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Italy

Italy Timeline. Through history.

If we don’t understand the past, how can we understand our present and future? To truly absorb, appreciate, and reflect on the country we are visiting, we need to look at pivotal moments in history. Begin your journey through the ages now.

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Jewish timeline General timeline
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EARLY HISTORY

800 The Etruscan tribes dominate central Italy, especially around Tuscany
753 The town of Rome established (according to legend)
700 Greeks and their culture influential, especially in the south and Sicily
509 The last Etruscan King defeated and Etruscan culture gradually disappears
The Roman Republic is established

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

200 Most of Italian peninsula under control of the Roman Republic
Rome’s influence expanding outside of Italian peninsula
Rome most important city in Mediterranean with population of 300,000
163 The first Jews? Jewish traders arrive in Rome from Judea (ancient Israel)
161 Judah the Maccabee sends emissaries & makes treaty with Rome
63 End of the alliance: Roman general Pompey conquers Jerusalem
Jewish prisoners from Israel brought to Rome. Most eventually freed
59 Julius Caesar conquers Gaul (France), invades modern Britain and Germany
49 Caesar crosses the Rubicon: becomes dictator after civil war
Caesar grants Jews special rights, including to use own courts
44 The Ides of March: Caesar assassinated
27 The Pax Romana: stabile & prosperous empire grows under Augustus

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64 The Great Fire of Rome under Emperor Nero
Non-Jews, including Nero’s wife, adopt Jewish customs including Sabbath
70 Roman army suppresses Jewish revolt in Israel. Second Temple destroyed
100,000 Hebrew slaves sent to Rome
80 Building of Colosseum funded by loot seized from Land of Israel
Jewish community grows as slaves freed. Synagogues created
Jewish-Hellenism. Italian Jews read Torah and pray in Greek
117 Roman Empire reaches its zenith, includes areas from Scotland to India
132 Bar-Kochba revolt in Israel suppressed. Many Jews exiled to Rome
Roman Empire faces constant challenges from internal and external forces
211 Nonetheless, Roman Empire reaches its territorial zenith
Pagan tolerance: Jews settle throughout Italy and Empire
313 Constantine becomes first Christian emperor. Hostility toward Jews grows
330 Roman Empire split in two, with second, eastern capital in Constantinople
476 End of the Empire: Italy and Roman Empire overrun by Germanic tribes

DIVISION & THE RENAISSANCE

500 Italy suffers series of invasions with different rulers in different regions
Jewish situation varies depending on ruler, region, and church policy
Jewish population in Italy, once hundreds of thousands, now much lower
590 Pope Gregory I provides Jews with protection in Rome and elsewhere
1000 Normans establish empire and stability in Sicily and southern Italy
Jewish communities now mainly concentrated in south and Sicily
Dynamic city-states rule the north including in Venice, Florence, and Milan
1400 The Renaissance: intellectual and artistic flowering in the city-states
1452 Leonardo da Vinci, polymath and painter, born in Florence
1469 Spreading the word: Venice becomes world center for printing books
Jewish printers in Venice create revolution in access to Bible and Talmud
1492 Expelled Spanish and Portuguese Jews and forced converts come to Italy
They are joined by Jews fleeing Spanish-controlled southern Italy
Jews now based in north. Their position varies from city-state to city-state
1512 Michelangelo completes painting of Sistine Chapel
1515 The first ghetto: Jews of Venice can live only in this residential quarter
1555 Rome’s ghetto created. Largest of Italy’s ghettos
1600 30,000 Jews living in 70 Italian towns or cities, mainly in ghettos
Conditions and restrictions vary from ghetto to ghetto
City-states weaken. Italy rocked by wars & invasions by European powers
1805 Napoleonic France controls much of Italy
Napoleon declares Jews are citizens like all other. Ghettos demolished

