In one sense all the various races that occupied the Italian peninsula in ancient times belong to the Italic group; in a more exact classification, only those races and languages are comprised in this division whose characteristics show that they form a distinct branch of the Aryan or Indo-European family. In the former sense we find that Liguria in upper Italy was inhabited by an ancient people called the Ligures or Ligurians, of whose origin nothing authentic has been recorded, and of whose language no monuments are extant. Several modern writers have maintained the Celtic origin or affinity of the Ligurians, while others have denied that they have any connection with the Indo-Euro-peans. The Gauls of upper Italy, according to the authorities followed by Livy, immigrated in the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, and they are classed as Celts. The inhabitants of Venetia, the Veneti in the west, and the Carni in the east, are spoken of by Polybius as a different people from the Gauls their neighbors, and as using a different language.
Herodotus represents the Veneti as an Illyrian tribe, but it seems that the name Illyrian was given indiscriminately to all the mountaineers of the N. and E. coasts of the Adriatic. Modern scholars are inclined to consider the Veneti as related to the Illyrians or the ancestors of the present Albanians. There is good reason for referring their neighbors the Istrians to the same stock; but the Carni were more probably Celtic. The Eu-ganei, whom Livy describes as once great and powerful, and occupying the whole tract between the Alps and the sea, were of little importance in historical times, and there are no data from which to deduce their ethnological relation. The affinity of the Etruscans also has not yet been established, and they have been variously classed as Semites, Indo-Euro-peans, and Mongolians; but it is probable that their origin will some day be determined, as we are in possession of a sufficient number of monuments of their language to lead finally to their interpretation, while the linguistic material of the other nations consists only in proper names and a few words scattered through the writings of the Greeks and Romans. The Japygians of the S. E. portion of Italy seem to have been composed of several tribes or nations, among which were the Messapians, Salentines, and Peucetians. Niebuhr considers the name as etymologically connected with the Latin Apulus. The Apulians properly so called were probably a branch of the great Oscan or Ausonian, and not of the Sabellian race.
The Daunians, neighbors of the Peucetians, were from their first appearance in history completely blended with the Apulians. The Peucetians, however, retained a separate nationality to a comparatively late period. On the Calabrian peninsula were the Messapians or Oalabrians proper and the Salentines. Both races are represented in ancient tradition as Cretans, and it seems that they were closely related to the Hellenic races, as they adopted with great facility the manners and arts of Greek settlers. Modern authorities consider the Calabrians and Messapians as of the same tribe. Traces still remaining of the Messapian dialect have confirmed the opinion of their Pelasgic or Hellenic origin, as their language appears to have differed from Greek to no greater degree than the Macedonian and other dialects. Many of the oldest tribes of Italy are described by ancient writers as belonging to the Pelasgic race! (See Pelasgiaxs.) A large portion of central Italy was occupied from an early period by a people whom the Greeks called Opicans and the Latins Os-cans, and whom many identify with the Auso-nians of the Greeks and the Auruncans of the Romans. The Volsci and their neighbors the AEqui also were probably of Oscan race.
It is believed that the Latini or inhabitants of Latium were composed of two distinct races, the one more closely related to the Greek or Pelasgic stock, the other to the Italic race proper; but when the Latin people first appeared in history, these two elements were certainly blended into one, and they and their language are always regarded by Roman writers as an organic whole. The oldest form of the Latin bore a close resemblance to the extant monuments of the Oscan language. It is difficult to determine the precise relation which the primitive Oscans bore to the Sabines or Sabellians, but there are strong reasons for supposing that both nations were members of the same family or race. It seems certain that the immigration of the Sabellians cannot be carried back to a very remote age. When first mentioned they had not been long established in central Italy, and their extension further south took place soon after the establishment of Greek colonies in the south of the peninsula. The original territory of the Sabines was the central Apennines, whence they descended and pressed upon an Oscan race whom they expelled from the valleys about Reate. The Sabines gradually extended as far as the region still known as La Sabina, and separate colonies of Sabines established themselves to the east and west of their early abode.
The most celebrated of these were the Samnites and the Piceni or Picentes. The Sabine descent of the Peligni is clearly attested, and the close connection of these with the Marsi, Mar-rucini, and Vestini renders it probable that these four nations were of the same ethnic origin. The Frentani, Hirpini, and Lucanians are also usually described as separate Samnite colonies, and the Bruttians seem to have been a mixed population, made up of Lucanian conquerors and CEnotrian serfs. But though the Sabellian race reached thus from the neighborhood of Ancona to the southern extremity of Bruttium, it appears to have been a race of conquering warriors who rapidly blended with the Oscan population whom they subdued. The most ancient people of Italy, on the unanimous testimony of ancient authors, were the Umbrians, who at a very early period were a great and powerful nation in the northern half of central Italy. According to Xenodotus of Troezen, the Sabines themselves were a branch of the Umbrians. Philological research has clearly established that the Umbrian language was quite distinct from the Etruscan, and closely related to the Oscan as spoken by the Sabellian tribes, and also to the old Latin. This seems to warrant the now generally received opinion that the Umbrians, Oscans, and Latins, or at least the most important element of them, as well as the Sabines and their descendants, were branches of one race, or form a distinct and independent group of races belonging to" the Aryan or Indo-European family. - Languages. The Italic group of languages is divided into two distinct classes, the Umbro-Samnite or Umbro-Oscan and the Latin. Os-can and Umbrian bear about the same relation to Latin as the Ionic bears to the Doric dialect in Greek, and the differences between Oscan and Umbrian are no greater than those between Sicilian and Spartan Doric. The most ancient if not the only extant Umbrian record of importance is the celebrated Iguvine or Eugubian inscription on seven bronze plates found in 1444 at Gubbio, the ancient Iguvium in Umbria. It is now in the town hall of Gubbio. The Oscan, Samnite, or Sabellian language is preserved only in a few inscriptions.
The Cippus Abel-lanus, which dates from shortly after the second Punic war, contains a treaty of alliance between the citizens of Abella and the neighboring town of Nola, where it is now preserved. The Tabula Bantina is a bronze tablet found in 1790 at Oppido, 8 m. from Banzi, an ancient town of Apulia. This tablet furnished the starting point for the study of these languages, as it contains an inscription in both Latin and Oscan. Another bronze tablet was recently discovered at Agnone, in northern Samnium, which contains a dedication of various sacred offerings. The Oscan language prevailed extensively in Campania, and numerous inscriptions have come to light at Herculaneum and Pompeii, several of which have been copied and translated, and all of them are published from time to time in the official reports of the progress of the excavations. The language of the Latins was spoken before the emigration of the Samnites by the Ausonians in Campania, by the Itali proper in Lucania and Bruttium, and probably also by the Siculians in the eastern portion of Sicily. In Latium proper it was developed, through the influence of the Etruscans and Umbro-Samnites, into the Latin language, which became the prevailing speech of Italy and was finally known as the Roman language (lingua Romano), and gave rise to the modern dialects now described as the Romance languages. (See Latin Language and Literature, and Romance Languages.) - For the Umbrian language, see Grotefend, Rudimenta Linguae Umbricae (Hanover, 1835-'9); Aufrecht and Kirchhoff, Die umbrischen Sprachdenkmaler erlautert (Berlin, 1849-'51); and Huschke, Die iguvischen Tafeln, containing a grammar and glossary (Leipsic, 1859). For the Oscan language, see Grotefend, Rudimenta Linguae Oscae (Hanover, 1839); Mommsen, Oskische Studien (Berlin, 1845); Kirchhoff, Das Stadt-recht ton Bantia (Berlin, 1853); Huschke, Die oskischen und sabellischen Sprachdenh-maler (Elberfeld, 1856), which contains also a grammar and glossary of the language.
For comparative purposes, see Mommsen, Die un-teritalischen Dialecte (Leipsic, 1850); Corssen, De Vohcorum Lingua (Naumburg, 1858), and several articles in Kuhn's Zeitschrift fur rer-gleichende Sprachwissenschaft; and Corpus In-8criptionum Latinarum Consilio et Auctoritate Academics Litterarum Regiae Borussicae editum (Berlin, 1869 et seq.).