It was probably founded by inhabitants of the Greek colony Cuma, around the eighth century B.C, just a few kilometres from the more ancient town Partenope. For this reason it was named Neapolis (from Greek, meaning New City). Its buildings, museums and even the language spoken by natives bear traces of all periods of its history, from its Greek birth, until the present days.
It was in Naples, in the 'Castel dell'Ovo' (Castle of the Egg), that Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor of the Roman Empire, was imprisoned after being deposed in 476. In the sixth century, Naples was conquered by the Byzantines during the attempt of Justinian I to recreate the Roman Empire, and was one of the last duchies to fall in Norman hands in 1039, as they founded the Kingdom of Sicily.
Frederick II Hohenstaufen founded its university in 1224. In 1266 Naples and the kingdom of Sicily were assigned by Pope Clement IV to Charles of Anjou, who moved the capital from Palermo to Naples. In 1284 the kingdom was split in two parts, but both claimed the name of kingdom of Sicily. The two parts would stay separate until 1816, when they would form the kingdom of Two Sicilies. The two kingdoms were united under spanish rule 1501, until 1715, when Naples became Austrian until 1734. Under the enlightened Bourbon monarch Charles, king of both Sicilies (Utriusque Siciliarum) (later known as Charles III of Spain), gained independence.
It houses the San Carlo, the oldest still active opera theatre in Europe, which was extremely active at least until 1861, when the kingdom was conquered by the Garibaldines and handed over to the king of Sardinia. In October 1860 a plebiscite sanctioned the end of the kingdom of Sicily and the birth of the state of Italy.
The opening of the funicular railway to Mount Vesuvius was occasion to the writing of the famous song Funiculì Funiculà, one more song in the centuries long tradition of Neapolitan songs. Many Neapolitan songs are also famous outside of Italy, as for example "'O Sole Mio", "Santa Lucia" and "Torna a Surriento".
On April 7, 1906 nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted, devastating Boscotrecase and seriously damaging Ottaviano. In 1944 the activity closed with a spectacular and devastating eruption, images from this eruption were used in the film The War of the Worlds.
Famous Neapolitans from history include: