The Animated History of Italy | Part 1


This video is kindly sponsored by the Great Courses Plus. Use the URL “TheGreatCoursesPlus.com/Suibhne” to support the channel and receive a free trial membership. Romulus and Remus, warrior twins from the Latin tribe, founded a city on seven hills. Enraged by jealousy and blinded by ambition, Romulus killed his brother and named the city after himself: Rome. This civil conflict between brothers would go on to define Italy’s history, with civil war playing a large part in shaping the nation we see today The Italian peninsula was a thriving hotbed of prehistoric civilizations, with all the basics of Bronze Age societies, such as metalwork and agriculture. By the time the Iron Age came around in the eighth century, these had coalesced into two dominant cultures: the Etruscans in the north and the Greeks in the South, who had settled the area slowly over time. These two shared writing, religion, and culture with one another, having a massive influence over Italy. Their culture wouldn’t last very long, however, because they were soon to be eclipsed by… Founded on the river between the Etruscans and a tribe called the Latins, Rome soon prospered and grew very powerful, largely thanks to its strategic and defensible location. And they were ruled by seven legendary kings. The last of these kings, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, also known as the bad one, was overthrown by the people when his son raped a nobleman’s wife. The scandal would force monarchy out of Rome, eventually collapsing the Roman Kingdom completely. In its place, the republic was born, ruled not by a king, but rather two consuls selected by the Senate. Roman society was divided into two parts: the patricians, who were nobles, and the plebeians, everyone else, who were represented in the Senate by an elected office called the Tribune. The Tribune was granted the power of veto, meaning the patrician Senate and the plebeians often had to work together on policies that benefited both classes, contributing to Rome’s success. Under the Republican system, Rome prospered. They expanded their territory through both conquest and alliance, often being reluctantly dragged into wars in defense of one of its allies, who then made territorial concessions or became a client state in return. This cycle continued, and soon, Rome became the ruling state over most of Italy, and Latin became the lingua franca, or common tongue. A rather small domestic dispute in the city-states of Sicily dragged Rome into an open conflict with Carthage, known as the First Punic War, which they ultimately won. The political fallout from this war was immense, and the two sides hated each other from that day forward. After two more Punic Wars in which Rome was very nearly defeated by the Carthaginian leader Hannibal, Rome destroyed Carthage and annexed most of her territories. The Senate became more and more interested in securing Rome’s place in the Mediterranean Basin to ensure another Hannibal never threatened Rome again. This would bring them to war with the three dominant Greek kingdoms. The city of Carthage and Corinth were both completely destroyed in 146 BC, and Rome became the undisputed naval power of the Mediterranean. Fast forwarding a bit to everyone’s favorite, Gaius Julius Caesar. An ambitious politician and military leader, Caesar eventually landed a gig as the governor of Gaul. When recalled to Rome for his abundant abuses of power, Caesar made a huge power grab in returning to Italy with an army, plunging Rome into civil war after Pompey’s death, Caesar attained all political positions he could, effectively becoming a dictator and emperor. As you may remember, the Romans weren’t all too fond of monarchy, so you can guess what happened. With Caesar’s corpse on the Roman Senate, the nation was again plunged into civil war between Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, and Mark Antony, paving the way not only for the Roman Empire, but also two very interesting Shakespeare ripoffs Octavian, the winner, was renamed Augustus, and his reign would soon be followed by the continuation of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and a two-century-long absence of war called the Pax Romana, the Roman peace, interrupted only occasionally by a few Emperors whose mental faculties have been called into question. Rome became the birthplace of the Roman Catholic Church. Ironically, however, in the early days, Italy was very unsafe for Christians, who were frequently persecuted and blamed for many tragedies, including a great fire in the heart of Rome. After one succession crisis, the Flavian dynasty was established, ushering in a new era famous for making Italy more diverse and multicultural and the building of its most famous monument, the Colosseum, Giving the Roman people the two simplest of life’s pleasures: Panem et Circenses (bread and circuses). A volcano also destroyed the city of Pompeii, but I don’t think the Flavians had anything to do with that. The Flavians were replaced by the Nerva-Antonine dynasty, famous for its five good emperors. Rome reached its zenith under this period, both culturally and territorially. Commodus, the last of this dynasty, was assassinated by a gladiator named Narcissus, beginning, you guessed it, yet another succession crisis. The Severan dynasty would usher in a period called the Crisis of the Third Century, where the number one cause of death for Roman emperors became assassination, not exactly a recipe for political stability. Rome would soon become very decentralized with time, being victims of globalization, cheap slave labor, inflation, and legionaries of barbarians who were more loyal to their generals who paid them than to Rome. 26 emperors were proclaimed in half a century, and the empire became politically split in half, and even the capital of the empire was moved to the Greek city Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople, illustrating just how volatile the city of Rome was becoming. Huns and Germanic tribes began to raid and sack the western half almost routinely, and the combined army were less able to mount a significant defense using their legions since, hey, what did Rome ever do for them? The Empire in the west would soon collapse completely by the fifth century. In its place, the barbarian Odoacer set up the more recognizable Kingdom of Italy, soon ruled by the Germanic Ostrogoths. the Ostrogothic kingdom began a cultural exchange between the Latin and Germanic world, leaving huge imprints, especially in northern Italy, where they had established deeper roots. The empire, however, continued to live on in the east. Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian, with dreams of uniting the empire, conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom in 553, once again bringing the Roman imperial light back to Italy and back to Rome Much of the research and inspiration for this video was done using the Great Courses Plus series, “The Rise of Rome,” by Professor Gregory Aldrete, chronologically uncovering the intricate details of Rome’s political and military history, leading it to eventually dominate the western world. With over 9,000 lectures available now with new optimization for the UK and Australia, the Great Courses Plus has something for everyone. An online, on-demand video learning service with experts from Ivy League universities, National Geographic, and so much more. You can watch the “Rise of Rome” series or anything else you’re interested in at no cost to you by heading to TheGreatCourses Plus.com/Suibhne, or click the link below to access your free trial and support the Suibhne channel by doing so. Thanks to he Great Courses Plus for their support. So that was part one of Italy. For those of you still waiting for Poland part three, I promise I’ll do it. I just need to take a break from that topic for a while. I was having trouble writing the script for it, and I thought that if I give it some space, I can return to it later with a clearer head and hopefully bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Thank you all for the patience. If you liked the show, like and subscribe or support the show on Patreon. Until next time.

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