Ancient Umbria: State, Culture, and Identity in Central Italy from the Iron Age to the Augustan Era

Ancient Umbria: State, Culture, and Identity in Central Italy from the Iron Age to the Augustan Era

Ancient Umbria: State, Culture, and Identity in Central Italy from the Iron Age to the Augustan Era

Ancient Umbria: State, Culture, and Identity in Central Italy from the Iron Age to the Augustan Era

Synopsis

How should we understand the ways in which the regions of Italy were affected by Roman imperialism? This book, which is the first full-scale treatment of ancient Umbria in any language, takes a balanced view of the region's history in the first millennium BC, focusing on local actions and motivations as much as the effect of outside influences and Roman policies. Through a careful reading of all the types of evidence it provides an important challenge to traditional treatments emphasisingthe 'Romanization' of the region, arguing that this is a poor explanation for the complexity of local societies in the late Republican period. Instead it proposes that other trends, particularly the organization of states, help to explain the fascinating plurality of identities that are evident in the imperial period and allow us to appreciate the diversity of local societies that emerged in both mountain and lowland areas of Umbria.

Excerpt

The Umbrians occupied a great many other parts of Italy also and
were a very great and ancient people. (Dionysius of Halicarnassus
1. 19. 1)

The Umbrians are thought to be the oldest race of Italy, as they were
believed to be those whom the Greeks called Ombrii because they
had survived the rains after the flood. The Etruscans are ascertained
to have conquered 300 of their towns. (Pliny, NH 3. 112–13)

During the Roman imperial period, Umbria, the sixth of the eleven regions of ancient Italy, was made up of almost forty different communities, most of which can be identified with the hill towns characterizing the area today. In some cases, people had already lived on these sites for a thousand years; almost all had been occupied for at least half a millennium.

These towns had their own distinct local identities and, we can suspect, local histories. There were, however, wider ethnic feelings that tied the inhabitants of this region together, and which gave Umbria more than simply an administrative significance.

Interest in the deep-rooted history of this region has fluctuated considerably. As we can see from the quotations above, the peoples of this region exercised a strong fascination for ancient authors. The collective identity possessed by the Umbrians in the Augustan era was traced back far in the

Dion. Hal. 1. 19. 1: Kat Pliny, NH 3. 112—13: Umbro rum gens antiquissima Italiae existimatur, ut quos Ombrios a Graecis putent dictos quod in inundatione terrarum imbribus super fuissent. Trecenta eorum oppida Tusci debellasse reperiuntur.

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