Italy: Historical Overview                                           

For more in depth history of Italy navigate your way through different time periods here (scroll to Italy and click the down arrow to start)!

50,000 Years Ago

The presence of the homo Neanderthals has been demonstrated in archaeological findings.

9th Century BC

Culturally and linguistically, the origins of Italian history can be traced back to the 9th century BC, when earliest accounts date the presence of Italic tribes in modern central Italy.

9th-3rd Centuries BC

The Etruscan civilization was dominant.

753 BC

According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus and Remus, and was then governed by the seven Kings of Rome. Romulus and Remus are believed to have been descendants of the Trojan prince and refugee Aeneas. They were fathered by the god Mars or the demi-god Hercules and mothered by Rhea Silvia, whose uncle abandoned the brothers in the wild. They were then found by a she-wolf who nursed and cared for them (photo). The twins were eventually restored to their regal birthright, acquired many followers and decided to found a new city which was Rome. In the following centuries, Rome started expanding its territory and defeating its neighbors one after the other.

Circa 350 BC

Rome emerged as the dominant city.

264 BC

All of Italy south of Cisalpine Gaul was under the leadership of Rome. For 7 centuries, until the barbarian invasions destroyed the western Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the history of Italy is largely the history of Rome. See map below to see the extent of the Roman Empire.


The last Roman Emperor was overthrown by the Germanic General Odoacer who ruled Italy until 493, largely maintaining Roman customs and culture.


The Holy Roman Emperors, Roman Catholic popes, Normans, and Saracens all fought for control over parts of Italy.

13th–16th Centuries

Although Italy remained politically fragmented for centuries, it became the cultural center of the Western world from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Numerous city-states, such as Venice and Genoa, whose political and commercial rivalries were intense, and many small principalities flourished in the late Middle Ages.

15th Century

Venice (photos), also known as the "Queen of the Seas," reached the height of its power.


Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the regional states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor Emmanuel II.


An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito Mussolini (photo) established a Fascist dictatorship.


Mussolini's alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy's defeat in World War II.


A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed.


Italy was a charter member of NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC). Italy was at the forefront of European economic and political unification—joining the Economic and Monetary Union in 1999.


Amatrice town center was destroyed by a large earthquake which reached 6.2 on the moment magnitude scale.

Present Day

Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high youth and female unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared with the prosperous north.