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Ἰταλία). A country of Europe, bounded on the north by the Alps, on the south by the Ionian Sea, on the northeast by the Adriatic or Maré Superum, and on the southwest by the Maré Tyrrhenum or Inferum. It was called Hesperia (Ἑσπερία, “Land of the West”) by the Greeks, from its western situation in relation to Greece (Verg. Aen. i. 530), and received also from the Latin poets the appellation of Ausonia (Verg. Aen. vii. 54), Saturnia ( Georg. ii. 173), and Oenotria (Οἰνωτρία, “Land of Wine”). The name Italia some writers derive from Italus, a chief of the Oenotri or Siculi ( 2). Others find the origin of the term in the Greek word ἰταλός, or the Latin vitulus (Oscan vitlu), which corresponds to it (Varr. R. R. ii. 5; Dion. Hal. i. 35; and Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, i. p. 185). Some make the name to have belonged originally to a small section of Calabria, and to have been gradually applied to the whole country.

When the Greeks first became acquainted with this country, they observed it to be peopled with

Italia, in the Time of Augustus.

several distinct nations, as they thought; and hence we find it divided by them about the time of Aristotle into six regions—Ausonia or Opica, Tyrrhenia, Iapygia, Ombria, Liguria, and Henetia. Thucydides, in speaking of Cumae, says that it is situated in Opica; and Aristotle, cited by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, made Latium a part of this same Opica. As regards the original use of the name Italia, the truth appears to be that the appellation was first given by the early Greeks to Calabria Ulterior, or that southern extremity of the boot which is confined between the Sinus Terinaeus and the Sinus Scyllacius. Such, at least, is the account of Aristotle (Polit. vii. 10). This was not done because the name was in strictness confined to that section of the country, but because the Greeks knew at that early period very little, comparatively speaking, of the interior. The nations in the south of Italy, with whom the Greeks first became acquainted, were found by them to be descended from the Itali, or, rather, they found this name in general use among them: hence they called their section of the country by the name of Italia. As their knowledge of the interior became more enlarged, other branches of the same race were successively discovered, and the name Italia thus gradually progressed in its application until it reached the southern limits of Cisalpine Gaul. To this latter country the name of Gallia Cisalpina was originally given, because it was peopled principally by Gauls. (See Gallia.) Towards the

Diagram of the Italic Peoples.

end of the third century B.C., Italia designated all the countries south of the Tiber and Aesis. At length, in Polybius, we find the name given to all Italy up to the foot of the Alps. The inclusion of Cisalpine Gaul under this appellation was an act of policy on the part of the Second Triumvirate, who were afraid lest, if it remained a province, some future proconsul might imitate Caesar, and overthrow with his legions the authority of the Republic. At a still later period, Augustus divided Italy into eleven regions (see below). It is somewhat remarkable that the name Italia, after having gradually extended to the Alps, should at a subsequent epoch be limited in its application to the northern parts alone. When the emperor Maximian, towards the close of the third century A.D., transferred his residence to Milan, the usage prevailed in the West of giving the name of Italy exclusively to the five provinces of Æmilia, Liguria, Flaminia, Venetia, and Istria. It was in this sense that the kings of the Lombards were styled kings of Italy.

Italy was never inhabited by a single race. It contained a number of different peoples, who had migrated into the country at a very early period. They may be classified under the following five divisions:

