The Pre-Roman Background
Italy has always been a variegated country. The regional diversity which has characterised the peninsula since the fall of the Roman Empire, and which still persists to this day, was even more marked in pre-Roman times. Before the Roman conquest Italy was a patchwork of different peoples, languages and cultures. Unfortunately our knowledge of these pre-Roman societies is scanty, and a full reconstruction of their historical development from prehistoric times is not practicable from the evidence currently available to us. It is certainly possible to say something about their culture and way of life at the time of the Roman conquest itself (fourth-third centuries BC);1 historical accounts of the peoples defeated by Rome can be supplemented by linguistic data from contemporary inscriptions and from place-names, and by a growing body of archaeological material. The problem is to understand the antecedents of this situation, and to determine how much can be extrapolated into the remote past, so as to provide information about Italy at the dawn of history. For the period before the emergence of Rome, the only direct evidence comes from archaeology, and this evidence must form our starting-point.