Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Italy (Italia)

Capital : Rome (Roma)

Campania, Liguria, Valle Daosta, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Lombardia (Lombardy), Piemonte (Piedmont), Emilia-Romagna, Guria, Toscana, San Marino, Marche, Umbria, Lazio (Latium), Abruzzi, Molise, Puglia (Apulia), Basilicata, Calabria, Sicilia, Corsica, Sardegna (Sardinia)

Size: 116 000 sq m Popn: 57 782 000


The Greeks had founded a colony at Cumae in the C8th BC which established another at nearby Neapolis (New City, which is now Naples) but during the Macedonian domination of the Greek world under Alexander the Great, the Romans began to emerge as one of the stronger peoples of Italy. Their second war with Macedonia (200-197 BC) led to a recognition of the rise of Rome throughout the Mediterranean. Philip V of Macedon made an alliance with Hannibal in 205 which produced Roman intervention in Greece and a treaty of co-existence, the Peace of Phoenice. After the Greek defeat by Flaminius in 197 BC, Rome was the main power in the Aegean.

The Roman Empire finally ended in AD 476 and gave way to Germanic invasion with the Ostrogoths in control by AD 493. The Lombards established their kingdom in the north and this became part of the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne in 744. During the C9th and 10th, Italy was invaded by Magyars from the north and Saracens from the south. The Ottonian Empire of the Frankish Otto I led to a strong culture of urban wealth in Lombardy and Tuscany.

The Christianisation of the Roman Empire had made Rome the world centre of the Catholic religion and the Papal Patrimony was increasing in size and power. Pope Gregory VII excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in 1076 and made alliances with his enemies, the Normans of southern Italy and the German nobility. The papacy could not prevent the conquest of the Norman kingdom of Sicily at the end of the C12th which made the Hohenstaufen family the richest rulers in Europe. The struggle to remove the Germans from Italy led to Pope Clement IV asking Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX of France, for help. His victories at Benevento (1266) and Tagliacozzo (1268) removed the Germans but the papacy was in open conflict with the French monarchy over sovereignty and taxation of clergy by 1296. Pope Boniface VIII was kidnapped by French and Italian enemies and in 1309 his successor was based in Avignon under French supervision.

By 1300, there were five major powers in Italy - the city republics of Milan, Florence and Venice, the papal states and the kingdom of Naples. From 1494-1559, their constant rivalries and wars left Italy vulnerable to invasion from France and Spain. The economic and political problems of C15th Europe left Italy fragmented. The Habsburgs, who had ruled the islands of Sardinia and Sicily since the late C13th, gained control of Naples, then comprising over half the country, in 1504 and of Milan in 1535. The Republics of Venice, Florence, Siena and Genoa in the north were independent and the Papal states separated them from the Habsburg lands.

Italy had lost its primacy in Europe, mostly as a result of the creation of the Habsburg Empire inherited by Charles V in 1519. The Ottoman Turks, despite defeat by a Spanish, Venetian and Papal fleet at Lepanto in 1571, continued their expansion in the Mediterranean. By the C18th, the Austrian Habsburgs ruled Milan and the Spanish Bourbons controlled Naples and Sicily, Savoy had neutralised Sardinia, and Tuscany had fallen to a junior branch of the Habsburg family. Genoa still owned Corsica and the Republics of Venice and Lucca also retained their independence. This was ended by Napoleonic France's conquest of Italy when several new states were established. Napoleon was ruler of the Kingdom of Italy in the north and his brother Joseph was King of Naples.

After Napoleon's defeat, Italy was divided between Austria, the Pope, the kingdoms of Sardinia and Naples and four smaller duchies. There were nationalist revolts in 1820, 1831, and 1848-9 and after the last failed, the expanding kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia took control of the national movement. With the help of France under Napoleon III, the Austrians were expelled from Lombardy in 1859. The duchies joined the Italian kingdom, Garibaldi overthrew the Neapolitan monarchy and Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was proclaimed king of a United Italy at Turin in 1861. Although it lost Nice and Savoy to France in 1860, it acquired Venice and part of Venetia through war with Austria in 1866. In 1870, Italian forces occupied Rome and annexed the remaining part of the Papal States containing Rome which was to become the capital. The Pope did not become a temporal ruler again until 1929 when the Vatican City State was recognised as a sovereign area under the Lateran Treaty. Victor Emmanuel was succeeded by his son, Umberto, in 1878.

Italy began to form a colonial empire in 1869 by buying land in the Bay of Assab on the Red Sea from the local sultan. It occupied the whole of Eritrea which was made a colony in 1889 but its attempt to seize Ethiopia was defeated at Adowa in 1896. Italy acquired Tripoli and Cyrenaica in the war with Turkey in 1911-12 and entered WWI on the Allied side in May 1915. After the war, it was overshadowed by the greater powers, although it gained territory including Trieste, the Trentino and the south Tirol. The intense postwar political and industrial unrest led to the establishment of Benito Mussolini's Fascist dictatorship in 1922. A policy of aggression led to the conquest of Ethiopia in 1935-6 and Albania in 1939. In 1936, Italy joined Germany and Japan in the Anti-Comintern Pact against the Soviet Union and entered WWII as an ally of Germany in 1940. After defeat in Africa in 1941-3 and the Allied conquest of Scily in 1943, Mussolini lost power. The new government declared war on Germany and Italy became a battlefield of the German occupationary forces, the Italian underground (Partisans) and the advancing Allies.

After the war, Victor Emmanuel III who had been king since the assassination of Umberto I in 1900, abdicated in favour of his son Umberto II but the monarchy was abolished by a referendum in 1946. Italy became a republic and adopted a new constitution in 1948. The economy improved as a result of being a founder member of the EEC in 1957 but by 1986, there had been nine parliaments and 45 administrations. The Christian Democratic Party (CDP) was dominant until 1963 and was part of most of the subsequent coalition governments. The Communists became a significant force in 1976, gaining over a third of the votes for the chamber of deputies. They pressed for what they called the 'historic compromise', a broad-based government with representatives from the CDP, Socialists and Communists but this was rejected by the Christian Democrats. Apart from a brief period in 1977-8, the Communists were excluded from power-sharing and were forced to join the opposition. The Socialists returned to share power with the Christian Democrats and Republicans in 1980 and in 1983, their leader, Bettino Craxi, became Italy's first Socialist prime minister, leading a coalition of the Christian Democrats, Socialists, Republicans, Social Democrats and Liberals. The government lasted until 1987 and improved the economy although there is a north-south divide in productivity and prosperity despite attempts to encourage investment in the south.

After a series of short-lived coalitions, the veteran Giulio Andreotti formed a new coalition of Christian Democrats, Socialists and minor parties in 1989. The Communist Party abandoned Marxism in 1990 and was renamed the Democratic Party of the Left, with Achille Occhetto as secretary-general. A referendum of June 1991 approved reform of the voting procedure to attempt to eliminate electoral corruption and Mafia influence but the 1990s have seen the formation of several new governments. Italy has remained committed to the EC, NATO and the UN, playing a major part in the multi-national peace-keeping force in Beirut in 1983. After unprecendented currency speculation, the government devalued the lira in September 1992 and suspended its membership of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. In 1947, Roman Catholicism became the State religion and enjoyed special privileges but this was ended by the 1984 Concordat, ratified in 1985.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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