Prehistory and antiquity
Excavations throughout Italy reveal a Neanderthal presence dating back to the Paleolithic period, some 200,000 years ago, modern Humans arrived about 40,000 years ago. The Ancient peoples of pre-Roman Italy – such as the Umbrians, the Latins (from which the Romans emerged), Volsci, Samnites, the Celts and the Ligures which inhabited northern Italy, and many others – were Indo-European peoples; the main historic peoples of non-Indo-European heritage include the Etruscans, the Elymians and Sicani in Sicily and the prehistoric Sardinians.
Between the 17th and the 11th century BC Mycenaean Greeks established contacts with Italy and in the 8th and 7th centuries BC Greek colonies were established all along the coast of Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula became known as Magna Graecia. Also the Phoenicians established colonies on the coasts of Sardinia and Sicily.
Ancient Rome was at first a small agricultural community founded c. the 8th century BC, that grew over the course of the centuries into a colossal empire encompassing the whole Mediterranean Sea, in which Ancient Greek and Roman cultures merged into one civilization. This civilization was so influential that parts of it survive in modern law, administration, philosophy and arts, forming the ground that Western civilization is based upon. In a slow decline since the late 2nd century AD, the empire finally broke into two parts in 395 AD: the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. The western part – under the pressure of the Franks, the Vandals, the Huns, the Goths and other populations from Eastern Europe – finally dissolved in 476 AD, when the last western Emperor was deposed by the Barbarian chief Odoacer.
After the fall of Rome, Italy was conquered by the Germanic Tribe of the Ostrogoths, but in the 6th century the East Roman Emperor Justinian reconquered it. The invasion of another