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A gold cup from northern Italy (ca. 1800 BC) is like Bronze Age gold cups from Germany and England and may show that there was trading going on all across Bronze Age Europe.

A gold cup from northern Italy (ca. 1800 BC) is like Bronze Age gold cups from Germany and England and may show that there was trading going on all across Bronze Age Europe.

When did Italy’s bronze age start?

Very early on, about 5000 BC, Stone Age people in northern Italy were mining copper and selling it for copper axes and chisels. They even sold copper to people across the Alps in northern Europe.

More about Stone Age Italy
The Stone Age in northern Europe

The people of Italy learned to use bronze from the people of West Asia, perhaps from the Phoenicians (foy-NEE-shans), who traded with them.

How do you make bronze?
Bronze Age West Asia
Who were the Phoenicians?

Did Italian people use a lot of bronze?

But bronze was very expensive. Smiths make bronze from copper and tin, and there is no tin in Italy. To get tin, you had to travel to England or to West Asia. So most people still used stone, wood, or bone tools. Only rich people had things made of bronze.

Small independent towns

In the Bronze Age, Italy had a lot of small independent towns, which sometimes formed themselves into leagues to fight together (as the Greeks did for the Trojan War about the same time), and sometimes did not.

Ind0-European invasion

Mycenaean pottery was traded to Bronze Age Sicily

Mycenaean pottery was traded to Bronze Age Sicily

Around 2000 BC Italy, like Greece and Germany, was probably invaded by Indo-Europeans coming from West Asia. The language these invaders spoke gradually became the languages of Italy: Latin, but also Oscan, Sabine, and other languages that nobody speaks anymore.

Who were the Indo-Europeans?

These Indo-Europeans brought with them horses and wagons, the idea of the pottery wheel, and probably many other inventions as well.

Where did horses come from? 
Who invented the wheel?
History of pottery

Trade with Bronze Age Greece

By about 1500 BC, Italians were trading with Bronze Age people from Mycenaean Greece. A fair amount of Mycenaean pottery made it to Italy, and probably Italians sold things to the Greeks, too – maybe wood and enslaved people.

Find out more about Mycenaean Greece
What was Mycenaean pottery like?

More about the Villanovan people
More about the Etruscans

Bibliography and further reading about the Bronze Age in Italy:

Classical Rome, by John Clare (1993). For kids, the whole political history from beginning to end.

Oxford First Ancient History, by Roy Burrell (reissued 1997). Easy reading. It skips around a lot, not trying to tell everything, just highlights.

The Romans: From Village to Empire, by Mary Boatwright, Daniel Gargola, and Richard Talbert (2004). Okay, it’s a little dry, but it is up to date and has all the facts you could want.

The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c. 1000-264 BC), by Tim Cornell (1995). A little more specialized.

Etruscans
Roman History
Ancient Rome
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