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List of ancient peoples of Italy

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Ethnolinguistic map of Italy in the Iron Age, before the Roman expansion and conquest of Italy

This list of ancient peoples living in Italy summarises groupings of peoples existing in Italy before and during the Roman expansion and conquest of Italy. Many of the names are either scholarly inventions or exonyms assigned by the ancient writers of works in ancient Greek and Latin.

In regard to the specific names of particular ancient Italian tribes and peoples, the time-window in which historians know the historical ascribed names of ancient Italian peoples mostly falls into the range of about 750 BC (at the legendary foundation of Rome) to about 200 BC (in the middle Roman Republic), the time range in which most of the written documentation first exists of such names and prior to the nearly complete assimilation of Italian peoples into Roman culture.

Nearly all of these peoples and tribes spoke Indo-European languages: Italics, Celts, Ancient Greeks, and tribes likely occupying various intermediate positions between these language groups. On the other hand, some Italian peoples (such as the Rhaetians, Camuni, Etruscans) likely spoke non- or pre-Indo-European languages. In addition, peoples speaking languages of the Afro-Asiatic family, specifically the largely Semitic Phoenicians and Carthaginians, settled and colonized parts of western and southern Sardinia and western Sicily.[1]

Speakers of non-Indo-European languages[edit]

Ancient Sardinian and Corsican tribes described by the Romans.

Scholars believe - though sometimes on the basis of scanty evidence - that the following peoples spoke non-Indo-European languages. Some of them were Pre-Indo-Europeans or Paleo-Europeans while, with regard to some others, Giacomo Devoto proposed the definition of Peri-Indo-European (i.e. everything that has hybrid characters between Indo-European and non-Indo-European).[2]



The Tyrrhenians were the Etruscans and their linguistic relatives.

Terracotta statue of a young woman, late 4th–early 3rd century B.C., Etruscan Terracotta
Etruscan terracotta head
Tarquinia Tomb of the Leopards

Others (classification uncertain)[edit]

Speakers of Indo-European languages[edit]


Italic and Celtic languages are commonly grouped together on the basis of features shared by these two branches and no others. This could imply that they are descended from a common ancestor and/or Proto-Celtic and Proto-Italic developed in close proximity over a long period of time.


Speakers of Italic languages included:

The map shows the most important archaeological sites of Sicily related to pre-Hellenic cultures, as well as the possible extent of the cultures of the Elymians, Sicani and Sicels.
Samnite soldiers from a tomb frieze in Nola 4th century BC.
The Warrior of Capestrano, a South Picene statue


The Celts of the Italian peninsula included,

Map of Cisalpine Gaul showing in blue the approximate distributions of Celtic populations in the area during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.


A reproduction of a Ligure helmet

The Ligures, who may have spoken Pre-Indo-European[35] or an Indo-European language,[36] were:


Ancient Greek colonies and their dialect groupings in Southern Italy (the so-called "Magna Graecia")

Sometimes referred in ancient sources as Pelasgi,[37] the Ancient Greeks of the Italian peninsula included,

Fresco of dancing Peucetian women in the Tomb of the Dancers in Ruvo di Puglia, 4th-5th century BC

Others (classification uncertain)[edit]

Pre-Roman conquest archeological cultures[edit]

The specific identities or names of the tribes or groups of peoples that practiced these pre-Roman archeological cultures are mostly unknown. The posited existence of these archeological cultures is based on archeological assemblages of artifacts that share common traits and are found within a certain region and originate within a certain prehistoric period. Therefore, many of these archeological cultures may not necessarily correspond to a specific group of ancient people and, in fact, may have been shared among various groups of ancient peoples. The extent to which an archeological culture is representative of a particular cohesive ancient group of people is open for debate; many of these cultures may be the product of a single ancient Italian tribe or civilization (e.g. Latial culture), while others may have been spread among different groups of ancient Italian peoples and even outside of Italy. For example, Latial culture is believed to be the product specifically of the Ancient Latin tribe; the Canegrate culture and Golasecca culture have been associated with various ancient proto-Celtic, Celtic and Ligure tribes including the Lepontii, Orobii, and Insubres, while other archeological cultures may have been present among multiple groups throughout and beyond the Italian peninsula.

