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.
- 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.