). 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
, “Land of the West”) by the Greeks, from its
western situation in relation to Greece (Verg. Aen. i.
), and received also from the Latin poets the appellation of Ausonia (Verg. Aen. vii. 54
Georg. ii. 173
), and Oenotria
, “Land of Wine”).
The name Italia
some writers derive from Italus, a
chief of the Oenotri or Siculi (Thuc.vi. 2
). Others find the origin
of the term in the Greek word ἰταλός
, or the Latin vitulus
), which corresponds to it (Varr.
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
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)
Die Falisker (Strassburg, 1885)
Die alten Völker Oberitaliens (Vienna, 1885)
Italische Landeskunde (Berlin, 1883)
; Deecke, Die
in Gröber's Grundriss der romanischen
Mommsen, Die unteritalischen Dialekte (Leipzig,
; Conway, The Italic Dialects (announced in 1895)
the articles Celtae
; IndoEuropean Languages; Osci