Incineration and inhumation in Iron Age Italy


Copper Age[edit]

Bronze Age[edit]

Nuraghe Santu Antine in Torralba
Archaeological finds of Canegrate culture

Iron Age[edit]


Detail of fresco from the Lucanian tomb, 4th century BC

A genetic study published in Science in November 2019 examined the remains of six Latin males buried near Rome between 900 BC and 200 BC. They carried the paternal haplogroups R-M269, T-L208, R-311, R-PF7589 and R-P312 (two samples), and the maternal haplogroups H1aj1a, T2c1f, H2a, U4a1a, H11a and H10. A female from the preceding Proto-Villanovan culture carried the maternal haplogroups U5a2b.[41] These examined individuals were distinguished from preceding populations of Italy by the presence of ca. 25-35% steppe ancestry.[42] Overall, the genetic differentiation between the Latins, Etruscans and the preceding proto-villanovan population of Italy was found to be insignificant.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sicilian Peoples: The Carthaginians - Best of Sicily Magazine - Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Hanibal, Hamilcar, Punic Wars, Punic Language, Carthage, Palermo, Zis, Sis, Panormos, Solus, Motya, Motia, Mozia". www.bestofsicily.com. Retrieved 2022-02-09.
  2. ^ Giacomo Devoto, Gli antichi Italici, Firenze, Vallecchi, 1931.
  3. ^ "sardi in "Dizionario di Storia"". www.treccani.it.
  4. ^ "SARDI in "Enciclopedia Italiana"". www.treccani.it.
  5. ^ "ARCHIVIO. Nuovo studio dell'archeologo Ugas: "È certo, i nuragici erano gli Shardana"". Sardiniapost.it. February 3, 2017.
  6. ^ "SP INTERVISTA>GIOVANNI UGAS: SHARDANA". www.sardiniapoint.it.
  7. ^ a b "LacusCurtius • Ptolemy's Geography — Book III, Chapter 3". penelope.uchicago.edu.
  8. ^ Ugas, Giovanni (2006). L'alba dei nuraghi (in Italian). Fabula Editore. p. 34. ISBN 978-88-89661-00-0.
  9. ^ Goring, Elizabeth (2004). Treasures from Tuscany: the Etruscan legacy. Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland Enterprises Limited. p. 13. ISBN 978-1901663907.
  10. ^ Leighton, Robert (2004). Tarquinia. An Etruscan City. Duckworth Archaeological Histories Series. London: Duckworth Press. p. 32. ISBN 0-7156-3162-4.
  11. ^ Camporeale, Giovannangelo, ed. (2001). The Etruscans Outside Etruria. Translated by Hartmann, Thomas Michael. Los Angeles: Getty Trust Publications (published 2004).
  12. ^ Etruria campana
  13. ^ Strabo. Geography. Book V, Chapter IV. Perseus Digital Library. Tufts University. Archived from the original on 2 September 2022. Retrieved 2 September 2022.
  14. ^ Francesco Belsito (2013). Storia di Nocera. Monumenti, personaggi, leggende. Angri, Gaia.
  15. ^ Harald Haarmann (2014). "Ethnicity and Language in the Ancient Mediterranean". A Companion to Ethnicity in the Ancient Mediterranean. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 17–33. ISBN 9781444337341.
  16. ^ Markey, Thomas (2008). Shared Symbolics, Genre Diffusion, Token Perception and Late Literacy in North-Western Europe. NOWELE.
  17. ^ Piceni popolo d'Europa, Vv.Aa., Edizioni De Luca, Roma, 1999, p. 139
  18. ^ Hazlitt, William. The Classical Gazetteer (1851), p. 297.
  19. ^ Pietrina Anello. "I Sicani nel IV secolo a.C.". Atti del convegno di studi su Diodoro Siculo e la Sicilia indigena (in Italian) (2005): 150.
