Outline of the History of Campania and Naples

(Taken from Giuseppe Galasso's "Napoli: storia" and Francesco Compagna's "Campania: cenni storici")

Inhabited since Paleolithic times, ancient Greek and Etruscans settled in Campania around the 7th century B.C.From the 7th to the 5th centuries B.C. the Greeks fought the Etruscans (based in central Italy) and the Carthaginians (based in modern day Tunis) for control of the trade routes on the Tyrrhenian Sea (off the western coast of Italy).

The Greek city of Naples (Neapolis, "New City") was founded in the first half of the 5th century B.C. on the site of an older city called Parthenope (one of Sirens Ulysses encounters in Homer's Odyssey), which had been founded by Rhodesians (inhabitants of Rhode Island).The Rhodesian had established the cult of Sirens in that area, and ever since then these mythological figures have been a part of Neapolitan folklore.

As the Etruscans lost their bases in Campania, Naples and other cities in the region had to contend with the Samnites, the indigenous people of Campania who lived in the mountains.In the 5th century B.C. the Samnites invaded the coastal plains and intermarried the local Oscan population (descendants of Greeks and Etruscans).The Samnites never formed a unified state, but there were leagues which had strongholds in Capua (the most powerful Greek city in that region), Nola, and Nocera.Within each city there was an elected judge called a meddix who ruled the city for a year.There was probably a meddix tuticus, or federal judge, who in turn oversaw all the activities of the other meddix.

The Romans attack Naples.Naples decides to form an alliance with Rome in order to protect itself against the Samnites.From then on, Naples remains a faithful ally of Rome.

Rome wages the First Samnite Wars against the local population.The "campani" (the name probably derived from Capua), who had remained independent until now, fall under Roman rule.The Oscan language and culture, however, continue to flourish despite the Roman conquest: playwrights wrote farces known as "atellane" in the Oscan language, and even the Roman emperor Nero indulged in acting when he was in Naples.The fertile plains north of Naples were known as "Felix campania" (lucky countryside), hence the name given to this region.The Felix campania produced agricultural goods for trade and commerce, which, coupled with the good infrastructure, enabled this region to prosper under Roman rule. As archaeological excavations have revealed, towns like Pompei were among the most prosperous in the Roman empire. Naples even minted its own currency.

82 B.C. Naples' importance as a Roman port declines with the rise of the nearby city of Pozzuoli.Naples is still tied to its Greek heritage, as reflected in the language, culture, and traditions.The Romans view it as a city of pleasure (Roman emperors built villas on the nearby Isle of Capri), a city of philosophers and philosophical studies, praised by the emperor Marcus Aurelius, and a city famous for its sports and theater.

1st century A.D. Christianity spread quickly to Naples and the surrounding areas because of the region's close ties to Rome.In the centuries that followed, the Church of Naples would always be faithfully bound to the Church of Rome.

As the Roman empire declined, so did the towns of Capua and Pozzuoli.Naples, however, remains fairly prosperous thanks in part to the ever-increasing presence of Jewish, Syrian and Egyptian merchants.

In the 5th century A.D. (during the fall of Rome) this region was occupied by the Goths, and later by the Byzantines (Greeks living in the Eastern Roman empire, with Costantinople, modern-day Istanbul, as its capital) in the 6th century.

570 A.D. the region is divided into two parts: one occupied by Longobards (originally from Hungary) with Benevento as its capital, and the other part (Naples and the coastline) occupied by Byzantines.In the centuries that followed, these two kingdoms are further divided into the duchies of Amalfi (839 A.D.), Gaeta, and Sorrento (9th century), under Byzantine influence, and the duchies of Benevento, Salerno, and Capua, under Longobard influence.Unlike Amalfi and Gaeta, which became important maritime republics, Naples was not an important commercial center during this period. Given its strategic importance, however, Naples became an important military base in which the military (milites) and the aristocracy (consisting of large landowners, "latifondisti") were the dominant classes.The city's wealth derived from the agriculture of the fertile plains surrounding Naples.The city, which had been ruled by a duke nominated by the Byzantine emperor, began acquiring greater independence from Constantinople as the Moslems began conquering Byzantine strongholds in Italy.

