedoms. The matter is further complicated by the changing boundaries and names of the Italian states over time. Large areas of Italy were at times occupied by Austria, France, and Spain and as a result the Bourbons, Bonapartes, and Hapsburgs have played prominently in the royal families of the Italian states. Italy was finally unified by Garibaldi in the name of the Kingdom of Savoy in northern Italy. We have only limited information here, but have begun to collect some information.

Roman Empire

The Roman Empire state gradually disapperaed in the 5th century AD under the impact of successive waves of Germanic invaders from the north.

Germanic Invasions

Romulus Augustulus, the last independent Roman Emperor in the West, was dethroined by the German chieftan Odoacer in 476 AD who seized the throne forhimself. The Ostogoths under Theodoric invaded Italy in 488 and killed Odoacer in 489. Thdodoric ruled until his death in 526

Byzantium

The Emperor Justinian I in 526 ordered two Byzantine generals to drive the Germans out of Italy. A protracted war ensued which did not end until 552 with the death of Teias, the last Gothic king.

Lombards

Another Germanic tribe, the Lombards, invaded Italy in 568. King Albion estanlished his capital at Pavia and conducted a series of campaigns whicch reduced the Byzantines to only a number small enclaves in Italy. After the death of Albion, there was for some time no Lombard king. Bands of Lombards united under a number oif regional commanders called duces. There was considerable rekligious conflict with native Italians. The Lombards like the Goths expoused the Arian creed while the Italians were orthodox Christains. Further conflictv occurred as the Popes at this time began to expand their temportal power. This was tempered somewhat by Agiluf, a new Lombard king who converted to orthodox Cristianity. The Lombards, however began to encroach on Papal territory. They even threatened Rome itself, the centerv of church authority. Pope Stephen II appealed in 754 for help from the Franks who had accepted the spiritaul authority of the Pope over a century earlier.

Franks

The Franks under Pepin the Short and his son Charlemagne conquered the Lombards. The last Lombard king was deposed in 774. Pope Leo III on Christmas Day 800 crowed Charlemagne Carolus Augustus, Emperor of the Romans.

Arabs

The wave of Islamiv invasion threatened Italy in the 9th century. Arabs seized Sicily and threatened Rome. Pope Leo IV called for aid from Louis II, the freat grandson of Charlemagne. He checked the invaders, but after his death the Arabls over ran much of southern Italy and the Pope was compelled to pay tribute. Italain history at this time degeerates into virtual anarchy and is the comolicated account of the rise and fall of many petty kings, including Guido of Spoleto, Berebgar of Friuli, and Hugo of Provence.

Holy Roman Empire

The Germanic leader Otto I gained control of norther Italy and the Lombard crown. Pope John XII in 962 crowned him Holy Roman Emperor. This ceremony marked not only the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire, but also the Germanuc nation. Subsequent Holy Roman emperors claimed control over Italy. While many did control northern Italy, their authority over southern Italy was nominal, especially by the 14th century.

Norman Invasions

The Normans in the 11th century expelled the last bastions of Lombard power and defeated the Byzantines. The Normans also seized Sicily from the Arabs in 1127.

Failure at Centralization

With the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire and the Norman invasions of the 11th century, the well known Italian principalities and republics began to emerge. Unlike other countries in Europe which emerged with strong kings (England, France, Portugal, Russia, and Spain), there was so such development in Italy. The Holy Roman emperors were unable to accomplish this in German and Italy. There wre several reasons for this. Fist, the Emoerors had to contend with the temporal powers of the Pope. Second, the Normans were a powerful force in southern Italy. Three, Italy with its cities and relatively cismopolitan sophisticated culture was never as dominated by feudalism as the rest of Europe. Four, the continuing influence of Roman traditions was another factor

Lombard League

The northern Italian cities defied the power of successive Holy Roman Emperors to subgegate them. Emperor Frederick I foight a series of fierce wars with the northern states, each of which proved inconclusive. These cities in 1167 formed the Lombard Laeague foir mutual defense. Frederick's forces were defeated at Legano in 1176. Another defeat resulted in the Peace of Constance in 1183. Frederick II, the last ruler of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, made a final unsuccessful effort to crush the Italian cities and the Papacy. Italy was divided by partisans of the Emperor and opponents. These two opopsing camps were called Guelpha and Ghibellines. These terms continued to be used by opposing sides with Italian cities and principalities long after the struggle with the Emperor had past.

Italian Republics

One of the more notable developments in Italy was the emergence of republics with a variety of democratic features in predominately feudal Europe. This occurred in several Italian cities at about the same time for many similar reasons. Commerce especilly trade with the East opened by the Crusades had created substantial wealth in several northern Italian cities. These cities through cooperation under the Lombard League had received charters and grants of rights from the Holy Roman Emperor. Oligarchial government was to varying degrees developing into some democratic institutions and republics were founded. The heritage of republican Rome was a factor here. Prosperous mercahnts began to contest with nobels control over city affairs. Gradually the nobels lost power and were forced to divest extensive land holdings. Venice had through the Fourt Crusade obtained possessions in the Eastern Mediterrranean. Other cities including Florence, Genoa, Milan, and Pisa had also grown in wealth and power. Conflicts between these cities resukted in wars, the most notable being between Genoa and Venice with Venice emerging victorius by the end of the 14th century.

