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By the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became the leading cultural, political and religious centre of Western civilisation, inaugurating the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which Italy's law, technology, economy, art, and literature developed.
Italy remained the homeland of the Romans and the metropole of the empire, whose legacy can also be observed in the global distribution of culture, governments, Christianity and the Latin script.
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Nevertheless, Italy's commercial and political power significantly waned with the opening of trade routes that bypassed the Mediterranean.During the Early Middle Ages, Italy endured sociopolitical collapse and barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics, mainly in the northern and central regions of Italy, rose to great prosperity through trade, commerce and banking, laying the groundwork for modern capitalism.