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Origins of Italy


Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis
Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis

In ad 476 the last independent Roman emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the invading Germanic chieftain Odoacer. This date has traditionally marked the start of the so-called barbarian invasions that brought to a close the political, cultural, and economic greatness of imperial Rome. Modern historians, however, regard this view as much exaggerated. They see the Germanic invasion as the culmination of Rome’s internal decline over a long period. For more than a century Italy had come under attack from neighboring peoples and tribes—Goths, Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals—who were migrating westward from central and eastern Europe. Long before Odoacer became king, Italian rulers had called on neighboring warlords to fight their battles. At the time Odoacer became their ruler, people in Italy noticed no fundamental change, and Roman law and institutions remained in force.

After 476 ad Italy was to remain politically divided, however. The Gothic kings made Ravenna their capital. In Rome the Roman Catholic popes acquired new political importance. Roman emperors in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, continued to rule most of coastal and southern Italy.

In 488 the Ostrogoth warlord Theodoric invaded Italy and defeated and killed Odoacer. Theodoric ruled until his death in 526, during which time Italy enjoyed relative peace. In 535, however, Justinian I, emperor of the Byzantine Empire, sent the great general Belisarius to drive the Gothic rulers out of Italy. The war ended in 553 with the death of Teias, the last of the Gothic kings, but Byzantine rule was short-lived. In 572 Italy was invaded by the Lombards, another Germanic tribe, whose king, Alboin, made Pavia his capital. The Lombards, unlike the Goths, were intent on settling the region. They gained control of northern Italy, leaving the Byzantine emperor most of the south and Ravenna. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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