Updated: Jan 25, 2022
Neapolis was founded by Cumaean settlers, who first settled in Partenope, the current Monte Echia or Pizzofalcone, already inhabited by Phoenicians and then, in the seventh century. BC Rhodian settlement. Later abandoned the original site, which was therefore called Palepoli, that is old city, the new city was founded around 470 BC: Neapolis.
Neapolis was founded by Cumaean settlers, who first settled in Partenope, the current Monte Echia or Pizzofalcone, already inhabited by Phoenicians and then, in the seventh century BC Rhodian settlement.
Later abandoned the original site, which was therefore called Palepoli, that is old city, the new city was founded around 470 BC: Neapolis.
It gradually welcomed new peoples and, at the fall of Cuma by the Samnites, the Cumaean refugees.
The city was made up of decumani and hinges (these were the names adopted in Roman times), that is roads that intersect in an orthogonal way. This system was called Hippodameus by Hippodamus of Miletus, a 5th century Greek architect. BC which seems to have invented this type of urban structure.
Besieged by the Romans, it was finally conquered by them in 328 BC and became an ally of Rome. It was in 90 BC a town hall, then a colony at the time of Claudius. Even during the domination of Rome, Naples preserved Greek customs and traditions, as well as the use of the Greek language.
For this reason the Romans, always attracted by Greek customs, as well as by the mild climate, settled more and more numerous in Naples, making the city, and some nearby sites, such as Baia, a very coveted center in which to reside.
Many rich and famous personalities had sumptuous residences built along the coasts, in the real center, in Posillipo and Baia.
The city was surrounded by mighty walls, tradition has it that not even Hannibal was able to penetrate the city, and then desisted from the siege.
Remains of Greek-Roman Naples in the current city are not very evident: the most impressive example of engineering is what is called the "underground Naples", which is formed by the system of aqueducts and cisterns which, built in the Greek era, and gradually enlarged in subsequent eras, they eventually allowed water to be supplied not only to the city, but also to the imperial fleet anchored in Miseno. This set of conduits, partly open to visitors, were used until the last century.
Other examples of Greco-Roman architecture can be found in the area of the ancient center: in via Anticaglia you can see brick arches, which are part of the ancient Greek theater. The remains of buildings from the Roman era can be visited at the Cathedral.
In the Campi Flegrei area, on the other hand, constructions of ancient times and real archaeological sites of world importance are more evident: Cuma, the amphitheater of Pozzuoli, the thermal baths of Baia, to name just some of the most important sites. The Crypta Neapolitan, located behind the church of Piedigrotta, near what tradition, since the Middle Ages, considered to be the tomb of the poet Virgil, dug into the tuff and more than seven hundred meters long, was built in the republican period by the architect Cocceio.
The latter is probably also the author of the other cave, called Seiano, which connects Posillipo, as already mentioned, in the area where numerous patrician residences stood, with the current Coroglio; thus allowing an easier journey to those who were headed to Pozzuoli and its port. The Crypta Neapolitan, on the other hand, was built to improve communications between the city of Naples and the Phlegraean area. It was used until the end of the nineteenth century.
As already mentioned, since the time of the Republic, but even more so during the Empire, numerous illustrious personalities settled along the coasts of the gulf: the Romans loved the baths and no place like Naples, especially the Campi Flegrei area, offered the presence of natural thermal sources that grew in fame over the centuries, becoming places of treatment and vacation for politicians and intellectuals. Caesar, Cicero, Lucullus had their homes here; these places, celebrated by Virgil in the Aeneid, became more and more famous and sumptuous, in the luxury of the villas and in the suggestion of the natural environment. In Posillipo there was the villa of Publio Vedio Pollione, a very rich man, very close to Augustus. He had his Neapolitan residence built by adapting it to the natural environment of the Posillipo hill, even the theater attached to the villa was built by adapting it to the natural slope of the hill.
In 476 Romolo Augustolo, the last Roman emperor of the West, was imprisoned on the islet of Megaride (where the Castel dell'Ovo would later rise).
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Emperor Justinian sent his army, led by General Belisarius, to conquer the city. The Byzantines managed to conquer Naples by penetrating through the aqueduct. A few years later the Ostrogoths entered the city, but later they were driven out by the Byzantines who, starting from 553, allowed the city a considerable development, so as to be able to resist the repeated attacks of the Lombards and represent a bridgehead of the power of Byzantium in the Italian peninsula. It was thus possible for the Neapolitans to obtain a certain autonomy from Byzantium, together with the right to appoint their own duke themselves.
The ties between Naples and Byzantium gradually became less and less strong, until in 763 the Duke Stefano declared the Duchy of Naples independent from the Byzantine Empire. The independence was followed by a very prosperous period for the city; the center moved from what had been the Greek agora and, subsequently, the Roman forum, that is the area currently included between the churches of San Paolo Maggiore and San Lorenzo Maggiore, to the so-called hill of Monterone, that is the area corresponding to the church of SS. Severino and Sossio and in the State Archives. Unfortunately, no trace remains of what must have been the ducal palace.
In 1139 the Normans, with Ruggiero II, conquered the city.
He had been crowned king of Sicily, duke of Puglia and prince of Capua in Palermo in 1130, thus creating a unitary monarchical state in southern Italy.
It was William I (known as Il Malo), who reigned from 1154 to 1166, who began the construction of Castel Capuano, created as a royal residence, to be then used, many centuries later, as a court.
When, on the death of William II (called the Good) in 1189, Henry VI of Swabia undertook the conquest of the southern kingdom, Naples sided with its rival Tancredi; but it was conquered by the Swabian in 1194.
We arrive at 1197, the year of the death of Henry VI, to see, then, another figure appear on the Neapolitan scene: Frederick II.
In 1220 Frederick II was crowned emperor and returned to the territories of the southern kingdom to restore order to the chaos that followed the death of Henry VI; he reformed the structures of the state, was a cultured man, welcomed poets, scientists to court and, as regards the city of Naples, founded the University in 1224.
On the death of Frederick II, in 1250, there was an attempt to reconquest of the kingdom by his natural son Manfredi; but the descent into Italy of Charles of Anjou, and the victory of the latter in the battle of Benevento (1266), led to the entry of the Angevins into Naples.
Many places in the city are linked to the Angevins: from the Castel Nuovo, so called to distinguish it from the old royal residence of Castel Capuano, to the church of Carmine and Piazza Mercato, witnesses of the tragic story of the beheading of Corradino di Svevia, grandson of Frederick II, as well as the last pretender to the throne of the House of Swabia, put to death on October 29, 1268.
Charles of Anjou was a wise ruler: he favored trade, protected artists and writers and embellished the city by building new churches and a new palace.
Arriving in the city, in 1266, Charles of Anjou found the palace of Castel Capuano inadequate, so he wanted to build a new residence outside the walls, towards the sea. The area called Campus oppidi, the area where Piazza Municipio stands today, was destined for this purpose.
The construction work of the Castel Nuovo, or, as it was later called, Maschio Angioino, was entrusted to the French architects Pierre de Chaulnes and Pierre d'Angicourt, although Vasari attributes the work to Giovanni Pisano.
The castle was different from how we see it today, the successors of King Charles already had modification and expansion works carried out. Roberto d'Angiò had the Palatine Chapel frescoed by Giotto, but unfortunately nothing remains of the great artist's work today.
The whole area around the Castel Nuovo had a notable development: during the Angevin rule the city expanded in this area, also creating the conditions for the development of the port, with what would later be called the Angevin pier.
Remarkable were the Gothic churches built in this period: from San Lorenzo Maggiore to Santa Chiara. King Charles I was succeeded by Robert of Anjou, who reigned from 1309 to 1343. This sovereign was also the protector of writers and collected a considerable amount of books.
At his death his niece Giovanna (Giovanna I of Anjou) ascended the throne. The assassination, perhaps wanted by the queen, of the prince consort, Andrew of Anjou, brother of King Louis of Hungary, prompted this King Louis of Hungary sacked the city and executed those suspected of killing his brother, then returned to his country.
