Tuesday, 2 June 2009


“Do ye not comprehend that we are worms, Born to bring forth the angelic butterfly That flieth unto judgment without screen?” - Dante Alighieri

Italian Republic Day
Today is Italian Republic Day celebrating the birth of the Italian Republic on June 2nd, 1946. Until 1946, Italy was officially a monarchy ruled by the House of Savoy, kings of Italy since the Risorgimento (reunification of Italy, 1814–1861). After the October 28, 1922 “March on Rome” Benito Mussolini, with the support of the monarchy, imposed fascism on Italy. This led to Italy joining Nazi Germany as an ally in World War II. In 1946, Italy became a republic after the results of a popular referendum. Suspicions of fraud were raised by the loyal Monarchists, however, these were never proved. A Constituent Assembly was elected at the same time and this has been the political system of Italy ever since.

Italy an ancient land with a glorious history, is a Southern European Mediterranean country surrounded by the Adriatic, Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. It is about 301,000 square km in area and has a population of about 60 million people. It is a mainly mountainous and hilly country with only the vast fertile plain of the Po River in the North, which climbs up to the Alps that separate Italy from Switzerland. Many people are still engaged in agriculture, with cereals, vegetables, fruit, vines and olives being the principal crops. In the North, heavy industry and manufacturing contribute greatly to the country’s economy. The capital city is Rome with Milan, Naples, Genoa, Turin, Palermo, Bologna, Venice and Florence other major centres.

The history of Italy is a rich tapestry of glorious military, artistic, religious and musical achievements. There is no shortage of famous scientists, sportspeople and philanthropists either! The currently available evidence point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today’s Italians. During the Iron Age Italy entered the historical period. Until the end of 5th century CE Italy was dominated a number of tribes, and finally the Romans. The last hundred years of the Western Roman Empire, from the second half of the 4th century, coincided with large migrations of Germanic peoples (Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Huns, Heruli, Alemanni etc.) who on different occasions settled within Italian territories. At the same time economic conditions also reflected the political instability of the imperial government, it deteriorated gradually and was accompanied by a chronic fall in population.

It was during this time that the influence of the Christian church began to make itself felt more consistently. This was in contrast to the progressive orientalisation of the Empire, now focused on its new capital of Costantinople, founded by the emperor Constantine between 326-330 CE on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium.

The Normans and then the Hohenstaufen (1220-1266), the feudal system came into Italy and this led to the development of city states. The ending of imperial authority, quickly followed by the papal crisis involving the transfer of the papal seat from Rome to Avignon in France from 1309 to 1377. In the prosperity of the next few decades, the first city-states developed into true and proper States, whose political force was directly connected to their economic power. Culture prospered with a new enthusiasm for the study of the classical world and a renewal of interest in nature and man (humanism). The arts (from literature to the expressive and figurative) had one of their finest moments. The appearance of towns was transformed with the introduction of new styles of architecture. During this period Italy indeed became the cultural centre of Europe. This was the Renaissance, stimulate especially by the influx of Greeks following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Between the mid-15th century and the mid-18th century, Italian city states fought against the Spanish and then the French domination. They gained their independence after this long and politically chaotic period. The next fifty years saw a period of relative political stability and economic progress for all the various Italian States. The echo of the French Revolution (1789) and the tragic end of the French monarchy (1792) and then the resounding reality of the Napoleonic armies affected Italy adversely, with the French and Spanish squabbling for ascendancy. Italy had to concede to France cultural leadership. A contribution that was to play a significant role in the political and philosophical debate leading to the revolutionary spirit of the 18th century and the Enlightenment.

The Italian political and territorial picture, which at the end of the 18C seemed to have stabilised, rapidly disintegrated in the face of Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaigns. The defeat of Napoleon had nevertheless sown the seeds of change and liberty in Italy with the establishment of first republican structures and then the Kingdom of Italy. Following the plebiscite that voted in favour of annexation to Piedmont (1860), began the construction, together with the territory of Southern Italy that had been taken by Garibaldi's expedition of `The Thousand', of the United Kingdom of Italy. This was to be proclaimed at Turin on 17 March 1861, though the acquisition of Rome and Venice were still outstanding. The latter was added five years later (1866) following an unfortunate conflict with Austria, which was resolved in Italy's favour thanks to the intervention of Prussia; Rome was conquered by force, 20 September 1870, on the fall of Napoleon III. With these events the territorial unity of the Italian nation was almost complete and it was now necessary to construct its own social, economic and cultural image.

Happy Italian Republic Day!


  1. thanks for all these interesting and poetic blogs. was it your nirthday on sunday? happy belated birthday.

  2. Your're welcome, Meredith!
    Nirthday is on Sunday 7th!
    Thanks for the wishes.