Italic peoples

In historical studies, Italic peoples may refer to the speakers of languages of the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family found in Italy from the 9th century BCE onwards, as attested by inscriptions. The term may also refer to the presumed ancestral migrants who brought Indo-European languages into Italy, presumably in the second millennium BCE.

One of those Italic groups, the Latins, achieved a dominant position in the Italian peninsula in the late 1st millennium BCE. It eventually created the Roman Empire, that spread their civilization and their language — Latin — to much of Europe. All other Italic tribes, together with many European peoples who spoke non-Italic or non-Indo-European languages, were absorbed in a process known as romanization. After the collapse and fragmentation of the Empire, a large part of those Romanized Europeans developed Latin into various Romance languages.

The term "Italic peoples" is also sometimes used, especially in non-specialised literature, as including other groups living in the Italian peninsula in the first millenium BCE, like the Etruscans and the Raetians, who did not speak Indo-European languages.[1]


Iron Age Italy-la
Linguistic map of Italy in the Iron Age.

The Italic languages

Writing was introduced in the Italic peninsula, via the Euboean Greeks and the Etruscans, around the 8th or 9th century BCE. The inscriptions that survive from that period show that Italy was inhabited by several populations that spoke different languages.

Some of those languages have been identified as members of the Indo-European family; and some of them have been classified into a specific branch of the family, the Italic languages. Their speakers are referred by historians as "Italic peoples"; however, since their genetics and origins are largely unknown, they do not necessarily an ethnic group or nation.

Linguistic Landscape of Central Italy
Languages of Central Italy at the beginning of Roman expansion

The Italic languages are classified in two major subgroups:

Several other languages attested by inscriptions appear to be Indo-European, but their status as "Italic" and their classification are still disputed:


Copper Age

During the Copper Age, at the same time that metalworking appeared, Indo-European people are believed to have migrated to Italy in several waves.[5] Associated with this migration are the Rinaldone culture and Remedello culture in Northern Italy, and the Gaudo culture of Southern Italy. These cultures were led by a warrior-aristocracy and are considered intrusive.[5] Their Indo-European character is suggested by the presence of weapons in burials, the appearance of the horse in Italy at this time and material similarities with cultures of Central Europe.[5]

Early and Middle Bronze Age

Indo-European Migrations. Source David Anthony (2007), The Horse, The Wheel and Language
Indo-European Migrations. Source David Anthony (2007), The Horse, The Wheel and Language

According to David W. Anthony, between 3100–3000 BC, a massive migration of Indo-Europeans from the Yamnaya culture took place into the Danube Valley. Thousands of kurgans are attributed to this event. These migrations probably split off Pre-Italic, Pre-Celtic and Pre-Germanic from Proto-Indo-European.[6] By this time the Anatolian peoples and the Tocharians had already split off from other Indo-Europeans.[7] Hydronymy shows that the Proto-Germanic homeland was in Central Germany, which would be very close to the homeland of Italic and Celtic languages as well.[8] The origin of a hypothetical ancestral "Italo-Celtic" people is to be found in today's eastern Hungary, settled around 3100 BC by the Yamnaya culture. This hypothesis is to some extent supported by the observation that Italic shares a large number of isoglosses and lexical terms with Celtic and Germanic, some of which are more likely to be attributed to the Bronze Age.[5] In particular, using Bayesian phylogenetic methods, Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson argued that Proto-Italic speakers separated from Proto-Germanics 5500 years before present, i.e. roughly at the start of the Bronze Age.[9] This is further confirmed by the fact that the Germanic language family shares more vocabulary with the Italic family than with the Celtic language family.[10]

From the late third to the early second millennium BC, tribes coming both from the north and from Franco-Iberia brought the Beaker culture[11] and the use of bronze smithing, to the Po Valley, to Tuscany and to the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily. The Beakers could have been the link which brought the Yamnaya dialects from Hungary to Austria and Bavaria. These dialects might then have developed into Proto-Celtic.[12] The arrival of Indo-Europeans into Italy is in some sources ascribed to the Beakers.[1] A migration across the Alps from East-Central Europe by Italic tribes is though to have occurred around 1800 BC.[13][14]

In the mid-second millennium BC, the Terramare culture developed in the Po Valley.[15] The Terramare culture takes its name from the black earth (terra marna) residue of settlement mounds, which have long served the fertilizing needs of local farmers. These people were still hunters, but had domesticated animals; they were fairly skillful metallurgists, casting bronze in moulds of stone and clay, and they were also agriculturists, cultivating beans, the vine, wheat and flax. The Latino-Faliscan people have been associated with this culture, especially by the archaeologist Luigi Pigorini.[5]

