Katsoyan’s Weblog

The origin of the name of Italy

Posted by katsoyan on Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A friend of mine (Vassilis) sent this e mail, about the origin of the name “Italy”.

Italus (or Italos) was a legendary king of the Sicels or Oenotrians, who were among the earliest inhabitants of Italy. In his Fabularum Liber (or Fabulae) , Gaius Julius Hyginus recorded the myth that Italus was a son of Penelope and Telegonus.

According to Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War), Italy (Italia) got its name from this Italus figure:

Even at the present day there are still Sicels in Italy; and the country got its name of Italy from Italus, a king of the Sicels, so called. (6.2.4)

A few lines earlier in the same text (6.2.1), Thucydides states that the earliest inhabitants of Italy were the ancient Cyclops race (Cyclopes).

Centuries later, the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus in his Rhomaike Archaiologia (Antiquitates romanae, “Roman Antiquities”), quoting Antioch of Syracuse, retells this account that Italia was named after Italus (1.35), and alongside this Dionysius retells the other account that Italia derives its name from a word for bull calf (1.35), an etymology also stated in Timaeus, Varro (Rerum Rusticarum, 2.5), and Festus.

4 Responses to “The origin of the name of Italy”

  1. Paoky said

    Nai re su auta ta grafei kai o liakopoulos sto biblio tou.

  2. Makis M said

    I did not know that the name Italy had something to do with Greeks, but I would have said it.
    I guess that if you ask Italians, they will not respond correctly.

  3. sman said

    Here is the link to the original text. Thoukididou Istoriai.

    Akros enfiaferon.

    http://www.mikrosapoplous.gr/thucy/vivlia/vivlio6.htm

  4. katsoyan said

    Thanks Sman,
    Πολύ χρήσιμο αυτό το link!
    AK

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