Italy in the Middle Ages
The Italian peninsula has a complicated political history during the medieval period, roughly defined as the time between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire AD 476 and the Italian Warsof 1494 to 1559, which resulted in Italy falling under foreign domination, at first under Habsburg Spain, throughout the early modern period.Late Antiquity in Italy lingered on into the 7th century under the Ostrogothic Kingdom and the Byzantine Empire under the Justinian dynasty, the Byzantine Papacy until the mid 8th century.The ""Middle Ages"" proper begin as the Byzantine Empire was weakening under the pressure of the Muslim conquests, and the Exarchate of Ravenna finally fell under Lombard rule in 751. Lombard rule ended with the invasion of Charlemagne in 773, who established the Kingdom of Italy and the Papal States. This set the precedent for the main political conflict in Italy over the following centuries, between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor, culminating with conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV and the latter's ""Walk to Canossa"" in 1077.The term ""Middle Ages"" itself ultimately derives from the description of the period of ""obscurity"" in Italian history during the 9th to 11th centuries, the saeculum obscurum or ""Dark Age"" of the Roman papacy as seen from the perspective of the 14th to 15th century Italian Renaissance.In the 11th century began a political development unique to Italy, the transformation of medieval communes into powerful city states modelled on ancient Roman Republicanism.The republics of Venice, Florence, Genoa, Pisa, among others, rose to great political power and paved the way for the Italian Renaissance and ultimately the ""European miracle"", the resurgence of Western civilization from comparative obscurity in the Early Modern period. On the other hand, the Italian city states were in a state of constant warfare, adding to and overlapping with the persistent conflict between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. Each city aligned itself with one faction or the other, yet was divided internally between the two warring parties, Guelfs (loyal to the Pope) and Ghibellines (loyal to the Emperor). Since the 13th century, these wars had increasingly been fought by mercenaries, giving rise to the Italian institution of condottieri and the Swiss mercenary culture.After the three decades of wars in Lombardy between the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice, there was eventually a balance of power between five emerging powerful states, which at the Peace of Lodi formed the so-called Italic League, bringing relative calm for the region for the first time in centuries. These five powers were the maritime republics of Venice and Florence, whose naval powers dominated the east and west coast of the peninsula, respectively, the territorial powers of Milan and the Papal States, dominating the northern and central parts of Italy, respectively, and the Kingdom of Naples in the south.The precarious balance between these powers came to an end in 1494 as the duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza sought the aid of Charles VIII of France against Venice, triggering the Italian War of 1494–98. As a result, Italy became a battleground of the great European powers for the next sixty years, finally culminating in the Italian War of 1551–59, which concluded with Habsburg Spain as the dominant power in Italy. The House of Habsburg would control Italy for the duration of the early modern period, until Napoleon's invasion of Italy in 1796.