Late Bronze Age

The Villanovan culture in 900 BC

The Urnfield culture might have brought proto-Italic people from among the "Italo-Celtic" tribes who remained in Hungary into Italy.[12] These tribes are thought to have penetrated Italy from the east during the late second millennium BC through the Proto-Villanovan culture.[12] They later crossed the Apennine Mountains and settled central Italy, including Latium. Before 1000 BC several Italic tribes had probably entered Italy. These divided into various groups and gradually came to occupy central Italy and southern Italy.[14] This period was characterized by widespread upheaval in the Mediterranean, including the emergence of the Sea Peoples and the Late Bronze Age collapse.[16]

The Proto-Villanovan culture dominated the peninsula and replaced the preceding Apennine culture. The Proto-Villanovans practiced cremation and buried the ashes of their dead in pottery urns of a distinctive double-cone shape. Generally speaking, Proto-Villanovan settlements have been found in almost the whole Italian peninsula from Veneto to eastern Sicily, although they were most numerous in the northern-central part of Italy. The most important settlements excavated are those of Frattesina in Veneto region, Bismantova in Emilia-Romagna and near the Monti della Tolfa, north of Rome. The Osco-Umbrians, the Veneti, and possibly the Latino-Faliscans too, have been associated with this culture.

In the 13th century BC, Proto-Celts (probably the ancestors of the Lepontii people), coming from the area of modern-day Switzerland, eastern France and south-western Germany (RSFO Urnfield group), entered Northern Italy (Lombardy and eastern Piedmont), starting the Canegrate culture, who not long time after, merging with the indigenous Ligurians, produced the mixed Golasecca culture.

Iron Age

Italy 400bC en
Italy (as defined by today's borders) in 400 BC.

In the early Iron Age, the relatively homogeneous Proto-Villanovan culture shows a process of fragmentation and regionalisation. In Tuscany and in part of Emilia-Romagna, Latium and Campania, the Proto-Villanovan culture was followed by the Villanovan culture. The Villanovan culture is closely associated with the Celtic Halstatt culture of Alpine Austria, and is characterised by the introduction of iron-working, the practice of cremation coupled with the burial of ashes in distinctive pottery. The earliest remains of Villanovan culture date back to circa 1100 BC.

In the region south of the Tiber (Latium Vetus), the Latial culture of the Latins emerges, while in the north-east of the peninsula the Este culture of the Veneti appeared. Roughly in the same period, from their core area in central Italy (modern-day Umbria and Sabina region), the Osco-Umbrians began to emigrate in various waves, through the process of Ver sacrum, the ritualized extension of colonies, in southern Latium, Molise and the whole southern half of the peninsula, replacing the previous tribes, such as the Opici and the Oenotrians. This corresponds with the emergence of the Terni culture, which had strong similarities with the Celtic cultures of Hallstatt and La Tène.[17] The Umbrian necropolis of Terni, which dates back to the 10th century BC, was identical under every aspect, to the Celtic necropolis of the Golasecca culture.[18]


By the mid-first millennium BC, the Latins of Rome were growing in power and influence. This led to the establishment of ancient Roman civilization. In order to combat the non-Italic Etruscans, several Italic tribes united in the Latin League. After the Latins had liberated themselves from Etruscan rule they acquired a dominant position among the Italic tribes. Frequent conflict between various Italic tribes followed. The best documented of these are the wars between the Latins and the Samnites.[1]

The Latins eventually succeeded in unifying the Italic elements in the country. Many non-Latin Italic tribes adopted Latin culture and acquired Roman citizenship. During this time Italic colonies were established throughout the country, and non-Italic elements eventually adopted Latin language and culture in a process known as romanization.[14] In the early first century BC, several Italic tribes, in particular the Marsi and the Samnites, rebelled against Roman rule. This conflict is called the Social War. After Roman victory was secured, all peoples in Italy, except from the Celts of the Po Valley, were granted Roman citizenship.[1]

Rise of the Romance languages

Romanization was eventually extended to the European areas dominated by Roman Empire. Roman methods of organization and technology also spread to the Germanic tribes living along Rome's European frontier. In the fifth century AD these tribes migrated into the Western Roman Empire and amalgamated with the local Latin-speaking population.[1] The Germanic migration left a vacuum filled by the Slavs.[1]

