The ancient Mediolanum, as it has been called by the Romans since the third century B.C. (a name of Celtic origin meaning "in the middle of the plains"), rose up around 400 B.C. It was the capital of the Western Roman Empire, and thanks especially to Saint Ambrose, it became one of the most active centers of the new Christian world.
Around the year 1000 it was already the most heavily populated city of Italy and became the most active center of the Padana Plain because of its manufacturing of wool, silk, metals and armaments.
From the 14th to the middle of 15th centuries Milan came under the family Visconti and in the 1447 the Sforza family took the power and Milan became the capital of the dukedom of Milan. At the end of the 15th century Louis XII, king of France, took over the Dukedom. The French in 1535 gave way to the Spanish, who governed until the beginning of the 18th century. In 1707 Austrian controlled the city. With the exception of the Napoleonic power, the Austrians ruled until the celebrated "Five Days of Milan" (1848), a revolutionary independence movement that chased out the Austrians permanently. During the Second World War Milan was one of the cities which got most heavily hit by aerial bombardment.
Damages to historical monuments were especially serious; some were destroyed forever, but most were later restored. Since 1946 the recovery of industrial, economic and commercial activity has occurred rapidly, so that once more Milan has become the center of Italy's productive and economic life.