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In the twelfth century the Italian cities ruled by Holy Roman Empire campaigned for autonomy.
The result was that northern Italy became a group of independent kingdoms, republics and city-states.
A brief history of Italy in the Middle Ages begins with a series of invasions.
In 493, the Ostrogoths, an eastern Germanic tribe, conquered the Italian peninsula.
Both the Mediterranean and overland trade routes were also used as military and expansionist conduits over the centuries, as well as channels for the dissemination of culture and knowledge.
In the north of Italy, the Etruscan culture took hold around 800BC, while Greeks settled in southern Italy from 700 to 600BC, namely in Apulia, Calabria and Sicily (then known as Magna Graecia).
In 756, when the Franks (French) defeated the Lombards, they granted the popes authority over central Italy, and the Papal States were created.
The northern states of Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany were ruled by the Germanic Holy Roman Empire from 962.
Evidence of civilization has been found on the Italian peninsula dating far into pre-history.
Thousands of rock drawings discovered in the Alpine regions of Lombardy date from around 8,000 BC.
The movement also spread to Milan, Venice, and further north into Europe, influencing art, literature, philosophy, politics, science, religion and other intellectual arenas.