Overview of Italy, with personal comment

Essay by Zuchowski DCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 1997

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Italy is a country located in southern Europe. Italy occupies a boot-shaped peninsula that extends into the Mediterranean sea from southern Europe. The country also includes two large islands, Sicily and Sardinia.

The History

Italy has had a long and colorful history. For much of its history, Italy has been divided into many small and often warring city states. This occurred after the break up of the Roman Empire when much of Europe became feudal. In 476, Odoacer defeated the last emperor of ancient Rome, Romulus Augustulus. Odoacer ruled for 13 years after gaining control. He was then attacked and defeated by Theodoric, the king of a Germanic tribe named the Ostrogoths. Both kings, Theodoric and Odoacer ruled jointly until Theodoric murdered Odoacer. Theodoric continued to rule Italy with a government comprised mostly of Italians and an army composed of Ostrogoths. During his rule, he brought peace to the country but after his death in 526, the kingdom began to grow weak.

In 553, Justinian, the Byzantine emperor who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire, defeated the Ostrogoths and expelled them. For a time, the Old Roman Empire was united again. Byzantine rule in Italy collapsed as increased attacks from Germanic tribes weakened the empire. Byzantine rule collapsed in 572 when the Lombards invaded.

In the 400's and 500's the popes increased their influence in both religious and political matters in Italy and elsewhere. The popes were usually the ones who made attempts to protect Italy from foreign invasion or to soften foreign rule. The popes for almost 200 years had opposed attempts by the Lombards, who controlled most of Italy, to take over Rome. The popes defeated the Lombards with the aid of two Frankish kings, Charlemagne and Pepin the Short. The papal states were...