views updated May 14 2018


Naples is a city burdened by powerful images and implacable stereotypes that have survived unchanged through the centuries. "A city full of thieves and tricksters," wrote the Italian natural philosopher Giambattista della Porta in 1606. A people "suddenly inflamed, suddenly moved," observed the Italian economist Ferdinando Galiani in 1779. The French traveler Augustin Creuzé de Lesser positioned the city at the frontier of civilization itself when he said in 1806, "Europe ends at Naples." It is almost impossible to find a representation that is not exaggerated and does not slip into the fraught category of exceptionalism. Naples always seems exceptional, a "paradise inhabited by devils," and a great open-air museum, a place of superstitions and enlightened humanists, of aristocracies and bootblacks.

More prosaically, the city is atypical in an Italian context above all because of the very particular association with its past. While the identity of cities such as Milan or Turin is mainly rooted in the economic and social history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, even in the early twenty-first century Naples reveals traces of a far more remote past that took shape in the thirteenth century during the Angevin era and was consolidated under first Aragonese and then Spanish domination in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This was when the city became identified with political power, became the center of a complex government bureaucracy, was granted conspicuous financial privileges, and was provided with cheap grain from the farms of the Neapolitan kingdom. All of southern Italy, an ill-defined hinterland that stretched as far as Apulia and Sicily, already gravitated toward the capital. From these provinces, Naples imported agricultural products and artisan and manufactured goods, while its merchants busied themselves selling oil, silk, and wool from the provinces to the rest of Italy and Europe. The city became a great marketplace, but also a parasitic center. It consumed more than it produced, and as a result began to attract a continuous influx of immigrants from the countryside, and this gave the city the characteristic that is still evident in the early twenty-first century: exceptional population density. At the end of the sixteenth century, Naples was the most populous European capital, alongside Paris and London. In the first decades of the seventeenth century, it was struck by the severe demographic and political crisis that beset the kingdom, and the terrible plague of 1656 cut its population in half. But by the start of the eighteenth century, the long recession seemed to be over, heralding the prospect of better times.

On 10 May 1734, at eighteen years of age, Charles of Bourbon arrived from Spain with a splendid following of courtesans, soldiers, and knights, and twenty-four chests filled with gold. The monarch summoned to his side at Naples the cream of the southern nobility, families from Calabria, Abruzzi, and Apulia, who abandoned their own estates to their tenants and lived in their sumptuous urban residences on the revenues from their land. Meanwhile, the new dynasty launched an ambitious political program that aimed at reforming the government, including its administration, fiscal system, and commercial regulations, while at the same time seeking to emulate the style of a grand European court and endowing the capital with rich and grandiose architectural patrimony. From the theater of San Carlo to the enormous royal palace (Reggia di Caserta) with gardens that stretched out of sight, from the Capodimonte Palace to a poor house designed to house eight thousand vagrants, the 1740s and 1750s were an age of dynastic gigantism, where costs were incongruous with the city's social problems. For Naples remained seriously overpopulated, and the terrible famine of 1764 that killed thousands of citizens highlighted the grave limits of the system of production and markets. The Bourbon metropolis had become (to use the famous image of the eighteenth-century Italian jurist Gaetano Filangieri) a massive head attached to a shrunken body. The capital was politically and demographically out of proportion to its kingdom, a place that absorbed too many material and human resources and—as the Italian economist Giuseppe Maria Galanti said at the end of the eighteenth century—threatened to turn the rest of southern Italy into a desert. Yet it was a city that depended in both economic and political terms on its own territory: the Jacobin Parthenopean Republic that was created in the city in 1799 in the wake of an invading French army was drowned in blood by a monarchist uprising sprung from the provinces of the kingdom.

