Ludovico III Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua
Ludovico III Gonzaga of Mantua spelled Lodovico was the ruler of the Italian city of Mantua from 1444 to his death in 1478. Ludovico was the son of Gianfrancesco I Gonzaga and Paola daughter of Malatesta IV Malatesta of Pesaro. Ludovico followed the path of his father, fighting as a condottiero from as early as 1432, when Gianfrancesco was vice-commander of Francesco Bussone's army. In 1433, he married Barbara of niece of emperor Sigismund. Starting from 1436 he entered the service of the Visconti of the Duchy of Milan; the result was that Gianfrancesco exiled Ludovico from Mantua, together with his wife, naming Carlo Gonzaga as heir. However, in 1438 Gianfrancesco himself was hired by the Visconti, reconciled with Ludovico in 1441. Ludovico succeeded to the marquisate of Mantua in 1444, although part of the family fiefs went to his brothers Carlo and Alessandro. At the time, the Mantuan state was reduced in size and in poor conditions after years of war and large expenses. From 1445 to 1450 Ludovico served as condottiero for Milan, Florence and Naples, switching his allegiance in order to grant the higher level of peace for his lands.
In 1448 he took part in the battle of Caravaggio, was forced to flee. In 1449 he entered the service of Venice in the league formed with Florence against Milan. In 1450 he received permission to lead an army for King Alfonso of Naples in Lombardy, with the intent of gaining some possessions for himself. However, Francesco Sforza, the new duke of Milan, enticed him with the promise of Lonato and Asola Mantuan territories but part of Venice. Venice responded by hiring Ludovico's brother, Carlo. On 14 June 1453 Ludovico routed the troops of Carlo at Goito, but Venetian troops under Niccolò Piccinino thwarted any attempt to regain Asola; the Peace of Lodi obliged Ludovico to give back all his conquests, to renounce definitively his claim to the three cities. However, he obtained his brother's land after Carlo's childless death in 1456; the moment of highest prestige for Mantua was the Council, held in the city from 27 May 1459 to 19 January 1460, summoned by Pope Pius II to launch a crusade against the Ottoman Turks, who had conquered Constantinople some years earlier.
However, the pope was not satisfied with the host city, writing: "The place was marshy and unhealthy, the heat burnt up everything. However, the council ended on a note of great personal prestige for Ludovico with the elevation of his son Francesco to the purple. From 1466 Ludovico was more or less at the service of the Sforza of Milan, he died in Goito during a plague. He was buried in Mantua cathedral. On the orders of his father, Ludovico's education had been entrusted to the humanist Vittorino da Feltre. Vittorino undertook "the difficult enterprise in the interests of the commonwealth for... the education of a good prince would benefit the people he ruled." The teaching was markedly moral and religious and contained a "vein of laical asceticism almost." This, argues the arts scholar Franco Borsi, explains not only Ludovico's religious faith that led him to found churches and host Pius II's Council, but his concern for a humanistic culture and the growth in public works throughout the city, from the paving of the streets and building of a clock tower to the reorganisation of the city centre.
Among the famous humanists invited to the city was the Florentine Leon Battista Alberti, who designed the San Sebastiano church and the San' Andrea church. In 1460, Ludovico appointed Andrea Mantegna as court artist to the Gonzaga family. Ludovico is featured in the Treatise on Architecture, from circa 1465, by the Florentine sculptor-architect Antonio di Pietro Averlino, better known as Filarete; the treatise takes the format of a Platonic dialogue, featuring an unnamed architect, building a new city for a princely patron. During the dialogue interspersing the treatise they are visited by another lord, in the figure of Ludovico: his role in the dialogue is to persuade Sforza that he has seen the error of his ways in showing favour to "modern architecture", by, meant Gothic architecture, having seen the architecture of antiquity in Rome, now favours such architecture instead, what Filarete is trying to persuade his patron. Ludovico III and Barbara had fourteen children: Federico. Maddalena. Elisabetta.
