The history of Naples is long and varied. The first Greek settlements were established in the Naples area in the 2nd millennium B.C. During the end of the Greek Dark Ages a larger mainland colony – initially known as Parthenope – developed around the 9-8th century B.C. and was re-founded as Neapolis in the 6th century B.C.: it held an important role in Magna Graecia. The Greek culture of Naples was important to later Roman society. When the city became part of the Roman Republic in the central province of the Empire, it was a major cultural center. Virgil is an example of the political and cultural freedom of Naples. Naples is a microcosm of the European history because it saw several civilizations come and go, each leaving traces also in its art and architecture. Naples was the capital of duchies, kingdoms and Empires, and it was a primary cultural center (especially during the Renaissance humanism, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries). Naples was an advocate for Italian unification during the Neapolitan War. Today Naples is part of the Italian Republic and is the third largest municipality (central area) by population, with the second largest metropolitan area (after Milan).