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Italy

History

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The Flag
The Italian flag was adopted in 1870 and was first used by citizens who supported Napoleon Bonaparte of France in a war against Austria.  The flag was designed by Napoleon to look like the national flag of France.  The blue stripe on the French flag was substituted for the green on the Italian flag because green was Napoleon's favourite color!

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The Roman Empire
Ancient Rome began it's overseas conquest during the 200's B.C and the Roman Empire offically began in 1000 B.C.  By the 100's A.D. the Roman Empire controlled all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea.  The Empire also had control over government, art, architecture and many groups of people that lasted for 1.500 years.  The last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was defeated in A.D. 476 by the Germanic leader Odoacer.  This was the end of the western part of the empire. After the fall of Rome in the 400's A.D. the Italian peninsula was divided, among different rulers, into states.  These States were frequently conquered by other countries. The peninsula was again united during the 1800's when Napoleon Bonaparte captured the whole region and made it part of the French Empire.

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A map of the Roman Empire. All the land in purple is land that was once controlled by the Empire.

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The Ruins of the Roman Forum, Rome.

The French Revolution - Napoleon Bonaparte
The French Revolution and Napoleon influenced Italy more deeply than any other country except France.  The revolution began in 1789 when it found supporters among the Italian people.  It was at this time that armies from the French Republic began to move across Europe. In 1796 Italy once again became the battle ground between the Habsbergs and the French when Napoleon Bonaparte led his French army into Northern Italy and drove out their Austrian Ruler. Wherever the French conquered, Italian republics were set up, with constitutions and legal reforms. In 1804 Napoleon made himself emperor and part of Northern Italy became the Kingdom of Italy under his ruling.  The rest of Northern Italy become property of France.  The only part of Italy that became free of French control were the two large Islands of the Mediteranean, Sicily and Sarcinia. The French rule in Italy lasted less then twenty years and in spite of heavy taxation and frequent harshness, the French introduced representative assemblies and new laws that were the same for all parts of the country.  For the first time since the day of Ancient Rome, Italians of different regions used the same money and served in the same army.

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A picture of Napoleon Bonaparte.

World War II in Italy
From 1935-1945 Italy was at war constantly.  It began in 1963 when the Italian leader Mussolini conquered Ethiopia and later that year he sent 70,000 men to help the rebels under Franciso Franco who, in turn, won the Spanish civil war. Following those events Mussolini and Aldof Hitler, Germany's leader, signed an agreement that outlined a common foreign policy between Germany and Italy.  The argeement was known as the Rome-Berlin Axis and suggested that all of Europe rotate around a line between the two capitals. In 1939 Italy agreed to fight on Germany's side of the war but despite this alliance Italy stayed out of the fighting for more then 9 months when the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany. On June 10th, 1940 less then two weeks before France fell to Germany, Italy entered the war. Mussolini's campaigns became devastating when Italy suffered defeats in North Africa, Ethiopia and Greece.  Under the orders on King Victor Emanuell III, the Italian government overthrew Mussolini and imprisoned him.  To his advantage the Germans rescued him and he fled to Northern Italy.  Allies invaded the Island of Sicily on June 10th, 1948 and by Sept 3rd they landed on the mainland and Italy surrendered the same day.  It was on October 13th that Italy declared war on Germany.  The German forces took control and placed Mussolini as head of a puppet government.  As the allies moved north a civil war broke out between remaining fascist forces and the resistance.  In 1945 Musilini was shot  when the resistance caught him trying to escape to Switzerland. Allied troops finally left Italy after the peace treaty was signed in 1947.
 

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A war-struck town in Italy during the War.

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Created by Christina Whelan