Federico I, Marquis of Mantua. Francesco, created Cardinal by Pope Pius II. Paola Bianca, died in infancy. Gianfrancesco, Count of Sabbioneta and Lord of Bozzolo. Had issue Susanna, a nun at Santa Paola di Mantua. Dorotea, married to Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan. Cecilia, a nun at Santa Chiara di Mantua. Rodolfo, Lord of Castiglione delle Stiviere, Solferino and Poviglio, his great-grandson was Aloysius Gonzaga. Barbara, married in 1474 Eberhard I, Duke of Württemberg. Ludovico, Bishop of Mantua. Paola, married Leonhard, Count of Gorizia. In addition, Ludovico III had two illegitimate daughters: Caterina (wife of Gianfrancesc
Margaret Palaeologa, was an Italian ruler. She was Duchess of Mantua by marriage to Federico II, Duke of Mantua. Margaret was the regent of Mantua as the guardian of her two sons from 1540 until 1556 in companionship with her brother-in-law. Margaret was born in Casale to his wife Anne of Alençon, her mother was the third child of René, Duke of Alençon and his second wife Margaret of Lorraine, daughter of Frederick, Count of Vaudémont and Yolande of Valois-Anjou. Margaret's maternal grandfather died two days after the birth of Anne. Margaret's paternal grandparents were Bonifacio III of Maria of Serbia. Margaret was the second of three children, her elder sister was Maria Paleologa, who died when she was 21 years of age and her younger brother was Boniface IV of Montferrat, who died when he was only 18 years of age. In 1517, Margaret's elder sister, was betrothed to Federico II Gonzaga, son of Francesco II Gonzaga and Isabella d'Este, who became Marquis and Duke of Mantua; the marriage contract was annulled, after Federico accused Maria of attempting to poison his mistress Isabella Boschetti, wife of the Count of Calvisano.
The death of their father rekindled Federico's interest in marrying Maria. But Maria died unexpectedly in September 1530. Federico's attentions turned to Margaret. Having weighed up the various proposals for Margaret's hand, her mother Anne d'Alençon opted for the link with the House of Gonzaga and the marriage was concluded in October 1531. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor had wanted Federico to marry Guila of Aragon but the Gonzaga family refused the marriage. On the death of her uncle, Margaret became Marchioness of Montferrat in her own right, though it merged with the Gonzaga inheritance; the marriage lasted for nine years until Federico's death, at the age of 40. The couple's last child was born the year of his death. In total and Federico had seven children: Francesco III Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, died 16 years old. Eleonora Gonzaga and died in 1535. Anna Gonzaga and died in 1536. Isabella Gonzaga. Married Francesco Ferdinando d'Ávalos. Guglielmo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. Married Archduchess Eleanor of Austria Louis Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers.
Married Henriette of Cleves, by whom he had issue, including Charles I, Duke of Mantua. Cardinal Federico Gonzaga. On Federico's death, their eldest son, Francesco became Duke of Mantua; as Francesco was still only a minor aged eight, Margaret acted as his regent. Margaret had her son married to Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary. Margaret had her second son, Guglielmo married to Catherine's younger sister, Eleanor. Francesco died one year after his marriage to Catherine in 1550, no children were born to their union. Guglielmo became Duke of Mantua. Margaret acted with the help of her brother-in-law Ercole Gonzaga. Margaret lived to see those of Guglielmo and Eleanor. After Margaret's death, five more grandchildren were born including Duke of Mantua. Margaret died in Mantua on 28 December 1566. In 1574, Margaret's homeland of Montferrat became part of the Duchy of Mantua, after the death of Margaret's son. In Montferrat, Guglielmo was known as Guglielmo X
Andrea Mantegna was an Italian painter, a student of Roman archeology, son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g. by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting, he led a workshop, the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500. Mantegna was born in Isola di Carturo, Venetian Republic close to Padua, second son of a carpenter, Biagio. At the age of eleven he became the apprentice of Paduan painter Francesco Squarcione. Squarcione, whose original profession was tailoring, appears to have had a remarkable enthusiasm for ancient art, a faculty for acting. Like his famous compatriot Petrarca, Squarcione was an ancient Rome enthusiast: he traveled in Italy, also in Greece, collecting antique statues, vases, etc. making drawings from them himself making available his collection for others to study.
All the while, he continued undertaking works on commission, to which his pupils, no less than himself, contributed. As many as 137 painters and pictorial students passed through Squarcione's school, established around 1440 and which became famous all over Italy. Padua attracted artists not only from the Veneto but from Tuscany, such as Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Donatello. At the time, Mantegna was said to be a favorite pupil of Squarcione, who taught him Latin and instructed him to study fragments of Roman sculpture; the master preferred forced perspective, recollection of which may account for some of Mantegna's innovations. However, at the age of seventeen Mantegna left Squarcione's workshop, he claimed that Squarcione had profited from his work without sufficient payment. Mantegna's first work, now lost, was an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia in 1448; the same year he was called, together with Nicolò Pizolo, to work with a large group of painters entrusted with the decoration of the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of the church of the Eremitani.