The fragmentation of this region into so many city-states competing against each other made it easy for the Normans to conquer Campania.After conquering the town of Aversa (1030), the Normans soon conquered the rest of the region adding it to their Sicilian empire.Naples, however, was the last city to be conquered by the Normans in Italy (1137).Only the duchies of Benevento and Pontecorvo remained under the control of the Church.The Normans divided Campania into four regions, which remained virtually the same until Garibaldi united them in 1860: Naples, Terra di Lavoro, Principato Citro, and Principato Ultra.The wealth of the aristocracy is based largely on the intensive agriculture in the fertile area of Terra di Lavoro (north of Naples).Most of the commerce and trade, however, is in the hands of outsiders (Pisan and Genoese merchants); as a result, the money made in Naples through trade and commerce went to Pisa and Genoa.

1197-1250 Swebian rule (under Frederick II).Like the Normans before him, Frederick II absorbed the military and aristocracy in his new feudal kingdom; as a result, Naples became less of a military base and more of residential city for the large landowners in the region.During this period, Frederick II establishes the University of Naples, the first state-run university in Europe.

1268-1412 Angevin rule (French nobles of Anjou).Charles I of Anjou makes Naples the capital of a kingdom that included all of the southern Italian peninsula and Sicily.In 1282, however, the Sicilians rebel against Charles I (the "Sicilian Vespers"), kicking the French out of Sicily.Florentine merchants and bankers finance the enterprises of Charles I, and dominate the mercantile economy of Naples and Campania.During the reign of Robert of Anjou (1308-1343) Naples becomes one of the most important cultural centers in Italy.During this period Florentine writers (e.g. Petrarch and Boccaccio) and Florentine painters (e.g. Giotto) lived and worked in Naples.Unlike Florence, however, Naples did not have a strong middle-class economy.The professionals and bureaucrats who made up the educated middle class were more closely tied to the Angevin court, for whom they worked, than to the municipal government which had acquired a certain autonomy during this period.As a result, the aristocracy grew stronger at the expense of the middle and lower classes.

1442-1503 Aragonese rule (Spanish nobles of Aragon).The Aragonese court brought the Renaissance to Naples.Neapolitan humanism was represented by poets such as Sannazaro (author of the Arcadia) and Pontano.Renaissance artists such as Antonello da Messina and Laurana flourished in Naples.

During the reign of Ferrante I (1458-1494), the Neapolitan aristocracy was urged to buy more land in the various provinces of the kingdom, further weakening the municipal government and the classes it represented.

1503-1707 Campania is ruled by Hapsburgs of Spain through a Viceroy living in Naples.The Spaniards gave special privileges to Naples: Neapolitans were only required to pay municipal taxes; food supplies were guaranteed; and the government fixed the price of bread.These favorable terms, coupled with the repressive feudal measures adopted in the countryside, created a wave of immigrants from the country to the city.The population of Naples went from approximately 100,000 to over 300,000 in the first decades of the 16th century, becoming the second biggest city in Europe.

The socio-economic structure of Naples during this period was characterized by a very large lower class, known as "lazzari," living under very poor conditions.The "lazzari" were prone to riot when food supplies were low or when prices rose.Furthermore, in an attempt to curb the feudal power of the aristocracy, the Spaniards had them transfer their residences from the country to the city, thereby increasing the aristocracy's population and political clout in Naples.The Viceroy also created a centralized bureaucracy, thereby increasing the number of middle-class professionals and bureaucrats working at the court. The middle class cast its lot with the aristocracy, preferring to depend on the court than seek its own fortune.Furthermore, since Genoese merchants and bankers were the major financiers of the royal court in Madrid, they controlled a significant part of the Naples' wealth; as a result, most of the city’s wealth was in the hands of outsiders or Neapolitan aristocrats.For all these reasons, Naples became more of a parasitic capital than one which stimulated economic growth.This in turn would determine the way the city would evolve in the centuries that followed.

