Modern Tuscany corresponds to the larger part of ancient Etruria, and most of our knowledge of Etruscan civilization is derived from findings there. The Romans conquered the region in the mid-4th cent. BC After the fall of Rome, it was a Lombard duchy (6th–8th cent. AD), with Lucca as its capital, and later a powerful march under the Franks (8th–12th cent.). Matilda (d.1115), the last Frankish ruler, bequeathed her lands to the papacy, an act which long caused strife between popes and emperors.

In spite of the dual claims, most cities became (11th–12th cent.) free communes; some of them (Pisa, Lucca, Siena, and Florence) developed into strong republics. Commerce, industry, and the arts flourished. Guelph (pro-papal) and Ghibelline (pro-imperial) strife, however, was particularly violent in Tuscany, and there were strong rivalries both within and among cities. After a period of Pisan hegemony (12th–13th cent.), Florence gained control over most Tuscan cities in the 14th–15th cent.; Siena (1559) was the last city to fall under Florence's influence.

Under the Medici, the ruling family of Florence, Tuscany became (1569) a grand duchy, and thus again a political entity; only the republic of Lucca and the duchy of Massa and Carrara remained independent. After the extinction of the Medici line, Tuscany passed (1737) to ex-duke Francis of Lorraine (later Holy Roman Emperor Francis I), who was succeeded by Grand Duke Leopold I (1765–90; later Emperor Leopold II) and then by Ferdinand III (1790–1801; 1814–24). The French Revolutionary armies invaded Tuscany in 1799, and it was briefly included in the kingdom of Etruria (1801–7) and was ruled under the duchy of Parma, before it was annexed to France by Napoleon I.

In 1814, Tuscany again became a grand duchy, under the returning Ferdinand III and then under Leopold II (1824–59) and briefly under Ferdinand IV (1859–60). In 1848, Leopold was forced to grant a constitution, and in 1849 he had to leave Tuscany briefly when it was for a short time a republic. However, in 1852 he was able, with the help of Austria, to rescind the constitution. In 1860, Tuscany voted to unite with the kingdom of Sardinia.

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