It is probable, that before this time some of the pupils of Squarcione, including Mantegna, had begun the series of frescoes in the chapel of S. Cristoforo, in the church of Sant'Agostino degli Eremitani, which are today considered a masterpiece. After a series of coincidences, Mantegna finished most of the work alone, though Ansuino, who collaborated with Mantegna in the Ovetari Chapel, brought his style from the Forlì school of painting; the now critical Squarcione carped about the earlier works of this series, illustrating the life of St James. This series was entirely lost in the 1944 allied bombings of Padua; the most dramatic work of the fresco cycle was the work set in the worm's-eye view perspective, St. James Led to His Execution; the sketch for the St. Stephen fresco survived and is the earliest known preliminary sketch which still survives to compare with the corresponding fresco; the drawing shows proof that nude figures—which were painted as clothed—were used in the conception of works during the Early Renaissance.
In the preliminary sketch, the perspective is less developed and closer to a more average viewpoint however. Despite the authentic Classical look of the monument, it is not a copy of any known Roman structure. Mantegna adopted the wet drapery patterns of the Romans, who took the form from the Greek invention, for the clothing of his figures, although the tense figures and interactions are derived from Donatello. Among the other early Mantegna frescoes are the two saints over the entrance porch of the church of Sant'Antonio in Padua, 1452, an altarpiece of San Luca Altarpiece from 1453, with St. Luke and other saints for the church of S. Giustina, now in the Brera Gallery in Milan; as the young artist progressed in his work, he came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, father of the celebrated painters Giovanni Bellini and Gentile Bellini, met his daughter Nicolosia. In 1453 Jacopo consented to a marriage between Mantegna. Andrea seems to have been influenced by his old preceptor's strictures, although his subjects, for example, those from the legend of St. Christopher, combine his sculptural style with a greater sense of naturalism and vivacity.
Trained as he had been in the study of marbles and the severity of the antique, Mantegna avowed that he considered ancient art superior to nature as being more eclectic in form. As a result, the painter exercised precision in outline. Overall, Mantegna's work thus tended towards rigidity, demonstrating an austere wholeness rather than graceful sensitivity of expression, his draperies are tight and folded, being studied from models draped in paper and woven fabrics gummed in place. His figures are slim and bony. Tawny landscape, gritty with littering pebbles, marks the athletic hauteur of his style. Mantegna never changed the manner which he had adopted in Padua, though his coloring—at first neutral and undecided—strengthened and matured. Throughout his works there is more balancing of
War of the League of Cambrai
The War of the League of Cambrai, sometimes known as the War of the Holy League and by several other names, was a major conflict in the Italian Wars. The main participants of the war, fought from 1508 to 1516, were France, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice. Pope Julius II, intending to curb Venetian influence in northern Italy, had created the League of Cambrai, an anti-Venetian alliance consisting of himself, Louis XII of France, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. Although the League was successful, friction between Julius and Louis caused it to collapse by 1510; the Veneto–Papal alliance expanded into the Holy League, which drove the French from Italy in 1512. Under the leadership of Francis I, who had succeeded Louis to the throne, the French and Venetians would, through victory at Marignano in 1515, regain the territory they had lost. In the aftermath of the First Italian War, Pope Alexander VI had, with French assistance, moved to consolidate Papal control over central Italy by seizing the Romagna.
Cesare Borgia, acting as Gonfalonier of the Papal armies, had expelled the Bentivoglio family from Bologna, which they had ruled as a fief, was well on his way towards establishing a permanent Borgia state in the region when Alexander died on 18 August 1503. Although Cesare managed to seize the remnants of the Papal treasury for his own use, he was unable to secure Rome itself, as French and Spanish armies converged on the city in an attempt to influence the Papal conclave. Sensing Cesare's weakness, the dispossessed lords of the Romagna offered to submit to the Republic of Venice in exchange for aid in regaining their dominions. Julius II, having secured his own control of the Papal armies by arresting and imprisoning Cesare, first in Rome and in Madrid moved to re-establish Papal control over the Romagna by demanding that Venice return the cities she had seized; the Republic of Venice, although willing to acknowledge Papal sovereignty over these port cities along the Adriatic coast and willing to pay Julius II an annual tribute, refused to surrender the cities themselves.
In response, Julius concluded an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire against Venice. Julius, although unsatisfied with his gains, did not himself possess sufficient forces to fight the Republic. In 1507, Julius returned to the question of the cities in Venetian hands. Maximilian, using his journey to Rome for the Imperial coronation as a pretext, entered Venetian territory with a large army in February 1508 and advanced on Vicenza, but was defeated by a Venetian army under Bartolomeo d'Alviano. A second assault by a Tyrolean force several weeks was an greater failure. Julius, humiliated by the failure of the Imperial invasion, turned to Louis XII of France with an offer of alliance. In mid-March, the Republic provided a pretext for an attack on itself by appointing her own candidate to the vacant bishopric of Vicenza. On 10 December 1508, representatives of the Papacy, the Holy Roman Empire and Ferdinand I of Spain concluded the League of Cambrai against the Republic; the agreement provided for the complete dismemberment of Venice's territory in Italy and for its partition among the signatories: Maximilian, in addition to regaining Istria, would receive Verona, Vicenza and the Friuli.
On 15 April 1509, Louis left Milan at the head of a French army and moved into Venetian territory. To oppose him, Venice had hired a condottiere army under the command of the Orsini cousins – Bartolomeo d'Alviano and Niccolò di Pitigliano – but had failed to account for their disagreement on how best to stop the French advance; when Louis crossed the Adda River in early May and Alviano advanced to meet him, believing it best to avoid a pitched battle, moved away to the south. On 14 May, Alviano confronted the French at the Battle of Agnadello.
House of Gonzaga
The House of Gonzaga was an Italian princely family that ruled Mantua, in northern Italy, from 1328 to 1708. Their family includes twelve cardinals and fourteen bishops. Two Gonzaga descendants became empresses of the Holy Roman Empire, one became queen of Poland; the first members of the family of historical importance are known to have collaborated with the Guelph faction alongside the monks of the Polirone Abbey. Starting from the 12th century they became a dominant family in Mantua, growing in wealth when their allies, the Bonacolsi, defeated the traditional familiar enemy, the Casalodi. In 1328, Ludovico I Gonzaga overthrew the Bonacolsi lordship over the city with the help of the Scaliger, entered the Ghibelline party as capitano del popolo of Mantua and imperial vicar of Emperor Louis IV. Ludovico was succeeded by Guido and Ludovico II, while Feltrino, lord of Reggio until 1371, formed the cadet branch of the Gonzaga of Novellara, whose state existed until 1728. Francesco I abandoned the traditional alliance with the Visconti of Milan, in order to align their rising power with the Republic of Venice.
In 1433, Gianfrancesco I assumed the title of Marquis of Mantua with the recognition of Emperor Sigismund, while obtaining recognition from the local nobility through the marriage of his daughter Margherita to Leonello d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara in 1435. In 1530 Federico II received the title of Duke of Mantua. In 1531, the family acquired the Marquisate of Montferrat through marriage. Through maternal ancestors, the Gonzagas inherited the Imperial Byzantine ancestry of the Paleologus, an earlier ruling family of Montferrat. A cadet branch of the Mantua Gonzagas became dukes of Nevers and Rethel in France when Luigi Gonzaga, a younger son of Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Margherita Paleologa, married the heiress; the Gonzaga-Nevers came to rule Mantua again when Louis's son Charles inherited Mantua and Montferrat, triggering the War of the Mantuan Succession. Another cadet branch were first sovereign counts dukes of Guastalla, they descended from a younger son of Duke Francesco II of Mantua.
Ferrante's grandson, Ferrante II played a role in the War of the Mantuan Succession. A further cadet branch was that of Sabbioneta, founded by Gianfrancesco, son of Ludovico III. Marie Louise Gonzaga, daughter of Prince Charles Gonzaga-Nevers, was a Polish queen consort from 1645 to her death in 1667. Two daughters of the house, both named Eleanor Gonzaga, became Holy Roman Empresses, by marrying emperors Ferdinand II of Germany and Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, respectively. From the latter Empress Eleanor, the current heirs of the Gonzaga descend. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was a member of a junior branch of this family; the House of Gonzaga is the inspiration for the play-within-the-play in Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Act 3 scene 2, they act out a play called The Murder of Gonzago. Gonzaga rule continued in Mantua until 1708 and in Guastalla until 1746. Both ruling lines became extinct, the headship of the House of Gonzaga passed to the Vescovato line, descended from Giovanni, a son of Federico I Gonzaga.
