A Short History of Italy: From Classical Times to the Present Day

A Short History of Italy: From Classical Times to the Present Day

A Short History of Italy: From Classical Times to the Present Day

A Short History of Italy: From Classical Times to the Present Day

Excerpt

The physical features of Italy have always divided the country into distinct and diverse regions and modified the characteristic life of each. The contribution of successive bodies of invaders tends to vary from region to region. In the earliest times the Central Apennines were almost impenetrable, and southern Italy had its own cultures and was in touch with lands beyond the Adriatic and the eastern Mediterranean long before it was affected by the cultures and migrations of the north. The ancient peoples and languages of Italy before the Roman conquests have left few traces; and though there is much archaeological evidence from sites and tombs, the identification of cultures with peoples and languages is often uncertain.

The peoples of ancient Italy are mainly distinguished by languages and by burial customs. Ethnographically the population always consisted of local breeds of 'Mediterranean' stock, progressively modified northward by immigrants of 'Alpine' descent. In the north there were also descendants of the 'Nordic' types representing invaders of Celtic and Teutonic speech.

LANGUAGES

All the ancient languages of the Peninsula, except Etruscan, were Indo-European. The oldest, the Venetic in the Alpine foothills and the Messapian in Apulia, were akin to some Balkan tongues. Less primitive, and very widespread, were the Italic languages, in two groups, of earlier and later arrival: Latin and kindred dialects were spoken in the western lowlands, Oscan and its cousin Sabellian, including Umbrian, spread from beyond the Northern Apennines throughout the Central Apennines and eventually reached the extreme south of Italy (Fig. 1).

North of the Apennines, in the Northern Plain and along the . . .

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