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Italian Cities | Italian Language Resources | Italian Lesson Plans | Educational Resources | December 12 | Chatting in Italian - 3/6/99 | email me

The History of Napoli (Naples)

Naples, the city of the Siren Parthenope, was founded about 600 B.C. perhaps by Greek colonists from nearby Cuma. This first foundation was called Palaepolis; at a later date further colonists from Cuma made a new settlement beside this ancient village and called it Neapolis, the new city. The city retained its Greek traditions, customs and language for many centuries after its conquest by the Romans about 320 B.C.

For the entire duration of the Roman Empire the city was celebrated as a rich and elegant cultural centre where the Romans emperors and aristocracy came to spend the summer months in their sumptuous villas along the Posillipo coast and as far as Sorrento on one side of the bay and Baia on the other. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire was followed by the periods of Gothic and Byzantine invasions, and then the city was again threatened by a Lombard invasion from Benevento.

Naples regained its independence under the Dukes of Naples from 763 to 1139. From 1140 to 1266 the city was ruled by Swabian and Norman Kings; then followed the dominion of the Angevins and Aragons from 1266 to 1503. In 1504 Naples and Sicily together became a province of the Spanish kingdom and were ruled by a Spanish Viceroy for 200 years until it passed briefly under Austrian domination in 1707; seventeen years after, in 1724, the city was once more under Spanish rule and ten years later (1734) it became the capital city of the Bourbon kingdom, effectively maintaining this status until 1860, with the exception of the brief political upheavals of the Partenopean Republic (1799) and revolutionary period of Giuseppe Bonaparte and Gioachino Murat (1806-1815).

After the Garibaldi liberation and the subsequent unification of Italy, the people of Naples voted for the annexation of Naples into the newly established Kingdom of Italy. The history of Naples in every period is to be seen in its monuments - churches, palazzi, squares, streets - all testify to an intense cultural tradition and centuries of fascinating history stretching back into the mists of legend.


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