Genoa’s history goes far back into ancient times. A city cemetery, dating from the 4th century BC, testifies to the occupation of the site by the Greeks, but the fine harbor probably was in use much earlier. Destroyed by the Carthaginians in 209 BC, the town was rebuilt by the Romans, and the city enjoyed municipal rights and exported skins, wood, and honey. Little is known of Genoese history from the fall of the Roman Empire (476) until the 11th century, by which time the city had become a Maritime republic governed by an oligarchy of private merchants and bankers.
For many decades this group dealt on equal terms with the courts of popes and kings, and with the catalyst of furthering their own concerns, instigated Genoese expansion. As a result of this blatant self-interest, the city was torn between factions contending for control of the government. Even the dogeship, the institution of first magistrate, established in 1339, was unable to master the ensuing disorders. The internal strife led to weakness, and eventually, unable to defend itself against Napoleon, Genoa became a part of the French Empire.