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Ancient Cities of Modern Umbria


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Ancient Cities of Modern UmbriaMain Page     Literary sources   

Ancient Umbria     Etruscan Volsinii and Perusia     Upper Sabinium and Nursia


(Note that the page “Literary Sources” expands on all the classical references in the account below)


Modern Umbria is named for an ancient people that inhabited a large area of Iron Age Italy.  Classical sources suggest that they were subsequently pushed back by other peoples into what became their heartland in the centre of the peninsular:

  1. according to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in addition to their heartland, “the Umbrians [originally] inhabited a great many other parts of Italy ... and were an exceedingly great and ancient people”. 

  2. according to Pliny the Elder: “The Umbri are considered to be the most ancient nation of Italy (“gens antiquissima Italiae existimatur”) .... We read that 300 of their towns were conquered by the Etruscans".

Other Cities and Towns of Modern Umbria

The map above shows the Tiber flowing through modern Umbria, from Città di Castello in the north to Otricoli in the south, before winding its way via Rome to the sea.  Much of the territory to the east of the river, extending across the Apennines as far as the Adriatic coast, was originally populated by the ancient Umbrians.  The great majority of the towns and cities of modern Umbria can trace their roots back to this ancient people.  The history and culture of these people before the Roman conquest are described in the page Ancient Umbrians.

Etruscan and Sabine Cities in Modern Umbria

The area to the west of the Tiber, as far as the Tyrrhenean Sea, might well have belonged to the ancient Umbrians, but it had passed to the Etruscans (a culturally and linguistically distinct group of people) by the 6th century BC.  Modern Umbria includes two cities on the west bank of the Tiber, both of which have Etruscan roots:

  1. Orvieto (Volsinii), which was probably the site of the Etruscans’ collective sanctuary; and

  2. Perugia (Perugia).

Their history and culture before the Roman conquest are described in the page Etruscan Volsinii and Perusia.

The Nera, a tributary of the Tiber that flows between Terni and Foligno, came to mark the boundary between the Umbrians and the people of Upper Sabinium.  Norcia (Nursia), which was one of the three important settlements in this region, is included in modern Umbria.  The history and culture of these people before the Roman conquest are described in the page Upper Sabinium and Nursia


Ancient Cities of Modern UmbriaMain Page     Literary sources   

Ancient Umbria     Etruscan Volsinii and Perusia     Upper Sabinium and Nursia


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