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Perugia History, Italy

The city that is now known as Perugia, Italy was most likely settled by the Umbrians who were the residents of what is now Italy during ancient times.  At some point, the city came to be under the control of the Etruscans and was one of their most important cities.  By this time, the city had been named Perusia.

In the earliest years of the Roman Empire, Perusia’s relationship with Rome went through many phases, including counting Rome as an enemy and then behaving as their ally.  At one point the city was even burned.  This went on until Perusia became an official Roman colony, Colonia Vibia Augusta Perusia, in the mid-3rd century A.D. 

Little else is stated about the city in historical documents until 547 A.D. when it was destroyed by the Ostrogoths.  This battle took place after a long siege in which the Byzantine, or later Roman era, armies fled the city.  Herculanus, the city’s bishop, was left to negotiate with the Ostrogoth armies and he was, instead, beheaded.  He was eventually made the patron saint of Perugia. 

The city eventually came to be controlled by the popes, but during the 11th century  A.D. Perugia’s local government, or comune, began to assert itself and finally gained a somewhat sovereign state.  This independence led to many wars with neighboring cities and even with Pope Urban V after he tried to force contributions to the failing Roman republic.  This latter war ended in 1370 when the nobility of Perugia signed the Treaty of Bologna and placed the city under the power of the popes once again.

Over the following two or three centuries, Perugia experienced wars and much violence.  Not only was their unrest between the upper and lower classes during the 14th century, but there were also many power struggles in the early 15th century relating to the Great Italian Wars between many cities, the popes, and other powerful European countries in which Perugia was passed from ruler to ruler.  The city finally attained a phase of peaceful government under the rule of a mercenary, Braccio da Montone, who had reached an agreement with the papal powers. 

Perugia became the capital of the Tiberina Republic after the area was conquered by the French in 1797.  The Tiberina Republic was united with the Roman Republic in 1799, but after the fall of the republic the area was taken by Austria.  After a short stint of rebellion against papal authority, Perugia, along with the surrounding region of Umbria, was finally inducted into the Kingdom of Italy.

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