Prehistory Neanderthal humans roam Italy; around 10,000 B.C., Cro-Magnon shows up.
1200 B.C. Etruscans begin to emigrate from Asia Minor, settling in Tuscany.
800 B.C. Greeks colonize Sicily and the peninsula's boot (collectively "Magna Graecia").
753 B.C. Romulus, says legend, founds Rome. In fact, Rome grows out of a strategically located shepherd village.
700 B.C. Etruscans rise in power -- peaking in the 6th century B.C. -- and make Rome their capital.
509 B.C. Republic of Rome is founded; power is shared by two consuls.
494-450 B.C. Office of the Tribune is established to defend plebeian rights. The Twelve Tablets stating basic rights are carved, the foundation of Roman law.
279 B.C. Romans now rule the entire Italian peninsula.
146 B.C. Rome defeats Tunisian power in Carthage; the Republic now controls Sicily, North Africa, Spain, Sardinia, Greece, and Macedonia.
100 B.C. Julius Caesar is born.
60 B.C. Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus share power in the First Triumvirate.
51 B.C. Caesar triumphs over Gaul (France).
44 B.C. March 15, Caesar is assassinated, leaving all to his nephew and heir, Octavian.
27 B.C. Octavian, now Augustus, is declared emperor, beginning the Roman Empire and 200 years of peace and prosperity.
A.D. 29 (or 33) Jesus is crucified in Roman province of Judea.
64-100 Nero persecutes Christians; a succession of military commanders restores order; Trajan expands the empire.
200 Goths invade from the north; the empire begins to decline.
313 With the Edict of Milan, Emperor Constantine I grants Christians freedom of religion. By 324, it is declared the official religion. Constantine also establishes Constantinople as the eastern capital, splitting the empire in half.
410-76 Waves of northern barbarian tribes continue to overrun Italy and sack Rome itself, eventually setting up their own puppet "emperors."
476 Last emperor deposed; the empire falls; the Dark Ages begin.
590-604 Church asserts political control as Pope Gregory I "the Great" brings some stability to the peninsula.
774-800 Frankish king Charlemagne invades Italy and is crowned emperor by Pope Leo III. Upon his death, Italy dissolves into a series of small warring kingdoms.
962 Holy Roman Empire founded under Otto I, king of Saxony; serves as the temporal arm of the church's spiritual power.
11th century Normans conquer southern Italy and introduce feudalism. The first Crusades are launched.
1309-77 Papacy abandons Rome for Avignon, France.
1350 The Black Death decimates Europe, reducing Italy's population by a third.
1450 City-states hold power; Venice controls much of the eastern Mediterranean. The Humanist movement rediscovers the art and philosophy of ancient Greece and gives rise to the artistic Renaissance.
ca. 1500 Peak of the High Renaissance; Italian artists working at the turn of the 15th century include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Giovanni Bellini, Mantegna, and Titian.
1519-27 Carlos I Habsburg of Spain is crowned Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V in 1519. He wages war against the French, and the pope scurries back and forth in support of one side then the next as their wars are played out largely in Italy over Italian territories. In 1527, Charles V marches into Rome and sacks the city, while Pope Clement VII escapes. Charles occupies nearly all of northern Italy, divvying it up among his followers.
1535 Francesco II Sforza of Milan dies, leaving the Duchy in Spanish Habsburg hands.
1545-63 Council of Trent takes a hard line against the reformist Protestant movements sweeping Europe north of the Alps, launching the Counter-Reformation and, as an unexpected consequence, ultimately reducing the pope's power as a secular ruler of Europe to merely a prince of central Italy.
17th-18th centuries Italy's darkest hour: Brigands control the countryside, the Austrians and Spanish everything else. By the mid-18th century, wealthy northern Europeans begin taking the Grand Tour, journeying to Italy to study ancient architecture and Italian old masters (as well as taking advantage of the sunny clime and low-cost living). Italy's tourism industry has begun.
1784 The French Revolution sparks Italian nationalism.
1796-1814 Napoleon sweeps through Italy, installing friends and relatives as rulers.
1814 Napoleon is defeated at Waterloo.
1830 Beginning of the Risorgimento political movement in Turin and Genoa, which will culminate in Italian nationalism, accompanied by a new Renaissance of literature and music.
1861 Kingdom of Italy is created under Vittorio Emanuele II, Savoy king of Piedmont (Piemonte), and united through the military campaign of General Garibaldi. Turin serves briefly as interim capital.
1870 Rome, last papal stronghold, falls to Garibaldi. Italy becomes a country; Rome is its capital.
Late 19th century Mass emigration to America and other foreign shores, though mostly from the impoverished, agricultural south.
1915 Italy enters World War I on Allied side.
1922 Mussolini marches on Rome and puts his Fascist Blackshirts in charge of the country, declaring himself prime minister.
1935 Mussolini defeats and annexes Ethiopia.
1939 Italy enters the war by signing an alliance with Nazi Germany.
1943 Italy switches sides as Allied troops push Nazis north up peninsula; by 1945, Mussolini and mistress executed by partisans, strung up at a Milan gas station, and pelted with stones by the crowds.
1946 A national referendum narrowly establishes the Republic of Italy.
1950-93 Fifty changes of government were seen, along with the "economic miracle" that has made Italy the world's fifth-leading economy.
1993-97 Series of disasters rocks Italy's cultural roots: 1993 Mafia bombing of Florence's Uffizi Galleries; January 1996 fire at Venice's La Fenice opera house; April 1997 conflagration in Turin's cathedral; and September 1997 earthquakes in Umbria, which destroyed priceless frescoes in Assisi.
1993-2000 Italy's Christian Democrat-controlled government dissolves amid corruption allegations. Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing coalition holds power for a few months, followed by center-left wing coalitions that introduce the most stable governments in decades under prime ministers Romano Prodi, Massimo d'Alema, and Giuliano Amato.
2001 The first cases of BSE (mad cow disease) in Italy are confirmed; beef consumption plummets over 70%, and the government temporarily bans many kinds of steak on the bone. Media magnate (and the world's 29th-richest man) Silvio Berlusconi -- briefly prime minister in 1993, but brought down by professional and political scandals -- gains control, once again, of the Italian government as part of a center-right coalition including the neo-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale party and the racist and separatist Lega del Nord, which wants to make northern Italy a new country called "Padania" with Milan as its capital (leaving Rome to govern the shrunken "Italy" of the south).
2002 January 1: Italy, along with most of western Europe, adopts the euro as its currency. January 2: Prices on everything skyrocket.
2003 Prime Minster Berlusconi, who, through private media holdings and his government post, controls 98% of Italian television (not to mention the country's largest publishing empire), and who, in late 2002, fired his foreign minister and declared that he himself would run that office, forces through legislation to protect himself from being prosecuted for any crimes while in office -- conveniently, just as one of the many bribery cases that have been brought against him was about to come to a conclusion.
2006 Italy's highest appeals court confirms Romano Prodi's razor-thin victory over Berlusconi in national elections, sending the one-time professor and European Commission President back to Palazzo Chigi.
2008 The People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Libertà, PdL) party is founded when Forza Italia is merged with National Alliance. As the leader of this center-right political party, Berlusconi is once again elected Prime Minister in the 2008 general elections.
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