Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Liguria knew the presence of man in very remote times. Traces of Neanderthal Man were discovered in the region of Loano, whereas in Ventimiglia, in the grotto of "Balzi Rossi", numerous remains were found which recall those of Cro-Magnon Man. According to the written sources we have about the settlements of the Ligurians, the presence of this people of Mediterranean origin dates back to the first millennium B.C. on a vast territory including most of north-western Italy. This people, were divided into several tribes, numbering less than two hundred thousand.

During the first Punic War the ancient Ligurians were divided into mostly Carthage’s allies, with a minority becoming Rome’s allies, including the future Genoese. After the Roman conquest of the region, the so-called X regio, named Liguria, was created in the reign of Emperor Augustus, when Liguria was expanded from the coast to the banks of Po River. The great Roman roads (Aurelia and Julia Augusta on the coast, Postumia and Aemilia Scauri towards the inland) helped strengthen the territorial unity and increase exchanges and trade. Important towns developed on the coast, of which evidences are left in the ruins of Albenga, Ventimiglia and Luni. Between the IV and the X centuries Liguria was dominated by the Byzantine, the Lombards of King Rothari (about 641) and the Franks (about 774) and it was invaded by the Saracens and the Normans. In the X century, once decreased the danger of pirates, the Ligurian territory was divided into three marches: Obertenga (east), Arduinica (west) and Aleramica (centre). In the XI and XII centuries the marches were split into feuds, however, with the strengthening of the bishops’ power, the feudal structure of feuds weakened. The main Ligurian towns, especially on the coast, became city-states, over which Genoa soon extended its rule, whereas for a very long time the inland remained split up into feuds belonging to noble families.
Between the XI century (when the Genoese ships played a major role in the first crusade) and the XV century the Republic of Genoa experienced an extraordinary political and commercial ascent (mainly spice trades with the Orient) and it was the most powerful maritime republic in the Mediterranean from the XII to the XIV century, as is proven by its victorious resistance against Emperor Frederick Redbeard and by the Genoese presence in the nerve centres of power during the last phase of the Byzantine empire. After the introduction of the title of doge for life (1339) and the election of Simone Boccanegra, Genoa resumed its struggles against the Marquis of Finale and the Earls of Laigueglia and it conquered again the territories of Finale, Oneglia and Porto Maurizio. In spite of its military and commercial successes, Genoa fell prey to the internal factions.

In this state of weakness the rule of the republic was given to the Visconti family of Milan. After their expulsion by the popular forces under Boccanegra’s lead, the republic remained in Genoese hands until 1396, when the internal instability led the doge Antoniotto Adorno to surrender the title of Seignior of Genoa to the king of France. Also the French were driven away in 1409 and Liguria went back under Milan’s control in 1421, thus remaining until 1435. The alternation of French and Milanese dominions over Liguria went on until the first half of the XVI century. The French influence ceased in 1528, when Andrea Doria became the prestigious ally of the powerful king of Spain and imposed an aristocratic government which gave the republic a relative stability during about 250 years.
The impoverishment of the commercial lines with the Orient forced the Ligurian notables to engage, since then, in financial speculation. The international crises of the XVII century, which ended for Genoa with the bombing (1684) by King Louis XIV’s fleet, restored the French influence over the republic. Right because of this influence, the Ligurian territory was traversed by the Piedmontese and Austrian armies when these two states came into conflict with Versailles. The limit was reached with the Austrian occupation of Genoa in 1746. The Habsburgic troops were driven away by a popular insurrection in the same year. Napoleon’s first Italy campaign marked the end of the secular republic which, by the Emperor’s will, was transformed into Ligurian Republic , according to the model of the French Republic. After the union of Oneglia and Loano (1801), Liguria was annexed to the French Empire (1805) and divided by Napoleon into three departments: Montenotte, with capital Savona, Genoa and the department of the Apennines, with capital Chiavari.
After a short period of independence in 1814, the Congress of Vienna (1815) decided that Liguria should be annexed to the kingdom of Sardinia. The Genoese upraising against the House of Savoy in 1821, which was put down with great bloodshed, aroused the population’s national sentiments. Some of the most prestigious figures of the Risorgimento were born in Liguria (Mazzini, Garibaldi, Mameli, Bixio). In the first years of the century the region’s economic growth was remarkable: a lot of industries flourished from Imperia to La Spezia. During the tragic period of World War Two Liguria experienced hunger and two years of occupation by the German troops, against whom a liberation struggle was led among the most effective in Italy, when allied troops finally reached it they were welcomed by partisans which, in a successful insurrection, had freed the city and accepted the surrender of the local German command. For this feat the city has been awarded the gold medal for military valour.

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