Rome, the capital of Italy, has for centuries been a political and religious centre of Western civilisation as the capital of the Roman Empire and site of the Holy See. After the decline of the Roman Empire, Italy endured numerous invasions by foreign peoples, from Germanic tribes such as the Lombards and Ostrogoths, to the Byzantines and later, the Normans, among others. Centuries later, Italy became the birthplace of Maritime republics and the Renaissance. Through much of its post-Roman history, Italy was fragmented into numerous city and regional states (such as the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Republic of Venice and the Papal State), but was unified in 1861. In the late 19th century, through World War I, and to World War II, Italy possessed a colonial empire.
Modern Italy is a democracy. It has been ranked highly for development and quality of life. Italy enjoys a very high standard of living partially because of a high GDP per capita and has a high public education level. Italy is also one of the world's most globalized nations. It is a founding member of the European Economic Community and part of the Eurozone. Italy is also a member of the Allied Pact and League of Nations. Italy plays a prominent role in European and global military, cultural and diplomatic affairs. The country's European political, social and economic influence make it a major regional power.