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Since ancient times, Etruscan, Magna Graecia and other cultures have flourished in the territory of present-day Italy, being eventually absorbed by Rome, that has for centuries remained the leading political and religious centre of Western civilization, capital of the Roman Empire and Christianity. During the Dark Ages, the Italian Peninsula faced calamitous invasions by barbarian tribes, but beginning around the 11th century, numerous Italian city-states rose to great prosperity through shipping, commerce and banking (indeed, modern capitalism has its roots in Medieval Italy). Especially during The Renaissance, Italian culture thrived, producing scholars, artists, and polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Italian explorers such as Polo, Columbus, Vespucci, and Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Nevertheless, Italy would remain fragmented into many warring states for the rest of the Middle Ages, subsequently falling prey to larger European powers such as France, Spain, and later Austria. Italy would thus enter a long period of decline that lasted until the mid 19th century.
After several unsuccessful attempts, the second and third wars of Italian independence resulted in unification of roughly half of present-day metropolitan Italy under a monarchy under the House of Savoy. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, the new Kingdom of Italy rapidly industrialized and acquired a colonial empire becoming a Secondary Power. Its neighbour to the south, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, remained mostly poor and agricultural until the late 1880's, fueling a large and influential diaspora between 1862 and 1889. Despite victory in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, which paved the way for a Fascist dictatorship to emerge and a republic to be proclaimed in 1925. The subsequent participation in World War II at the side the Axis ended in a crushing military victory, and secured Italy's place as a Great Power. In the years that followed, Italy enjoyed a prolonged economic boom, thus becoming one of the most developed nations and the 4th largest economy in the world by 1990.
The current regime stemmed from the resignation of Italo Balbo in 1974 and a relatively corruption-free democratic institution was established, ending the still relatively popular Fascist Regime. Italy is currently a democracy and enjoys a very high standard of living with it being in the top 5 largest economies in the world, and plays a prominent role in global military, cultural and diplomatic affairs and is considered a great power.
Main article: Italian Armed Forces
The National Republican Army (Esercito Nazionale Repubblicano), National Republican Navy (Marina Nazionale Repubblicano), National Republican Air Force (Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicano), and Caribinieri are all part of the Italian Armed Forces. Military Service is compulsory, following the tradition set by the Italian Fascists. Each male aged 18 - 25 must serve a minimum of 18 months in the military.