Chronology of Italy's History

A.D. 476 Through 1996

Since earliest times the history of Italy has been influenced by cultural and political divisions resulting from the peninsula's disparate geography and by circumstances that made Italy the scene of many of the most important struggles for power in Europe.

Calendar of Important Events






The Germanic leader Odoacer sacked Rome, ending the Western Roman Empire.



The Lombards invaded Italy, ending the last period of Byzantine rule in Italy



Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III



Otto the Great was crowned emperor, marking the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire.



The thriving Italian city-states such as Florence and Venice contributed to the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy. Venice controlled European trade with Asia and the Middle East



The French army defeated the armies of several of the divided city-states. France and the Holy Roman Empire subsequently vied for control of Italy



Most of Italy had come under the influence of the Spanish Habsburgs. Control passed to the Austrian branch of the family by the early 1700s



Napoleon Bonaparte conquered much of northern Italy and established Italian republics. Northern Italy was unified as the Kingdom of Italy under French rule in 1804



Following Napoleon's defeat, Italy was divided into the Papal States, Austrian duchies, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies



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



The Kingdom of Italy was formed, encompassing the entire peninsula except for Rome, Venice, and San Marino. King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia became king of Italy



Venice became part of Italy



Italian forces occupied Rome, which became the capital of Italy the following year



Italy acquired Libya after a war with the Ottoman Empire



Although it was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Italy entered World War I on the side of the Allies



Benito Mussolini became prime minister of Italy and rapidly assumed dictatorial powers



The Lateran Treaty normalized relations between Italy and the Vatican



Italy entered World War II having previously formed an alliance with Germany



Italy surrendered to invading Allied forces, but Germany took control of the country and fought the Allies until the end of the war



Italians voted to abolish the monarchy, and Italy became a republic



Italy became a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community, which would eventually become the European Union



Reflecting the diminished influence of the church in Italian life, Roman Catholicism was de-institutionalized as Italy's state religion



Italy took its most visible steps toward fighting organized crime, convicting 338 Mafia members of criminal activities



A far-reaching scandal of political corruption and influence-peddling led to the fall of the Christian Democratic party, which had been the most influential political party in Italy since 1948



A rightist coalition, led by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi and which included neo-Fascist elements, was overwhelmingly elected to power. However, the coalition collapsed late in the year, and Berlusconi was forced to resign as prime minister



The Olive Tree coalition was voted into power, marking the first time since World War II that a leftist government controlled Italy. Romano Prodi, an economics professor, headed the coalition as prime minister

Source: Encarta 1997

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Created: November 1996
Updated: 10/12/04
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