A Brief History of Naples

August 7, 2006

Naples,  A Brief History
Naples is the regional capital of Campania, a southern Italy region.
Its inhabitants are over a million and they reach three millions in the
whole metropolitan area. Naples has always had a world fame for the
brightful image of its gulf dominated by the volcano Vesuvio.
Naples was founded in the eighth century before Christ by greek colonists
The town was in the beginning called Partenope (VII b.C.) and then
Neapolis (Vb.C.). Naples importance grew with the Romans who endowed it
with large roads and commercial infrastructures whose witnesses are the
archeological findings in Naples, Campi Flegrei, Pompei, Oplonti, Ercolano,
Capri. As a first one mayquote the so called “Castel dell’Ovo” (Egg
Castle) which was built on the isletnamed Megaride, the ancient site of the
“Villa diLucullo”. During the centuries Naples has passed through several
foreign dominations keeping nonetheless the role of the most important town
of southern Italy. In every corner of the town a visitor may discover the
traces of many different cultures.
From the fifth century to the 1000 Naples is ruled by barbarians,
Longobards, Byzantines and other populations, Italic also. In the meanwhile
norman domination of southern Italy expanded to the point of unifying in
1130 all southern Italy in one kingdom; in politics as well as in the
administration the feudal system was predominating: all the aspects of life
were based on the castle life. In 1224 Frederick II founded the University
of Naples.
From 1266 to 1442 Naples is ruled by the french dinasty of the Anjevins
(Carlo,Roberto, Giovanna…). We have many historical, literary and
enviromental traces of that period, such as the castle “Maschio Angioino”
which was renamed “Castel Nuovo” (New Castle) during the following
Aragonese dominiation (Alfonso andFerrante of Aragon). Visitors may admire the
enchanting triumph arch of Alfonsoof Aragon which was built at the entry of
the castle to celebrate the aragonese victory against the Anjevins (1442).
From 1503 to 1707 the kingdom of Naples is ruled by the Spanish;
more preciselyit loses his quality of a Kingdom, being administrated by
spanish Viceroys. During the Viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo (one of the
most famous) the town was reorganized and many streets were built or
rebuilt, such as the famous via Toledo, which is now one of the most
crowded streets of Naples centre. The wholetown changes look under Pedro de Toledo:
it is now enlarged, new walls and gatesare built, the number of churchs and
buildings significatively increases. Themost important evenements in this
period are: the beginning of the building of the fortress “CastelSant’Elmo”
(1534) and of the Royal Palace (1600), the eruption of the volcano Vesuvio,
the revolt leaded by the fisherman Masanielloin 1647, the pestilence in
1647, which was followed by a strong earthquake.
In 1734 after a short period of austrian viceroyalty, begins the
rule of the Borbone dinasty which gives to Naples a great splendour. Maria
Amalia and Carlodi Borbone (1734-1759) are enlightened soverigns who open
to Europe the kingdom gates. They give rise to the royal palaces of Caserta
and Capodimonte, to the San Carlo theatre, to the Albergo dei Poveri (a
charitable institution). In thearts they give rise to the famous
“Collezione Farnese”  the art of porcelainreaches its top.
Between the end of 17th century and the 18th century Naples obtains a
leading position in the musical field as well; not only for the
“Opera seria” but mostlyfor the “Opera Buffa”. Provenzale, Scarlatti,
Pergolesi, Porpora, Piccinni, Jommelli, Traetta, Di Majo, Paisiello,
Cimarosa are among the most famousmusicians belonging to the neapolitan
musical tradition.
The eight years old Ferdinando succeeds to Carlo di Borbone who
ruled from 1759to1825, with two temporary interruptions. In 1799 Naples
experiences a revolutionary attempt to create a Neapolitan Republic
(Repubblica Partenopea), after the French Revolution, but it is bound to be
just a temporary interruption of the Borbone dinasty rule: intellectuals
and very famous members of the various fields of neapolitan culture take part
in the revolution which miserably ends with a bloody repression and the death
of many of them.
In the period between 1806 and 1815 Naples is temporarily
ruled by France withGiuseppe Bonaparte and Gioacchino Murat. During these
years starts the buildingor modernization of many important public
structures such as the “Orto Botanico” (Botanical Gardens), the
“Osservatorio Astronomico” (Observatory), the actual “Conservatorio di San
Pietro a Majella” (Music Conservatory of San Pietro aMajella), while the
“Piazza del Plebiscito” is definitely fixed up in its actualaspect with the
elliptical portico of the church of San Francesco di Paola, in front of the
Royal Palace.
Ferdinando di Borbone is followed by Francesco I (1825-30) and Ferdinando
II(1830-59). The latter is very famous for having strongly promoted
industry andtecnology: in 1839 Naples has namely the first railway in Italy which
links Naples to Portici.
Francesco II (1859-60) is the last neapolitan king: in 1860
Garibaldi, coming toNaples with his army from Sicily annexes the town to
the kingdom of Italy, under the rule of the Savoia dinasty (Turin).
Naples as a town of great attraction for its traditions and natural
beauties hasbeen described in essays and letters by many foreign visitors
who in the pastreached the town facing long and dangerous journeys. Naples
image has been madeimmortal by the works of painters, musicians and poets
who have always beeninspired by the town since its ancient times.
Historical traces are evident in the structures of the streets in the centre of
the town, in the buildings, inthe estates, in the churches, in the cloisters,
in the places and of course inthe museums. Among the many museums in Naples
the National Archaeological Museums, the “Reggia di Capodimonte”, “Palazzo
Reale” and the museum of SanMartino are the most important as to quantity
and variety of works inexhibition. A unique typology is represented by
the Botanical Gardens and the 19th century Aquarium which hosts only flora
and fauna coming from the gulf of Naples.

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3 Responses to “A Brief History of Naples”

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