Ancient Geography of Italy

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History, Facts and Information about Ancient Geography of Italy
The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including the Ancient Geography of Italy.

Ancient History of Italy

Ancient Geography of Italy - The Geography and Size of Italy
Italy is the central one of the three great peninsulas which project from the south of Europe into the Mediterranean Sea.

It is bounded on the north by the chain of the Alps, which form a natural barrier, and it is surrounded on other sides by the sea. Its shores are washed on the west by the "Mare Inferum," or the Lower Sea, and on the east by the Adriatic, called by the Romans the "Mare Superum," or the Upper Sea. Italy is divided into two parts, the northern consisting of the great plain drained by the River Padus, or Po, and its tributaries, and the southern being a long tongue of land, with the Apennines as a back-bone running down its whole extent from north to south. The extreme length of the peninsula from the Alps to the Straits of Messina is 700 miles. The breadth of northern Italy is 350 miles, while that of the southern portion is on an average not more than 100 miles.

Ancient Geography of Italy - The Size of Italy
Until the time of the Empire, the Romans never included the plain of the Po in Italy. To this country they gave the general name of GALLIA CISALPINA, or Gaul on this (the Roman) side of the Alps, because of its being inhabited by Gauls. The western-most portion of the plain was peopled by Ligurian tribes, and was therefore called LIGURIA, while its eastern extremity formed the Roman province of VENETIA.

Ancient Geography of Italy - Italia
The name ITALIA was originally applied to a very small tract of country. It was at first confined to the southern portion of Calabria, and was gradually extended northward, till about the time of the Punic wars it indicated the whole peninsula south of the Rivers Rubicon and Macra, the former separating Cisalpine Gaul and Umbria, the latter Liguria and Etruria. Italy, so called, is a very mountainous country, being filled up more or less by the broad mass of the Apennines, the offshoots or lateral branches of which, in some parts, descend to the sea, but in others leave a considerable space of level or low country.

Ancient Geography of Italy - The Districts of Early Italy
Excluding the plain of the Po, Italy was divided into the following districts:

  • Etruria
  • Umbria
  • Picenum

Ancient Geography of Italy - The Districts of Early Italy - ETRURIA
Etruria extended along the coast of the Lower Sea from the River Macra on the north to the Tiber on the south. Inland, the Tiber also formed its eastern boundary, dividing it first from Umbria, afterward from the Sabines, and, lastly, from Latium. Its inhabitants were called Etrusci, or Tusci, the latter form being still preserved in the name of Tuscany. Besides the Tiber it possesses only one other river of any importance, the Arnus, or Arno, upon which the city of Florence now stands. Of its lakes the most considerable is the Lacus Trasimenus, about thirty-six miles in circumference, celebrated for the great victory which Hannibal there gained over the Romans.

Ancient Geography of Italy - The Districts of Early Italy - UMBRIA
Umbria is situated to the east of Etruria, and extending from the valley of the Tiber to the shores of the Adriatic. It was separated on the north from Gallia Cisalpina by the Rubicon, and on the south by the AEsis from Picenum, and by the Nar from the Sabines.

Ancient Geography of Italy - The Districts of Early Italy - PICENUM
Picenum extended along the Adriatic from the mouth of the aesis to that of the Matrinus and inland as far as the central ridge of the Apennines. It was bounded on the north by Umbria, on the south by the Vestini, and on the west by Umbria and the Sabini. Its inhabitants, the Picentes, were a Sabine race.

Ancient Geography of Italy - The Regions of Italy
The early regions of Italy were as follows:

  • Campania
  • Samnium
  • Apulia
  • Calabria
  • Lucania

Ancient Geography of Italy - Campania
Campania extended along the coast from the Liris, which separated it from Latium, to the Silarus, which formed the boundary of Lucania. The greater part of it is an unbroken plain, celebrated in ancient as well as in modern times for its extraordinary beauty and fertility. The Bay of Naples—formerly called Sinus Cumanus and Puteolanus, from the neighboring cities of Cumae and Puteoli is one of the most lovely spots in the world; and the softness of its climate, as well as the beauty of its scenery, attracted the Roman nobles, who had numerous villas along its coasts.

Ancient Geography of Italy - Samnium
Samnium was an inland district, bounded on the north by the Marsi and Peligni, on the east by the Frentani and Apulia, on the west by Latium and Campania, and on the south by Lucania. It is a mountainous country, being entirely filled with the masses of the Apennines. Its inhabitants, the Samnites, were of Sabine origin, as has been already mentioned, and they settled in the country at a comparatively late period. They were one of the most warlike races in Italy, and carried on a long and fierce struggle with the Romans.

Ancient Geography of Italy - Apulia
Apulia extended along the coast of the Adriatic from the Frentani on the north to Calabria on the south, and was bounded on the west by the Apennines, which separated it from Samnium and Lucania. It consists almost entirely of a great plain, sloping down from the Apennines to the sea.

Ancient Geography of Italy - Calabria
Calabria formed the heel of Italy, lying south of Apulia, and surrounded on every other side by the sea. It contains no mountains, and only hills of moderate elevation, the Apennines running to the southwest through Lucania and the Bruttii.

Ancient Geography of Italy - Lucania
Lucania was bounded on the north by Campania and Samnium, on the east by Apulia, and on the south by the Bruttii. The Apennines run through the province in its whole extent. The Lucanians were a branch of the Samnite nation, which separated from the main body of that people, and pressed on still farther to the south.

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