Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire, of the Byzantine Empire, of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire, until falling to the Ottoman Empire. It was reinaugurated in 324 from ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, dedicated on 11 May 330; the city was located in what is now the core of modern Istanbul. From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe; the city was famed for its architectural masterpieces, such as the Greek Orthodox cathedral of Hagia Sophia, which served as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the sacred Imperial Palace where the Emperors lived, the Galata Tower, the Hippodrome, the Golden Gate of the Land Walls, the opulent aristocratic palaces lining the arcaded avenues and squares. The University of Constantinople was founded in the fifth century and contained numerous artistic and literary treasures before it was sacked in 1204 and 1453, including its vast Imperial Library which contained the remnants of the Library of Alexandria and had over 100,000 volumes of ancient texts.
It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times as the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and as the guardian of Christendom's holiest relics such as the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross. Constantinople was famed for its complex defences; the first wall of the city was erected by Constantine I, surrounded the city on both land and sea fronts. In the 5th century, the Praetorian Prefect Anthemius under the child emperor Theodosius II undertook the construction of the Theodosian Walls, which consisted of a double wall lying about 2 kilometres to the west of the first wall and a moat with palisades in front; this formidable complex of defences was one of the most sophisticated of Antiquity. The city was built intentionally to rival Rome, it was claimed that several elevations within its walls matched the'seven hills' of Rome; because it was located between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara the land area that needed defensive walls was reduced, this helped it to present an impregnable fortress enclosing magnificent palaces and towers, the result of the prosperity it achieved from being the gateway between two continents and two seas.
Although besieged on numerous occasions by various armies, the defences of Constantinople proved impregnable for nearly nine hundred years. In 1204, the armies of the Fourth Crusade took and devastated the city, its inhabitants lived several decades under Latin misrule. In 1261 the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos liberated the city, after the restoration under the Palaiologos dynasty, enjoyed a partial recovery. With the advent of the Ottoman Empire in 1299, the Byzantine Empire began to lose territories and the city began to lose population. By the early 15th century, the Byzantine Empire was reduced to just Constantinople and its environs, along with Morea in Greece, making it an enclave inside the Ottoman Empire. According to Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, the first known name of a settlement on the site of Constantinople was Lygos, a settlement of Thracian origin founded between the 13th and 11th centuries BC; the site, according to the founding myth of the city, was abandoned by the time Greek settlers from the city-state of Megara founded Byzantium in around 657 BC, across from the town of Chalcedon on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus.
The origins of the name of Byzantion, more known by the Latin Byzantium, are not clear, though some suggest it is of Thraco-Illyrian origin. The founding myth of the city has it told that the settlement was named after the leader of the Megarian colonists, Byzas; the Byzantines of Constantinople themselves would maintain that the city was named in honour of two men and Antes, though this was more just a play on the word Byzantion. The city was renamed Augusta Antonina in the early 3rd century AD by the Emperor Septimius Severus, who razed the city to the ground in 196 for supporting a rival contender in the civil war and had it rebuilt in honour of his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, popularly known as Caracalla; the name appears to have been forgotten and abandoned, the city reverted to Byzantium/Byzantion after either the assassination of Caracalla in 217 or, at the latest, the fall of the Severan dynasty in 235. Byzantium took on the name of Kōnstantinoupolis after its refoundation under Roman emperor Constantine I, who transferred the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium in 330 and designated his new capital as Nova Roma'New Rome'.
During this time, the city was called'Second Rome','Eastern Rome', Roma Constantinopolitana. As the city became the sole remaining capital of the Roman Empire after the fall of the West, its wealth and influence grew, the city came to have a multitude of nicknames; as the largest and wealthiest city in Europe during the 4th–13th centuries and a centre of culture and education of the Mediterranean basin, Constantinople came to be known by prestigious titles such as Basileuousa and Megalopol
Kievan Rus' was a loose federation of East Slavic and Finnic peoples in Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century, under the reign of the Varangian Rurik dynasty. The modern nations of Belarus and Ukraine all claim Kievan Rus' as their cultural ancestors, with Belarus and Russia deriving their names from it. At its greatest extent, in the mid-11th century, it stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south and from the headwaters of the Vistula in the west to the Taman Peninsula in the east, uniting the majority of East Slavic tribes. According to Russian historiography, the first ruler to start uniting East Slavic lands into what has become known as Kievan Rus' was Prince Oleg, he extended his control from Novgorod south along the Dnieper river valley to protect trade from Khazar incursions from the east, he moved his capital to the more strategic Kiev. Sviatoslav I achieved the first major expansion of Kievan Rus' territorial control, fighting a war of conquest against the Khazars.