The city's problems were destined to worsen in the nineteenth century. With every chance of self-driven modernization gone by 1848, when its reactionary rulers betrayed the constitution and its supporters, Naples seemed to lose any sense of forward movement. In 1851 the young English politician William Gladstone denounced the Bourbon government as "the denial of God," and then at the beginning of September 1860, in the face of Giuseppe Garibaldi's advance, revolt in the provinces, and the plots of the Great Powers, the young king, Francis II, abandoned the royal palace. Naples became an ex-capital, although with its four hundred thousand inhabitants it remained by far the largest city in the new Kingdom of Italy. The city preserved many of the sociological and cultural characteristics of the period of Bourbon hegemony—numerous members of the nobility, bureaucrats, and clerics; throngs of lawyers; and fifteen thousand domestic servants, cooks, washer-women, gardeners, and coachmen. In the context of the new nation-state, however, ancient privileges and political protections were destined to diminish. The Italian government imposed new taxes, abolished the religious orders, reduced the garrison by two-thirds, and released or pensioned off a number of city employees. Meanwhile, the city's historical domination over the rest of southern Italy began to slip as new free-trade policies removed the city's commercial privileges and ruined its important industries. The year 1861 marked the start of a period of intense deindustrialization and a sharp decline in maritime trade, and it soon became clear that the city was incapable of transforming itself from the capital of a vast state into a regional metropolis. It failed to impose an economic and cultural unity on its hinterland, as Milan was doing in Lombardy, and Turin in Piedmont, Bologna in Emilia, and Bari in Apulia. But it was also unlike those midsized cities that retained strong physical and social continuities with their rural surroundings and that became the stimulus for modernization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It never became, in short, a provincial hub, and it could not find in its province the cultured and enlightened landowning bourgeoisie that in parts of central and northern Italy were promoting new forms of social and economic development.

The overcrowded Tyrrhenian metropolis was entirely different, more similar to the extreme cases of Western urbanism, the Paris lamented by Victor Hugo, the Victorian East End of London, the noisy crowd of Manhattan. Naples was marked by profound fractures. Nobles, rentiers, and professionals lived at times in the same neighborhoods with the lower classes, and indeed in the same buildings (the elites in the expensive apartments of the middle floors, and the poor in the eaves or at the bottom), but they remained "two nations," separated by a material and cultural abyss. In a city where by 1880 there was a university with 3,000 students and libraries frequented by 250,000 patrons every year, the rate of illiteracy surpassed 60 percent, and the living conditions of the populace grew ever more straitened. For their part, the elites proved reluctant to modernize. At the end of the nineteenth century, there were few of the public associations that elsewhere had wide public support. Of the few clubs that did exist, many, such as the "Whist Circle," remained closed to non-nobles. Social life took place predominantly in domestic circles. The family continued to monopolize the entire process of socialization, looking to preserve occupational continuity from father to son, regulating the matrimonial choices of the young, and preserving familial patrimonies undivided by means of testamentary practices that privileged men over women. Little wonder, then, that the liberal institutions of the new Italy struggled to take hold, that abstention from voting was extremely common, and that it became difficult even to constitute a court of assizes because of continuous resignations of the jurors. Nobles, property owners, and merchants sought to avoid every public responsibility, while the middle classes constituted only a small minority. In 1874, although the criteria for registering for the electoral rolls were far from stringent, only 3 percent of the population had the right to vote.

At the same time, the city was crisscrossed by a thick and continuous circulation of resources that

gave rise to many forms of material and cultural communication between the "two nations." Naples was a great marketplace, the greatest in Italy at the time. Packed, dusty, often informal, this marketplace was composed of an array of tiny shops devoted to the production and sale of merchandise and used, often, as the residence of the shopkeeper. Similar exchanges, often accompanied by lengthy negotiations over prices, also occurred on the street, in the public squares, and on the beaches. They involved not only foodstuffs and manufactured goods but also money. Networks of credit were capillary, and were often run by nonprofessionals, usually women, who in this way could make a profit on the dowries they received at marriage. This was typically a risky business, given the difficulty of recovering loans, and which, given the vertiginous increase of interest rates, easily slipped into usury. In order to survive, meanwhile, the lower classes were compelled to take on endless chains of debt. Or else they could turn to the innumerable public and private pawnshops: in the second half of the nineteenth century, Naples was the only Italian city with a pawnshop that accepted, as security for small loans, even pannine (domestic linens). For extreme cases, there was also the thick network of charitable institutions, which strove to alleviate poverty by offering beds, medicines for the sick, dowries for girls, soup, bread, and alms.

