Italian History I: Prehistory to Magna Graecia

Celtic gold-plated bronze disc from Auvers-sur-Oise, Val-d'Oise, dated to early 4th century BC; on display at the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, Italian History I: Prehistory to Magna Graecia, Italy, Italy (Photo by Gun Powder Ma)
Celtic gold-plated bronze disc from Auvers-sur-Oise, Val-d'Oise, dated to early 4th century BC; on display at the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, Greek art in Italy (500 BC–300 BC), General

From prehistory to "Greater Greece"

Findings in caves around Isneria in the Abruzzi suggest that humans settled in Italy about a million years ago.

Neanderthal man made a brief appearance, and Cro-Magnon, who knew how to fish and domesticate animals, showed up about 18,000 years ago.

Magna Graecia, “Greater Greece,” describes Greek colonies established beginning in the 8C BC in Sicily and on the mainland from Apulia northwest to the Greek colony of Neapolis (Naples). The coastal land, never tilled, quickly turned out bumper crops. Abundant timber and wool production underpinned highly profitable trading. But these successful colonies fell to warring amongst themselves, and by the 4C BC Greece was a fading influence in southern Italy.

The best evidence of Magna Graecia exists in the temples at Paestum (in Campania); in those at Agrigento, Segesta, and Selinute (all in Sicily); and amid the artifacts at the archaeological museums of Paestum and Siracusa (both in Sicily) and Crotone and Reggio di Calabria (both in Calabria).

 
 

Prehistoric in Italy

Sights in Italy

A view of the Circo Massimo from the FAO headquarters

The top ancient sites and ruins in Italy

 

Topics in Italy

Cave paintings in Lascaux, dating back about 17,000 years (Photo by unknown)

The ancient Italians who taught the Romans a thing or two about art, architecture, and planning

 
Comparative Greek and Roman Orders, Greek Architecture, History of Architecture by Sir Banister Fletcher (1921), pg 160 (Photo Public Domain)

Ancient temples and theaters left by some of Italy's earliest advanced settlers

 

Greek architecture in Italy

Ancient in Italy

Sights in Italy

An arch from the Stadium of Domitian visible from the street (Via di Tor Sanguigna)

The top ancient sites and ruins in Italy

 

Topics in Italy

Celtic gold-plated bronze disc from Auvers-sur-Oise, Val-d'Oise, dated to early 4th century BC; on display at the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (Photo by Gun Powder Ma)

Greek colonies settled the Sicilian and Southern Italian coasts well before the Romans

 
Forum Romanum, Roman Architecture, from History of Architecture (Fletcher) pg 127 (Photo by Sir Banister Flight Fletcher)

The great Roman architectural innovations were the load-bearing arch and the use of concrete, brick, and stone

 

Where to find the best ancient Roman sculpture, mosaics, and frescoes in Italy

 

The art of early Christians was Roman in style, but its themes were starting to explore the figures and motifs that would soon become familiar

 

More on Prehistoric

Second Temple of Hera, also called Temple of Neptune or Temple of Poseidon

The top ancient sites and ruins in Italy

 
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The castle as seen from the air (Photo by Zheng Yan)
Castello Sforzesco
Milan: Castello / Sempione

Milan's sprawling 15C castle is home to several excellent museums, of tapestries, archaeological artifacts, paintings by Bellini and Mantegna, and sculptures from medieval to neoclassical—including Michelangelo's final sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà

 
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Desenzano
Southern Lake Garda

The town anchoring Gardsa's SW corner is home to Northern Italy's best-=preserved ancient Roman villa

 
Cave paintings in Lascaux, dating back about 17,000 years (Photo by unknown)

The ancient Italians who taught the Romans a thing or two about art, architecture, and planning

 
Comparative Greek and Roman Orders, Greek Architecture, History of Architecture by Sir Banister Fletcher (1921), pg 160 (Photo Public Domain)

Ancient temples and theaters left by some of Italy's earliest advanced settlers

 
Tuscan Roots
Florence

From Prehistory to the Etruscans

 

More on Greek architecture

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The long, tunnel-like atrium of the Cave of the Cumean Sybil (Photo by Nik893)
Cuma
Cuma

Learn your ABC's about the myth-shrouded Cave of the Cumaean Sibyl at Cuma

 
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Second Temple of Hera, also called Temple of Neptune or Temple of Poseidon (Photo by Norbert Nagel)

Three Greek temples sprouting from the middle of mozzarella country

 
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The long, tunnel-like atrium of the Cave of the Cumean Sybil (Photo by Nik893)

The ancient keyhole-shaped tunnel to the cave of the fortuneteller

 
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The criptoportico archaeological excavations underneath San Lorenzo Maggiore (Photo by Sergioizzo)
San Lorenzo Maggiore
Naples: Centro Storico

Burrow through 2,500 years of Neapolitan history in this best of Naples' churches

 
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Bastione di Parsano
Downtown Sorrento

Medieval walls and a Greco-Roman arch.

