At the start of the fifteenth century, Rome seemed to be at the end of a long decline. The skyline was littered with the ruins of once spectacular structures. Wild animals ran free through the overgrowth dominating the center of the city. The city that had dominated the entire world centuries earlier was a shadow of its former self. In the first century, Rome had a population of about one million. At the start of the fifteenth century the city held perhaps 25,000. Rome was not a great center of commerce, and the papacy, which had long sustained the city through its riches and international influence, had moved from Rome to Avignon during the fourteenth century. In 1420, the papacy returned to Rome under Pope Martin V. During the coming centuries the papacy would rebuild the city, and the Papal States, centered in Rome, would assume a position of great importance in Italian affairs. The papacy closely
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