Umbria Region of Italy, History of the Region

Umbria Region of Italy

The Umbria Region is named after the Umbri tribe.  Their language was Umbrian, one of the Italic languages, related to Latin and Oscan.

The Umbri probably sprang, like neighbouring tribes, from the creators of the Terramara, and Villanovan culture in northern and central Italy, who entered north-eastern Italy at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the primary threat to the Umbri tribes.  The Etruscan invasion started in the western area currently recognized as the Tuscany Region moved towards the north and east and lasted from about 700 to 500 BC.  This drove the Umbrians into the Apennine mountains and even though over 300 Umbrian towns were captured the Umbrian population and traditions continued to live on.


After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their wars against Rome in 308 B.C.  Later communications with Samnium were impeded by the Roman fortress of Narni (founded 298 BC).  Romans defeated the Samnites and their Gallic allies in the battle of Sentinum (295 BC).  Allied Umbrians and Etruscans had to return to their territories to defend against simultaneous Roman attacks, so were unable to help the Samnites in the battle of Sentium.

The Roman victory at Sentinum started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies like Spoletium and built the via Flaminia in 220 B.C..  The via Flaminia became a principal focus point for Roman development in Umbria.  During Hannibal's invasion in the second Punic war, the battle of Lake Trasimene was fought in Umbria, but the Umbrians did not aid the invader.

During the Roman civil war between Mark Antony and Octavian (40 BC), the city of Perugia supported Antony and was almost completely destroyed by Octavian. The Roman writer, Pliny the Elder noted that  49 independent communities still existed in Umbria, and the abundance of inscriptions and the high proportion of recruits in the imperial army shows the presence of the population.

The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times.  Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche, to Ravenna, but excluded the west bank of the Tiber.  Thus Perugia was in Etruria, and the area around Norcia was in the Sabine territory.

After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines battled for the supremacy in the region.  The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, which forms most of today's Umbria.  When Charlemagne conquered most of the Lombard kingdoms, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope, who established temporal power over them.  Some cities acquired a form of autonomy.  These cities were frequently at war with each other, often in a context of more general conflicts, either between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire or between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. In the 14th century, the signori arose, but were subsumed into the Papal States.  The Papacy ruled the region until the end of the 18th century.

After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the ephemeral Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire (1809–1814). After Napoleon's defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

Following the Risorgimento, the expansion of the Piedmontese, and Italian unification, in 1861, Umbria was incorporated in the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927, with the creation of the province of Terni and the separation of the province of Rieti, which was incorporated into Lazio.

In 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.