 
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The atrium of the Duomo (Photo courtesy of the Cattedrale di San Matteo)
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The Duomo
Downtown Salerno

Cattedrale di San Matteo—the cathedral of Salerno—houses ancient Greek columns, Roman sarcofagi, medieval pulpits, and the body of St. Matthew the Evangelist

 

More on Ancient

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A room in the museum (Photo by Filippo Espo)
Museo Correale
Downtown Sorrento

A small, bit-of-everything museum

 
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A view of the Circo Massimo from the FAO headquarters (Photo by Le Mai)
Circus Maximus
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The greatest racing arena in ancient Rome is now a grassy jogging oval and outdoor concert venue

 
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Toscolano-Maderno
Garda's eastern shore

A beach town and Romanesque church on Garda's western shore

 
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The Forum of Caesar, also known as Forum Iulium or Forum Julium, Forum Caesaris, is a forum built by Augustus Caesar in honor of his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, near the Forum Romanum in Rome in 46 BC (Photo by Ade Russell)
Forum of Caesar
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

The Forum of Caesar, part of the Imperial Fori in Rome

 
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 (Photo by M@rcello;-))
Museo Stibbert
Florence: Outskirts

Incredible private collection that includes the largest display of Japanese arms and armour in Europe

 
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Ancient statues in the Aula Ottagona (Photo by Rene Boulay)
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Aula Ottagona
Rome: Termini train station

The Aula Ottagona is both the most atmospheric branch of Rome's Museo Nazionale Romano and the only one that's admission-free. Sadly, it's usually closed.

 
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The facade (Photo by Rufus46)
Free
San Francesco
Florence: Fiesole

Fransican church and convent with an early Renaissance altarpiece, Etruscan ruins, and a tiny museum with Chinese and Ancient Egyptian artifacts

 
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The Teatro di Marcello and trio of columns of the Temple of Apollo Sosianus (Photo by Joadl)
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Teatro di Marcello
Rome: Tiber Bend

Marcellus's Theater was the Colosseum 1.0, the original Roman amphitheater

 
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 (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
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Teatro di Pompeo
Rome: Tiber Bend

The remnants of Pompey's Theater are hidden away in the basement of an unassuming restaurant near Campo de' Fiori

 
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Transept (Photo by Fczarnowski)
Free
Santa Maria degli Angeli
Rome: Termini train station

Rome's Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is a church designed by Michelangelo to inhabit the remains of an ancient Roman bathhouse...you'd think it'd be more famous

 
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A basement dining room inside an ancient Roman hallway (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
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Da Pancrazio
Rome: Tiber Bend

Dine in the buried arcades of an ancient Roman stadium

 
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 (Photo courtesy of the restaurant)
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Da Giggetto
Rome: Lower Tiber Bend

Great artichokes and other Roman Jewish delicacies surrounded by ancient ruins in Rome's Jewish Ghetto

 
Celtic gold-plated bronze disc from Auvers-sur-Oise, Val-d'Oise, dated to early 4th century BC; on display at the Cabinet des Médailles of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (Photo by Gun Powder Ma)

Greek colonies settled the Sicilian and Southern Italian coasts well before the Romans

 
Forum Romanum, Roman Architecture, from History of Architecture (Fletcher) pg 127 (Photo by Sir Banister Flight Fletcher)

The great Roman architectural innovations were the load-bearing arch and the use of concrete, brick, and stone

 

The Founding of Florence

 

Where to find the best ancient Roman sculpture, mosaics, and frescoes in Italy

 

The art of early Christians was Roman in style, but its themes were starting to explore the figures and motifs that would soon become familiar

 

Brief bios of Pliny the Elder and his nephew Pliny the Younger, ancient Roman scientists and chroniclers of the death of Pompeii

 

The legendary twins who founded Rome—and the she-wolf that raised them

 

What was it really like being a gladiator?