Vladimir the Great introduced Christianity with his own baptism and, by decree, extended it to all inhabitants of Kiev and beyond. Kievan Rus' reached its greatest extent under Yaroslav the Wise; the state declined beginning in the late 11th century and during the 12th century, disintegrating into various rival regional powers. It was further weakened by economic factors, such as the collapse of Rus' commercial ties to the Byzantine Empire due to the decline of Constantinople and the accompanying diminution of trade routes through its territory; the state fell to the Mongol invasion of the 1240s. During its existence, Kievan Rus' was known as the "land of the Rus'", in Greek as Ῥωσία, in Old French as Russie, Rossie, in Latin as Russia, from the 12th century Ruthenia. Various etymologies have been proposed, including Ruotsi, the Finnish designation for Sweden, Ros, a tribe from the middle Dnieper valley region. In the Norse sources, the sagas, the principality is called Garðariki, the peoples, according to Snorre Sturlason, are called Suiones, the confederation of Great Sviþjoð were made up of the peoples along the Dniepr called Tanais that separated Asia and Europe, all the way to the Baltics and Scandinavia.
The term Kievan Rus' was coined in the 19th century in Russian historiography to refer to the period when the centre was in Kiev. In English, the term was introduced in the early 20th century, when it was found in the 1913 English translation of Vasily Klyuchevsky's A History of Russia, to distinguish the early polity from successor states, which were named Rus; the Russian term was rendered into Belarusian and Ukrainian as Кіеўская Русь and Ки́ївська Русь, respectively. Prior to the emergence of Kievan Rus' in the 9th century AD, the lands between the Baltic Sea and Black Sea were populated by eastern Slavic tribes. In the northern region around Novgorod were the Ilmen Slavs and neighboring Krivichi, who occupied territories surrounding the headwaters of the West Dvina and Volga Rivers. To their north, in the Ladoga and Karelia regions, were the Finnic Chud tribe. In the south, in the area around Kiev, were the Poliane, a group of Slavicized tribes with Iranian origins, the Drevliane to the west of the Dnieper, the Severiane to the east.
To their north and east were the Vyatichi, to their south was forested land settled by Slav farmers, giving way to steppelands populated by nomadic herdsmen. Controversy persists over whether the Rus' were Slavs; this uncertainty is due to a paucity of contemporary sources. Attempts to address this question instead rely on archaeological evidence, the accounts of foreign observers, legends and literature from centuries later. To some extent the controversy is related to the foundation myths of modern states in the region. According to the "Normanist" view, the Rus' were Scandinavians, while Russian and Ukrainian nationalist historians argue that the Rus' were themselves Slavs. Normanist theories focus on the earliest written source for the East Slavs, the Primary Chronicle, although this account was not produced until the 12th century. Nationalist accounts have suggested that the Rus' were present before the arrival of the Varangians, noting that only a handful of Scandinavian words can be found in modern Russian and that Scandinavian names in the early chronicles were soon replaced by Slavic names.
Archaeological evidence from the area suggests that a Scandinavian population was present during the 10th century at the latest. On balance, it seems that the Rus' proper were a small minority of Scandinavians who formed an elite ruling class, while the great majority of their subjects were Slavs. Considering the linguistic arguments mounted by nationalist scholars, if the proto-Rus' were Scandinavians, they must have become nativized, adopting Slavic languages and other cultural practices. Ahmad ibn Fadlan, an Arab traveler during the 10th century, provided one of the earliest written descriptions of the Rus': "They are as tall as a date palm and ruddy, so that they do not need to wear a tunic nor a cloak. Liutprand of C
Stefan Nemanja was the Grand Prince of the Serbian Grand Principality from 1166 to 1196. A member of the Vukanović dynasty, Nemanja founded the Nemanjić dynasty, is remembered for his contributions to Serbian culture and history, founding what would evolve into the Serbian Empire, as well as the national church. According to the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Nemanja is among the most remarkable Serbs for his literary contributions and altruistic attributes. In 1196, after three decades of warfare and negotiations which consolidated Serbia while distinguishing it from both Western and Byzantine spheres of influence, Nemanja abdicated in favour of his middle son Stefan Nemanjić, who became the first King of Serbia. Nemanja went to Mount Athos, where he became a monk and took the name of Symeon, joining his youngest son, who had become the first archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Together with his son Sava, Nemanja restored the Hilandar Monastery at Mount Athos from 1198-1199, issued the "Charter of Hilandar".
