San Marino is the only surviving Italian microstate, a reminder of the times when Europe — particularly Germany, Italy and the Pyrenees — was made up of tiny political units, sometimes extending no further than a cannon could fire from a city’s walls. Along with Vatican City and Lesotho it is one of the three states surrounded by a single other country. San Marino asserts its independence and various treaties of friendship have been signed with Italy since the latter’s unification.Origins
San Marino is named after the Christian stonemason Saint Marinus, who created a mountainside colony to escape persecution
San Marino, the world's fifth-smallest state, claims to be the world's oldest surviving republic. According to tradition, San Marino was founded in 301 AD when a Christian stonemason named Marinus the Dalmatian, later venerated as Saint Marinus, emigrated in 297 AD from the Dalmatian island of Rab, then a Roman colony, when the emperor Diocletian issued a decree calling for the reconstruction of the city walls of Rimini which had been destroyed by Liburnian pirates. Finding persecution of his Christian beliefs, Marinus hid on the peak of Mount Titano (the highest of San Marino's seven hills) and founded a small community following Christian beliefs. The owner of the land, Felicissima, a sympathetic lady of Rimini, bequeathed it to the small Christian community of mountain dwellers, recommending to them to remain always united.
It is certain that the region has been inhabited since prehistoric times, although evidence of the existence of a community on Mount Titano dates back only to the Middle Ages. That evidence comes from a monk named Eugippio, who reports in several documents going back to 511 that another monk lived here. In memory of the stonecutter, the land was renamed "Land of San Marino", and was finally changed to its present-day name, "Republic of San Marino".
Later papers from the 9th century report a well organized, open and proud community: the writings report that the bishop ruled this territory.
The original government structure was composed of a self-governed assembly known as the Arengo, which consisted of the heads of each family (as in the original Roman Senate, the Patres). In 1243, the positions of Captains Regent (Capitani Reggenti) were established to be the joint heads of state. The state's earliest statutes date back to 1263. The Holy See confirmed the independence of San Marino in 1631.
When French emperor Napoleon I completed his conquest of Northern Italy and began to push his armies towards the edges of the northern territories of the Papal State, San Marino found itself forced to choose between maintaining the alliance with the Papal State or creating a new one with France. An alliance could have meant the loss of its liberty so a prudent course of action was taken: not to take sides until it became inevitable.
San Marino finally had to make a choice on February 5, 1797, when, with the arrival of a letter from General Louis Alexandre Berthier addressed to the Regents, it was required to arrest and consign the Bishop of Rimini, Monsignor Vincenzo Ferretti, accused of instigating crimes against the French, who fled with all his possessions to San Marino. A refusal would have resulted in the immediate intervention of French troops.
The Government of San Marino replied that it would do everything possible to fulfill the request, even though, in reality, the bishop was able to flee across the border.
A solution was found by one of the Regents, Antonio Onofri, who managed to gain the respect and friendship of Napoleon. Thanks to his intervention, Napoleon, with a letter delivered to Gasparre Monge, scientist and commissary of the French Government for Science and Art, promised to guarantee and protect the independence of the Republic offering to extend its territory according to its needs. The offer was declined by San Marino, in fear of future vindications on the territories annexed, which would threaten San Marino's independence.
Napoleon issued orders that exempted San Marino's citizens from any type of taxation and gave them 1,000 quintals (over 2,200 lb or 1,000 kg) of wheat and four cannons, which, for reasons unknown, never arrived.
The state was recognized by Napoleon by the Treaty of Tolentino, in 1797 and by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In 1825 and 1853, new attempts to submit it to the Papal States failed; and its wish to be left out of Giuseppe Garibaldi's Italian unification in the mid-nineteenth century was granted, since it had offered a safe refuge to numerous supporters of unification in earlier years.
World War I
While Italy declared war on Austria–Hungary on 23 May 1915, San Marino remained neutral. Italy, suspecting that San Marino could harbor Austrian spies who could be given access to its new radiotelegraph station, tried to forcefully establish a detachment of Carabinieri on its territory and then suspended any telephone connections with the Republic when it did not comply.
Two groups of 10 volunteers each did join Italian forces in the fighting on the Italian front, the first as combatants and the second as a medical corps operating a Red Cross field hospital. It was the presence of this hospital that later caused Austrian authorities to suspend diplomatic relations with San Marino.