Dating back to 59 BC, the first settlement in Florence was given to veteran Roman soldiers by Julius Caesar. Its location along the fertile valley of the Arno helped establish the city as an important centre of trade. In the 3rd century AD it became capital of Tuscia. Florence suffered through difficult periods in which many different factions fought for control of the city. The clash between the Ostrogoths and Byzantines reduced the population to around 1000 people before the Lombards brought it to a period of peace in the 6th century. In the 8th century Charlemagne obtained control of Florence and the population and trade activity increased. Circa 1000 AD Florence began to bloom as a city of art. In the 12th century Florence´s peaceful period was interrupted by the bloody conflicts between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs. In spite of its internal strife Florence continued to grow, due to the strength of its gold currency, the fiorin.
At the beginning of the 15th century, Florence was controlled by the merchant groups and guilds instead of the aristocracy that had previously been in power, thanks to an anti-aristocratic movement headed by Giano della Bella. Soon after, the Medici began their famed rise to power. The Medici were great patrons of the arts- they supported Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli, Alexander Agricola, Johannes Ghiselin, and Heinrich Isaac, among others. The family also helped Florence to flourish economically. In 1494, after the Medici were ousted by the Florentines, the severe prior Girolamo Savonarola became the ruler of Florence. As a prior in the monastery of San Marco he called for a return to moral standards, penitence and rejection of earthly wealth. After being excommunicated for criticizing the Pope, Savonarola was falsely accused of heresy and sentenced to death at the stake. The Medici were reestablished by the emperor and pope in the mid 1500´s. From the 14th to the 16th century art, literature and science were encouraged because they led to an abundance of wealth and growth. Florence emerged culturally richer and more economically stable from this Renaissance.
In 1865, Florence became the capital of Italy and the town was remodeled. Modifications included the demolishing of old buildings, the enlargement of the Piazza della Republica, and the construction of an unpopular triumphal arch that was eventually halted. Five years later, Rome was named the capital of Italy. The Florentine population doubled in the 19th century, and tripled in the 20th century due to the healthy tourism industry, and commercial and industrial activities. During World War II the city was occupied by German troops for a year, and many bridges, buildings, and pieces of art were destroyed. Since then, many innovative ways of art conservation have emerged from Florence. However, to this day, many damaged structures and artwork have not yet been restored.