The Mediterranean peninsula
Italy, meaning the entire peninsula south of the Alps, is known as such from about the 1st century BC. Several centuries earlier, when the name first appears, it is used only of the area in the extreme south – the toe of the peninsula.
In the 1st century BC Italy is under the control of a single power, Rome, and it will remain so until the 5th century AD. The peninsula again becomes a political entity, as the modern nation of Italy, in 1861. In all other periods of prehistory and history this most desirable of territories has been shared and fought over by numerous rival groups.
Around 700 BC the majority of the tribes in Italy are relatively recent arrivals, either by land from the north or by sea across the Adriatic. They are Indo-Europeans, speaking the subgroup of languages known as Italic. But the dominant group at this time, the Etruscans, are of some different origin. Where they have come from remains a subject of much scholarly debate, but by about 500 BC they control much of central Italy.