Italy

ITALY (Gr. Italia). The geographical term for the country of which Rome was the capital. Originally it applied only to the extreme south of what is now Italy, the region now called Calabria; but gradually the application of the name was extended, until in the first century of our era it began to be used in the current sense. It is referred to four times in the NT: (1) In Acts.18.2 Aquila and Priscilla had just come from Italy because Emperor Claudius had commanded that all Jews leave Rome. (2) It is mentioned in Acts.27.1, as Paul’s destination when he had appealed to Caesar; and in Acts.27.6 Paul is put on board a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy. (3) In Heb.13.24 Christians from Italy send their greetings along with those of the author of the letter. (4) In Acts.10.1 it is mentioned as the country that gave its name to the cohort stationed at Caesarea, of which Cornelius was the centurion. Christianity was early introduced into Italy, but the time and circumstances are uncertain.


See Papal States, Risorgimento


ITALY ĭt’ ə lĭ (̓Ιταλία, G2712). The name Italy prob. derives from the Italic vitulus, an ox or calf. It was originally, in its Gr. form Italia, applied to the southern tip or “toe” of the peninsula, and then extended step by step with the unification of the peninsula under Rom. power. Northern Italy, Cisalpine Gaul, was not incorporated and included under the name until Augustus’ time. It was only then that Italy first reached its Alpine frontiers. The leg-shaped peninsula is 700 m. long and in breadth never more than 150 m., except in the northern plain. The Alps form a northern barrier, but not impassable, as Hannibal demonstrated. The northern plain, wide open to invasion, lies between the Alps and the Apennines. This chain branches from the Alps near Genoa, thus eastward to bound old Cisalpine Gaul, rises in height, and sweeps southeastward toward the Adriatic coast, and forms a spine for the peninsula. The mountains, and the plains which they enclose, form the Italian landscape, the former beautiful but infertile, the latter rich and productive, and well watered. Timber, in early days, was abundant, and Italy has always grown the olive and the vine, temperate fruits, and cereals in rich quantity. Hence the attraction that the peninsula held for invaders, the Etruscans from Asia Minor, the Latins, Oscans, and Umbrians, three branches of Indo-European stock, and other groups of migrants, including the founders of the chain of Gr. cities around the southern coasts. The Lat. stock, from their enclave around the Tiber, prevailed. Seven centuries of expansion resulted in Rome’s political unification of the most strategically located of the Mediterranean peninsulas, the key, as demonstrated from the days of Carthage to the Second World War, to the possession of the central Mediterranean.

Italy is mentioned three times in the NT: twice by Luke (Acts 18:2; 27:1), and once by the author of Hebrews, who sent greetings from Italian friends to the recipients of his epistle (Heb 13:24).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

At first confined as a name to the extreme southern part of the Italian peninsula in the region now called Calabria, whence its application was gradually extended. In Greek usage of the 5th century BC, the name was applied to the coasts as far as Metapontum and Posidonia, being synonymous with Oenotria. The Oenotrians are represented as having assumed the name of Italians (Itali) from a legendary ruler Italus (Dionysius, i.12,35; Vergil, Aen. i.533). The extension of Roman authority seems to have given this name an ever-widening application, since it was used to designate their allies generally. As early as the time of Polybius the name Italy was sometimes employed as an appellation for all the country between the two seas (Tyrrhenian and Adriatic) and from the foot of the Alps to the Sicilian Straits (Polyb. i.6; ii.14; iii.39,54), although Cisalpine Gaul was not placed on a footing of complete equality with the peninsula as regards administration until shortly after the death of Julius Caesar. From the time of Augustus the term was used in practically its modern sense (Nissen, Italische Landeskunde, I, 57-87).

The name Italy occurs 3 times in the New Testament: Ac 18:2, Aquila "lately come from Italy," because of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius; Ac 27:1, the decision that Paul be sent to Italy; Heb 13:24, salutation from those "of Italy." The adjective form is found in the appellation, "Italian band" (cobors Italica, Ac 10:1).

The history of ancient Italy, in so far as it falls within the scope of the present work, is treated under ROME (which see).

George H. Allen