The monastery became the cradle of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian Orthodox Church canonized Stefan Nemanja shortly after his death under the name Saint Symeon the Myrrh-streaming after numerous miracles. Nemanja was born around the year 1113 AD in Zeta, he was the youngest son of Zavida, a Prince of Zahumlje, who after a conflict with his brothers was sent to Ribnica where he had the title of Lord. Zavida was most a son of Uroš I or Vukan. Since western Zeta was under Roman Catholic jurisdiction, Nemanja received a Latin baptism, although much of his life was spent balancing Western and Eastern forms of Christianity. After Byzantine armies defeated Nemanja's kinsmen Đorđe of Duklja and Desa Urošević, leading to the decline of that branch of the Vojislavljević family, Zavida took his family to their hereditary lands at Raška. Upon arriving in Ras, the capital of Raška, Nemanja was re-baptised in the Eastern Orthodox Church, in the Church of St. Apostles Peter and Paul, an episcopal see.
Upon reaching adulthood, Nemanja became "Prince of Ibar, Toplica and Reke", receiving the česti from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I. Manuel had appointed Zavida's eldest son Tihomir as the supreme Grand Prince of the Serb lands. In 1163, Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Komnenos installed Nemanja's older brother Tihomir as Grand Župan of Raška in Desa's place, which disappointed Nemanja as he expected that he would get the throne. Nemanja met Emperor Manuel in Niš in 1162, who gave him the region of Dubočica to rule over and declared him independent; the Emperor gave him a Byzantine court title as it was important for the Emperor to have the borderlands of the Empire ruled by loyal leaders. Nemanja's Serb squadrons fought in the Imperial Army in 1164 in Srem during the wars against the Kingdom of Hungary. Nemanja ruled independently, his brothers invited him to a council at Ras to resolve the situation, but instead they imprisoned him in a nearby cave. Nemanja's supporters advised church leaders that Tihomir had done this because he disapproved of church building, something that would help Nemanja greatly.
A legend claimed Saint George himself freed Nemanja from the cave. Between 1166 and 1168, Prince Nemanja rebelled against his older brother Tihomir, deposed him and his brothers and Stracimir; the Byzantine Emperor raised a mercenary army for Tihomir, made up of Greeks and Turks, which Nemanja defeated at the Battle of Pantino, south of Zvečan. Tihomir drowned in the Sitnica river, the other brothers surrendered to Nemanja, who allowed them to rule their previous lands. Nemanja assumed the title of Grand Župan of all Serbia, took the first name Stefan. Nemanja married a Serbian noblewoman, with whom he had three sons: Vukan and Rastko. Stefan Nemanja built the church of Đurđevi Stupovi in Ras in 1171. According to the legend, this was to thank Saint George for freeing him from the cave in which his brothers had imprisoned him, as well as helping him rise to power; the same year, Nemanja had his third son - Rastko. In 1171, Grand Župan Stefan Nemanja sided with the Venetian Republic in a dispute with the Byzantine Empire, with the aim of gaining full independence from Byzantine rule.
The Venetians incited the Slavs of the eastern Adriatic littoral to rebel against Byzantine rule. Nemanja joined them. A German fleet formed to replace the Venetian navy and advanced eastwards in September 1171, capturing Ragusa. Nemanja made an alliance with the Kingdom of Hungary, though the Hungarians, with the Duchy of Austria. Grand Prince Nemanja dispatched troops to the Morava valley in 1172, to disrupt communications and commerce between Niš and Belgrade and instigate a rebellion amongst the local Serbs at Ravno. However, Ravno's Serbs refused to allow passage to the King of Saxony Heinrich the Lion; the Serbs organised a surprise attack on the German camp attacked their own neighbours. However, in 1172, the anti-Byzantine coalition that Nemanja had joined with the Kingdom of Hungary, the Venetian Republic and the Holy Roman Empire collapsed. Venice faced a mutiny a
The Balkans known as the Balkan Peninsula, is a geographic area in southeastern Europe with various definitions and meanings, including geopolitical and historical. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch throughout the whole of Bulgaria from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea coast; the Balkan Peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Aegean Sea in the south and southeast, the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The northern border of the peninsula is variously defined; the highest point of the Balkans is 2,925 metres, in the Rila mountain range. The concept of the Balkan peninsula was created by the German geographer August Zeune in 1808, who mistakenly considered the Balkan Mountains the dominant mountain system of Southeast Europe spanning from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea; the term of Balkan Peninsula was a synonym for European Turkey in the 19th century, the former provinces of the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe.
