Development of a Nation
How Italy became Italy,
and how the Italians became Italians.
Italians as a people, and the country of Italy as a nation-state,
evolved and materialized into current form, in terms of ancestral
bloodlines, the Italian language, borders, culture, and even how they
received their name.
Development of Language
Formation of Borders
Etymology (How Name Received)
Italy in 2008
Natives of the Italian peninsula include Celts (descendants from
ancient European inhabitants) in the northern portion, Etruscan
(evidence of West Asian origin) and Italic peoples (also descendant
from ancient European inhabitants) in the central portion. The south
was primarily settled by early Greeks in Sicily and the southern tip
of the peninsula. Corsica was also originally settled and dominated
by Greeks. These peoples in their respective regions would serve as
the primary ancestors to modern Italians.
- Rome. Roman Republic/Empire
consolidates all of modern Italy, conquering most of peninsula by
the early 3rd century BC.
- “Italia”. In 7 BC, Augustus Caesar
declares that entire peninsula, and the region north of the
peninsula (into the Alps) to be “Italia” (to be specific, part of
the territory of Rome), thereby affording all of Italia special
treatment, and defining the entire region as the homeland of the
Roman Empire. Now, all Italic peoples are given full citizenship to
Rome, forming an Italian identity that is expansive well beyond the
traditional territory of Rome, but not reaching beyond the Italian
Alps. Italia closely approximated modern Italy. This northern
territory had a significant Celtic populace (although some genetic
integration with Italic peoples from central Italy), but from this
point forward, they would be Italic (Italian) first, with their
Celtic identity fading away. Same with the Italics/Estruscans in the
Central, and the largely Greek-descendant peoples of the south. This
is the basis of the “Italian” nationality as we now know it.
Germanic Component. During the Germanic
invasions, causing the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th
century, large populations of Germanic invaders settled in Rome,
especially to the north, and somewhat in the central. These Germanic
invaders would also leave a genetic imprint on the modern Italian
people. The Lombards (Germanic tribe) would settle throughout Italy
in the 6th century. Germanic peoples would become
Romanized, assimilating into the local “Italian” population, losing
any Germanic sense of identity by the 11th century. The
Byzantines would also conquer parts of central and southern Italy
during the 5th and 6th centuries, leaving
another layer of Greek genetic imprint, although very minor.
Northern Italy primarily descended from mix of original Celts that
dominated population until end of Western Roman Empire, and Lombards,
who became the ruling class after the collapse of the Western
- North African. During the dark ages,
southern Italy (and especially Sicily), Sardinia and Corsica would
be invaded by Arabs from North Africa, adding another genetic
component to Southern Italians. Normans (Norse) would also conquer
parts of southern Italy, serving as yet another minor genetic
contributor to the modern Italian.
- Eclectic Contributions. From the 12th
through 19th centuries, Italy fell under Germanic (Holy
Roman Empire), Spanish, Austrian and French (Angevin) rule, with
minor genetic contributions from each.
- Summary. Italian genetic composition
was largely finalized upon unification in 1860, as it would mark end
of foreign rule in Italy. North Italy was primarily of
Celtic+Lombard (Germanic) composition. Central Italy was primarily
of native Italic+Germanic composition. In Southern Italy, there is
more of a mix, with significant parts of Greek, Italic, Germanic
(Lombard) and possibly Arab. Other peoples that intermixed with
Italian people throughout history added only a trace to the genetic
composition. Since unification, Italians have also intermixed with
one another, somewhat reducing regional differentials.
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Development of Italian Language:
Latin language is a branch of the Italic
family of languages spoken in central Italy in ancient times (before
the ascension of Rome before 700 BC), influenced by ancient
Estruscans from West Asia. It became the language of the city-state
of Rome, growing with Rome to become the official language
throughout the Roman Empire, especially west of the Latin-Greek
divide within the empire. Latin would serve as the basis for several
“Romance” languages that branched off of it, including French,
Spanish and Portuguese. Latin is a direct branch off from the
genesis language of the European continent:
- Vulgar Latin evolves from Latin during the
Middle Ages in Italy, differentiating the Latin-based language
spoken in Italy from those spoken in France and Spain.
- Vulgar Latin took on several dialects among
the various city-states throughout Italy. Upon unification in 1860,
the various regions within Italy also unified the Italian language,
which is the modern Italian language spoken today.
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Formation of Italian Borders:
Italian peninsula serves as natural borders. Despite the fact that
the inhabitants were widely diversified (Celts, Greeks, Asians,
indigenous), the peninsula became the basis for a nation-state.