During the 16th century Naples was a giant emporium that practically monopolized trade and commerce with the rest of southern Italy.Artisan production increased, especially in silk production, and much of the wealth and savings from southern Italy made their way to Naples where, through an elaborate banking system, the money could be used by the public and the government.Under Pedro de Toledo (1532-53) the city walls were expanded and new streets, including the one named after him, were built.The civil government consisted of a junta made up of six "elects," five designated by the nobility and one by the populace (in reality the latter was designated by Toledo himself).In 1546, Toledo closed the Neapolitan academies fearing that their humanistic endeavors might foster Protestantism.

During Spanish rule, Naples became a major European capital.Both the aristocracy and the middle class built sumptuous residences in the city; and great architects, like Fanzago, built churches that exalted the Baroque style.Naples was home to many artists: Caravaggio (1573-1610), Bernini (1598-1680), Salvator Rosa (1615-1673), Luca Giordano (1626-1075), Mattia Preti (1613-1699), Bernardo Cavallino (1622-1654), and Jusepe de Ribera (1590-1652).Philosophers like Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), Bernardino Telesio (1509-1588), Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639), and poets like Giambattista Marino (1569-1625) all flourished in Naples.

During Spanish rule, however, the herding and pasture-based economy of the hinterlands outside Naples suffered from feudal oppression and soon became impoverished.The fertile plains of Terra del Lavoro fared better thanks in part to their proximity to Naples, and in part to the fact that Naples favored the development, however limited, of textile industries, artisan activities, and intensive agriculture.Besides exploiting the land and the peasants who worked it, the Spaniards and their Bourbon successors collected taxes without using this revenue toward capital investments for manufacturing, commerce, or even agrarian reform.The feudal oppression and taxation led to peasant uprisings in 1647-48 that spread from the city to the countryside.

During the second half of the 17th century, Naples experienced an economic decline brought about, in part, by the plague of 1656, which reduced the population by a half. The silk-producing industries declined, and most of the economic and commercial life of Naples was now in the hands of English and French merchants.Despite this decline, Naples continued to be an important consumer market for the feudal aristocracy, the landed gentry, the merchants and the other professional classes living in the city.

1707-1734 The Austrian Hapsburgs succeeded the Spanish Hapsburgs, and briefly ruled Naples.Naples continued to prosper culturally: Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), one of Europe's leading philosophers, wrote The New Science; and in 1723 Pietro Giannone wrote The Civil History of Naples which criticized the Church's privileges, and gave Neapolitans a sense of their ancient national traditions.In the field of music, Alessandro Scarlatti (1659-1725) and his son Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) became two of Europe’s leading composers.

1734-1759 Charles VII (future Charles III of Spain) becomes the first Bourbon King of Naples.

1759-1825 Ferdinand IV (future Ferdinand I of Spain) becomes King of Naples.During Ferdinand’s minority, B. Tanucci, a liberal Tuscan, is regent and initiates administrative and legislative reforms. Both Charles VII and Ferdinand IV funded important public works projects: the construction of the San Carlo Theater (1737), one of the most important opera houses in Europe, the founding of the Nunziatella military academy, and the first excavations at Pompei.

During their long reign, Naples continued to be an important cultural center.In 1754, at the University of Naples, A. Genovesi held the first professorship of political economics at a European university; and G. Filangieri (1752-1788) wrote The Science of Legislation an important work of the Neapolitan Enlightenment.Other Neapolitan intellectuals from this period include F. Galiani, C. A. Broggia, M. Delfico, G. Palmieri, D. Grimaldi, F. Longano, G. M. Galanti, and F. M. Pagano.

