A brief history of Naples

The history of present day Naples starts with the foundation of the city of Parthenope by Greek colonizers. After the destruction of this settlement, it was reconstructed as Neopolis.

A brief history of Naples

Earliest history

The oldest archaeological finds on the territory of present day Naples date back to the Neolithic period.

In the late 8th century BC, when Greek colonizers from Rhodes arrived in the area, they founded the city of of Parthenope on top of the Pizzofalcone Hill. This city was destroyed by the Etruscans in the 4th century AD. The Cumans, however, won the war and rebuilt the city in a more protected position. They named it Neapolis (“New City”). The name of the earlier city lives on in the nickname Partenopei for the inhabitants of Naples.

In 30 BC, Neapolis became a Roman municipio. Later, in the Imperial age, it became a colony.

King Odoacer coin
Coin with depiction of King Odoacer

After the fall of the Roman Empire of the west in 476, the city was occupied by Flavius Odoacer, a military man of barbarian descent, who became King of what is now Italy after having deposed the 12 year old Emperor Romulus Augustulus.

Middle ages

In 553, after a period during which the Goths had occupied the territory, the Byzantines took power. Neapolis became an autonomous duchy.

In 1130, the city became part of the Kingdom of Sicily, then under the Normans.

In 1194, Naples was conquered by troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. His successor Frederic II subsequently founded the University.

In 1282, under the House of Anjou, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Naples.

In 1442, the city came into the hands of the Aragon ruler Alfonso V (also known as Alfonso the Magnanimous).

Under Spanish rule, in 1503 Naples was demoted to province. Its political importance declined, which also led to a diminishing of its economic development.

History of Naples after the Middle Ages

An eruption of the Vesuvius in 1631 caused the death of around 3,000 people and the destruction of several small villages around the volcano.

In 1647, a revolt led to the short-lived creation of the Neapolitan Republic.

A plague epidemic in 1656 halved the population of the city, from 400,000 to 200,000 inhabitants.

In the first half of the 18th century, the Bourbon took over. The city entered a new period of prosperity and political prestige. The Bourbon managed to stay in power until 1860, when Naples became part of the newly founded Kingdom of Italy. (In January 1799, there was a brief revolt which led to the foundation of the Partenopean Republic, which was however quickly subdued.

During World War II Naples was bombed 120 times.

A terrible earthquake in 1980 cause severe damage in the city.