Italo, the first king

italiaA long time ago, before places like Bolzano or Ragusa belonged to what we now call Italy, comes a myth from which the very origins of Italy were born from. The Bronze Age, around 1350 AC, about 16 generations before the legendary Trojan War, was when the myth was born. It was said to be “before history” or “proto”, a time when the social structure was more primitive, and before writing was a common skill. There was said to have lived a king, the infamous Italo.

The legend defines Italo as the King of the Enotri. The Enotri were a people made of mostly peasants, living in the beloved mountains of Calabria. They were descendants of Enotro, who features in many school books in Italy and was a pre-Roman figure (time of the Etruscans). The Enotri were known to have produced wine in the region of Aspromonte, and from this we can see that their name most likely originated for the Greek word for wine, oinos.

Italo was therefore the first king of Enotri and so, also the first king of what was to become Italy. He taught his people how to cultivate the land, to raise animals and how to gain a profit from livestock trade. He dictated laws and introduced the people to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture (Greek equivalent – Demeter). Such was Italo’s fame that even the great Aristotle came to talk of him, mentioning his politics and other merits.

So, the name “Italy” is derived from the first kings name, Italo. It means “land of calves” due to the various herds that grazed the mountains of Calabria as per Italo’s encouragement in agriculture. At first, the name Italy was limited to areas in and around Reggio, to the mountains of Aspromonte. The Greek then named the land where their colonies of Ancient Greece arose (Aithalia in Greek). Gradually the name spread, and the Romans named their beloved boot shaped nation as Italy.