Ancient Peoples of Italy
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Ancient Peoples of Italy
Terracotta head of an Etruscan male youth wearing a helmet, 3rd-2nd centuries BC, Metropolitan Museum of Art

This list of ancient peoples living in Italy summarises groupings existing before the Roman expansion and conquest. 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-Indo-European languages. Peoples speaking languages of the Afro-Asiatic family are known to have settled in some coastal parts of insular Italy, Sardinia and western Sicily, specifically the Semitic Phoenicians and Carthaginians.

Before the introduction of writing, and before ancient sources existed that describe ancient Italian tribes, archaeological cultures might be hypothesized to have been associated with historical identities, especially in relatively isolated and continuous regions. However, due to the lack of written documentation, any further assumptions as to the historical names or cultural identities of these ancient archeological cultures and of those Italian peoples existing prior to known ancient written sources would be presumptuous by current archeological and historical standards.

The specifically named ancient peoples of Italy listed here are therefore confined mostly to the Iron Age of Italy, when the first known written evidence, generally from Ancient Roman or Greek sources, ascribed names to these tribes or peoples before such peoples became assimilated into Roman culture through the Roman conquest. In contrast to those tribes or peoples documented by ancient sources, pre-Roman and pre-Iron Age archeological cultures are also listed, following the lists of specifically named ancient Italian peoples and tribes; however, the names of these pre-Roman archeological cultures are modern inventions, and most of the actual names of the peoples or tribes that belonged to these proposed cultures, if such names existed, currently remain unknown.

Speakers of non-Indo-European languages

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).[1]

Ancient Sardinian tribes described by the Romans.


The Sardinians were possibly Sherden.[2][3][4][5]


The Tyrrhenians were the Etruscans and their linguistic relatives.

Others (classification uncertain)

Speakers of Indo-European languages

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


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.


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.

Speakers of Italic languages are thought to have included,


Peoples of Cisalpine Gaul 391-192 BC. (French)

The Celts of the Italian peninsula included,


The Ligures, who may have spoken indo-european language of Celtic type or a non-Indo-european language were:

Ancient Greek colonies and their dialect groupings in Southern Italy (Magna Graecia):


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

Others (classification uncertain)

Pre-Roman conquest archeological cultures

Incineration and inhumation in Iron Age Italy

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 cultures spread out beyond the Italian peninsula.


Copper Age

Bronze Age

Iron Age


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.[11] These examined individuals were distinguished from preceding populations of Italy by the presence of ca. 25-35% steppe ancestry.[12] Overall, the genetic differentiation between the Latins, Etruscans and the preceding proto-villanovan population of Italy was found to be insignificant.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Giacomo Devoto, Gli antichi Italici, Firenze, Vallecchi, 1931.
  2. ^ "sardi in "Dizionario di Storia"".
  3. ^ "SARDI in "Enciclopedia Italiana"".
  4. ^ "ARCHIVIO. Nuovo studio dell'archeologo Ugas: "È certo, i nuragici erano gli Shardana"". February 3, 2017.
  6. ^ a b "LacusCurtius o Ptolemy's Geography -- Book III, Chapter 3".
  7. ^ Markey, Thomas (2008). Shared Symbolics, Genre Diffusion, Token Perception and Late Literacy in North-Western Europe. NOWELE.
  8. ^ Storia, vita, costumi, religiosità dei Veneti antichi at (in Italian). Accessed on 2009-08-18.
  9. ^ a b Villar, cit., pp. 447-482.
  10. ^ "L'alfabeto umbro su". 16 January 2009.
  11. ^ Antonio et al. 2019, Table 2 Sample Information, Rows 29-32, 36-37.
  12. ^ Antonio et al. 2019, p. 2.
  13. ^ Antonio et al. 2019, p. 3.


External links

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