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:
Acts 18:2, Aquila "lately come from Italy," because of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius; Acts 27:1, the decision that Paul be sent to Italy; Hebrews 13:24, salutation from those "of Italy." The adjective form is found in the appellation, "Italian band" (cobors Italica, Acts 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