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Italy, which os officially named the Italian Republic, is situated on the Mediterranean Sea and shares national borders with Vatican City, France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and San Marino. The largest city, Rome, is the capital of this unitary constitutional parliamentary republic, and the official language is Italian.

In 29 BC, Augustus founded the Roman Empire which soon became the political, economic, and cultural capital of the known world.

Rome began persecuting Christians in 64 AD under Nero Caesar after the Great Fire of Rome. In 390, following more than 300 years of Christian persecution, Christianity became not just legal, but the official religion.

In 180 AD, Emperor Marcus Aurelius died, and the vacuum of strong leadership sparked barbarian invasions followed soon after, as did economic woes, territorial rebellions, and general instability as the Roman Empire began its decline.

In the middle of the third century, the Crisis of the Third Century had arrived, sparked in part by the assassination of Emperor Severus Alexander by his on army in 235, ushering in 50 years which resulted in the near collapse of the Empire due to plague, invasion, economic depression, and civil war. During that 50 years, there were more than 25 emperors. By the end of the fourth century, the empire had been split in two. The East, which contained had as its capital Constantinople, flourished and later became the Byzantine Empire. Today, it is Turkey. The West, of which Rome was the capital, continued its downward slide.

Rome was particularly besieged, and in 410, barbarian hordes sacked the the capital. The astern Empire also invaded, but withdrew after realizing the impossibility of restoring order.

The Roman Empire totally collapsed at the end of the 5th century, and for the next thousand years, it remained a network of disjointed city-states, although the Catholic Church still called Rome its home. Thus began the slide into the Dark Ages.

The Dark Ages was a time of near-constant warfare as the barbarians, which included the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and Franks, migrated into what had once been the Western Empire even as that empire's economy and culture continued to dissolve.

It was the 14th century when the city-states began to crawl out of the Dark Ages and eventually became trade centers Venice, Milan, Florence, and Pisa traded with other lands with the help of rich and motivated patrons who supported the city-states and artists including Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Galileo.

Italy was a power center until the Protestant Reformation caused the Catholic Church to lose influence over the rest of the continent in 1517, and the fact that trade routes changed away from the Mediterranean around thee same time. Soon, the city-states were vulnerable once again as Austria, France and Spain controlled them by proxy. Italy was yet again just a bunch of principalities struggling until 1861, when Giuseppe Garibaldi took control of large portions of Italy, which he held until 1870 and the Fall of Rome, bringing on the unification of the country once again.

In 1919, Benito Mussolini, disappointed with the fact that Italy had gained nothing much despite being on the winning side of World War I, launched the Fascist movement with the mission of restoring and leading a new Roman Empire. Italy's king, overestimating Mussolini, gave the country up without a fight. For twenty years, he built up both the Italian economy and his own power. At the beginning of World War II, Italy was neutral, but once it was evident that Germany could win the war, Mussolini joined Hitler and went off to invade North Arica, the Balkans, and Greece. Soon, it was obvious that Mussolini had overextended his army for such a large scale project. He lost control of the Mediterranean as well as North Africa, and eventually he lost Italy to the Allies. He and his mistress fled Rome, and he attempted to set up a puppet state in Northern Italy, but that too was a failure. Hitler abandoned him, and Mussolini and his mistress were captured and executed by partisan Italians.

After World War II, Italy abolished its monarchy and became a republic. With a lot of assistance from the United States, Italy's economy was rebuilt via Marshall Plan loans, and is today one of the most flourishing democracies in Europe.

Italy was one of six founders of the European Communities, which would later be the European Union, as well as one of six founding members of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), and one of the charter members of the Group of Six, which has had its name changed as it grew and is now called the Group of Twenty, or G-20.



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