After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the use of the Latin language retreated in size, but was still widely used, such as through the Catholic Church as well as by others like the Germanic Visigoths and the Catholic Frankish kingdom of Clovis.[19]:1 In part due to regional dialects of the Latin language and local environments, several languages evolved from it, the Romance languages.[19]:4 The ethnic groups that emerged from this development are collectively referred to as Romance peoples or Latin peoples.[1][20] The Spanish and Portuguese languages prominently spread into North, Central, and South America through colonization.[19]:8,10 The French language has spread to most inhabited continents through colonialism, however the ethnic qualification of the Italic ethnolinguistic group is only found in France, and some parts of Haiti.[19]:13–15 The Italian language developed as a national language of Italy beginning in the 19th century out of several similar Romance dialects.[19]:312 The Romanian language has developed primarily in the Daco-Romanian variant that is the national language of Romania and Moldova, but also with other Romanian variants such as the Aromanian spoken in Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia by the Aromanian minority.

Romance ethnic groups include:[20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 452–459
  2. ^ The Latin Dialect of the Ager Faliscus.
  3. ^ Tongues of Italy, Prehistory and History
  4. ^ Gli Antichi Italici
  5. ^ a b c d e Mallory 1997, pp. 314–319
  6. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 305
  7. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 344
  8. ^ Hans, Wagner. "Anatolien war nicht Ur-Heimat der indogermanischen Stämme". eurasischesmagazin. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Language evolution and human history: what a difference a date makes, Russell D. Gray, Quentin D. Atkinson and Simon J. Greenhill (2011)".
  10. ^ "A Grammar of Proto-Germanic, Winfred P. Lehmann Jonathan Slocum" (PDF).
  11. ^ p. 144, Richard Bradley The prehistory of Britain and Ireland, Cambridge University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-521-84811-3
  12. ^ a b c Anthony 2007, p. 367
  13. ^ "Italic languages: Origins of the Italic languages". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c "History of Europe: Romans". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  15. ^ Pearce, Mark (December 1, 1998). "New research on the terramare of northern Italy". Antiquity.
  16. ^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 620–658
  17. ^ Leonelli, Valentina. La necropoli delle Acciaierie di Terni: contributi per una edizione critica (Cestres ed.). p. 33.
  18. ^ Farinacci, Manlio. Carsulae svelata e Terni sotterranea. Associazione Culturale UMRU - Terni.
  19. ^ a b c d e Harris, Martin; Vincent, Nigel (2001). Romance Languages. London, England, UK: Routledge.
  20. ^ a b Minahan 2000, p. 776
  21. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 47
  22. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 156
  23. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 182
  24. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 257
  25. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 343
  26. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 545
  27. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 588



The Aequi (Ancient Greek: Αἴκουοι and Αἴκοι) were an Italic tribe on a stretch of the Apennine Mountains to the east Latium in central of Italy who appear in the early history of ancient Rome. After a long struggle for independence from Rome, they were defeated and substantial Roman colonies were placed on their soil. Only two inscriptions believed to be in the Aequian language remain. No more can be deduced than that the language was Italic. Otherwise, the inscriptions from the region are those of the Latin-speaking colonists in Latin. The colonial exonym documented in these inscriptions is Aequi and also Aequicoli ("colonists of Aequium"). The manuscript variants of the classical authors present Equic-, Aequic-, Aequac-. If the form without the -coli is taken as an original, it may well also be the endonym, but to date further evidence is lacking.

Alban people

The Albans were Latin people from the ancient city of Alba Longa, southeast of Rome. Some of Rome's prominent patrician families such as Julii, Servilii, Quinctii, Geganii, Curiatii and Cloelii were of Alban descent.


The Aurunci were an Italic tribe that lived in southern Italy from around the 1st millennium BC. They were eventually defeated by Rome and subsumed into the Roman Republic during the second half of the 4th century BC.


"Ausones", (Ancient Greek: Αὔσονες; Italian: Ausoni) the original Greek form for the Latin "Aurunci," was a name applied by Greek writers to describe various Italic peoples inhabiting the southern and central regions of Italy. The term was used, specifically, to denote the particular tribe which Livy called the Aurunci, but later it was applied to all Italians, and Ausonia became a poetic term, in Greek and Latin, for Italy itself.

Battle of Fucine Lake

The Battle of Fucine Lake was fought in 89 BC between a Roman army and a rebel force during the Social War. Lucius Porcius Cato was the leader of the Roman army at this battle. The consul Porcius Cato was defeated and killed while storming a Marsic camp in winter or early spring.

A slingshot from the presumed battlefield with an inscription in the Venetic language that mentions a Floro Decio attests the presence of Venetian troops at this battle.