That branch, shorn of sovereign domains, is extant. Its head is Maurizio Ferrante Gonzaga; the branches of the Gonzaga family, showing marquises and dukes of Mantua in bold, dukes of Nevers and Rethel in italics and the Guastalla line to the right. Aloysius Gonzaga, SJ 1568–1591, canonized by the Catholic Church in 1726 Francesco Gonzaga Sigismondo Gonzaga Pirro Gonzaga Ercole Gonzaga Francesco Gonzaga Federico Gonzaga Giovanni Vincenzo Gonzaga Scipione Gonzaga Francesco Gonzaga Ferdinando Gonzaga, became Duke of Mantua, as Ferdinando I, in 1612 Vincenzo Gonzaga, became Duke of Mantua, as Vincenzo II, in 1626 Duchy of Mantua, a list of House of Gonzaga rulers; the Gonzaga. Lords of Mantua. London: Methuen. Marek, Miroslav. "Genealogy tree". Genealogy. EU. Giancarlo, Malacarne. "Family Tree of the Gonzaga". Albero genealogico dei Gonzaga
Triumphs of Caesar (Mantegna)
The Triumphs of Caesar are a series of nine large paintings created by the Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna between 1484 and 1492 for the Gonzaga Ducal Palace, Mantua. They depict a triumphal military parade celebrating the victory of Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars. Acknowledged from the time of Mantegna as his greatest masterpiece, they remain the most complete pictorial representation of a Roman triumph attempted and together they form the world's largest metric area of Italian Renaissance paintings outside Italy. Acquired by Charles I in 1629, they now form part of the Royal Collection at Hampton Court Palace near London, where they occupy a special gallery, with a new continuous frame intended to capture their original setting, mounted into panelling. Painted in the fragile medium of egg and glue tempera on canvas, the paintings underwent successive repaintings and restorations through the centuries, are damaged in many areas; each canvas measures 2.66 x 2.78 m. In total they cover an area more than 70 metres square.
The series depicts Caesar on a triumphal chariot returning from his successful campaigns, in a procession of Roman soldiers, standard-bearers and the spoils of war including an assortment of booty, exotic animals and captives. These paintings celebrate two of Julius Caesar's greatest campaigns – his victory over the Gauls and the recovery of Pontus in Asia Minor. Mantegna was inspired by written accounts of Caesar's celebratory processions through Rome as well as Roman antiquities in the Duke's collection. Giorgio Vasari described them as follows: "We can see grouped and cleverly arranged in the Triumph the ornate and beautiful chariot, the figure of a man cursing the victorious hero, the victor's relations, the perfumes and sacrifices, the priests, the bulls crowned for sacrifice, the prisoners, the booty captured by the troops, the rank of the squadrons, the elephants, the spoils, the victories and the cities represented in various chariots, along with a mass of trophies on spears, with helmets and armour, headgear of all kinds and countless pieces of plate."
The Triumphs of Caesar were painted during 1484–92 for the Ducal Palace in Mantua, commissioned by either the Duke Federico I Gonzaga or, more his son Francesco II. The Gonzaga dynasty died out in the male line, the major part of their painting collection was acquired by Charles I of England in 1629, using as an agent in Italy, the courtier Daniel Nys; the collection included works by Titian and Caravaggio. The Triumphs arrived in 1630 at Hampton Court Palace, where they have remained since; the Lower Orangery was built to house Mary II of England's larger tender plants. It was chosen as a setting for the series, since it re-creates the interior of the Palace of San Sebastiano in Mantua, where the paintings were hung from 1506 in a specially built gallery; the paintings are displayed as a continuous frieze, separated by small columns. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, the Triumphs were listed in an inventory and valued at 1,000 pounds. Oliver Cromwell refrained from selling these paintings alone among Charles's collection, due to their fame, as they celebrated a general like himself rather than a monarch or Catholic religious theme.
