As teachers of the Romans the Etruscans were followed by
the Greeks. About the middle of the eighth century B.C. Hellenic colonies began
to occupy the coasts of Sicily and southern Italy. The earliest Greek
settlement was Cumae, near the bay of Naples.  It was a city as old as Rome
itself, and a center from which Greek culture, including the Greek alphabet,
spread to Latium. A glance at the map shows that the chief Greek Colonies
were all on or near the Sea, from Campania to the gulf of Tarentum. North of
the "heel" of Italy extends an almost harborless coast, where nothing
tempted the Greeks to settle. North of Campania, again, they found the good
harbors already occupied by the Etruscans. The Greeks, in consequence, were
never able to make Italy a completely Hellenic land. Room was left for the
native Italian peoples, under the leadership of Rome, to build up their own power
in the peninsula.
 Naples, the ancient Neapolis, was a colony of Cumae.
THE ITALIAN HIGHLANDERS
The Italians were an Indo-European people who spoke a
language closely related, on the one side, to Greek and, on the other side, to
the Celtic tongues of western Europe. They entered Italy through the Alpine passes,
long before the dawn of history, and gradually pushed southward until they
occupied the interior of the peninsula. At the beginning of historic times they
had separated into two main branches. The eastern and central parts of Italy
formed the home of the highlanders, grouped in various tribes. Among them were
the Umbrians in the northeast, the Sabines in the upper valley of the Tiber,
and the Samnites in the south. Still other Italian peoples occupied the
peninsula as far as Magna Graecia.
The western Italians were known as Latins. They dwelt in
Latium, the "flat land" extending south of the Tiber between the
Apennines and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Residence in the lowlands, where they
bordered on the Etruscans, helped to make the Latins a civilized people. Their
village communities grew into larger settlements, until the whole of Latium
became filled with a number of independent city-states. The ties of kinship and
the necessity of defense against Etruscan and Sabine foes bound them together.
At a very early period they had united in the Latin League, under the headship
of Alba Longa. Another city in this league was Rome.