History of Lombardy
The history of Lombardy begins over 2,000 years ago. Long before the Romans inhabited Italy, the Etruscans, a prehistoric tribe of unknown origin, spread to Lombardy from their base in Tuscany. They left behind a wealth of pottery, and brought the first known texts to the area, before being overpowered by invading Celts - who were themselves eventually conquered by the Roman people around 200 BC. The history of Lombardy revolves around conflict between these differing tribes, and each people left their own indelible, individual mark on the landscape.
Lombardy's position at the base of the Alps gives it a strategic importance that was not lost on the Romans. In fact, Milan, the capital of Lombardy, was once the capital of the entire Western Roman Empire. It was in this capital that the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, one of the first significant political proclamations in history, and certainly one of the very first to proclaim that religious tolerance was a right of all people.
As the Roman Empire began to crumble, Lombardy was a prime target for invasions from the north. The same geographic location that made it the perfect place to stage invasions into Gaul also made it vulnerable to armies coming south towards Rome. Lombardy was embattled for years, and the fall of the Roman Empire led to a period of constant war, until finally the Lombards managed to gain and hold control of the area for a few peaceful centuries. The Lombards mixed with the Roman residents of Lombardy, and the result is the rich and unique culture of Lombardy that persists to this day.
In 774, after two centuries of Lombard rule, the region fell into the hands of the famous King Charlemagne. However, as Lombardy's notable (and still present) prosperity grew throughout the years, it ended up splitting into many small feudal lands and wealthy cities, all of which were known as the Lombard League. There would not be another cohesive notion of a fully unified Lombardy within Italy until 1859, when the country finally came together as the Kingdom of Italy and united the individual provinces under one banner. Then, as now, Lombardy was the prosperous jewel in the crown.