The Triumphs of Caesar were described as "the best thing Mantegna painted" by Giorgio Vasari in his celebrated Lives of the Artists. They became famous throughout Europe, principally through copies in print form, of which many different versions were made, starting with a contemporary set from Mantegna's own workshop. Between 1517 and 1519, Hans Holbein the Younger, using prints, painted a copy of the work on nine exterior panels of the Hertenstein House in Lucerne, now demolished. Andrea Aspertini made prints of the paintings in Mantua; the painter and critic Roger Fry undertook a restoration of The Picture Bearers starting in 1910. This was approved by Keeper of the King's Pictures. Fry removed what Louis Laguerre had done a century before, worked on and off for eleven years, with assistance from Paul Nash and Dora Carrington, to repaint parts of the canvas; the art historian Frances Spalding holds that Fry made many poor artistic and technical decisions, "and, worst of all, they changed the Negro standard bearer into a Caucasian".
Fry did not attempt to restore any of the other paintings in the series, said in 1925 that The Picture Bearers was "one of maddest follies". The paintings had so deteriorated. In the 1960s a careful restoration to reveal the original paintwork was conducted on all but the seventh canvas, where no trace had been left by previous restorers. Although now mere shadows of Mantegna's cinquecento paintings, they still convey a powerful impression of epic grandeur. In the words of Anthony Blunt, who as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures supervised the restoration, "The Triumphs may be a ruin but it is a noble one, one as noble as those of ancient Rome which Mantegna so admired."Art critic Tom Lubbock, writing about the restored paintings called pictures " the epitome of Renaissance art in the service of state power – they carry a powerful sense of inexorable procession – impressing the viewer with the inexhaustible quantity of available power and plunder." The series is now displayed to the public under low level electric light for conservation reasons.
Copies of the paintings were made in the early 17th century by Ludovico Dondi. This table is taken from Appendix III in Martindale; the Latin texts have been re
Italy the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Austria and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 and has a temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe. Due to its central geographic location in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has been home to a myriad of peoples and cultures. In addition to the various ancient peoples dispersed throughout modern-day Italy, the most famous of which being the Indo-European Italics who gave the peninsula its name, beginning from the classical era and Carthaginians founded colonies in insular Italy and Genoa, Greeks established settlements in the so-called Magna Graecia, while Etruscans and Celts inhabited central and northern Italy respectively; the Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom in the 8th century BC, which became a republic with a government of the Senate and the People.
The Roman Republic conquered and assimilated its neighbours on the peninsula, in some cases through the establishment of federations, the Republic expanded and conquered parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. By the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became the leading cultural and religious centre of Western civilisation, inaugurating the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which Italy's technology, economy and literature flourished. Italy remained the metropole of the Roman Empire; the legacy of the Roman Empire endured its fall and can be observed in the global distribution of culture, governments and the Latin script. During the Early Middle Ages, Italy endured sociopolitical collapse and barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics in the northern and central regions of Italy, rose to great prosperity through shipping and banking, laying the groundwork for modern capitalism.
These independent statelets served as Europe's main trading hubs with Asia and the Near East enjoying a greater degree of democracy than the larger feudal monarchies that were consolidating throughout Europe. The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science and art. Italian culture flourished, producing famous scholars and polymaths such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Machiavelli. During the Middle Ages, Italian explorers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Italy's commercial and political power waned with the opening of trade routes that bypassed the Mediterranean. Centuries of infighting between the Italian city-states, such as the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, left the region fragmented, it was subsequently conquered and further divided by European powers such as France and Austria.
By the mid-19th century, rising Italian nationalism and calls for independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval. After centuries of foreign domination and political division, Italy was entirely unified in 1871, establishing the Kingdom of Italy as a great power. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, Italy industrialised, namely in the north, acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained impoverished and excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the main victors in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in 1922. Participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction and the Italian Civil War. Following the liberation of Italy and the rise of the resistance, the country abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom and, despite periods of sociopolitical turmoil became a developed country.
Today, Italy is considered to be one of the world's most culturally and economically advanced countries, with the sixth-largest worldwide national wealth. Its advanced economy ranks eighth-largest in the world and third in the Eurozone by nominal GDP. Italy owns the third-largest central bank gold reserve, it has a high level of human development, it stands among the top countries for life expectancy. The country plays a prominent role in regional and global economic, military and diplomatic affairs. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union and a member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the WTO, the G7, the G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus, the Schengen Area and many more; as a reflection