- Principal city of southern Italy, and also the kingdom for which the city served as capital. In the 12th and earlier 13th centuries, it was politically linked with the island of Sicily in a union called the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. This kingdom was the homeland and political base for the last powerful Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II (ruled 1198-1250). After Frederick's death in 1250, the popes and their French ally, Charles of Anjou, a brother of King Louis IX of France, were able to keep Frederick's heirs from gaining control ofNaples, but a famous uprising of the people of Sicily against Anjou's rule, the Sicilian Vespers (1282), separated Sicily from Naples and eventually brought the island under the rule of the kings of Aragon. Rivalry for control of the mainland kingdom was a major cause of war and political unrest throughout the 14th and 15th centuries and ultimately led to the French invasion of Italy in 1494. This invasion set off the long series of wars that pitted Spain against France and re-duced Italy to the level of a battleground for the foreign powers that sought to control the whole peninsula.The Angevin dynasty controlled Naples from 1268 to 1442, and several of its rulers were important patrons of early Renaissance hu-manism, notably Robert the Wise (1309-1343), who crowned the humanist Petrarch as poet laureate in 1341. Ladislas (1386-1414) was a capable military commander and expanded his lands northward into central Italy during a period when the papacy was divided by the Western Schism. Under his sister and successor Joanna II (1414-1435), royal power declined, and a decade of war among rival claimants ended in 1442 with the military victory of the king of Aragon, who became Alfonso I of Naples. Alfonso played a major role in the Italian wars at mid-century surrounding the transition of Milan from the Visconti to the Sforza dynasty. Naples was one of the five major Italian powers for the rest of the century. Alfonso left his Neapolitan lands to his illegitimate son Ferrante while Aragon went to his legitimate son John II. Ferrante (1458-1494) was an ac-tive and fairly successful player in the game of Italian power politics. His son Alfonso II, however, was unpopular, and the arrival of the French invading army in 1494 brought about the rapid collapse of his rule. Charles VIII of France, asserting his dynastic claim, held power only briefly.The Aragonese dynasty was restored by Spanish troops sent by King Ferdinand I of Spain. The Spanish were briefly driven out by another French invasion led by King Louis XII in 1499, but when King Ferdinand again drove the French out, Naples was partitioned between France and Spain in 1500. The French portion was con-quered by Spanish troops in 1502, and in 1504 Ferdinand of Spain dethroned his Neapolitan cousin and made himself king of Naples as well as Spain. Spanish kings retained control of Naples until the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1713. From 1558 to the end of Habsburg rule in 1713, Naples, along with Sicily and Milan, was ruled by a royal council in Madrid, with a viceroy based in the city of Naples exercising administrative control.Under the Angevin rulers (up to 1442), the visual arts remained primarily Gothic in character and were closely linked to French mod-els. The first Aragonese king, Alfonso I, "the Magnanimous," made Naples the seat of all his kingdoms, including Aragon, and his pa-tronage, guided by Renaissance art theorists like Leon Battista Al-berti, reflected classical interests. Alfonso also patronized prominent humanists such as Antonio Beccadelli and Lorenzo Valla. Valla's famous treatise demonstrating that the basis of the papacy's claim to political power in Italy, the "Donation of Constantine," was a for-gery, was a striking example of linguistic and historical criticism but functioned as a political tract in favor of Alfonso, who was involved in political disputes with the popes. Alfonso's successor Ferrante also patronized humanist scholars such as Giovanni Pontano and Jacopo Sannazaro.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.