The land known as Italy today has been the cradle of European cultures and peoples, such as the Etruscans and the Romans. Italy's capital, Rome,was for centuries the political centre of Western civilisation, as the capital of the Roman Empire. After its decline, Italy would endure numerous invasions by foreign peoples, from Germanic tribes such as the Lombards and Ostrogoths, to the Normans and later, the Byzantines, among others. Centuries later, Italy would become the birthplace of the Renaissance, an immensely fruitful intellectual movement that would prove to be integral in shaping the subsequent course of European thought.
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Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous kingdoms and city-states (such as the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilian and the Duchy of Milan), but was unified in 1861, a tumultuous period in history known as the "Risorgimento". In the late 19th century, through World War I, and to World War II, Italy possessed a colonial empire, which extended its rule to Libya, Eritrea, Italian Somaliland, Ethiopia, Albania, Rhodes, the Dodecanese and a concession in Tianjin, China. Modern Italy is a democratic republic.
It has been ranked the world's eighteenth most-developed country and its Quality-of-Life Index has been ranked in the top ten in the world. Italy enjoys a very high standard of living, and has a high nominal GDP per capita. It is a founding member of what is now the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Italy is also a member of the G8 and G20. It has the world's seventh-largest nominal GDP, tenth highest GDP and the fifth highest government budget in the world.
THE GREEKS AND ROMANS Excavations throughout Italy reveal a modern human presence dating back to the Paleolithic period, some 200,000 years ago. In the 8th and 7th centuries BC Greek colonies were established all along the coast of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula became known as Magna Graecia. Our photo collections include pictures of the great Greek temples in Sicily At Selanute and Agrigento and the great Greek Amphitheater in Taormina.
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Stock Photos & Images of Agrigento Sicily, Italy
Ancient Rome was at first a small agricultural community founded circa the 8th century BC that grew over the course of the centuries into a colossal empire encompassing the whole Mediterranean Sea, in which Ancient Greek and Roman cultures merged into one civilization. This civilization was so influential that parts of it survive in modern law, administration, philosophy and arts, forming the ground that Western civilization is based upon. Rome still has the ruins and remains of its great buildings such as the iconic Colosseum and the remains of the emperors palaces in the Forum our Rome collection of photos and pictures show many of the important sights of Rome.
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In its twelve-century existence it transformed itself from monarchy to republic and finally to autocracy. In steady decline since the 2nd century AD, the empire finally broke into two parts in 285 AD: the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire in the East. The western part under the pressure of Goths finally dissolved the Western Roman Empire and Rome was sacked. This left the Italian peninsula divided into small independent kingdoms and feuding city states for the next 14 centuries, and leaving the eastern Byzantine Empire sole heir to the Roman legacy. Byzantine art can be seen in the photo and picture collections we have of the great Byzantine churches of Monreale and the Palatine Chapel in Palermo
MIDDLE AGES In the sixth century AD the Byzantine Emperor Justinian re-conquered Italy from the Ostrogoths. The invasion of a new wave of Germanic tribes, the Lombards, doomed his attempt to resurrect the Western Roman Empire but the repercussions of Justinian's failure resounded further still. For the next thirteen centuries, whilst new nation-states arose in the lands north of the Alps, the Italian political landscape was a patchwork of feuding city states, petty tyrannies, and foreign invaders. For several centuries the armies and Exarchates led by the Exarchate of Ravenna, Justinian's successors, were a tenacious force in Italian affairs - strong enough to prevent other powers such as the Arabs, the Holy Roman Empire, or the Papacy from establishing a unified Italian Kingdom, but too weak to unify and control the region.
Italy's regions were eventually subsumed by their neighboring empires with their conflicting interests and would remain divided up to the 19th century. It was during this vacuum of authority that the region saw the rise of the Signoria and the Commune. In the anarchic conditions that often prevailed in medieval Italian city-states, people looked to strong men to restore order and disarm the feuding elites. In times of anarchy or crisis, cities sometimes offered the Signoria to individuals perceived as strong enough to save the state, most notably the Della Scala family in Verona, the Visconti in Milan and the Medici in Florence. Italy during this period became notable for its merchant Republics. These city-states, oligarchical in reality, had a dominant merchant class which under relative freedom nurtured academic and artistic advancement.
