Was Roman History As Bloody as The Brits?

I am tutoring a boy in World History. He is maybe 1/4 Italian, and he wants to know what were the Italians (Romans?) doing in the 17th and 18th century…while so much anguish and bloodshed is going on under the rule of the British Kings, esp. James I and Charles I?

I’m not sure how Caeser came to power, but is it right to conclude the Romans went through a similar mess much earlier than the Brits? He noticed how the Italian Rennaisance started a early as the 1300’s. Was Rome (Italy?) any more civilized than England or France during the 1600’s-1700’s, or was it than there were no Protestants living on Italian soil? Or, were the Italians simply ahead of their time?

I’m not sure myself how to answer him. Why don’t we hear more about life in late Rome (or early Italy)? Maybe some history buff Sdoper will enlighten us? (And, why didn’t Italy colonize the world as Portugal and Spain initiated - thanks to Italy’s Christopher Colombus?)

Mamma Mia!

  • Jinx

Well you can find some interesting history sites via Google, like this one which may answer your question. And as far as the people of Italy being related to the early Romans and their messes - I don’t think the Italians of today or even a few hundred years ago are anything like the Romans, or any closer related to them than you or me (and I definitely felt this when I visited Rome). In fact, my ancestors migrated to parts of Italy in the 1700s from France, so there was a lot of mixing throughout Europe. The Brits of the 1700s are just as closely related to the Romans as everyone. I’m not a history buff so I can’t go much futher, sorry!

Well you’re talking a very broad swath of history here. If we try to stay very, very general we can see several persistent trends in Italian history in the 17th and 18th centuries.

  1. The slow but steady rise of the house of Savoy in northwestern Italy/southeastern France. They had started as Counts of Savoy in the 11th century and by 1720 had worked their way up to kings of Sardinia ( included Savoy and the Piedmont ). Eventually they would unify Italy ( with more than a little help from Garibaldi ).

  2. The steady decline of Venice, squeezed between the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs. It ultimately would fall to Napoleon in 1797 and for the most part ( there were a couple of brief interregnums ) became a Hapsburg province until unified with the rest of Italy in 1866.

  3. The continued rivalry between the Bourbons ( of France and later Spain ) and the Hapsburgs ( of Spain and Austria ) over Italy, which tended to dominate the politics of the penninsula.

As far as the wars of religion go, Italy was more a secondary theatre as Protestantism was crushed there relatively early ( especially by Pope Pius V, 1566-1572 ). However northern Italy ( the old Duchy of Milan, a Spanish Hapsburg territory 1535-1713, mostly Austrian Hapsburg thereafter ) provided a great deal of the Spanish manpower in the Dutch Wars and the Thirty Years War. Even after the Thirty Years War, fighting between France and the Hapsburgs continued intermittently in northern Italy. Savoy had also been briefly overrun in 1628 after taking the wrong side during the outbreak of French and Spanish hostilities. The 18th century just continued the trend of France, Spain, & Austria dueling in assorted configurations - the Wars of the Spanish and Austrian Succession both had Italian theatres associated with them, not to mention Napoleon’s later foray.

  • Tamerlane

Roman history was very bloody, especially in the period between Marius and Sulla and the battle of Actium. Google Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar, Augustus, Cicero … Later came the destruction of Rome by Atilla the Hun. Some popes in the last millenium were warrior popes (can’t think of specific names).

The Gates of Janus were closed during times of peace throughout the Roman lands. This happened only three times in the 1200 years between the founding of the city and the overthrow of the last western emperor.

Wikipedia has a very brief section on Italian history. For a long time the quip that Italy was a geographic expression rather than a nation held true.

It seems that after the fall of the Roman empire in the West in the fifth century AD Italy was repeatedly invaded by various barbarian groups and ceased to be a major player on the European scene. The rise of city states during the eleventh and twelth century meant that Italy was fragmented at a time when other regions such as England and France were beginning to develop into city states.

This fragmentation meant that the Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard could conquer Southern Italy and Sicily about the time of the First Crusade.

Tamerlane has already pointed out the major themes of Italian history from about the late 17th century. As Tamerlane pointed out in point 3, Italy was dominated by the Austrian and French, and became something of a no-man’s land between them.

As to your second question, Caesar came to power towards the middle of the first century BC, by increading his political stature theough the conquest of Gaul (= modern France roughly) and developing a clientale of such magnitude that he effectively controlled all the political power in Rome. qts has already given a brief potted history of what happened next. However this is so far removed as to be pretty much irrelevant to your first question about the 17th and 18th centuries.

The reason why we hear very little about I17th and 18th century taly in the standard history textbooks is that it was either dominated by foreign powers (the North) or part of largely stagnent and unimportant states (the South) which were eventually swalled up during the unificaition in the nineteenth century.

I suggest reading CICERO by I beleive William Randolph or something like that. It is very detailed about the bloody period in Roman history when Ceaser rose to power.

Is it just me, or would “The Warrior Popes” make a cool band name?

It’s just you.

Part of Henry Kamen’s argument in his recent Spain’s Road to Empire (Penguin, 2002) is that they did. Kamen sees the creation of the Spanish Empire as a pan-European Hapsburg enterprise, rather than a Castillian one, with much of the manpower and most of the financing coming from outside the peninsula. Particularly in the Mediterranean, they were almost entirely dependent on the Genoese when it came to seapower. This was also somewhat true of their transatlantic capabilities - Columbus himself being the obvious example of a Genoese expert serving the Castillians. Financially, they were also in hock to the bankers of Milan and Genoa in order to run the empire. So that’s where the profits wound up.

Bonzer gives a good answer w. Italy as an intergal part of the Spanish Empire.

I think another thing is to keep in mind that what we think of as “Italy” only came together politically in the 19th Century. By 1550 there was a reconizable Britian, France, Spain and Portugal — “Italy” was Milan, Papal Lands, Genoa etc.