Naples (Italian: Napoli [ˈnaːpoli] ( listen), Neapolitan: Napule [ˈnaːpələ]; Latin: Neapolis; Ancient Greek: Νεάπολις, meaning «new city») is the capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy, after Rome and Milan. As of 2012, around 960,000 people live within the city’s administrative limits. The Naples urban area, covering 1,023 km2 (395 sq mi), has a population of between 3 million and 3.7 million, and is the 8th-most populous urban area in the European Union. Between 4.1 and 4.9 million people live in the Naples metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea.
Naples is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established on the site in the 2nd millennium BC, with a larger mainland colony – initially known as Parthenope – developing around the 9th–8th centuries BC, at the end of the Greek Dark Ages. The city was refounded as Neápolis in the 6th century BC and became a lynchpin of Magna Graecia, playing a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society and eventually becoming a cultural centre of the Roman Republic. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Thereafter, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861. During the Neapolitan War of 1815, Naples strongly promoted Italian unification.
Naples was the most-bombed Italian city during World War II. Much of the city’s 20th-century periphery was constructed under Benito Mussolini’s fascist government, and during reconstruction efforts after World War II. In recent decades, Naples has constructed a large business district, the Centro Direzionale, and has developed an advanced transport infrastructure, including an Alta Velocità high-speed rail link to Rome and Salerno, and an expanded subway network, which is planned to eventually cover half of the region. The city has experienced significant economic growth in recent decades, and unemployment levels in the city and surrounding Campania have decreased since 1999. However, Naples is still characterized by political and economic corruption and a thriving black market, and unemployment levels remain high.
Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world’s 103rd-richest city by purchasing power, with an estimated 2011 GDP of US$83.6 billion. The port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe, and has the world’s second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. Numerous major Italian companies, such as MSC Cruises Italy S.p.A, are headquartered in Naples. The city also hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Centre. Naples is a full member of the Eurocities network of European cities. The city was selected to become the headquarters of the European institution ACP/UE and as a City of Literature by UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. The Villa Rosebery, one of the three official residences of the President of Italy, is located in the city’s Posillipo district.
Naples’ historic city centre is the largest in Europe, covering 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres), and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Over the course of its long history, Naples has been the capital of duchies, kingdoms, and one Empire, and has consistently been a major cultural centre with a global sphere of influence, particularly during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. In the immediate vicinity of Naples are numerous sites of great cultural and historical significance, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Culinarily, the city is synonymous with pizza, which originated in the city. Neapolitan music has furthermore been highly influential, credited with the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin, as well as notable contributions to opera and folk standards. Popular characters and historical figures who have come to symbolise the city include Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, the comic figure Pulcinella, and the Sirens from the Greek epic poem the Odyssey.
The Naples area has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. The earliest Greek settlements were established in the Naples region in the 2nd millennium BC. Sailors from the Greek island of Rhodes established a small commercial port on the island of Megaride in the 9th century BC. In the 8th century BC, a larger settlement called Parthenope (Παρθενόπη) was founded by settlers from Cumae as part of Italy’s Magna Graecia region of Greek colonisation. In the 6th century BC, after the decline of Parthenope, the new urban zone of Neápolis (Νεάπολις) was founded, eventually becoming one of the foremost cities of Magna Graecia.
The new city grew rapidly due to the influence of the powerful Greek city-state of Syracuse, and became an ally of the Roman Republic against Carthage; the strong walls surrounding Neápolis stopped the invading forces of the Carthaginian general Hannibal from entering. During the Samnite Wars, the city, now a bustling centre of trade, was captured by the Samnites; however, the Romans soon captured the city from them and made it a Roman colony.
Naples was greatly respected by the Romans as a paragon of Hellenistic culture. During the Roman era, the people of Naples maintained their Greek language and customs, while the city was expanded with elegant Roman villas, aqueducts, and public baths. Landmarks such as the Temple of Dioscures were built, and many powerful emperors chose to holiday in the city, including Claudius and Tiberius. Naples became a major Roman cultural centre; Virgil, the author of Rome’s national epic, the Aeneid, received part of his education in the city, and later resided in its environs.
It was during this period that Christianity first arrived in Naples; the apostles Peter and Paul are said to have preached in the city. St. Januarius, who would become Naples’ patron saint, was martyred there in the 4th century AD. The last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustulus, was exiled to Naples by the Germanic king Odoacer in the 5th century AD.
The Gothic Battle of Mons Lactarius on Vesuvius, painted by Alexander Zick.
