Course: Introduction to Roman History Instructor: Michel Cottier
2. Italy before Rome
"Admissions requirements for MA program at the Department of Classics, UofT: Successful completion of an
undergraduate program in Classics or a related field with a B+ average in the final year and the equivalent of AT
LEAST THREE and preferably FOUR full years of training in either Greek and Latin, and TWO full years of training
in the other."
Cf. CHAPTERS I and II of your textbook
DATES TO REMEMBER:
- Between 770 and 750: Euboean trading post on the island of Pithecusae.
- 753 BC: traditional date of Rome's founding by Romulus first king of the Romans.
- Around 750 BC: creation of the Greek alphabet.
- Around 750 BC: the Phoenicians founded Carthage.
- From 730-720 BC start of the Greek colonization in southern Italy and in Sicily.
- 509 BC: traditional date for the founding of the Republic after the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus/Tarquin the
Proud, last king of Rome.
PLACES NAMES and OTHER GEOGRAPHICAL DETAILS TO BE ABLE TO LOCALIZE ON A MAP:
- IMAGE 1: The rivers Po, Arno and Tiber (map on p. 8 of your textbook)
- IMAGE 1: The island of Pithecusae (map on p. 8 of your textbook).
- IMAGE 2: The cities of Cumae; Neapolis (modern Naples); Tarentum; Rhegium; Messana; Syracuse; Carthage
(map on p. 83 of your textbook).
THE SITUATION IN ITALY (points to keep in mind):
- IMAGE 3: Central position occupied by Italy in the Mediterranean basin.
- IMAGE 4: Maritime orientation and navigable rivers (Po, Arno, Tiber, Liris and Volturnus) = easily accessible
country, open to external contacts.
- IMAGE 5: Both the Alps and the Apennine range could be hindrances to human and animal traffic, but they also
offered some protection against invaders.
- IMAGE 6: The richness of Etruria in metals (lead, zinc, copper, silver and tin) and its control over the iron mines on
the island of Elba will make this region interesting to conquer.
- IMAGE 7: The site of Rome according to Livy (59 BC-AD 17), From the Founding of Rome 5.54.4: "It is not
without good reason that gods and men chose this place to build our city: these hills with their pure air; this
convenient river by which crops may be floated down from the interior and foreign commodities brought up; a sea
handy to our needs, but far enough away to guard us from foreign fleets; our situation in the very center of Italy. All
these advantages shape this most favored of sites into a city destined for glory."
A too rosy picture as the valleys between the seven Roman hills and the plain along the river Tiber were malaria
prone during the summer.
IMAGE 7: However, it was an easy place to defend because both of the river and those seven hills (see map on p. 3
of your textbook). IMAGE 8: This site was also placed on important lines of communication:
a. From the coast into central Italy by using the Tiber.
b. As a bridge place it has easy access to the coastal route between Etruria and the plains of Latium and Campania
(see map on p. 8 of your textbook).
c. Control over the sea salt => important commodity for barter.
It was therefore an important site for trade and warfare!
- Indo-Europeans: groups of Indo-European speakers started to arrive in northern Italy from around 1300 BC.
Characteristics of Indo-European-speaking groups:
1. originally warlike, semi-nomadic pastoralists.
2. patriarchal social structure: king-council-assembly of adult males.
3. polytheistic religion with at its head a patriarchal sky god.
4. (often, but not always) cremation of the dead and burying of ashes into clay containers.
- IMAGE 8: The peoples of Italy around 500 BC:
'Interaction' between different groups of populations is a key concept to understand how early Italy was populated.
Try to keep in mind the names of the most important of these populations and where they are localized on the map on
p. 8 of your textbook:
a. Ligurians, probably non-Indo-European speakers, to the northwest of the future Rome;
b. Etruscans, who spoke a non-Indo-European language, to the west and south;
c. Veneti to the northeast;
d. Gauls to the north (Po valley = Cisalpine Gaul);
e. Latins on the west coast of central Italy;
f. Umbro-Sabellians, a term which encompasses several different tribes dwelling to the northeast, east and southeast
of Rome. The most important of these tribes were the Umbrians, the Sabines and the Samnites;
g. Since the end of the ninth century Greek colonies around the southern coasts of Italy.
IMAGE 9: EXTERNAL INFLUENCES: PHOENICIANS, ETRUSCANS AND GREEKS (points to keep in mind):
- During the eighth century BC:
a. Phoenicians traders looking for metals (silver, copper, lead, tin, and iron) regularly visited the west coast of Italy,
mainly Etruria and the island of Elba (iron mines).
b. Greek traders and colonists started to establish settlements in southern Italy and Sicily.
Both Phoenicians and Greeks brought the native peoples of Italy into contact with the advanced cultures and
economies of the eastern Mediterranean => growth of wealthy social elites and complex urban centers in Etruria,
Latium and Campania in the eight and seventh centuries BC.
1. Between 1500 and 1000 BC the Phoenicians created a writing system of 22 consonantal signs.
2. This system was borrowed and adapted (addition of new signs for transcribing vowels) by the Greeks around 750
BC, then by the Etruscans, and, finally, through the influence of and contact with both the Etrus