Falisci (Ancient Greek: Φαλίσκοι) is the ancient Roman exonym for an Italic people who lived in what is now northern Lazio, on the Etruscan side of the Tiber River. They spoke an Italic language, Faliscan, closely akin to Latin. Originally a sovereign state, politically and socially they supported the Etruscans, joining the Etruscan League. This conviction and affiliation led to their ultimate near destruction and total subjugation by Rome.

Only one instance of their own endonym has been found to date: an inscription from Falerii Novi from the late 2nd century AD refers to the falesce quei in Sardinia sunt, "the Faliscans who are in Sardinia", where falesce is the nominative plural case. An Etruscan inscription calls them the feluskeś. The Latin cannot be far different from the original name. The -sc- suffix is "distinctive of the Italic ethnonyms".


The Hernici were an Italic tribe of ancient Italy, whose territory was in Latium between the Fucine Lake and the Sacco River (Trerus), bounded by the Volsci on the south, and by the Aequi and the Marsi on the north.

For many years of the early Roman republic they were allied with Rome and fought alongside it against its neighbours.

In 495 BC Livy records that they entered into a treaty with the Volsci against ancient Rome.They long maintained their independence, and in 486 BC were still strong enough to conclude an equal treaty with the Latins.In 475 BC they fought alongside the Latins against the Aequi and Volsci, and in the same year fought alongside Rome against the Veientes and Sabines. In 468 BC they fought alongside Rome against the Volsci.In 464 BC they warned Rome of the betrayal of Ecetra, and fought alongside Rome against the Aequi who were allied with the Ecetrans.They broke away from Rome in 362 and in 306, when their chief town Anagnia was taken and reduced to a praefectura, but Ferentinum, Aletrium and Verulae were rewarded for their fidelity by being allowed to remain free municipia, a position which at that date they preferred to the civitas.

The name of the Hernici, like that of the Volsci, is missing from the list of Italian peoples whom Polybius describes as able to furnish troops in 225 BC; by that date, therefore, their territory cannot have been distinguished from Latium generally, and it seems probable that they had then received the full Roman citizenship. The oldest Latin inscriptions of the district (from Ferentinum) are earlier than the Social War, and present no local characteristic.


Italic may refer to:

Anything of or relating to Italy

Anything of, or relating to, the Italian Peninsula

Italic peoples, Italic-language speaking people of ancient Italy

Italic languages, an Indo-European language family

Old Italic alphabet, an alphabet of ancient Italy

In calligraphy and typography:

Italic script, a method of handwriting

Italic type, used in typography mainly for emphasis

In architecture

The Italic or Composite order

List of ancient Italic peoples

This list of ancient Italic peoples includes names of Indo-European peoples speaking Italic languages or otherwise considered Italic in sources from the late early 1st millennium BC to the early 1st millennium AD.


The Marrucini were an Italic tribe that occupied a small strip of territory around the ancient Teate (modern Chieti), on the east coast of Abruzzo, Italy, limited by the Aterno and Foro Rivers. Other Marrucinian centers included Ceio (San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore), Iterpromium (whose ruins are under the Abbey of San Clemente at Casauria), Civitas Danzica (Rapino), and the port of Aternum (Pescara), shared with the Vestini.


The Osci (also called Opici, Opsci, Obsci, Opicans, Ancient Greek: Ὀπικοί, Ὀσκοί), were an Italic people of Campania and Latium adiectum during Roman times. They spoke the Oscan language, also spoken by the Samnites of Southern Italy. Although the language of the Samnites was called Oscan, the Samnites were never referred to as Osci, nor were the Osci called Samnites.

Traditions of the Opici fall into the legendary period of Italian history, roughly from the beginning of the first millennium BC until the foundation of the Roman Republic. No consensus can be reached concerning their location and language. By the end of this period, the Oscan language had evolved and was spoken by a number of sovereign tribal states. By far the most important of these in terms of military prowess and wealth was the Samnites, who rivalled Rome for about 50 years in the second half of the 4th century BC, sometimes being allies, and sometimes at war with the city, until they were finally subdued with considerable difficulty and were incorporated into the Roman state.

The Osci kept their independence by playing one state against another, especially the Romans and Samnites. Their sovereignty was finally lost during the Second Samnite War when, prior to invading Samnium, the Romans found it necessary to secure the border tribes. After the war, the Oscans assimilated quickly to Roman culture. Their cultural legacy survived only in place names and literary references.


