Rome's history spans more than two and a half thousand years, since its founding in 753 BC. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe. In the ancient world, it was successively the capital city of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of western civilization. Since the 1st century AD, Rome has been considered the seat of the Papacy and in the 8th century it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870. In 1871 Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, and in 1946 that of the Italian Republic.
Rome is the only city in the world to contain in its interior a whole state, the enclave of Vatican City: for this reason it has been often defined as capital of two states.]
After the Middle Ages, Rome was ruled by popes such as Alexander VI and Leo X, who transformed the city into one of the major centers of the Italian Renaissance, along with Florence. The current version of St Peter's Basilica was built and the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo. Famous artists and architects, such as Bramante, Bernini and Raphael resided for some time in Rome, contributing to its Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
The rule of the Popes was interrupted by the short-lived Roman Republic (1798), which was built under the influence of the French Revolution. During Napoleon's reign, Rome was annexed into the French Empire. After the fall of Napoleon, the Church State under the pope was reinstated through the Congress of Vienna of 1814. In 1849, another Roman Republic arose within the framework of revolutions of 1848. Two of the most influential figures of the Italian unification, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi, fought for the short-lived republic.
Rome became the focus of hopes of Italian reunification when the rest of Italy was reunited under the Kingdom of Italy with a temporary capital at Florence. In 1861, Rome was declared the capital of Italy even though it was still under the control of the Pope. During the 1860s, the last vestiges of the Papal States were under French protection, thanks to the foreign policy of Napoleon III. And it was only when this was lifted in 1870, owing to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, that Italian troops were able to capture Rome entering the city through a breach near Porta Pia. Afterwards, Pope Pius IX declared himself as prisoner in the Vatican, and in 1871 the capital of Italy was moved from Florence to Rome.
Soon after World War I, Rome witnessed the rise to power of Italian Fascism guided by Benito Mussolini, who marched on the city in 1922, eventually declaring a new Empire and allying Italy with Nazi Germany. The interwar period saw a rapid growth in the city's population, that surpassed 1,000,000 inhabitants. In World War II, due to its status of an open city, Rome largely escaped the tragic destiny of other European cities, but was occupied by the Germans from the Italian Armistice until its liberation on 4 June 1944. However, on 19 July 1943 Rome was bombed by Anglo-American forces, being one of the hardest hit areas in the San Lorenzo district, resulting in about 3,000 deaths and 11,000 wounded.
Rome grew momentously after the war, as one of the driving forces behind the "Italian economic miracle" of post-war reconstruction and modernisation. It became a fashionable city in the 1950s and early 1960s, the years of "la dolce vita" ("the sweet life"), with popular classic fims such as Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita being filmed in the city's iconic Cinecittà Studios. A new rising trend in population continued until the mid-1980s, when the comune had more than 2,800,000 residents; after that, population started to decline slowly as more residents moved to nearby suburbs.