- The city-state of Rome is established in the 8th
century BC, expanding slowly in its immediate vicinity, gathering
steam by the 4th century BC and early 3rd
century, as it now controls most of the peninsula. First
consolidated rule on peninsula, very early predecessor of concept of
“nation” based on peninsula.
- In 88 BC, the concept of “Italia” is expanded
to cover all of the peninsula, except Galla Cisalpina province
(modern Northern Italy). This is designated as the preferential
territory (homeland) of the Roman Empire.
- In 7 BC, Augustus Caesar declares that entire
peninsula, and the region north of the peninsula (into the Alps) to
be “Italia” (to be specific, part of the territory of Rome),
affording all of Italia
special treatment, and defining the entire
region as the homeland of the Roman Empire. Now, all Italic peoples
are given full citizenship to Rome, forming an Italian identity that
is expansive well beyond the traditional territory of Rome, but not
reaching beyond the Italian Alps. Italia closely approximated modern
- In the 5th century, Italy is
invaded by Germanic tribes, causing collapse of Western Roman
Empire, and the beginning of Germanic rule.
- Byzantine (Greek continuation of the Roman
Empire) drives out the ruling Germanic tribe of the Ostrogoths in 6th
century, but manages to only control limited areas in Italy. Italy
becomes largely tribal in nature, with little consolidated rule. It
transforms into a collection of small villages and spread out rural
regions. Later in 6th
the Germanic Lombards migrate into Italy, establishing rule where
Byzantine influence is weak. Byzantine primarily controls Rome and
parts of Southern Italy, with Lombard controlling most of North and
- Late 7th & early 8th
century, coastal cities in northeast Italy begin to band together to
form the Medieval State of Venice, to protect against outside rule
from all sides (Lombard, Hunnic, Byzantine). Republic of Venice
formed in 803.
751 – Lombards drive Byzantines out of
- 8th century, pope invites the
Franks to conquer Italy in exchange for guaranteeing independence of
the Papal States (centered around Rome, ruled by the pope). Lombards
are pushed south, where they gain control of Southern Italy. The
Papal States rule Central Italy, while the Frankish Empire rules
- Muslim Arabs from North Africa conquer and
rule Sicily from 827 to 1053. They also
and rule Corsica, Sardinia and parts of southern Italy until 915.
- At the end of the 9th century, when
the Frankish Empire divides for the last time, the Carolingian line
of Kings establish Medieval Kingdom of Italy (closely corresponds to
modern northern Italy down to Papal States, minus the Republic of
Venice). Northern Italy was then conquered by Otto I of Germany,
becoming part of the Kingdom of Germany in 951. The Kingdom of
Germany becomes the Holy Roman Empire in 953. Corsica, Sardinia
remain largely independent.
In the 11th century, the Normans
were invited by the Lombards to drive Byzantine out of Southern
Italy, which they were successful in achieving, before taking over
the regions for themselves. The Normans proceeded to gain complete control over Sicily in 1091.
- In 1127, all of Norman Southern Italy (south
of Papal States, Spoleto) consolidated
under a single monarch (Roger
- By 1100, prominent cities in Northern Italy
began to revolt against the Holy Roman Empire (Germany), siding with Papal authority in
controversies between the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire. North
Italy earned independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1167. This includes all of Northern Italy except Venice and
States. They form the Lombardy
League, a collection of affiliated yet independent city-states in
1189 – Southern Italy is returned to Holy
Roman Empire due to a succession crisis among the Normans.
- 1282 – Sicily successfully rebelled against
French (Angevins) rule, with help from Aragon (Spanish kingdom), separating Sicily
from the mainland, with the mainland becoming known as the Kingdom of Naples. Sicily
an independent kingdom ruled by relatives of King of Aragon,
became friendly with Aragon. The Republic of Genoa in northwest
Italy conquered Corsica, which had long
been independent or semi-independent.
- 1296 – Corsica conquered by Aragon.
- 1409 – Crown of Aragon annexes Sicily and
- 1434 – Corsica is returned to Republic of Genoa
- 1442 – Kingdom Aragon (in Spain) conquers Kingdom of Naples. All
of Aragonese Italy (Sicily, Naples) becomes part of the Spanish Crown in
1469, when Aragon and Castile unite to form
the Kingdom of Spain.
- Lombardy cities in Northern Italy remain independent until
conquered by the Austria Habsburgs in 1525. Austria rules Northern Italy
(as far down as the
Papal States). By coming under Austrian rule, Northern Italy is now
part of the Holy Roman Empire again.
- In 1556, Northern Italy is assigned to Spanish
Habsburg rule when Charles V divides Habsburg possessions between
his brother (who retains Austria) and his son (who rules over Spain, Italy, Netherlands,
and colonial possessions).
