Industrial port and capital of Campania, Italy, on the Tyrrhenian Sea; population (2001 est) 993,400. Industries include shipbuilding, food-processing, and the manufacture of cars, textiles, and paper. An important commercial and tourist centre, to the south is the Isle of Capri, and behind the city is Mount Vesuvius, with the ruins of Pompeii at its foot.
Naples is the third-largest city of Italy, and as a port second in importance only to Genoa. Buildings include the royal palace (17th–19th centuries), the San Carlo opera house (1737), the Castel Nuovo (1283), and the university (1224).
The city began as the Greek colony Neapolis in the 6th century BC and was taken over by Romans in 326 BC; it became part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1140 and capital of the Kingdom of Naples in 1282.
Features Built on volcanic slopes, Naples is overlooked by a fortress, the Castel Sant'Elmo (14th–16th centuries) on the spur of Vornero hill, which rises to 250 m/820 ft. Also sited here are the baroque monastery, Certosa di S Martino, which now houses a museum; and the palace of Capodimonte, noted for its porcelain. The main part of the city lies to the east of the spur, as does the harbour. The cathedral of S Gennaro (13th–20th centuries) has a neo-Gothic facade, and contains many treasures. There is a library housed in the royal palace, and a museum, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which has a large collection of artefacts from Herculaneum and Pompeii.
History The city was originally established by settlers from the Greek colony of Cumae, about 16km/10 mi west of modern Naples, and was founded on a site named Parthenope (now the hill of Pizzofalcone). Later more settlers came from Chalcis and Athens and built themselves a ‘new city’, Neapolis, while the earlier town became known as Palaeopolis or ‘old city’. The latter was besieged in 328 BC by the Romans, and vanished from historical records. Neapolis's fortifications resisted Pyrrhus in 280 BC and later Hannibal. Though sacked by Sulla in 82 BC, it quickly recovered and continued to prosper with its own Greek culture and institutions under the Roman Empire. Neapolis was the birthplace of the Roman poet Statius, and home of the epic poet Silius Italicus. Virgil, who often stayed in Neapolis, wrote most of his Georgics there, and is buried nearby.
After the fall of the Western Empire in the 5th century AD Naples came under the influence of the Goths, but was captured for the Byzantine Empire by Belisarius in 536. It was taken by the Ostrogoth king Totila in 542, and was recovered for the Byzantines by Narses in 553. In the 8th century it became an independent duchy. Conquered by the Normans in 1139, the duchy was added to the kingdom of Naples and Sicily. Naples reached the height of its brilliance as a musical centre in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Economy Naples lagged behind the north economically following the unification of Italy and the removal of tariffs which formerly protected the city's industries. The resulting poverty and depression reached a crisis in 1945 when most of its factories and much of its housing had been destroyed by bombing. Assistance from central government encouraged new industries such as the manufacture of iron and steel, cars, aerospace products, ball-bearings, and rubber, in addition to the traditional production of cotton, jute, paper, foodstuffs, glassware, refined oil, and chemicals. However it still has a low income per capita, and thousands live in the city's bassi (slum dwellings).
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Credit: The Forum of Pompeii, by Enrico Gaeta (1840-1887). / De Agostini Picture Library / G. Dagli Orti / The Bridgeman Art Library Description: Th