Verona History, Italy
The origins of Verona, Italy are as ancient as they are unknown. Scholars attribute the building of the original city to several different ancient peoples who occupied parts of Europe and the Mediterranean, such as the Euganei and the Raetians; it is difficult to know who is right, however. During the first century B.C., the city was already powerful, well-established, and an ally of the Roman Empire. This was due partly to its location since it sat not only near the crossroads between four major trade routes but also because it was near a major ford in the Adige River.
In 89 B.C., Verona was finally added to the Roman Empire and within 40 years it was one of the most important Roman cities in the area. Because of this, it was the home to many emperors and the site of much political unrest, including civil wars. During the first four centuries A.D., the citizens of Verona became converted to Christianity. During this time, the general beliefs of the people varied. For instance, at one time they were more inclined to listen to the words of men like Arius and Fotinus whose beliefs were considered heretical. Under the Veronese bishop, St. Zeno, the beliefs of many of the people were changed to match more with the Church.
At the beginning of the 5th century A.D., the Roman Empire had already begun to decline. During this century, Verona was the target of invasion by both the Visigoths and the Huns. In 476 A.D., the Roman Empire had officially fallen and the Germanic leader Odoacer became the new ruler of Verona. He was defeated by the Ostrogoths in 489 A.D. The Goths ruled Italy until 554 A.D. and after that the city of Verona was held by the Byzantine Empire and then by the Lombards. Verona was an important city under the Lombards, a Germanic people, and is the site where the last Lombardian prince made his final stand against Charlemagne.
At that point, the government of Verona became hereditary beginning with the family of Count Milo. This lasted from 774 A.D. to 1100 A.D. when the counts were overpowered by the wealthy local officials in Verona and the city came under the rule of elected local leaders, or podestas. Beginning in 1226, the city suffered through two podestas, Ezzelino III da Romano and Mastino I della Scala, who tried to take permanent rule of the city for themselves. This led to civil unrest and eventually to war with the nobles and ended with the grandson of Mastino becoming prince of Verona. He and his nephews conquered much of Northern Italy and created a small, but incredibly wealthy, kingdom for their family.
This kingdom ended in 1387, however, after war with neighboring cities, tyranny, and fratricide amongst the ruling brothers weakened it. After that the city was ruled in quick succession by important families in Milan, Padua, and Venice. Finally, in 1490, the city came under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire; but was then passed to Spain, France, and back to Venice. Under the rule of the Venetian Republic, the city grew, prospered, and became an important cultural center in Northern Italy. The city was made into a major stronghold and more than sufficiently fortified. A tragic setback to the city’s growth came in 1626 when an outbreak of the bubonic plague more than cut the city’s population in half, killing around 35,000 people.
After almost 250 years of peace in Verona, the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Venetian Republic in 1797. Verona was then handed back and forth between Napoleon’s Kingdom of Italy and Austria via treaties and war. In 1866, Austria lost all of Venetia, including Verona, to the Italian Republic, or Italy.
After finally becoming an official Italian city, Verona suffered two major tragedies. The first was a flood in 1882 which swept away many of the buildings on the river front and led to the building of river banks. The second was excessive bombing and other destructions during World War II.
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