Following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Naples was captured by the Ostrogoths, a Germanic people, and incorporated into the Ostrogothic Kingdom. However, Belisarius of the Byzantine Empire recaptured Naples in 536, after entering the city via the aqueduct.
As the Gothic Wars of the mid-6th century wore on, Totila briefly took the city for the Ostrogoths in 543, before, finally, the Battle of Mons Lactarius on the slopes of Vesuvius left the Byzantines in control of the area. Naples was expected to keep in contact with the Exarchate of Ravenna, which was the centre of Byzantine power on the Italian peninsula.
After the exarchate fell, a Duchy of Naples was created. Although Naples’ Greco-Roman culture endured, it eventually switched allegiance from Constantinople to Rome under Duke Stephen II, putting it under papal suzerainty by
The years between 818 and 832 were tumultuous in regard to Naples’ relations with the Byzantine Emperor, with numerous local pretenders feuding for possession of the ducal throne.Theoctistus was appointed without imperial approval; this was later revoked and Theodore II took his place. However, the disgruntled general populace chased him from the city, and instead elected Stephen III, a man who minted coins with his own initials, rather than those of the Byzantine Emperor. Naples gained complete independence by the early 9th century.
The duchy was under the direct control of the Lombards for a brief period, after the capture by Pandulf IV of the Principality of Capua, a long-term rival of Naples; however, this regime lasted only three years before the Greco-Roman-influenced dukes were reinstated. By the 11th century, Naples had begun to hire Norman merecenaries, the Christian descendants of the Vikings, to battle their rivals; Duke Sergius IV hired Rainulf Drengot to wage war on Capua for him.
By 1137, the Normans had attained great influence in Italy, controlling previously independent principalities and duchies such as Capua, Benevento, Salerno, Amalfi, Sorrento and Gaeta; it was in this year that Naples, the last independent duchy in the southern part of the peninsula, came under Norman control. The last ruling duke of the duchy, Sergius VII, was forced to surrender to Roger II, who had proclaimed himself King of Sicily seven years earlier; Naples thus joined the Kingdom of Sicily, where Palermo was the capital.
After a period of Norman rule, the Kingdom of Sicily went to the Hohenstaufens, a German royal house. The University of Naples Federico II, the oldest state university in the world, was founded by Frederick II, making Naples the intellectual centre of the kingdom. Conflict between the Hohenstaufens and the Papacy led in 1266 to Pope Innocent IV crowning the Angevin duke Charles I King of Sicily: Charles officially moved the capital from Palermo to Naples, where he resided at the Castel Nuovo. During this period, many examples of Gothic architecture sprang up around Naples, including the Naples Cathedral, which remains the city’s main church.
In 1282, after the Sicilian Vespers, the Kingdom of Sicily was split in half. The Angevin Kingdom of Naples included the southern part of the Italian peninsula, while the island of Sicily became the Aragonese Kingdom of Sicily. Wars between the competing dynasties continued until the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw Frederick III recognized as king of Sicily, while Charles II was recognised as king of Naples by Pope Boniface VIII. Despite the split, Naples grew in importance, attracting Pisan and Genoese merchants,Tuscan bankers, and some of the most prominent Renaissance artists of the time, such as Boccaccio, Petrarch and Giotto. During the 14th century, the Hungarian Angevin king Louis the Great captured the city several times. In 1442, Alfonso I conquered Naples after his victory against the last Angevin king, René, and Naples was unified with Sicily again for a brief period.
Sicily and Naples were separated in 1458, but remained dependencies of Aragon under Ferdinand I. The new dynasty enhanced Naples’ commercial standing by establishing relations with the Iberian peninsula. Naples also became a centre of the Renaissance, with artists such as Laurana, da Messina, Sannazzaro and Poliziano arriving in the city. In 1501, Naples came under direct rule from France under Louis XII, with the Neapolitan king Frederick being taken as a prisoner to France; however, this state of affairs did not last long, as Spain won Naples from the French at the Battle of Garigliano in 1503.
Following the Spanish victory, Naples became part of the Spanish Empire, and remained so throughout the Spanish Habsburg period. The Spanish sent viceroys to Naples to directly deal with local issues: the most important of these viceroys was Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, who was responsible for considerable social, economic and urban reforms in the city; he also supported the activities of the Inquisition.
