History of Milan


5th century BC A Celtic tribe settles just north-east of today’s central Milan.

225-194 BC Rome establishes control over the Po valley and Mediolanum, the Latinised form of a Celtic place name meaning ‘middle earth’.

286 AD Under Emperor Diocletian’s tetrarchy, Milan becomes the capital of the Western Roman Empire. It will remain capital until 402, when the imperial seat of power is moved to Ravenna.

374 Ambrose, future patron saint of the city, is made bishop of Milan.

6th-8th century Milan is ruled by the Lombards from whom Lombardy takes its name.

1018-1045 The bishop and count Ariberto d’Intimiano successfully repels Emperor Corrado II’s siege.

1158 Emperor Frederick I, also known as Barbarossa (Redbeard), besieges Milan and will attack the city again in 1162. Five years later Milan becomes the head of the Lombard League, a coalition of cities that in 1176, finally defeats the imperial army.

1278 Ottone Visconti, archbishop of Milan, is proclaimed ruler of the city.

1386 Construction of Milan Cathedral, the Duomo, begins.

1395 Gian Galeazzo Visconti becomes duke of Milan. In the following years he extends the territory of his duchy to include most of northern Italy reaching as far as Pisa, Siena and Perugia. He dies suddenly in 1402.

1450 Francesco Sforza, married to Bianca Maria, last of the Visconti line, becomes the city’s ruler.

1498 Leonardo da Vinci completes The Last Supper in the convent next to Santa Maria delle Grazie.

1499 Duke Ludovico Sforza known as ‘Il Moro’ (the Moor) is imprisoned by the French army as they invade Milan and the surrounding area.

1512 Maximilian, Ludovico il Moro’s son, takes back the duchy through a strategic allegiance with Switzerland. Three years later, the battle of Melegnano will place Milan back into French hands.

1525 Emperor Charles V of Hapsburg defeats the French army in the battle of Pavia, firmly placing the city of Milan under his power. Ten years later the duchy of Milan moves directly under Spanish domination.

1627-1631 The population is reduced to almost half its size by the plague as narrated two centuries later by Alessandro Manzoni in his I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), a masterpiece of Italian prose.

1706 Joseph I of Austria’s troops, led by Eugenio of Savoy occupy Milan, putting an end to Spanish occupation. In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht, closing act of the war of Spanish Succession, ratifies the transferral of Lombardy to the Austrian imperial family.

1797 Milan, conquered by Napoleonic troops, is proclaimed capital of The Cisalpine Republic.

1805 Napoleon is crowned King of Italy in the Duomo.

1815 At Napoleon’s fall, the congress of Vienna establishes Milan as the capital of the Lombardo-Venetian Kingdom and part of the Austrian Empire.

1848 During the First Italian War of Independence, the Five Days of Milan (18th-22nd March) mark a temporary ousting of Austrian power from the city.

1859 Austria, defeated by France in the Second Italian War of Independence, hands Milan and Lombardy to the House of Savoy.

1861 The Kingdom of Italy is proclaimed.

1898 The riots caused by an increase in the price of bread are violently repressed by general Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris, who on 8th May gives order to fire cannons against the crowd killing 80 protesters.

1919 Once-socialist Benito Mussolini founds in Milan the Fasci di combattimento (League of Combat).

1945 Heavily damaged by allied forces bombing, on 24th and 25th April Milan rises up against the German troops: the city is liberated even before allied forces enter. On 29th April the corpse of Mussolini, brought to justice near Lake Como, is hung in Loreto square.

1964 The first metro line begins service.

1969 12th December, the piazza Fontana bombing signals in Italy the start of a series of terrorist attacks that will cease only in the early 80s.

1992 The Public Prosecutor’s office in Milan begins the ‘Clean Hands’ inquest highlighting corruption in politics and administration at local and national level.

2008 Milan is awarded Expo 2015.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here. AGREE