Language Maps

Languages of Italy c. 700 BC – c. 50 BC

This map shows the attested locations of inscriptions in the languages of ancient Italy. The aim of the map is to show the attested extent of each language, and the areas of overlap where more than one language is attested.

Each site gets one marker per language, no matter how many inscriptions are associated with that site (for example, Rome gets only one marker for “Latin”). Round markers are used where there is only one language attested at that site. Star markers are used where more than one language is attested that site, even where the languages are not attested at the same time period.

Inscriptions have been dated by century only. For example, an inscription dated to c.430 would be included as “C5th”, and an inscription dated to 450-350 would be included as “C5th-4th”. An inscription dated to c.300 would be included as “C4th”.

You can add and remove languages from the map using the toolbar on the left.

Ligurian does not appear on this map, as it is attested mostly (or even entirely?) from place names. There are a few Etruscan inscriptions in the region of Liguria which may in fact be in the ‘Ligurian’ language (or maybe a Celtic language). See James Clackson 2015 Language and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds: 3-6.

Of the inscriptions in Imagines Italicae, Caere 1 (Tolfa, C6th), Sabini 1 (?Chiusi, C7th), Forum Nouum 1 (Magliano Sabina, C7th), Forum Nouum 2 (Poggio Sommavilla, C7th) have been listed as Umbrian, though they may be Sabine; Aveia 1 (C2nd, Villa Sant’Angelo) is listed as Vestinian, though it too may be Sabine. Sabini 2 (C6th) may be Sabine, but is of uncertain findspot and doesn’t appear on the map. See Zair (forthcoming).

NB: Datings and findspots are not necessarily reliable guides to when and where the languages were being spoken and written. For example, Imagines Italicae Interpromium B (a helmet with a South Picene inscription) was found in Bologna in a grave dated to the fourth/third century BC. However, the helmet or even just the cheek-piece which bears the inscription may be quite a bit older and possibly from another area of Italy (see Crawford 2011: 259).

This map is currently based on the following sources:

  • Greek: Supplementum Epigraphicum GraecumL.H. Jeffrey (1961) Local Scripts of Archaic Greece; L. Dubois (1995-2002) Inscriptions grecques dialectales de Grande Grèce; R. Arena (1989-1998) Iscrizioni greche arcaiche di Sicilia e Magna Grecia.
  • Oscan, Umbrian, South Picene, Volscian, Marrucinian, Vestinian, Marsian, Hernician, Paelignian and “Pre-Samnite”: H. Rix (2002) Sabellische Texte; M. Crawford (2011) Imagines Italicae; M. Weiss (2012) “Iguvine Tables” in The Encyclopedia of Ancient History; N. Zair (forthcoming) “Languages of Ancient Italy”.
  • Venetic: M. Lejeune (1974) Manel de la langue vénète; G.B. Pellegrini and A.L. Prosdocimi (1967) La lingua venetica; G. Fogolari and A. L. Prosdocimi (1988) I Veneti antichi: lingua e cultura; A. Marinetti (1999) “Iscrizioni venetiche. Aggiornamento 1988-1998” in Studi Etruschi: p461ff; A. Marinetti (2004) “Venetico: rassegna di nuove iscrizioni” in Studi Etruschi: p389ff.
  • Etruscan: H. Rix (1991) Etruskische Texte: Editio Minor.
  • Messapic: C. de Simone and S. Marchesini (2002) Monumenta linguae Messapicae.
  • Lepontic and Rhaetic: (with references).
  • General: N. Zair (forthcoming) “Languages of Italy”; J. Clackson (2015) Language and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds.
  • With thanks to Livia Tagliapietra and Nick Zair for personal communications.


Imagines Italicae Volume 3

This map is based on the information provided in Michael Crawford (2011) Imagines Italicae, Volume 3.


More maps and resources coming soon…


These maps are under a CC BY-NC licence. This means you may use them for non-commercial purposes, attributing them to me (Katherine McDonald). You should also include a link to this page. Commercial uses of this data will be considered on a case-by-case basis: please get in touch below.

Please feel free to download and use the KML data for your own projects, but please still include an attribution. If you do use this data, please get in touch – I’d love to know more about your work.

Please get in touch with any questions, requests, or corrections to the current resources using the form below.