Ancient Italy was inhabited by a variety of cultural groups.

The Etruscans settled in the north, Italic peoples established themselves throughout the central regions, and the Greeks set up colonies along the southern coast. From approximately 900 BC the Etruscans dominated the peninsula and were also a commanding force in Mediterranean trade, but the Italic peoples thrived as well, and all groups interacted through trade.

By approximately the second century BC these distinct cultures merged into the rising Roman Republic, each having an influence on developing Roman artistic traditions.