Italian States

The Itlian cities and regions have fascinating histories. They covere a range of political organization including republic, monarchy, and theocracy. Many have histories far predating the Romans, othrs were founded only after the comong of the Barbarians and the collapse of Rome. Besides the Italian cities there were the offshore islands, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily.

The Resoration

The great powers divided Italy following Napoleon's defeats in 1814-15 into the Papal States, Austrian duchies, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

War with Austria

Sardinia and France in 1859 expelled the Austrians from all of northern Italy except Venice.

The Risorgimento: The Advent of the Monarchy

But the seeds of Italian national sentiment and the ideals of liberty had been sown in Italy as a result of the French invasion which brought with it the ideals of the French Revolution. The First Napoleonic Campaign was a major event in generating a feeling of national identity and unity whuch were aroused by the establishment of first republican structures and then the Kingdom of Italy. These, united to the administrative and judicial reforms extended from France into Italy (especially the introduction of the Code Napoléon), began totake root despite the restoration. Support came from the intellectual and middle-classes in all theItalian States and from numerous patriotic associations, often working in secret (as the `Young Italy', of Giuseppe Mazzini) but profoundly influencing society. The demand for freer and moredemocratic institutions, the frequency of episodes of insurrection stretching from Piedmont toSicily but above all the concession of the Spanish constitution forced the Italian rulers (from CarloAlberto to Leopoldo II and from Ferdinando II to Pius IX) to follow suit also during 1848. Ayear that was rich in events and innovations not only for Italy but also for the rest of Europe withthe revolutions in Paris and Vienna.

Encouraged by the uprisings of Milan and Venice, the king of Sardinia Carlo Alberto intervenedin 1848 against Austria with the help of volunteers from various parts of Italy and the regulararmies of the pope and Naples. But the sudden defection of the latter two destroyed at birth whathad seemed an aspiration already realized. A second attempt by the same Carlo Alberto failedthe following year at Novara and he was forced to abdicate in favour of Vittorio Emanuele II.Meanwhile Rome was living with Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi a short republican season, likeTuscany, Sicily and Venice, before the French and Austrian troops intervened to restore the deposed rulers who reacted by revoking the constitutions conceded the previous year.

The Unification of Italy

The following decade coincides with the presence of Count Camillo Benso Cavour in thegovernment of Piedmont and his able and patient pursual of a policy that succeeded in insertingthe small State of Savoy within the schemes and alliances of the great European powers, as wellas ensuring the friendship of neighbouring France. Results were not slow in arriving. At theCongress of Paris (1856) concluding the Crimean War, fought by the army of Piedmont in acoalition with France and England against Russia and Turkey (in the Battle of the Cernaia the newcorps of the Bersaglieri, founded by General La Marmora, dist inguished itself), Cavour managedto raise the Italian question although without obtaining immediate territorial advantages. Thesewere to come three years later in 1859. Following the speech from the throne at the beginning ofthe year by Vittorio Emanuele II on the support of Piedmont for Italians with nationalisticaspirations, Austria, having failed in her request for the disarmament of Piedmont, declared waron the Kingdom of Sardinia. This was the occasion for which Cavour had long waited. The intervention of France under Napoleon III with the bloody victories of Solferino and San Martinoforced Austria to the armistice of Villafranca and the cession of Lombardy. At the same time all Central Italy and Romagna rebelled, overturning the old regimes. Following the plebiscite that voted in favour of annexation to Piedmont (1860), there then began the construction, together with the territory of Southern Italy that had been taken by Garibaldi's expedition of `The Thousand', of the United Kingdom of Italy.

The Modern Italian Kingdom

The Kingdom of Italy was formed in 1861, encompassing the entire peninsula except for Rome, Venice, and San Marino. The Kingdom was to be proclaimed at Turin on March 17, 1861, though the acquisition of Rome and Venice were still outstanding. King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia became king of Italy, thus founding the modern Italian monarchy. Rome was added to the Kingdom 5 years later (1866) following an unfortunate conflict with Austria, which was resolved in Italy'sfavour thanks to the intervention of Prussia. The King's Army seized Rome by force from the Papacy on September 20, 1870, on the fall of Napoleon III. French policy had been to opose the creation of powerul, united nation states in neighboring Italy and Germany. Napoleon III's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War ended the last oposition to a unified Italy and Germany. Rome was made the capital of Italy the following in 1871. With these events the territorial unity of the Italian nation was almost complete and it was nownecessary to construct its own social, economic and cultural image.








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Created: April 17, 2003
Last updated: October 20, 2003