After the French Revolution of 1789, the Bourbons, like their other European dynasties, abandoned their reformist tendencies.The French occupied Naples in 1799 allowing Neapolitan intellectuals to create a short-lived republic.When the Bourbons returned to power, they ruthlessly destroyed the Neapolitan Republic and its supporters, creating a permanent split between the monarchy and the best-educated citizens of Naples.

1806-1815 After Napoleon conquers Italy, his governor, Joachim Murat, initiates political reforms, including the abolition of several feudal privileges.Murat gives Naples its first modern government with a mayor and councilmen.

1815 After the fall of Napoleon, the Bourbons return to power but do not dismantle the reforms initiated by Murat.

1820-1821 Insurrections against the Bourbon government, triggered by liberal thinkers and the "carboneria," move Ferdinand I to suspend all constitutional rights in favor of absolutism.

1825-1830 The brief reign of Francis I.

1850-1859 Ferdinand II becomes King of Naples.He favored some industrialization through public initiative; but his attempts at creating a better government were hampered by his own reactionary politics.Like his grandfather (Ferdinand I) before him, Ferdinand II suspended constitution law, and ruled by royal decree.During this period, Naples’ cultural importance did not spread to Europe, as in previous centuries, but was limited to Italy.

1860 With the unification of Italy, Naples ceased to be a capital and thus was deprived of government and administrative jobs.This brought about a great loss of economic and political clout to the region, as well as an end to the modest gains made by the textile and steel industries.

After unification, Naples regained its importance as a cultural center.Italy's leading literary scholar during this period, Francesco De Sanctis, was a Neapolitan whose work helped reform the university curriculum. Savoring its newfound freedom of speech, the press became an important force in Neapolitan society: Matilde Serao (author of Il ventre di Napoli) and E. Scarfoglio were two of the city's best-known journalists.Other cultural developments included the founding of the Società Napoletana di Storia Patria (1875), the works of socialist philosopher A. Labriola, and the sociological studies of P. Villari, G. Fortunato, and F.S. Nitti. Schools of law, medicine, and mathematics also flourished during this period.

1904 Special laws were passed for the industrial development of Naples.

1914-1918 Naples experienced further industrial development during World War I.

1930's Naples produced arms and munitions during Fascism, and became a commercial center with economic ties to the Italian colonies in Africa.

1945-present: After World War II, construction and real estate continued to be important revenue-making business for both the established classes (aristocracy and "old money" middle-class) and the newer professional classes. This was partly due to the fact that Naples is the world's fifth densest city, making affordable housing hard to come by.The beautiful countryside around Naples has witnessed the worst of urban sprawl: today Naples is a "megalopoli" which spreads from Pozzuoli to Sorrento, and goes as far north as Caserta (once the royal residence of the Bourbon kings).

The steel industry has become important, especially at Bagnoli, as well as heavy machinery, automobiles (Alfa Romeo, which had been founded by a Neapolitan, opened a plant near Naples in the 1970's), petroleum, cement, chemical and pharmaceutical industries have developed alongside the more traditional canning and pasta businesses.Campania is the most industrialized region in southern Italy, but accounts for only about 5% of the nation's industries.Although there are several big industries, there are few mid-size industries in Campania; instead, we find many small family-run businesses.The service sector is high but inefficient: one third of the service sector consists of local and regional government jobs rather than service jobs associated with industry, commerce, and tourism.

The most important cultural figure in 20th century Naples was Benedetto Croce (1866-1952).Besides being one of Europe's greatest philosophers, he was also a leading anti-Fascist.Other important Neapolitan writers include the playwright Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1985), dialect poet Salvatore Di Giacomo (1860-1934), and novelists Domenico Rea, Michele Prisco, L. Incoronato, G. Marotta, L. Compagnone, and M. Pomilio.