Italic peoples

The Italic peoples were an Indo-European ethnolinguistic group identified by their use of Italic languages.

The Italic peoples descended from Indo-Europeans who migrated into Italy in the second millennium BC. Latins achieved a dominant position among these tribes, establishing ancient Roman civilization. During this development, other Italic tribes adopted Latin language and culture in a process known as Romanization. With the creation of the Roman Empire, Romanization was extended beyond the Italian peninsula and spread to much of Europe.

The modern ethnic groups descended from this development speak Romance languages, and are collectively referred to as Romance peoples, Latin peoples or Romanic peoples. These include the French people, Italians, Portuguese people, Romanians, Spaniards and others.[1][2][3][4][5] Along with Germanic peoples and Slavs, Romance peoples constitute one of the three main ethnolinguistic groups of Europe.[1][6]


Ethnolinguistic map of Italy in the Iron Age.

The Italics were an ethnolinguistic group who are identified by their use of the Italic languages, which form one of the branches of Indo-European languages.

The term is sometimes used improperly, especially in non-specialised literature, to also refer to pre-Roman peoples like the Etruscans and the Raetians, who did not speak Indo-European languages.[7]


Copper Age

During the Copper Age, at the same time that metalworking appeared, Indo-European people are believed to have migrated to Italy in several waves.[8] Associated with this migration are the Rinaldone culture and Remedello culture in Northern Italy, and the Gaudo culture of Southern Italy. These cultures were led by a warrior-aristocracy and are considered intrusive.[8] Their Indo-European character is suggested by the presence of weapons in burials, the appearance of the horse in Italy at this time and material similarities with cultures of Central Europe.[8]

Early and Middle Bronze Age

Indo-European Migrations. Source David Anthony (2007), The Horse, The Wheel and Language

According to David W. Anthony, between 3100–3000 BCE, a massive migration of Indo-Europeans from the Yamnaya culture took place into the Danube Valley. Thousands of kurgans are attributed to this event. These migrations probably split off Pre-Italic, Pre-Celtic and Pre-Germanic from Proto-Indo-European.[9] By this time the Anatolian peoples and the Tocharians had already split off from other Indo-Europeans.[10] Hydronymy shows that the Proto-Germanic homeland was in Central Germany, which would be very close to the homeland of Italic and Celtic languages as well.[11] The origin of a hypothetical ancestral "Italo-Celtic" people is to be found in today's eastern Hungary, settled around 3100 BCE by the Yamnaya culture. This hypothesis is to some extent supported by the observation that Italic shares a large number of isoglosses and lexical terms with Celtic and Germanic, some of which are more likely to be attributed to the Bronze Age.[8] In particular, using Bayesian phylogenetic methods, Russell Gray and Quentin Atkinson argued that Proto-Italic speakers separated from Proto-Germanics 5500 years before present, i.e. roughly at the start of the Bronze Age.[12] This is further confirmed by the fact that the Germanic language family shares more vocabulary with the Italic family than with the Celtic language family.[13]

From the late third to the early second millennium BCE, tribes coming both from the north and from Franco-Iberia brought the Beaker culture[14] and the use of bronze smithing, to the Po Valley, to Tuscany and to the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily. The Beakers could have been the link which brought the Yamnaya dialects from Hungary to Austria and Bavaria. These dialects might then have developed into Proto-Celtic.[15] The arrival of Indo-Europeans into Italy is in some sources ascribed to the Beakers.[7] A migration across the Alps from East-Central Europe by Italic tribes is thought to have occurred around 1800 BCE.[16][17]

In the mid-second millennium BCE, the Terramare culture developed in the Po Valley.[18] The Terramare culture takes its name from the black earth (terra marna) residue of settlement mounds, which have long served the fertilizing needs of local farmers. These people were still hunters, but had domesticated animals; they were fairly skillful metallurgists, casting bronze in moulds of stone and clay, and they were also agriculturists, cultivating beans, the vine, wheat and flax. The Latino-Faliscan people have been associated with this culture, especially by the archaeologist Luigi Pigorini.[8]