    1. The Illyrians.—These were the people usually spoken of as the Veneti, dwelling at the head of the Adriatic (cf. Herod.i. 196), and regarded by ethnologists as Indo-European and probably allied to the Albanians in their racial type as in their language. Of the speech of these people there exist, in addition to geographical and personal names, several hundred inscriptions, largely dedications on bronzes and pottery, and all of them very brief. Other offshoots of the same branch are probably to be found in the Iapygians of southeastern Italy, of whom the Messapii are the most noted group. Of the last there exist some 165 stone inscriptions. See Pauli, Die Veneter (Leipzig, 1891); and the article Messapia.
  • 2. The Etruscans.—This curious people extended from the mouth of the Tiber between its right bank on the sea to the Alps in the north. For a full account of the theories regarding them, see the article Etruria.
  • 3. The Greeks.—Southern Italy was colonized by Greeks at an early period, and there existed in that part of the peninsula (called Magna Graecia or Graecia Maior) rich and flourishing cities long before Rome had risen to power. Among them were Tarentum, Sybaris, Croton, Siris (Heraclea), Metapontum, Locri, and Rhegium, and their inhabitants exerted considerable influence upon both the purely Italic peoples of Italy and upon the Latin language, contributing to it a number of non-Ionic word-forms. See Lenormant, La Grande-Grèce, 3 vols. (Paris, 1881).
  • 4. The Kelts.—These first appeared in Italy only in historic times, in the early years of the fourth century B.C. Keltic inscriptions have been found in Italy as far south as Todi in Umbria. See Celtae; Gallia Cisalpina; Indo-European Languages.
  • 5. The Italians Proper.—These are the branch of the Indo-European race that became specifically identified with Italy, and of which the Latin subdivision finally dominated the whole peninsula and in fact the known world. Grouped linguistically, there are two principal divisions: (a) LatinFaliscan and (b) Oscan-Umbrian or Umbro-Sabellian. The Oscan-Umbrian is subdivided into many minor dialects, their general relations being sufficiently well indicated in the foregoing diagram; see, also, the separate articles Osci; Umbria.

At the time of Augustus the following were the chief divisions of Italy, an account of which is also given in separate articles:

  • 1. Upper Italy, which extended from the Alps to the rivers Macra on the west and Rubico on the east. It comprehended (a) Liguria; (b) Gallia Cisalpina; (c) Venetia, including Carnia; (d) Istria.
  • 2. Central Italy, sometimes called Italia Propria (a term not used by the ancients), to distinguish it from Gallia Cisalpina or Upper Italy, and Magna Graecia or Lower Italy, extended from the rivers Macra on the west and Rubico on the east, to the rivers Silarus on the west and Frento on the east. It comprehended (a) Etruria; (b) Umbria; (c) Picenum; (d) Samnium, including the country of the Sabini, Vestini, Marrucini, Marsi, Paeligni, etc.; (e) Latium; (f) Campania.
  • 3. Lower Italy, or Magna Graecia, included the remaining part of the peninsula, south of the rivers Silarus and Frento. It comprehended, (a) Apulia, including Calabria; (b) Lucania; (c) Bruttium.

Augustus divided Italy into the following eleven Regiones: I. Latium and Campania. II. The land of the Hirpini, Apulia, and Calabria. III. Lucania and Bruttium. IV. The land of the Frentani, Marrucini, Paeligni, Marsi, Vestini, and Sabini, together with Samnium. V. Picenum. VI. Umbria and the district of Ariminum, in what was formerly called Gallia Cisalpina. VII. Etruria. VIII. Gallia Cispadana. IX. Liguria. X. The eastern part of Gallia Transpadana, Venetia, Carnia, and Istria. XI. The western part of Gallia Transpadana. See Desjardins, Les Onze Régions d'Auguste (1875).

See Curtius, De Antiquis Italiae Incolis (Greifswald, 1829); Diefenbach, Origines Europaeae (Frankfurt-on-the-Main, 1861); Bugge, Altitalische Studien (Christiania, 1878); Deecke, Die Falisker (Strassburg, 1885); Czörnig, Die alten Völker Oberitaliens (Vienna, 1885); Nissen, Italische Landeskunde (Berlin, 1883); Deecke, Die italischen Sprachen in Gröber's Grundriss der romanischen Philologie; Mommsen, Die unteritalischen Dialekte (Leipzig, 1850); Conway, The Italic Dialects (announced in 1895); and the articles Celtae; Dialects; Etruria; Gallia; IndoEuropean Languages; Osci; Roma; Umbria.

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.196
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.2
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.530
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.54
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.173
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