The Latins, native of central Italy, formed the Roman Kingdom in the 8th century BC, which eventually became a republic with a government of the Senate and the People.
The Roman Republic initially conquered and assimilated its neighbours on the Italian peninsula, eventually expanding and conquering a large part of Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.
By the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became a leading cultural, political and religious centre, inaugurating the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which law, technology, economy, art, and literature developed.
During the Early Middle Ages, Italy endured the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Barbarian Invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous city-states and maritime republics, mostly in the North, became prosperous through trade, commerce, and banking, laying the groundwork for modern capitalism.
The Renaissance began in Florence and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science, exploration, and art.
During the Middle Ages, Italian explorers discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery.