The early Italic Tribes

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THE EARLY ITALIC TRIBES           (go Back to the main menu of History of Italy)


With the Iron Age Italy and her population practically enter the historical period, even if some while after the more advanced Eastern Mediterranean and Near East civilizations from where arrived particular influences. At the beginning of the first millennium BC the following native tribes could be distinguished on Italian territory: the Ligures, on the coast that bears their name, in the northern Apennine valleys, part of the pre-alpine valleys and the western Po Valley; the Sicani, in the interior of Sicily; and the Itali, in present-day Calabria (from whom comes the name `Italy', which was to be extended to all the territory of the peninsula). Besides the already mentioned Terramare tribe, on the southern edge of the Po Valley, and the Villanovans, probably from Eastern Europe and settled throughout Central Italy, there were also the Umbrians to the east of the upper basin of the Tiber. The Veneti, who occupied the territory that still bears their name, originally came from Illyria as did the Messapii and Iapyges, who settled in present-day Puglia (Apulia).

Many other populations of Central-Southern Italy were created by the mixing of local and foreing elements dating back to the previous millennium. As in the case of the Sabines and Latini who settled in Lazio together with Falisci, Aequi, Volsci, Hernici and Ausones. The interior of Abruzzo was dominated by the Vestini, Paeligni and Marsi, while the central Adriatic coast was populated by Picentes, Marrucini and Frentani. The Apennine area of Molise and Basilicata was peopled by the Samnites and Lucanians. In Calabria and Sicily there were also the Bruttii and Siculi.

The Phoenician colonisation of the coasts of the Western Mediterranean were limited in Italy to Sardinia and western Sicily and preceded that of the Greeks. It was followed by Punic settlements (Trapani, Palermo, Cagliari) linked to the ancient Phoenician colony of Carthage.

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