Late Bronze Age

The Villanovan culture in 900 BC

The Urnfield culture might have brought proto-Italic people from among the "Italo-Celtic" tribes who remained in Hungary into Italy.[15] These tribes are thought to have penetrated Italy from the east during the late second millennium BC through the Proto-Villanovan culture.[15] They later crossed the Apennine Mountains and settled central Italy, including Latium. Before 1000 BCE several Italic tribes had probably entered Italy. These divided into various groups and gradually came to occupy central Italy and southern Italy.[17] This period was characterized by widespread upheaval in the Mediterranean, including the emergence of the Sea Peoples and the Late Bronze Age collapse.[19]

The Proto-Villanovan culture dominated the peninsula and replaced the preceding Apennine culture. The Proto-Villanovans practiced cremation and buried the ashes of their dead in pottery urns of a distinctive double-cone shape. Generally speaking, Proto-Villanovan settlements have been found in almost the whole Italian peninsula from Veneto to eastern Sicily, although they were most numerous in the northern-central part of Italy. The most important settlements excavated are those of Frattesina in Veneto region, Bismantova in Emilia-Romagna and near the Monti della Tolfa, north of Rome. The Latino-Faliscans, the Veneti, and possibly the Osco-Umbrians too, have been associated with this culture.

In the 13th century BCE, Proto-Celts (probably the ancestors of the Lepontii people), coming from the area of modern-day Switzerland, eastern France and south-western Germany (RSFO Urnfield group), entered Northern Italy (Lombardy and eastern Piedmont), starting the Canegrate culture, who not long time after, merging with the indigenous Ligurians, produced the mixed Golasecca culture.

Iron Age

Italy (as defined by today's borders) in 400 BC.

In the early Iron Age, the relatively homogeneous Proto-Villanovan culture shows a process of fragmentation and regionalisation. In Tuscany and in part of Emilia-Romagna, Latium and Campania, the Proto-Villanovan culture was followed by the Villanovan culture. The Villanovan culture is closely associated with the Celtic Halstatt culture of Alpine Austria, and is characterised by the introduction of iron-working, the practice of cremation coupled with the burial of ashes in distinctive pottery. The earliest remains of Villanovan culture date back to circa 1100 BCE.

In the region south of the Tiber (Latium Vetus), the Latial culture of the Latins emerges, while in the north-east of the peninsula the Este culture of the Veneti appeared. Roughly in the same period, from their core area in central Italy (modern-day Umbria and Sabina region), the Osco-Umbrians began to emigrate in various waves, through the process of Ver sacrum, the ritualized extension of colonies, in southern Latium, Molise and the whole southern half of the peninsula, replacing the previous tribes, such as the Opici and the Oenotrians. This corresponds with the emergence of the Terni culture, which had strong similarities with the Celtic cultures of Hallstatt and La Tène.[20] The Umbrian necropolis of Terni, which dates back to the 10th century BCE, was identical in every aspect to the Celtic necropolis of the Golasecca culture.[21]


By the mid-first millennium BCE, the Latins of Rome were growing in power and influence. This led to the establishment of ancient Roman civilization. In order to combat the non-Italic Etruscans, several Italic tribes united in the Latin League. After the Latins had liberated themselves from Etruscan rule they acquired a dominant position among the Italic tribes. Frequent conflict between various Italic tribes followed. The best documented of these are the wars between the Latins and the Samnites.[7]

The Latins eventually succeeded in unifying the Italic elements in the country. Many non-Latin Italic tribes adopted Latin culture and acquired Roman citizenship. During this time Italic colonies were established throughout the country, and non-Italic elements eventually adopted the Latin language and culture in a process known as Romanization.[17] In the early first century BCE, several Italic tribes, in particular the Marsi and the Samnites, rebelled against Roman rule. This conflict is called the Social War. After Roman victory was secured, all peoples in Italy, except for the Celts of the Po Valley, were granted Roman citizenship.[7]

Rise of the Romance languages

Romanization was eventually extended to the European areas dominated by the Roman Empire. Roman methods of organization and technology also spread to the Germanic tribes living along Rome's European frontier. In the fifth century CE these tribes migrated into the Western Roman Empire and amalgamated with the local Latin-speaking population.[7] The Germanic migration left a vacuum filled by the Slavs.[7]