As part of the War of Spanish Succession, Austria takes
Northern Italy and Kingdom of Naples from Spain in 1706, and then Sicily in
- In 1733, as part of the War of Polish Succession, Spain retakes
Naples and Sicily from Austria. Spain cedes Sardinia to Savoy,
creating the new Kingdom of Sardinia.
- 1764 – France purchases Corsica from
the Republic of
Genoa, which has been part of France ever since.
- The Napoleonic Wars redraws the Italian map. France conquers
Northern Italy from Austria + Kingdom of Sardinia in 1796, the Republic of
Genoa (ending Genoa) in 1796, Venice in 1797 (splitting it from Austria),
and the Papal
States in 1798 (reorganizing it as the Roman Republic). Northern Italy
was recontituted as the Kingdom of Italy under France in 1805. Naples & Sicily
were then conquered in 1806.
- End of Napoleonic Wars – Papal States were restored
(1814); Austria gains possession of Northern Italy (Kingdom of Italy
– Lombardy, Venetia, Tuscany) in 1815; Kingdom of Sardinia
(northwestern Italy) is restored in 1816,
adding the former Republic of Genoa; the Kingdom of Two Sicilies
(Southern Italy) is restored to Spain
- Italian Wars of Independence begin in 1830,
initially unsuccessful. They escalate again in 1848, with the independent Roman
Republic replacing the Papal States.
- In 1859, France aided Italy against Austria, in
exchange for the territory Savoy and Nice, setting the permanent
southeastern border of France. The Austrians were defeated in
northwestern Italy, resulting in the Kingdom
of Piedmont-Sardinia in the region, encompassing Northern/Central Italy,
Tuscany and part of the Papal States.
- In Second Italian War of Independence
beginning in 1860,
the Italians drive the Spanish out of Italy for good. Now Italy consisted of
Piedmont-Sardinia, the Papal States in Central Italy, Venetia (still
under Austrian control) and the Kingdom of
Two Sicilies. Italian revolutionaries would then land at Naples, gaining supporters upon their arrival.
The revolutionaries would proceed to defeat
the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, adding it to Sardinia. This left only Rome,
papal states and Venetia as separate from a unified Italy (under the
Piedmont-Sardinian crown). A constitutional monarchy was established.
- 1866 – Venetia (a historical region centered around Venice)
was conquered by unified Italy, bringing it into the fold. It was ceded by
Prussia as part a Prussia-Italian alliance against Austria in the Austro-Prussia War in 1866.
1870 – The Italian army marches on Rome, to add
it to the unified Italy. The pope had continued to hold out
against the idea of a unified Italy, especially since it would lead
to the end of papal rule of Rome and surrounding areas. Rome is taken after a brief
skirmish. Modern borders of Italy were now established.
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Etymology (How Name
Italia Comes from the word Latin, which was applied to the
people and languages of the Italian peninsula during ancient times. It
is believed that the word “Latin” was borrowed from a Greek term meaning
“land of young cattle”.
Cultural development runs deep in Italy. It was the epicenter of the
world during the long-enduring glory days of the Roman Empire, giving
rise to Catholicism, architectural, artistic, and technical
Italy was at the forefront once again during the Renaissance,
producing some of history’s most renowned artists and thinkers,
including Michelangelo, Galileo, and da Vinci.
Italy in 2008:
Economy: World’s seventh
largest economy, and Europe’s fourth largest, but lags behind other
super economies in growth. This is due to high tax burden, and the
underdeveloped southern portion of the country, which has high
unemployment, and relies heavily on welfare. The northern and southern
halves had historically been separated after the demise of the Roman
Empire, under separate foreign rule. During the centuries of foreign
rule, the north was developed far better than the south, due to the fact
that it was primarily controlled by nearby German/Holy Roman
Empire/Austrian regimes, while the south was neglected by its far-off
foreign masters. As a result, the north held much more wealth upon
unification in 1861, than its counterparts to the south, a situation
that has yet to be equalized.
Government: Democratic Republic
Religion: 90% Roman Catholic (about 1/3 practicing), other 10% is
largely Protestant (or Other Christian), about 1.5% Muslim; For Europe,
highly religious, due to dominant influence of Catholicism throughout
history, including recent history, as the Church keeps its HQ in Italy
(Rome). Only recently removed from status as official state religion,
for which it received preferential treatment and government funding.
Survey: 74% believe in God, 16% some other form of intelligent design,
Demographics: 95% Italian, 1% Romanian (post WWII immigration for
employment opportunities), 1% Arab (North African from across
Foreign Policy: Has supported UN missions, by contributing troops
to Africa and Afghanistan. Withdrew troops in Iraq.
Population: 58,145,321 (2008)
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