  20. ^ "Liguri". Enciclopedie on line. Treccani.it (in Italian). Rome: Treccani -Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. 2011. Le documentazioni sulla lingua dei Liguri non ne permettono una classificazione linguistica certa (preindoeuropeo di tipo mediterraneo? Indoeuropeo di tipo celtico?).
  21. ^ "Ligurian language". Britannica.com. 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  22. ^ Villar, cit., pp. 447-482.
  23. ^ Hartmann, Markus (2017). "Siculian". In Klein, Jared; Joseph, Brian; Fritz, Matthias (eds.). Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics. Vol. 3. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. p. 1854. doi:10.1515/9783110542431-026. ISBN 978-3-11-054243-1. S2CID 242076323.
  24. ^ Storia, vita, costumi, religiosità dei Veneti antichi at www.venetoimage.com (in Italian). Accessed on 2009-08-18.
  25. ^ "L'alfabeto umbro su Omniglot.com". 16 January 2009.
  26. ^ Aristotle (1932). "vii.10". Politics.
  27. ^ Pliny the Elder. "Book III, Chapter 12". Natural History.
  28. ^ Livy, Ab urbe condita, 2.22
  29. ^ Strabo (1917). "Book V, Chapter 4, Section 2". Geography.
  30. ^ G. Micali, Storia degli antichi popoli italiani, Tomo II, Firenze 1832, p. 24.
  31. ^ Kruta, Venceslas (1991). The Celts. Thames and Hudson. pp. 52–56.
  32. ^ Stifter, David (2008). Old Celtic Languages (PDF). pp. 24–37.
  33. ^ "LinguistList: Lepontic". Archived from the original on 2011-12-22. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  34. ^ John T. Koch (ed.) Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia ABC-CLIO (2005) ISBN 978-1-85109-440-0
  35. ^ "Liguri". Enciclopedie on line. Treccani.it (in Italian). Rome: Treccani -Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana. 2011. Le documentazioni sulla lingua dei Liguri non ne permettono una classificazione linguistica certa (preindoeuropeo di tipo mediterraneo? Indoeuropeo di tipo celtico?).
  36. ^ "Ligurian language". Britannica.com. 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  37. ^ Herodotus, Histories, ΚΛΕΙΩ 1.56.2: μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα ἐφρόντιζε ἱστορέων τοὺς ἂν Ἑλλήνων δυνατωτάτους ἐόντας προσκτήσαιτο φίλους. ἱστορέων δὲ εὕρισκε Λακεδαιμονίους τε καὶ Ἀθηναίους προέχοντας, τοὺς μὲν τοῦ Δωρικοῦ γένεος, τοὺς δὲ τοῦ Ἰωνικοῦ. ταῦτα γὰρ ἦν τὰ προκεκριμένα, ἐόντα τὸ ἀρχαῖον τὸ μὲν Πελασγικόν
    Translation: Then he set out to examine who among the "Greeks" were the strongest, whom he could make friends with. And searching, he found that the Lacedaemonians and the Athenians were distinguished, the former among the Dorians, the latter among the Ionians. Because these nations were the best known, being in the old days the last Pelasgian [1]
  38. ^ "IAPIGI" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  39. ^ "Gli Elimi: storia e archeologia di Segesta, Erice, Entella". www.arkeomania.com. Retrieved 2021-12-26.
  40. ^ Aloni, Antonio; Ornaghi, Massimiliano (2011). Tra panellenismo e tradizioni locali: nuovi contributi (in Italian). Claudio Meliadò. ISBN 978-88-8268-029-9.
  41. ^ Antonio et al. 2019, Table 2 Sample Information, Rows 29-32, 36-37.
  42. ^ Antonio et al. 2019, p. 2.
  43. ^ Antonio et al. 2019, p. 3.


External links[edit]