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ITALY-Middle Ages Main article: Italy in the Middle Ages The Iron Crown of Lombardy, for centuries symbol

of the Kings of Italy. Castel del Monte, built by German Emperor Frederick II. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy was seized by the Ostrogoths,[40] foll owed in the 6th century by a brief reconquest under Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The invasion of another Germanic tribe, the Lombards, late in the same century, reduced the Byzantine presence to a rump realm (the Exarchate of Ravenna). The Lombard kingdom was subsequently absorbed into the Frankish Empire by Charlemagn e in the late 8th century. The Franks also helped the formation of the Papal Sta tes in central Italy. Until the 13th century, Italian politics were dominated by the relations between the Holy Roman Emperors and the Papacy, with most of the Italian city-states siding for the former (Ghibellines) or for the latter (Guelp hs) from momentary convenience.[41] It was during this chaotic era that Italy saw the rise of a peculiar institution , the medieval commune. Given the power vacuum caused by extreme territorial fra gmentation and the struggle between the Empire and the Holy See, local communiti es sought autonomous ways to restore law and order.[42] In 1176 a league of city -states, the Lombard League, defeated the German emperor Frederick Barbarossa at the Battle of Legnano, thus ensuring effective independence for most of norther n and central Italian cities. In coastal and southern areas, the maritime republ ics, the most notable being Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi, heavily involved in the Crusades, grew to eventually dominate the Mediterranean and monopolize trade routes to the Orient.[43] In the south, Sicily had become an Islamic emirate in the 9th century, thriving until the Italo-Normans conquered it in the late 11th century together with most of the Lombard and Byzantine principalities of southern Italy.[44] Through a co mplex series of events, southern Italy developed as a unified kingdom, first und er the House of Hohenstaufen, then under the Capetian House of Anjou and, from t he 15th century, the House of Aragon. In Sardinia, the former Byzantine province s became independent states known as Giudicati, although some parts of the islan d were under Genoese or Pisan control until the Aragonese conquered it in the 15 th century. The Black Death pandemic of 1348 left its mark on Italy by killing p erhaps one third of the population.[45][46] However, the recovery from the plagu e led to a resurgence of cities, trade and economy which allowed the bloom of Hu manism and Renaissance, that later spread in Europe.