The Paeligni or Peligni were an Italic tribe who lived in the Valle Peligna, in what is now Abruzzo, central Italy.


The Praetutii (Greek: Πραιτούττιοι, Ptolemy; Eth. Πραιτεττιανός, Polybius), were an ancient Italic tribe of central Italy. They are thought to have lived around Interamnia (or Interamna), which became modern Teramo, and to have given their name to Abruzzo. The ancient accounts, however, are substantially confused, when it comes to more precise location and details.


Sabellians is a collective ethnonym for a group of Italic peoples or tribes inhabiting central and southern Italy at the time of the rise of Rome. The name was first applied by Niebuhr and encompassed the Sabines, Marsi, Marrucini and Vestini. Pliny in one passage says the Samnites were also called Sabelli, and this is confirmed by Strabo. The term Sabellus is found also in Livy and other Latin writers, as an adjective form for Samnite, though never for the name of the nation; but it is frequently also used, especially by the poets, simply as an equivalent for the adjective Sabine.In the modern usage it is also a synonym for the whole, or only a part, of the different Osco-Umbrian peoples and it is supposed it had effectively been their ethnic endonym from an Old Italic root *sabh-:

Old Italic/Indo-European root *sabh- >

Latin sab- (Sabini, Sabelli, Samnites, Samnium)

Osco-Umbrian *saf- (Safineis, Safinìm), and consequently:

*safno > *safnio > Safinìm > Samnium

*safio > Safini > Sabini.For example:

Oscan Safineis

Latin Samnites.Strabo in his Geography (V, 3, 1) writes: "The Sabini not only are a very ancient race but are also the indigenous inhabitants (and both the Picentini and the Samnitae are colonists from the Sabini, and the Leucani from the Samnitae, and the Brettii from the Leucani)."


The Samnites were an ancient Italic people who lived in Samnium in south-central Italy. They became involved in several wars with the Roman Republic until the 1st century BC.

An Oscan-speaking people, the Samnites probably originated as an offshoot of the Sabines. The Samnites formed a confederation, consisting of four tribes: the Hirpini, Caudini, Caraceni, and Pentri. They allied with Rome against the Gauls in 354 BC, but later became enemies of the Romans and were soon involved in a series of three wars (343–341 BC, 327–304 BC, and 298–290 BC) against the Romans. Despite an overwhelming victory over the Romans at the Battle of the Caudine Forks (321 BC), the Samnites were eventually subjugated. Although severely weakened, the Samnites later helped Pyrrhus and some went over to Hannibal in their wars (280–275 BC and 218-201 BC) against Rome. They also fought from 90 BC in the Social War and later in the civil war (82 BC) as allies of Gnaeus Papirius Carbo against Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who defeated them and their leader Pontius Telesinus at the Battle of the Colline Gate (82 BC). They were eventually assimilated by the Romans, and ceased to exist as distinct people.


The Sidicini (in ancient Greek Σιδικῖνοι) were one of the Italic peoples of ancient Italy. Their territory extended northward from their capital, Teanum Sidicinum (modern day Teano), along the valley of the Liri river up to Fregellae, covering around 3,000 square km in total. They were neighbors of the Samnites and Campanians, and allies of the Ausoni and Aurunci. Their language was a part of the Osco-Umbrian linguistic family.


The Umbri were Italic peoples of ancient Italy. A region called Umbria still exists and is now occupied by Italian speakers. It is somewhat smaller than the ancient Umbria.

Most ancient Umbrian cities were settled in the 9th-4th centuries BC on easily defensible hilltops. Umbria was bordered by the Tiber and Nar rivers and included the Apennine slopes on the Adriatic. The ancient Umbrian language is a branch of a group called Oscan-Umbrian, which is related to the Latino-Faliscan languages.


Vestini (Ancient Greek: Οὐηστίνοι) were an Italic tribe who occupied the area of the modern Abruzzo (central Italy) included between the Gran Sasso and the northern bank of the Aterno river. Their main centres were Pitinum (near modern L'Aquila), Aufinum (Ofena), Peltuinum (Prata d'Ansidonia), Pinna (Penne) and Aternum (Pescara, shared with the Marrucini).


The Volsci were an Italic tribe, well known in the history of the first century of the Roman Republic. At the time they inhabited the partly hilly, partly marshy district of the south of Latium, bounded by the Aurunci and Samnites on the south, the Hernici on the east, and stretching roughly from Norba and Cora in the north to Antium (modern Anzio and Nettuno) in the south. Rivals of Rome for several hundred years, their territories were taken over by and assimilated into the growing republic by 300 BCE.

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