History of Naples

Greek birth, Roman acquisition

The territory of the city has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. The earliest Greek settlements were established in the Naples region in the 2nd millennium BC. Sailors from the Greek island of Rhodes established a small commercial port on the island of Megaride in the 9th century BC, maybe coming into contact with the cult of the Siren Parthenope. In the 8th century BC, a larger settlement called Parthenope (Παρθενόπη) was founded by settlers from Cumae as part of Italy's Magna Graecia region of Greek colonisation. In the 6th century BC, after the decline of Parthenope, the new urban zone of Neápolis (Νεάπολις) was founded, eventually becoming one of the foremost cities of Magna Graecia.

The new city grew rapidly due to the influence of the powerful Greek city-state of Syracuse, and became an ally of the Roman Republic against Carthage; the strong walls surrounding Neápolis stopped the invading forces of the Carthaginian general Hannibal from entering. During the Samnite Wars, the city, now a bustling centre of trade, was captured by the Samnites; however, the Romans soon captured the city from them and made it a Roman colony.

Naples was greatly respected by the Romans as a paragon of Hellenistic culture. During the Roman era, the people of Naples maintained their Greek language and customs, while the city was expanded with elegant Roman villas, aqueducts, and public baths. Landmarks such as the Temple of Dioscures were built, and many powerful emperors chose to holiday in the city, including Claudius and Tiberius. Naples became a major Roman cultural centre; Virgil, the author of Rome's national epic, the Aeneid, received part of his education in the city, and later resided in its environs.

It was during this period that Christianity first arrived in Naples; the apostles Peter and Paul are said to have preached in the city. St. Januarius, who would become Naples' patron