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The peninsulaís first inhabitants comprised Celts, Etruscans and Greeks who founded their first colonies in southern Italy. Alba longa was founded in the 10th century BC and was a large metropolis until it was annexed by Rome in 666 BC.
This marked the rise of the Roman Republic that dominated Europe, Asia and Africa until the 5th century AD and for a while was the mightiest nation on earth. Throughout the Middle Ages, Italy was racked by regional rivalry and war between small states.
Starting in the 16th century, Italy became the stage for the wars of conquest sparked by foreign powers (Spain, France and Germany ). Following Napoleonís death in 1821 and a period of turmoil, Italy, with Rome as its capital, was united to include the Holy See under the leadership of the kingdom of Sardinia.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Italy became a colonial power, conquering among others Eritrea, Somalia und Libya.
Due to the weak national economy after the end of the First World War, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was able to seize power. Italy fought in the Second World War as an ally of the Nazi regime, but was eventually defeated by the allies, which led to Mussoliniís resignation. In its first ever free referendum, the people of Italy voted in favour of proclaiming a republic, after which a new constitution was drafted.
And so Italy remains to this very day. During the last referendum held in 2001, Silvio Berlusconi was voted in as the new head of government, the president is Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.