The four classic Maritime Republics in Italy were Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi. Venice and Genoa were Europe's gateways to trade with the East, with the former producer of the renowned venetian glass. Florence was the capital of silk, wool, banks and jewelry. The Maritime Republics were heavily involved in the Crusades, taking advantage of the new political and trading opportunities, most evidently in the conquest of Zara and Constantinople funded by Venice.
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During the late Middle Ages Italy was divided into smaller city-states and territories: the kingdom of Naples controlled the south, the Republic of Florence and the Papal States the centre, the Genoese and the Milanese the north and west, and the Venetians the east. RENAISSANCE The unique political structures of late Middle Ages Italy and its dynamic social climate and florescent trade allowed the emergence of a unique cultural efflorescence. Italy never regained the unity it once had in the days of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages was divided into smaller city states and territories: the kingdom of Naples controlled the south, the Republic of Florence and the Papal States the center, the Genoese and the Milanese the north and west, and the Venetians the east.
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Fifteenth-century Italy was one of the most urbanised areas in Europe. Most historians agree that the ideas that characterized the Renaissance and their earliest apologists and supporters had their origin in late 13th century Florence or gravitated in or around Florence, as well as the other rival city-states. The Renaissance achieved its epitome, in particular with the writings of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) and Francesco Patriarch (1304–1374), Bocaccio. The Renaissance was an extremely important period in Italian history, and in European history, and brought along numerous political, philosophical, literary, cultural, social and religious reforms.
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The Renaissance was so called because it was a "rebirth" of many classical ideas that had long been buried in the chapters of classical Antiquity. One could argue that the fuel for this rebirth was the rediscovery of ancient texts that had been almost 'forgotten' by Western civilization, but were preserved in some monastic libraries or private libraries of powerful and wealthy patrons. Some would argue that there were translations of Greek and Arabic texts into Latin from the Islamic world that found their way into Italy and contributed to the Italian/European Renaissance. However, most of the manuscripts were either already in the Italian Peninsula or in 'Greece' and were taken to Italy in the centuries preceding the Renaissance by the Italians themselves (by the traders who travelled regularly to the Eastern Mediterranean, including Greece) and by Byzantine Greeks who migrated to Italy during the onslaught of the Ottoman empire, against the Byzantine Empire in the 1400s, and specially after 1453, once the Ottomans had conquered the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. These Byzantines fled the Turks, sometimes carrying precious manuscripts and their knowledge (Greek and Ancient Greek) and while fixating themselves in Italy made a discreet but crucial contribution to the Renaissance.
Florence became Italy's main centre of the Renaissance as our photo picture collection of Florence shows. Numerous artists, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli worked in the city. Its economy flourished, and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Florence from the 14th century to the 16th century was one of Europe's greatest cities, and its numerous museums, palazzi and churches, such as the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi have been described by the encyclopedia as works of art themselves.
Stock Photos & Images of Trajans Market Rome, Italy
Rome was also a city particularly affected by the Renaissance. This period of reform changed the city's face dramatically, with works like the Pietà by Michelangelo and the frescoes of the Borgia Apartment. Rome reached the highest point of splendor under Pope Julius II (1503–1513) and his successors Leo X and Clement VII, both members of the Medici family. In this twenty-years period Rome became one of the greatest centres of art in the world. The old St.. Peter's Basilica built by Emperor Constantine the Great, was re-built mainly by Michelangelo, who in Rome became one the most famous painters of Italy.
Rome lost in part its religious character, becoming increasingly a true Renaissance city, with a great number of popular feasts, horse races, parties, intrigues and licentious episodes. Its economy was rich, with the presence of several Tuscan bankers, including Agostino Chigi, who was a friend of Raphael and a patron of arts. Before his early death, Raphael also promoted for the first time the preservation of republics like Venice conquered the Byzantine empire and looted its treasures decorating St. Marcs Cathedral with ancient columns and treasures like the 4 horses from Constantinople (today Istanbul). With this vast wealth Italian architects and artists invented Baroque which is typified by lavish, intricate curved buildings and sculptures. Once the excesses of the Baroque were over Italian architect Palladio produced Neo Classic buildings like the Rotunda that influenced every major country palace in England. the ancient ruins.
TODAY Today Italy is a vibrant republic with one of the 5 great cuisines of the world and is the home of the world famous Italian pizza as well as a rich and diverse historic and architectural heritage. Even the smallest village church seem to have a renaissance masterpiece painting hanging over its alter. Italian culture has influenced so much of Europe for 2,000 years. From the great ancient buildings of Rome to the great fashion, furniture and car designers of today Italy has shaped so much of the way we see and think.