After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the use of the Latin language retreated in size, but was still widely used, such as through the Catholic Church as well as by others like the Germanic Visigoths and the Catholic Frankish kingdom of Clovis.[22]:1 In part due to regional dialects of the Latin language and local environments, several languages evolved from it, the Romance languages.[22]:4 The ethnic groups that emerged from this development are collectively referred to as Romance peoples, Latin peoples or Romanic peoples.[7][3][1][2][5][4] The Spanish and Portuguese languages prominently spread into North, Central, and South America through colonization.[22]:8,10 The French language has spread to most inhabited continents through colonialism, however the ethnic qualification of the Italic ethnolinguistic group is only found in France, and some parts of Haiti.[22]:13–15 The Italian language developed as a national language of Italy beginning in the 19th century out of several similar Romance dialects.[22]:312 The Romanian language has developed primarily in the Daco-Romanian variant that is the national language of Romania and Moldova, but also with other Romanian variants such as the Aromanian spoken in Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia by the Aromanian minority. The Romance peoples are along with Germanic peoples and Slavs one of the three major ethnolinguistic groups in modern Europe.[6][1]

Romance ethnic groups include:[1][2][5][4][3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Pop 1996, pp. 25-26 "We could say that contemporary Europe is made up of three large groups of peoples, divided on the criteria of their origin and linguistic affiliation. They are the following: the Romanic or neo-Latin peoples (Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, French, Romanians, etc.), the Germanic peoples (Germans proper, English, Dutch, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Icelanders, etc.), and the Slavic peoples (Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, etc.)"
  2. ^ a b c Pop 1999, p. 19 "The most well- known Romanic peoples that have maintained themselves as part of Western Romanity are the Italians, the French, the Spanish and the Portuguese, while Romanians exist within the framework of Eastern Romanity."
  3. ^ a b c Minahan 2000, p. 776 "Romance (Latin) nations"
  4. ^ a b c Treptow 1996, p. 74 "Latin peoples of Western Europe (the Italians, the French, the Spanish, the Catalans, the Proven9als, the Romansh, and the Portuguese)."
  5. ^ a b c GP 2001, p. 34 "Romanians (a Latin people, cousins of Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Catalans)."
  6. ^ a b Historical Atlas of Central Europe: Third Revised and Expanded Edition. University of Toronto Press. p. 97. ISBN 1487523319. In. the nineteenth century, the population of Central Eu - rope contained peoples from the three major ethnolinguistic groups of Europe—the Germanic, Romance, and Slavic...
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 452–459
  8. ^ a b c d e Mallory 1997, pp. 314–319
  9. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 305
  10. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 344
  11. ^ Hans, Wagner. "Anatolien war nicht Ur-Heimat der indogermanischen Stämme". eurasischesmagazin. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Language evolution and human history: what a difference a date makes, Russell D. Gray, Quentin D. Atkinson and Simon J. Greenhill (2011)".
  13. ^ "A Grammar of Proto-Germanic, Winfred P. Lehmann Jonathan Slocum" (PDF).
  14. ^ p. 144, Richard Bradley The prehistory of Britain and Ireland, Cambridge University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-521-84811-3
  15. ^ a b c Anthony 2007, p. 367
  16. ^ "Italic languages: Origins of the Italic languages". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c "History of Europe: Romans". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  18. ^ Pearce, Mark (December 1, 1998). "New research on the terramare of northern Italy". Antiquity.
  19. ^ Waldman & Mason 2006, pp. 620–658
  20. ^ Leonelli, Valentina. La necropoli delle Acciaierie di Terni: contributi per una edizione critica (Cestres ed.). p. 33.
  21. ^ Farinacci, Manlio. Carsulae svelata e Terni sotterranea. Associazione Culturale UMRU - Terni.
  22. ^ a b c d e Harris, Martin; Vincent, Nigel (2001). Romance Languages. London, England, UK: Routledge.
  23. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 47 ""The Andorrans are a Romance people, originally of Catalan descent"
  24. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 156 "The Catalans are a Romance people"
  25. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 182 "The Corsicans are a Romance people"
  26. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 257 "The French are a basically Latin people"
  27. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 343 "The Italians are a Latin people"
  28. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 533 "The Portuguese are a Latin nation"
  29. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 545 "The Romands are a distinct Romance people"
  30. ^ Cole 2011, p. 305 "Romanians are the only Latin people to adopt Orthodoxy"
  31. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 548 "The Romanians are a Latin nation"
  32. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 466 "The Moldovans are a Romanian people"
  33. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 588 "The Sards are a Romance people"
  34. ^ Minahan 2000, p. 739 "The Walloons are a Latin people, the most northerly of the Latinpeoples..."