BIRTH OF A NATION

1815 Napoleon defeated. Italy again under Austrian & European dominance
Return of the ghettos and restrictions on Jews
Rise of the Risorgimento: efforts for an independent, unified Italy grow
1859 Austrians driven out of central and north Italy by Italian nationalists & allies
1861 Italian revolutionaries led by Garibaldi conquers Sicily and south
Nation-state of Italy established under King Victor Emmanuel II
Local identities and languages remain strong. Only 3% speak Italian
1871 Rome incorporated into new Italian nation
Life expectancy less than 30 years
Jewish emancipation. Jews, less than 1% of population, flourish in new Italy
1890 Economy & industry in north begins to grow
South much poorer. Mass migration to US, Brazil, Argentina, & elsewhere
1901 Despite emigration, population grows to 33 million
Jewish life increasingly focused on Rome & urban areas
1904 Three Jewish prime ministers between 1904 and 1911
1912 All adult males eligible to vote

NEAR-DESTRUCTION OF A NATION

1914 Italy initially remains neutral upon outbreak of WWI
1915 Hoping to gain disputed lands, Italy declares war on Austria & join Allies
1918 Over 600,000 Italians killed in WWI; economy severely damaged
1924 The world’s first Fascist government: Mussolini win elections
1926 Mussolini seizes dictatorial powers
Fascists do not initially interfere with Jewish social & legal equality
1927 Fascists strike agreement with Catholic Church
1935 Mussolini, dreaming of new Roman empire, invades Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
1938 Italy strengthens links with Nazis; passes anti-Jewish legislation
1940 Italy, seeking territory, joins WWII with Germany and Japan
Suffer military disasters in Greece, Balkans, Ethiopia, North Africa, Russia
Italian Fascists discriminate against but do not kill or deport Jews
1943 Crumbling regime: Western Allies occupy Sicily and south of country
Italy surrenders to Allies; Mussolini arrested
Germany occupies northern Italy, restores Mussolini to power
Long struggle between Allies & Nazis (& civil war) for Italy begins
Nazis start implementing the Final Solution in occupied northern Italy
Considerable Jewish and non-Jewish resistance to Holocaust
7,682 Jews out of pre-war population of 44,500 killed
1945 Allies liberate all of Italy. Mussolini killed while fleeing

OUT OF THE RUBBLE: THE ITALIAN ECONOMIC MIRACLE

1946 Italy poor & devastated. 1.2 million homes destroyed during war
King deposed and republic created. Women’s suffrage was introduced
Purge of former fascists quickly abandoned
1947 Economy stabilizes with Marshall Plan assistance from US
1948 Christian Democrats, a center-right Catholic party, wins election
For next 50 years, they will lead coalition governments and control state
Strong Italian Communist Party is their main opposition. Cold war tension
Primo Levi’s later-famous book on Auschwitz published but largely ignored
1951 Italy embraces European economic integration & proto EU organizations
An economic (& baby) boom. Population 47.5 million, double that of 1871
Northern economy moving fast from agriculture to industry and services
Massive aid and land reform program launched in south
1954 South remains poor with average incomes less than a third of that in north
Local loyalties still powerful. Only 20% speak Italian exclusively
1960 An “economic miracle.” Economy grows by a remarkable 8 % each year
Millions moving from rural south to urban north
1962 Vatican II reforms Catholic Church & condemns anti-Semitism
1965 32,000 Jews. Largest community in Rome including newcomers from Libya
1970 Life expectancy has risen to 72. Birth rates dropping, divorce legalized
1973 The Years of Lead begin: Far left & right terrorism, economic turmoil
1978 Abortion laws liberalized
1980 Economic recovery led by rise of small and medium-size businesses
1982 Palestinian terror attack on Rome’s Great Synagogue
1986 John Paul II first pope to visit Italian (or any) synagogue for centuries
1987 State recognizes Jewish right not to work on Shabbat and Jewish holidays
1993 Italy founder member of European Union
1994 Corruption scandals destroy Christian Democrats & other parties
Rise of populist political parties and leaders especially Silvio Berlusconi
Birth rates drop to 1.18 children per woman
1997 Life is Beautiful wins Oscars and raises Italian interest in Holocaust
2008 Italy, with high levels of debt, hit hard by Great Recession
2015 Italy at forefront of migrant crisis from Syria and Africa
2017 74.4 % define themselves as Catholic, 27% as actively engaged
Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah opens in Ferrara
2018 Anti-immigrant regional party heads Italy government
2019 5 million foreign residents, about 9% of population
Italian population 60.6 million
Jewish population 30,000