In the teeming urban market, however, other and less common resources were also exchanged. In 1901 a parliamentary commission found that it was impossible to obtain any service in the city from public administrators without a personal recommendation and the payment of a certain sum. The corruption of government offices was universal and gave rise to an unending cycle of illegal practices. At the same time, Neapolitans were accustomed to buying protection for their families and possessions from the all-powerful organization known as the Camorra (the local mafia), which profited from the weakness of the state by imposing, unchallenged, the rule of intimidation and violence. Great or small, extortion afflicted merchants, shopkeepers, commercial institutions, gambling parlors, coachmen, prostitutes, and even the indigent.

For many different reasons, by desire or necessity, hundreds of thousands of characters frequented the great city bazaar every day. The city had scarce resources, and lived in a condition of chronic uncertainty. It was incapable of discovering self-sustaining initiatives for economic development, but its scarce resources circulated nonetheless with intense frequency, never stopping, passing from hand to hand, fragmenting continually, and giving the impression of a multiplication of loaves and fishes. And, day after day, these operations brought into contact different social groups, upstanding citizens and criminal clans, living in aristocratic neighborhoods and slums, engaging in activities licit and illicit. It was this ceaseless circulation of people and goods that created, if such a thing existed, the culture of the city.

See alsoGaribaldi, Giuseppe; Italy; Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; Rome; Sicily; Sister Republics; Trieste; Venice.


Acton, Harold. The Bourbons of Naples, 1734–1825. London, 1956.

——. The Last Bourbons of Naples, 1825–1861. London, 1961.

Davis, John. Merchants, Monopolists, and Contractors: A Study of Economic Activity and Society in Bourbon Naples, 1815–1860. New York, 1981.

De Benedetti, Augusto. "Il sistema industriale (1880–1940)." In La Campania, edited by Paolo Macry and Pasquale Villani, 445–605. Turin, 1990.

De Seta, Cesare. Napoli. Rome, 1981.

Galasso, Giuseppe. Intervista sulla storia di Napoli. Edited by Percy Allum. Rome, 1978.

——. L'altra Europa: Per un'antropologia storica del Mezzogiorno d'Italia. Rev. ed. Lecce, Italy, 1997.

Galasso, Giuseppe, ed. Napoli. Rome, 1987.

Gribaudi, Gabriella. Donne, uomini, famiglie: Napoli nel Novecento. Naples, 1999.

Lumley, Robert, and Jonathan Morris, eds. The New History of the Italian South: The Mezzogiornio Revisited. Exeter, Devon, U.K., 1997.

Macry, Paolo. Ottocento: Famiglie, élites e patrimoni a Napoli. Turin, 1988.

——. I giochi dell'incertezza: Napoli nell'Ottocento. Naples, 2002.

Moe, Nelson. The View from Vesuvius: Italian Culture and the Southern Question. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2002.

Paolo Macry


views updated May 21 2018


NAPLES , city and former kingdom in Campania, S. Italy. The first Jewish settlement there probably dates to the beginning of the first century c.e., if not before. Josephus (Antiquities, xvii, 23–25, and Wars, ii, 101–05) reports that during Augustus' rule there was already a Jewish community at Puteoli (Dicaearchia), near Napoli. Puteoli was the most important mercantile harbor of Roman Italy in that period. Some sepulchral inscriptions in Latin dated to a later period indeed attest a Jewish presence in the area. By the fourth century c.e. the community of Naples was of considerable size and economically important. A Jewish burial ground was excavated in 1908 in Corso Malta. The tombs date from the end of the fourth century to the middle of the fifth century c.e. Three of the inscriptions are in Latin, one in Greek. It is interesting that one of the inscriptions in Latin is followed by an inscription in Hebrew. All the inscriptions are decorated with the menorah. The etrog as well as the Holy Ark decorate two of the inscriptions. In 536, according to the Byzantine historian Procopius (War v, 8:41, 10:24–25), the Jewish population helped the Goths, although unsuccessfully, to defend the city when it was besieged by the Byzantines.

