The geography of the Italian Peninsula had offered many benefits to the ancient people who inhabited it. It is a place that is bountiful in natural resources and, because it is a peninsula, has no shortage of access to water. The peninsula also provides some means of defense, as invaders on land can only access the peninsula through one way, from Europe. In Italy’s case, the defense was made stronger because of the Alps creating a protective barrier to the north. Because the most important resource to ancient man was fresh water, the Apennine Mountain Range was also important, because it provided Italians with streams and springs full of fresh water able to sustain a population. The three most important of these rivers on the Italian Peninsula, three of the largest, are the Po, the Arno, and the Tiber rivers.
The Po River provides a large, fertile valley, but it is only an example of the fertile plains of Italy. The plains around future-Rome, Latium, and plains around future-Naples provided bountiful lands to those who were able to cultivate them, and they provided a great foundation for the republic and empire that would come from Rome. Though many of the Italians who inhabited the peninsula before Rome were tribes, those who began to practice agriculture in Italy would find it extremely abundant in fertility and fresh water, so, because of its geography, it would appear obvious why a people would choose the Italian peninsula as a place to be, and it helps to explain why the future Roman Empire was as successful and protected as it was. Rome was surrounded by water and Italy was nearly enclosed by mountains, and armies cannot swim.
It is believed that the first inhabitants to the Italian Peninsula were back during the Stone Age, but the Etruscans are considered the first of the urbanized people to populate Italy. The Etruscans themselves aren’t overly well known in history, as their origins are relatively unknown and there is no literature from the people themselves, but instead literature about them is survived from Rome. Some theories have them coming from the eastern Mediterranean. Though they are called the Etruscans, there is no evidence to suggest that the people were politically unified under one entity. Etruscan political civilization was seen in the “Twelve Cities,” or more formally the “League of Twelve Cities.” These “cities,” at one point ruled by kings but eventually “evolved” into oligarchies in which prominent families would rule the council.
Unfortunately, unlike the Roman Empire that is to come, the first politically unified people on the Italian peninsula did not leave a lot behind to go off of, so it is not known how much of Italy they actually ruled over or if they ever fully consolidated power in Italy. The Etruscans eventually collapsed after conflict with Greeks and Gauls from each side, and they were eventually absorbed into the future Roman Empire, and their influence on Rome is palpable. Roman politics and architecture were heavily influenced by the early Italian inhabitants, and eventually there ceased to be any separate “Etruscan” culture, and it was fully absorbed into Rome.