Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a unitary parliamentary republic in Europe. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino and Vatican City.
Across a span of more than 3,000 years, Italian history has been marked by episodes of temporary unification and long separation, of strife and failed empires. Italy was originally inhabited by various tribes including the Etruscans who formed the first Italian civilization. By the 4th century BC, the Etruscans steadily lost power to the Romans, who build their center of power in Rome and forming a mighty empire in Western civilization stretching from Scotland to Asia Minor. The Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century after a succession of barbarian invasions.
The Italian peninsula is replaced by numerous rivaling city-states which flourished from commerce and trade as Italy served as a trading hub between Europe, Asia, and Africa. By the 14th century Italy became the birthplace of the Renaissance and bringing renewed interests in science, art, and exploration while at the same time Italy was engaged in a series of bloody warfare between the city-states and other European powers. By the time of the Napoleonic Wars Italy was briefly united by Napoleon and becoming a client state of France. After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, Italy was again divided and many fell under foreign rule under the condition of the Congress of Vienna. This abysmal condition was the impetus behind the Italian unification movement beginning in 1815.
Italy was officially united in 1861 when a liberal revolution installed Victor Emmanuel II as king. After a series of wars Italian unification was completed in 1871 when Rome became the capital of Italy. By the end of the 19th century, Italy became a colonial empire and incorporating Eritrea, Somalia, and Libya. The Kingdom of Italy fought on the winning side of World War I but received less territorial gains from the defeated Central Powers and the kingdom was nearly driven to bankruptcy. Due to the socioeconomic and political fallout from the war, Italy fell under the dictatorship of the fascist leader Benito Mussolini, who inspired other similar dictatorships such as Nazi Germany. Fascist Italy participated in World War II on the side of the Axis powers which only ended in Italy's defeat, and causing the end of the monarchy and reinstating democracy.
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