Eleventh- and twelfth-century documents show that the Naples community had a synagogue and a school. Jews enjoyed the right to own real estate and to dispose of it as they wished. *Benjamin of Tudela, who visited the town in c. 1159, found 500 Jews living there. From 1288, under Charles ii, anti-Jewish disorders incited by Dominican preachers occurred; they reached their height in 1290 when serious outrages were committed and a synagogue was converted into a church. However, in 1330, Robert of Anjou invited Jews from the Balearic Islands to settle in Naples and in the rest of his kingdom, promising them protection against annoyance and the same taxation rights as those enjoyed by Christians. From 1442, under the rule of Aragon, conditions for the Jews in Naples and its surroundings were favorable, and attracted Jews from various parts of Europe.

At the end of 1492 and the beginning of 1493, a large influx of refugees from Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain found temporary asylum in Naples. The Spanish refugees, undernourished and sick, probably introduced the pestilence in 1492 that struck down 20,000 persons in Naples alone. Among the Spanish refugees who landed in Naples in 1492 was Don Isaac *Abrabanel, who became fiscal adviser to King Ferdinand i and Alfonso ii. In 1495 the Kingdom of Naples was conquered by the Spanish and in 1496 a decree for the expulsion of the Jews was issued, although it was not implemented. The expulsion of the Jews was definitively ordered in 1510 and finally carried out: exception was made for 200 wealthy Jewish families who undertook to pay an annual tax of 300 ducats to the crown. In 1515 the *New Christians were also expelled from the kingdom. The 200 wealthy families, who had been joined by others in 1520, had increased to 600 within the following decade. Although a new decree of expulsion was issued in 1533, permission was granted to the Jews in November 1535 to reside in Naples for a further ten years against the payment of 10,000 ducats. However, the agreement was not respected by Emperor Charles v, and in 1541 he ordered the total expulsion of the Jews; this coincided with the establishment of a Christian loan bank (*Monte di Pietá) in Naples.

It was not until 1735, when the kingdom passed to the Bourbons, that Jews were readmitted into Naples and the vicinity by an edict signed by Charles iv on Feb. 3, 1740. However, following pressure by Jesuits and the Church, the few Jews who had accepted the invitation were again expelled (Sept. 18, 1746). In 1822, under the suggestion of Metternich, the Austrian premier, Solomon de Rothschild had his brother, Karl Mayer von *Rothschild of Frankfurt on the Main, settled in Naples as court banker of the Bourbons. There Rothschild did much to help the ruling dynasty economically, and he pushed for a liberalization of the government. Rothschild resided in Villa Acton-Pignatelli in Via Chiaia. Rothschild's task came to an end in 1860, when Garibaldi conquered Naples. By then a small Jewish community had developed around Rothschild. Religious services began to be held in Naples in 1831, but a synagogue was not opened until June 1864. The synagogue located in the Palazzo Sessa was inaugurated in 1864 thanks to the influence of Baron Rothschild. In the entrance there are two marble statues; one in honor of the community president Dario Ascarelli who bought the premises for the synagogue in 1910 and the other which commemorates the deportation of Neapolitan Jews during World War ii. Restoration was carried out in 1992.

[Ariel Toaff /

Samuele Rocca (2nd ed.)

In 1931 there were 998 Jews in the community of Naples, whose authority extended to all southern Italy. Persecutions during World War ii had minor consequences as the Allied landing led to a speedy liberation of southern Italy. Nevertheless, 11 Jews were taken to extermination camps from Naples and others were killed elsewhere. From 1943 to 1945 Naples was the biggest harbor that served the Allies in the Mediterranean. Thus various Jewish units from Palestine served in the area as well as Jewish chaplains from the U.S. Army. Both assisted the local Jewish community. After the war, the U.S. Navy held regular services for American Jewish sailors in Naples. At the war's end 534 Jews remained in the community. In 1969 there were 450 Jews in Naples. In the early 21st century the community numbered a handful of families.

[Sergio DellaPergola /

Samuele Rocca (2nd ed.)]

Hebrew Printing

A Hebrew press was established in Naples not later than 1485, and in the decade which followed nearly 20 books were published, making the city one of the most important cradles of Hebrew *incunabula. Naples was then a center of general book printing and the book trade, and wealthy members of the Jewish community including immigrants from Spain and Portugal, financed the publishing of Hebrew books. The first Jewish printer there was the German Joseph b. Jacob *Gunzenhausen, who was followed in 1490 by Joshua Solomon *Soncino. A third printer was Isaac b. Judah ibn Katorzo (of Calatayud in Spain). The first book published (in 1487) was Psalms with David Kimḥi's commentary, followed by Proverbs with a commentary by Immanuel of Rome (n.d.), and the rest of the Hagiographa in 1488. A Pentateuch (with Rashi), the Five Scrolls, and the Antiochus *Scroll appeared in 1491. The first printed edition of Abraham ibn Ezra's Pentateuch commentary came out in 1488; Naḥmanides' Pentateuch commentary was printed in 1490 by Katorzo; and that of Baḥya b. Asher in 1492. The magnificent first edition of the entire Mishnah (with Maimonides' commentary) was published in 1492. Halakhic works included Jacob Landau's Agur (n.d.), the first Hebrew work with approbations (*Haskamot) and the second printed in the lifetime of the author (who was one of Gunzenhausen's typesetters); the first edition of the Kol Bo (n.d.); and Kimḥi's Sefer ha-Shorashim was published by Gunzenhausen in 1490, and by Soncino (and Katorzo?) in 1491. Baḥya b. Joseph ibn Paquda's "Duties of the Heart" (Ḥovot ha-Levavot) appeared in 1489, and Naḥmanides' Sha'ar ha-Gemul in 1490. Of particular interest are Pereẓ Trabot's Makre Dardekei (1488), a 14th-century Hebrew glossary with Italian, Arabic, and also French, Provençal, and German translations; Kalonymus b. Kalonymus' satirical Even Boḥan (1489); a Hebrew grammar, Petaḥ Devarai (1492); a five-volume Hebrew translation of Avicenna's medical canon Ha-Kanon ha-Gadol printed for the first and only time. The fourth edition of Dante's DivinaCommedia was published by an anonymous Jewish printer in Naples in 1477.


Roth, Italy, passim; Milano, Italia, passim; E. Munkacsi, Der Jude von Neapel (Zurich, 1939); N. Ferorelli, Ebrei nell'Italia meridionale… (1915), passim; idem, in: Vessillo Israelitico, 54 (1906), 397–401, 466–74; 63 (1915), 146–7; Sacerdote, in: rmi, 31 (1965), 90–96; L. Poliakov, Banquiers juifs et le Saint-Siege… (1965), 191–5. printing: J. Bloch, Hebrew Printing in Naples (1942) (= New York Public Library Bulletin, June 1942); D.W. Amram, Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy… (1909), 63ff.; H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Italyah (1956), 49–50; Roth, Renaissance, 170–2, 176; A.M. Habermann, Ha-Madpisim Benei Soncino (1933), 25–30, 35–36. add. bibliography: D., Abulafia, "Il Mezzogiorno peninsulare dai Bizantini all'espulsione (1541)," in: C. Vivanti (ed.), Gli ebrei in Italia I, Storia d'Italia, Annali, 11 (1996) 5–46; C. Giordano and I. Kahn, Gli Ebrei in Pompeii, in Ercolano e nelle citta della campania Felix (1965), 20–23, 35–40; V. Giura, "Gli ebrei nel regno di Napoli tra Aragona e Spagna," in: Ebrei e Venezia (1987), 771–80; E. Serao, "Nuove iscrizioni da un sepolcro giudaico di Napoli," in: Puteoli, 12–13 (1988–89), 103–17; A. Silvestri, "Gli ebrei nel Regno di Napoli durante la dominazione aragonese," in: Campania sacra, 18 (1987), 21–77.


views updated Jun 11 2018


City of southern Italy that was the capital of a kingdom covering the southern regions of the peninsula and the island of Sicily. Naples had been a thriving port city from the time of the ancient Greeks, who founded the metropolis and called it Neapolis or new city. After the fall of the western Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire made Naples a key port. Trade from southern Europe to Greece and the Middle East brought great wealth to the city and made it a valuable prize for the Normans, who established a kingdom in southern Italy and the island of Sicily in 1039.

During the Renaissance, the kingdom of Naples was contested by the Angevin dynasty, which had its roots in northern France, and the rulers of the Spanish realm of Aragon. The Angevin dynasty was granted Naples by Pope Clement IV in 1266. Angevin kings brought important Italian artists, including Giotto and Simone Martini, to the city to decorate churches, palaces, and buildings belonging to the Franciscans, an order of monks established in the thirteenth century.

In 1373, when Queen Joan I renounced the Angevin claim to Naples, she named Duke Louis I of Anjou as her heir. The rival of Louis, the Prince of Durazzo, took his vengeance by murdering Joan and conquering Naples in 1382, when he was crowned as Charles III, king of Naples. Although Naples was seized by Alfonso V of Aragon in 1442, the Angevin dynasty did not give up its claim to the kingdom.

Alfonso celebrated his victory by raising one of the most famous monuments of Naples, the Arco di Trionfo di Constantio, a monumental arch inspired by the architecture of ancient Rome. Under the Aragonese dynasty Naples became an important center of painting, with a renowned school established in the city by Colantonio del Fiore. Neapolitan kings commissioned works by Pisanello, Donatello, and Michelozzo, all artists of Florence and Tuscany, while noble families of Naples hired these and other northern painters to decorate their private chapels in the city's leading churches. A unique Neapolitan style of painting and sculpture developed in the late fifteenth century; its leading artists were Diego de Siloé and Bartolomé Ordonez, both Spaniards.

In the meantime, the Angevin line died out in 1481, and the French claim to Naples was taken up by the Valois dynasty. The Valois was given support by Pope Innocent VIII, who saw the Aragonese as a serious threat to his own authority in central Italy. When Alfonso's son and heir Ferrante died in 1494, the pope invited King Charles VIII to invade Italy with the goal of seizing Naples and allying it with the Papacy. The French troops defeated the Aragonese but facing a much stronger army sent by Ferdinand II of Aragon, Charles soon retreated from Italy. The Aragonese remained in control of Naples while the kings of France made unsuccessful efforts to wrest it from their control. Finally Spain united Naples and Sicily under its own government in 1501 and sent viceroys to rule the city. By the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis of 1559 France officially ceded Naples to Spain. Under Spanish rule Naples grew to become the second-most populous city in Europe, after Paris, and attracted renowned painters, writers, scholars, and sculptors from throughout Italy.

In the sixteenth century Naples was visited by Raphael, who painted the Madonna del Pesce for a family chapel in San Domenico Maggiore, and Giorgio Vasari, who painted frescoes and paintings for the monastery of Monteoliveto. In the early seventeenth century, the wealthy religious orders were hiring Neapolitan and foreign artists to decorate the chapels, refectories, and halls of their monasteries in and around the city. Noble patrons also commissioned important works from Michelangelo da Caravaggio, who spent several years in Naples and left behind The Seven Acts of Mercy and the Flagellation of Christ. The sculptor Pietro Bernini was also working in Naples at this time as was the philosopher Giordano Bruno.

Under the Spanish viceroys Naples experienced the peak of its prestige and wealth, but it also suffered under oppressive tyranny. In 1647 a violent revolt led by a humble fisherman, Masaniello, broke out in the city. The revolt was put down but after an outbreak of plague killed half the population in 1656, Naples began to decline as an economic and artistic capital.


views updated May 23 2018


During the Renaissance, Naples was the capital of a kingdom that included the southern portion of the Italian peninsula and, at times, the island of Sicily. Many European powers fought for control of the kingdom, with France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire* ruling Naples at different times.

History and Politics. The kingdom of Naples emerged in the 1000s with the Norman French conquest of southern Italy and Sicily. In the next century, control passed to the Holy Roman Empire. The French allied with the pope to seize control of Naples in the 1200s, but a revolt in 1282 left Sicily under the control of the Spanish kingdom of Aragon. The greatest ruler of early Naples was Robert the Wise (ruled 1309–1343), who hoped to unite all of Italy. However, the kingdom plunged into turmoil when his successor and granddaughter failed to produce an heir.

In 1442 King Alfonso V of Aragon conquered and reunited Sicily and southern Italy into a single kingdom. He later established his court at Naples. Alfonso soon became involved in political affairs in Milan and Genoa. He also helped elect one of his favorite aides, Alonso de Borgia, as Pope Calixtus III. Alfonso's illegitimate* son Ferrante succeeded him as king. Ferrante supported Lorenzo de' Medici in Florence and allied himself with the Sforza rulers of Milan through marriage.

Ferrante's son Alfonso II became king of Naples in 1494. He encountered trouble when the French king Charles VIII invaded Italy. Although Alfonso sent an army to northern Italy to intercept Charles, the French managed to avoid Alfonso's forces and marched on Naples. Alfonso abdicated* in 1495, and Charles left the city three months later. Alfonso's son Ferrandino led Neapolitan forces to a victory over the French, but he died just over a year later. In 1499 King Louis XII of France invaded Naples, and the following year he divided the kingdom with his cousin, King Ferdinand II of Spain. Three years later Spanish forces conquered the kingdom and expelled the French.

Under Spain's rule, Naples became the center of Spanish military policy in Italy. The new leaders expelled Neapolitan nobles who favored France, replacing them with loyal followers of Spain. In this way Spanish kings weakened the power of local nobles and strengthened royal control over Naples. Spain ruled the city and the kingdom until 1713.

Economy and Culture. Before the Black Death* struck, the kingdom of Naples had about 2.5 million inhabitants. That number fell sharply before recovering to almost 3 million by 1600. By then, the city of Naples had some 250,000 residents, rivaling Paris as western Europe's largest city. Most of the kingdom's inhabitants lived in cities and larger towns, rather than in the countryside. This hindered the kingdom's economic development, as did the kingdom's trade policies. Foreign merchants controlled Naples's wheat, silk, wool, and olive oil industries, and they usually sent these goods to cities in their own homelands.

Nevertheless, Naples developed a rich court life. Under French rule, the court extended patronage* to artists, writers, and architects from all over Italy. The rulers from Aragon and Spain did the same, and Naples remained an important center of culture throughout the Renaissance.

(See alsoArt in Italy; Borgia, House of; Sicily. )

* Holy Roman Empire

political body in central Europe composed of several states; existed until 1806

see color plate 5, vol. 3

* illegitimate

refers to a child born outside of marriage

* abdicate

to give up the throne voluntarily or under pressure

* Black Death

epidemic of the plague, a highly contagious and often fatal disease, which spread throughout Europe from 1348 to 1350

* patronage

support or financial sponsorship


views updated May 14 2018

Naples (Napoli) City on the Bay of Naples, s Italy; capital of the province of Campania. Founded in c.600 bc as a Greek colony, Rome conquered Naples in the 4th century bc. Successively ruled by the Byzantines, Normans, Spanish, and Austrians, it became the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1734, eventually joining the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Notable buildings include the 13th-century Gothic cathedral, the Church of the Holy Apostles, the University (1224) and the Music Conservatory (1537). The city contains areas of great economic deprivation. Industries: textiles, leather, steel, shipbuilding, aircraft, telecommunications, tourism. Pop. (2000) 1,000,470.