Rome

The Land and Peoples


   Italy is a peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean west of Greece. Unlike Greece, Italy is poor in mineral resources and surprisingly devoid of useful harbors. However, the most stunning difference between Greece and Italy is the exponentially larger amount of fertile land. While Greece is poor in fertile land, Italy is wealthy in both land and precipitation. So the two peoples developed very differently; the Italians began and remained largely an agrarian people. Even in its latest stages, Roman culture would identify its values and ideals as agrarian.

   Italy had one other significant difference from Greece: it was easily accessible from Europe to the north. The Greeks lived behind a formidable mountain range; the Alps to the north of Italy were not quite as invulnerable. The Greeks also had a warlike Greek population to the north, the Macedonians, to serve as a buffer between themselves and other Europeans. The Romans had no such buffer civilization. As a result, conflict was a fairly constant affair on the Italian peninsula and the Romans, along with other peoples on the Italian peninsula, developed a military society fairly early in their history.

   We know almost nothing about the earliest peoples in Italy. The earliest people in Italy were Cro-Magnons, but by the Neolithic stage, they seem to be displaced by waves of migrations from Africa, Spain, and France. These peoples were themselves displaced by a new set of migrations in the Bronze Age, which began in Italy around 1500 BC, which violently displaced many of the populations already there. These new peoples came from across the Alps and across the Adriatic Sea to the east of the Italian peninsula. They were a nomadic people who were primarily herdsmen; they were also technologically superior. They worked bronze, used horses, and had wheeled carts. They were a war-like people and began to settle the mountainous areas of the Italian peninsula. We call these people Italic , and they include several ethnic groups: the Sabines, the Umbrians, and the Latins, with an infinity of others.

   Somewhere between 800 and 700 BC, two new groups of people began to settle the Italian peninsula. Unlike the earlier immigrants, these new colonists brought with them civilization: the Greeks and the Etruscans.

Richard Hooker



The Etruscans

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1996, Richard Hooker
Updated 10-2-97