Queen Giovanna designated as her heir Charles of Durazzo and, later, Louis of Anjou. Charles of Durazzo took possession of the kingdom in 1371 and had the queen killed.
At the death of Charles there were years of hard struggles for the succession. Eventually Giovanna, sister of Ladislao, who was the son of Charles and was crowned king at fifteen, but died at the age of thirty-eight, became queen in turn (Giovanna II d'Angiò Durazzo).
Having no heirs, Giovanna di Durazzo adopted Alfonso V of Aragon, but then thought better of it. Alfonso, however, did not give up and besieged Naples. In 1442 Alfonso V of Aragon makes his entrance in Naples, it is the beginning of a new era.
The first thing the new king will do is build a sign of his power on what is the symbol of the old power. Thus, the triumphal arch will be built at the entrance to the Maschio Angioino; it will give eternal glory to the new sovereign and will replace, in the memory of the people, the old rulers with the new ones who have just arrived.
The Arch, similar to what the Roman emperors did (we are at the beginning of Humanism and ancient Rome has never been felt so close), shows the triumphal entry of King Alfonso into the city of Naples.
The name of the author of the Arch is not known with certainty, among the most accredited names are Luciano Laurana, Pisanello, Guglielmo da Majano and Pietro da Milano.
Alfonso had the Castel Nuovo renovated by the Aragonese architect Guglielmo Sagrera, who gave the building the appearance we see today.
During the Aragonese reign there will be a period of peace and prosperity, in which Tuscan, Lombard and Catalan artists found themselves working together with local artists. The exchange that took place between local and foreign artists, who often imported new techniques and artistic forms to Naples, was very fruitful.
Porta Capuana, the tomb of Cardinal Brancaccio (the only Neapolitan work by Donatello), the palace of Diomede Carafa, are just some of the examples of Neapolitan architecture in this period.
The development of literary culture will also be very remarkable with the birth of the Pontanian Academy.
Despite all this, the Aragonese dynasty could not avoid the defeat by the French troops of Charles VIII in 1495. Subsequently, with the struggles between the French and the Spanish for domination in southern Italy, in 1503 there was the entry into Naples of Consalvo of Cordova, who took possession of the city in the name of the king of Spain Ferdinand the Catholic.
The Spanish viceregal domination lasted from 1503 to 1707; in these two centuries, while losing its independence, the city, between ups and downs, experienced a period of great urban expansion: just remember the Spanish Quarters and Via Toledo, which take their name, respectively, from the housing of the troops Spaniards stationed in Naples and by the viceroy Don Pedro of Toledo, who, in promoting an expansion of the city towards the west, had the great street built which still bears his name today.
Another great work carried out in the city was the Royal Palace.
Built starting in 1600, the project was entrusted to the architect Domenico Fontana.
After a brief interlude, from 1707 to 1734, under Austrian dominion, Charles III of Bourbon appears on the scene.
Don Carlo di Borbone, son of the king of Spain Philip V, restored Naples to the rank of capital of an independent kingdom. He assumed the name of Charles VII as king of Naples, reigning there until 1759, when he had to succeed his stepbrother Ferdinand VI on the throne of Spain as Charles III.
In 1759 King Charles succeeded to the throne of Naples by his son Ferdinand IV.
During the reign of the two sovereigns, but above all during the reign of Charles, many innovative impulses were solicited, hoped for by Enlightenment thinkers. The feudal prerogatives of the church were affected and the assets of some religious orders were confiscated by the state.
After the brief experience of the Parthenopean Republic, in 1799, there was the period of the French occupation (1806-1815) with the reign assigned to Giuseppe Bonaparte and, subsequently, to Gioacchino Murat.
The Bourbon restoration took place in 1815, with the kingdom that, from 1816, took on the name of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
The Risorgimento uprisings of 1820 and 1848 and, finally, the conquest of the city by Garibaldi on 7 September 1860, should be mentioned.
With the plebiscite of 21 October 1860 the city was annexed to the Savoy kingdom.
From that moment on, the history of the city merged with that of the rest of Italy.