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The legacy of the Roman Empire is widespread and can be observed in the global distribution of civilian law, republican governments, Christianity and the Latin script.
During the Early Middle Ages, Italy suffered sociopolitical collapse amid calamitous barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics, mainly in the northern and central regions of Italy, rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking, laying down the groundwork for modern capitalism.
With around 61 million inhabitants it is the fourth most populous EU member state.
Since classical times, ancient Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks established settlements in the south of Italy, with Etruscans and Celts inhabiting the centre and the north of Italy respectively and various ancient Italian tribes and Italic peoples dispersed throughout the Italian Peninsula and insular Italy.
As an advanced economy the country also has the sixth worldwide national wealth and it is ranked third for its central bank gold reserve.
Italy has a very high level of human development and it is sixth in the world for life expectancy.
The weakened Italian sovereigns soon fell victim to conquest by European powers such as France, Spain and Austria.
By the mid-19th century, a rising movement in support of Italian nationalism and independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval known as the Risorgimento, which sought the formation of a unified nation-state.
The tradition handed down seven kings: Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius and Tarquinius Superbus.
Nevertheless, Italy's commercial and political power significantly waned with the opening of the Atlantic trade route and the route to the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope, both of which bypassed the Mediterranean.
Furthermore, the Italian city-states constantly engaged one another in bloody warfare, culminating in the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries that left them exhausted, with no one emerging as a dominant power.
Anni di piombo, Mani pulite, the Second Mafia War, the Maxi Trial and subsequent assassinations of anti-mafia officials), became a major advanced economy.
Today Italy has the third largest nominal GDP in the Eurozone and the eighth largest in the world.