It had a geopolitical rather than a geographical definition, further promoted during the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the early 20th century. The definition of the Balkan peninsula's natural borders do not coincide with the technical definition of a peninsula and hence modern geographers reject the idea of a Balkan peninsula, while scholars discuss the Balkans as a region; the term has acquired a stigmatized and pejorative meaning related to the process of Balkanization, hence the rather used alternative term for the region is Southeast Europe. The word Balkan comes from Ottoman Turkish balkan'chain of wooded mountains'; the origin of the Turkic word is obscure. From classical antiquity through the Middle Ages, the Balkan Mountains were called by the local Thracian name Haemus. According to Greek mythology, the Thracian king Haemus was turned into a mountain by Zeus as a punishment and the mountain has remained with his name. A reverse name scheme has been suggested. D. Dechev considers that Haemus is derived from a Thracian word *saimon,'mountain ridge'.
A third possibility is that "Haemus" derives from the Greek word "haema" meaning'blood'. The myth relates to a fight between the monster/titan Typhon. Zeus injured Typhon with a thunder bolt and Typhon's blood fell on the mountains, from which they got their name; the earliest mention of the name appears in an early 14th-century Arab map, in which the Haemus mountains are referred to as Balkan. The first attested time the name "Balkan" was used in the West for the mountain range in Bulgaria was in a letter sent in 1490 to Pope Innocent VIII by Buonaccorsi Callimaco, an Italian humanist and diplomat; the Ottomans first mention it in a document dated from 1565. There has been no other documented usage of the word to refer to the region before that, although other Turkic tribes had settled in or were passing through the Peninsula. There is a claim about an earlier Bulgar Turkic origin of the word popular in Bulgaria, however it is only an unscholarly assertion; the word was used by the Ottomans in Rumelia in its general meaning of mountain, as in Kod̲j̲a-Balkan, Čatal-Balkan, Ungurus-Balkani̊, but it was applied to the Haemus mountain.
The name is still preserved in Central Asia with the Balkan Daglary and the Balkan Province of Turkmenistan. English traveler John Morritt introduced this term into the English literature at the end of the 18th-century, other authors started applying the name to the wider area between the Adriatic and the Black Sea; the concept of the "Balkans" was created by the German geographer August Zeune in 1808, who mistakenly considered it as the dominant central mountain system of Southeast Europe spanning from the Adriatic Sea to the Black Sea. During the 1820s, "Balkan became the preferred although not yet exclusive term alongside Haemus among British travelers... Among Russian travelers not so burdened by classical toponymy, Balkan was the preferred term"; the term was not used in geographical literature until the mid-19th century because then scientists like Carl Ritter warned that only the part South of the Balkan Mountains can be considered as a peninsula and considered it to be renamed as "Greek peninsula".
Other prominent geographers who didn't agree with Zeune were Hermann Wagner, Theobald Fischer, Marion Newbigin, Albrecht Penck, while Austrian diplomat Johann Georg von Hahn in 1869 for the same territory used the term Südostereuropäische Halbinsel. Another reason it was not accepted as the definition of European Turkey had a similar land extent. However, after the Congress of Berlin there was a political need for a new term and the Balkans was revitalized, but in the maps the northern border was in Serbia and Montenegro without Greece, while Yugoslavian maps included Croatia and Bosnia; the term Balkan Peninsula was a synonym for European Turkey, the political borders of former Ottoman Empire provinces. The usage of the term changed in the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century when was embraced by Serbian geographers, most prominently by Jovan Cvijić, it was done with political reasoning as affirmation for Serbian nationalism on the whole territory of the South Slavs, included anthropological and ethnological studies of the South Slavs through which were claimed various nationalistic and racistic theories.
Through such policies and Yugoslavian maps the term was elevated to the modern status of
Andronikos I Komnenos
Andronikos I Komnenos Latinized as Andronicus I Comnenus, was Byzantine Emperor from 1183 to 1185. He was the son of Isaac Komnenos and the grandson of the emperor Alexios I. Andronikos Komnenos was born around 1118, he was handsome and eloquent, hardy, courageous, a great general and an able politician, but licentious. His early years were spent alternately in military service. In 1141 he remained in their hands for a year. On being ransomed, he went to Constantinople, where he was held at the court of his first cousin, the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, to whom he was a great favourite. Here the charms of his niece, attracted him and she became his mistress. In 1152, accompanied by Eudoxia, he set out for an important command in Cilicia. Failing in his principal enterprise, an attack upon Mopsuestia, he returned but was again appointed to the command of a province; this second post he seems to have left after a short interval, for he appeared again in Constantinople and narrowly escaped death at the hands of the brothers of Eudoxia.
About 1153, a conspiracy against the Emperor in which Andronikos participated was discovered, he was thrown in prison. After repeated unsuccessful attempts, he escaped in 1165. After passing through many dangers, including captivity in Vlach territory, he reached Kiev, where his cousin Yaroslav Osmomysl of Galicia held court. While under the protection of Yaroslav, Andronikos formed an alliance with the Emperor Manuel I, with a Galician army he joined Manuel in the invasion of Hungary, assisting at the siege of Semlin; the campaign was successful, Andronikos returned to Constantinople with Manuel I in 1168. Andronikos received the province of Cilicia. Still under the displeasure of the Emperor, Andronikos fled to the court of Raymond, Prince of Antioch. While residing here he captivated and seduced the beautiful daughter of the Prince, sister of the Empress Maria; the Emperor was again angered by this dishonour, Andronikos was compelled to flee. He took refuge with King Amalric I of Jerusalem, whose favour he gained, who invested him with the Lordship of Beirut.
In Jerusalem he saw Theodora Komnene, the beautiful widow of King Baldwin III and niece of the Emperor Manuel. Although Andronikos was at that time fifty-six years old, age had not diminished his charms, Theodora became the next victim of his artful seduction. To avoid the vengeance of the Emperor, she fled with Andronikos to the court of Nur ad-Din, the Sultan of Damascus. Feeling unsafe there, they continued their perilous journey through the Anatolia, they were well received by King George III of Georgia, whose anonymous sister had been the first wife of Andronikos. Andronikos was granted estates in the east of Georgia. In 1173 or 1174, he accompanied the Georgian army on an expedition to Shirvan up to the Caspian shores, where George recaptured the fortress of Shabaran from the invaders from Darband for his cousin, the Shirvanshah Akhsitan I. Andronikos and Theodora settled in the ancestral lands of the Komnenoi at Oinaion, on the shores of the Black Sea, between Trebizond and Sinope. While Andronikos was on one of his incursions into Trebizond, his castle was surprised by the governor of that province, Theodora and her two children were captured and sent to Constantinople.
To obtain their release Andronikos in early 1180 made abject submission to the Emperor and, appearing in chains before him, besought pardon. This he obtained, he was allowed to retire with Theodora into banishment at Oinaion. In 1180 the Emperor Manuel died and was succeeded by his ten-year-old son Alexios II, under the guardianship of his mother, Empress Maria, her Latin origins and culture led to creeping resentment from her Greek subjects. They had felt insulted by the Western tastes of Manuel, being ruled by his Western wife built tensions to an explosion of rioting that became a full civil war; this gave Andronikos the opportunity to seize the crown for himself, leaving his retirement in 1182 and marching to Constantinople with an army that included Muslim contingents. The defection of the commander of the Byzantine navy, megas doux Andronikos Kontostephanos, the general Andronikos Angelos, played a key role in allowing the rebellious forces to enter Constantinople; the arrival of Andronikos Komnenos was soon followed by a massacre of the city's Latin inhabitants, who controlled its economy, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Westerners.
He was believed to have arranged the poisoning of Alexios II's elder sister Maria the Porphyrogenita and her husband Renier of Montferrat, although Maria herself had encouraged him to intervene. Soon afterwards Andronikos had the Empress Maria imprisoned and killed — forcing a signature from the child Emperor Alexios to put his mother to death — by Pterygeonites and the hetaireiarches Constantine Tripsychos. Alexios II was compelled to acknowledge Andronikos as colleague in the empire in front of the crowd on the terrace of the Church of Christ of the Chalkè and was quickly put to death in turn. In 1183, sixty-five year old Andronikos married twelve-year-old Agnes of France, daughter of King Louis VII of France and his third wife Adèle of Champagne — Agnes had been betrothed to Alexios II. By November 1183, Andronikos ha
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