By the 17th century, Naples had become Europe’s 2nd-largest city – second only to London – and the largest European Mediterranean city, with around 250,000 inhabitants. The city was a major cultural centre during the Baroque era, being home to artists such as Caravaggio, Salvator Rosa and Bernini, philosophers such as Bernardino Telesio, Giordano Bruno, Tommaso Campanella and Giambattista Vico, and writers such as Giambattista Marino. A revolution led by the local fisherman Masaniello saw the creation of a brief independent Neapolitan Republic in 1647, though this lasted only a few months before Spanish rule was reasserted. In 1656, an outbreak of bubonic plague killed about half of Naples’ 300,000 inhabitants.
In 1714, Spanish rule over Naples came to an end as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession; the Austrian Charles VI ruled the city from Vienna through viceroys of his own. However, the War of the Polish Succession saw the Spanish regain Sicily and Naples as part of a personal union, with the 1738 Treaty of Vienna recognising the two polities as independent under a cadet branch of the Spanish Bourbons.
During the time of Ferdinand IV, the effects of the French Revolution were felt in Naples: Horatio Nelson, an ally of the Bourbons, even arrived in the city in 1798 to warn against the French republicans. Ferdinand was forced to retreat and fled to Palermo, where he was protected by a British fleet. However, Naples’ lower class lazzaroni were strongly pious and royalist, favouring the Bourbons; in the mêlée that followed, they fought the Neapolitan pro-Republican aristocracy, causing a civil war.
On the beach in Naples, a 19th-century painting by Oswald Achenbach.
Eventually, the Republicans conquered Castel Sant’Elmo and proclaimed a Parthenopaean Republic, secured by the French Army. A counter-revolutionary religious army of lazzaroni known as the sanfedisti under Fabrizio Ruffo was raised; they met with great success, and the French were forced to surrender the Neapolitan castles, with their fleet sailing back to Toulon.
Ferdinand IV was restored as king; however, after only seven years Napoleon conquered the kingdom and installed Bonapartist kings, including his brother Joseph Bonaparte. With the help of the Austrian Empire and its allies, the Bonapartists were defeated in the Neapolitan War, and Ferdinand IV once again regained the throne and the kingdom. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 saw the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily combined to form the Two Sicilies, with Naples as the capital city. In 1839, Naples became the first city on the Italian peninsula to have a railway, with the construction of the Naples–Portici railway.
After the Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, which culminated in the controversial Siege of Gaeta, Naples became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 as part of the Italian unification, ending the era of Bourbon rule. The kingdom of the Two Sicilies had been wealthy, and as many as 443.2 million ducats were taken from the old kingdom’s banks as a contribution to the new Italian treasury. The economy of the area formerly known as the Two Sicilies collapsed, leading to an unprecedented wave of emigration, with an estimated 4 million people emigrating from the Naples area between 1876 and 1913.
In 1884, Naples fell victim to a major cholera epidemic, caused largely by the city’s poor sewerage infrastructure. Government measures to improve sanitary conditions in the Neapolitan slums in 1885 proved largely ineffective. During the early 20th century, efforts to industrialise the city were likewise hampered by administrative corruption and a lack of infrastructure. Facing a slumping economy, many poorer Neapolitans emigrated northwards, or headed overseas to the United States and Argentina.
Naples was the most-bombed Italian city of World War II. Though Neapolitans did not rebel under Italian Fascism, Naples was the first Italian city to rise up against German military occupation; the city was completely freed by 1 October 1943, when British and American forces entered the city. The symbol of the rebirth of Naples was the rebuilding of the church of Santa Chiara, which had been destroyed in a United States Army Air Corps bombing raid.
Special funding from the Italian government’s Fund for the South was provided from 1950 to 1984, helping the Neapolitan economy to improve somewhat, with city landmarks such as the Piazza del Plebiscito being renovated. However, high unemployment and waste management problems continue to affect Naples; Italian media have attributed the city’s waste disposal issues to the activity of the Camorra organised crime network. In 2007, Silvio Berlusconi’s government held senior meetings in Naples to demonstrate their intention to solve these problems. However, the late-2000s recession had a severe impact on the city, intensifying its waste-management and unemployment problems. By August 2011, the number of unemployed in the Naples area had risen to 250,000, sparking public protests against the economic situation. In June 2012, allegations of blackmail, extortion and illicit contract tendering emerged in relation to the city’s waste management issues.
Naples hosted the 63rd International Astronautical Congress in October 2012, and will also be the host of the 2013 Universal Forum of Cultures. The city additionally hosted the 6th World Urban Forum in September 2012.