The territory of the Republic of San Marino was frequented and inhabited since remote times, as testified to by the discovery of several archaeological remains dating back from the Eneolithic Age (third millennium B.C.) onwards. Important traces of human presence have been found for the Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as for the Villanovan, Roman and Goths’ Ages. With regard to the latter, the remains found include some furnishings and objects of very refined jewellery dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. On Mount Titano, where the San Marino community first settled, the remains of an important cultural site have also been found. In this place, which started to be frequented in the 5th century B.C., a divinity was worshipped, which was thought to have thaumaturgic powers.
The community, from which the State of San Marino subsequently originated, consolidated during the late Middle Ages, probably around a monastery, which had been built on Mount Titano already in the 6th century B.C. The legendary origin of the San Marino society is instead connected with the arrival on Mount Titano of a Saint Man, Marino, coming from the island of Rab, Dalmatia. In 257 A.D., Marino arrived in Rimini to work as a stonecutter and subsequently he decided to move to Mount Titano to live as a hermit. Marino lived here, surrounded by people attracted by his charisma, until his death in 301 A.D. He received Mount Titano as a gift from the legitimate owner, in favour of whom he had performed a miracle and subsequently he bequeathed it to those who had lived around him. Hence the mythical foundation of the Republic, which, still today, coincides with Saint Marino’s death year.
In fact, the territory, on which the San Marino society subsequently consolidated, was under the political control of the Pope and of the Bishop of Montefeltro. Only staring from the late 13th century, during the Age of the Commune, San Marino citizens started to slowly free themselves from this dominion, by developing their own statutes, judiciary and political bodies able to autonomously manage the community.
In this regard, San Marino citizens could count on the help of the Montefeltros, Lords of Urbino, who were at war with the Malatestas, Lords of Rimini, and with the Pope. Indeed, the Montefeltros considered San Marino as a powerful outpost and an important ally, therefore they favoured its territorial development, military strengthening and desire for autonomy.
In 1300s, San Marino continued to slowly free itself from the Bishop’s political powers and to increase its territory, which reached today’s dimensions (61 square kilometres) in 1463. Indeed, in this year, San Marino received some villages and Castles as a reward for having contributed to the defeat of the army of Sigismondo Malatesta, who, at that time, was at war with the Pope.
In early 1500’s, San Marino was invaded and occupied for some time by Cesare Borgia, who was trying to create its own personal dominion in central Italy with the help of his father, Pope Alessandro VI. In mid 1500s, San Marino was subject to other two invasion attempts, always favoured by Rome, which did not tolerate the presence of an enclave within its territory. However, these attempts were unsuccessful and had no relevant consequences.
During the early 1600s, the Duchy of Urbino became part of the Papal State. However, San Marino, thanks to its diplomatic ability, managed to remain independent, although it had to accept the “protection” of Rome, which actually consisted in a steady control over its freedom of action and autonomy. Indeed, the Papal State considered the freedom of San Marino as something partial resulting from its exclusive concessions. In 1739, in the light of this, the Papal State tried to put an end to this situation by occupying the small State through Cardinal Giulio Alberoni. However, after some months, the Pope understood that the majority of San Marino citizens did not admit the fact of losing their own freedom and that this occupation had created some discontent in various European Courts. Therefore, on 5 February 1740, it decided to give back to San Marino its ancient independence, although it remained subject to “protection” and supervision as in the past.
Tensions between Rome and San Marino continued until the end of the Papal State. However, in the late 1700s, the Republic had to face another danger: the arrival of the Napoleonic troops at its borders. Fortunately, Napoleon preferred to respect this small State and also offered San Marino some economic concessions, certainly for propagandistic purposes and because it was a political entity with a republican government.
When, during the Congress of Vienna, the European nations decided to restore the pre-Napoleonic political situation, San Marino had no problem in this sense since it had not benefited from any specific advantage during the period of the French dominion. However, in the following years, during the Risorgimento, San Marino had to face some problems again since the Revolutionaries used its territory as a shelter to hide, thus creating great concern in Rome. Moreover, on 31 July 1849, the Republic was surrounded by the Austrian and Papal armies since San Marino had given shelter to Garibaldi, who was escaping with its army of about 2,000 people after the fall of the Roman Republic. Negotiations were immediately started to solve this delicate issue, but Garibaldi decided to flee at night from San Marino with a few very faithful soldiers.
After these events, the situation remained troublesome because San Marino continued to be accused of giving shelter to rebels. This debate continued for a long time and was also characterised by disputes and concerns with regard to the preservation of San Marino independence. Finally, in 1854, the local authorities managed to establish diplomatic relations with Napoleon III, the newly-elected French Emperor, who wanted to follow in his more famous predecessor’s footsteps.
He was an important guarantee for the protection of San Marino independence also some years later, when Italy was united under Vittorio Emanuele II. However, the latter never expressed the intention to annex San Marino, although he requested the signing of a Convention of good neighbourhood aimed at offering “protection” to the Republic in exchange for guarantees against smuggling and other problems which could have arisen. This treaty, signed in 1862, was important mainly because, for the first time, the Republic of San Marino was recognised as a sovereign State.
The last decades of 1800’s were quiet and more prosperous than the past years and this allowed San Marino citizens to improve their road system and to build important infrastructures, such as the new Government Building inaugurated in 1894. At the end of the century, some internal tensions, due to a period of economic and political crisis affecting the country, led to the meeting of the Arengo in 1906. This assembly of all heads of family, which met again after several centuries, decided through a referendum to elect the San Marino Parliament, as opposed to the previous renewal through co-optation.
Subsequently, San Marino participated in all Italian historical and social events, for better or for worse. It witnessed the development of political parties and of the violent discussions between Catholics and laics, which characterised the first decades of 1900s; it was affected by the rationings and problems connected with World War I; it went through two decades of Fascist regime; it suffered from the terrible consequences of World War II. During the latter, San Marino was bombed by the allies and several people died, despite the neutrality explicitly declared by the Republic in respect for its long-lasting tradition of peace, which has always characterised San Marino since the Middle Ages. In the 60s, the economic boom benefitted the country, which managed to create a significant industrial system and became an important tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors all over the year.
During the first half of the 20th century, San Marino was still mainly based on agriculture, with a little more than 10,000 inhabitants. This figure had been reached only during the preceding century since at the end of 1700s the entire territory was inhabited by a maximum of 3,500 people. However, starting from the 60s, San Marino profile radically changed on account of the extremely rapid increase in the population, now amounting to about 32,000 inhabitants, and because of the development of connections, both internally and with the surrounding areas, as well as of commerce, industry and services.