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Italus or Italos (from Greek Ἰταλός) was a legendary king of the Oenotrians, who were among the earliest inhabitants of Italy. In his Fabularum Liber (or Fabulae), Gaius Julius Hyginus recorded the myth that Italus was a son of Penelope and Telegonus.

According to Aristotle (Politics)[1] and Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War),[2] Italus was the eponym of Italy (Italia). Aristotle relates that, according to tradition, Italus converted the Oenotrians from a pastoral society to an agricultural one and gave them various ordinances, being the first to institute their system of common meals.

Writing centuries later, the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus in his Rhomaike Archaiologia (Antiquitates romanae, "Roman Antiquities"), cites Antioch of Syracuse for the information that Italus was an Oenotrian by birth and relates the tradition that Italia was named after him, as well as another account that derives the name "Italia" from a word for calf,[3] an etymology also stated by Timaeus, Varro (Rerum Rusticarum, 2.5), and Festus.


  1. Aristotle, Politics, 7.1329b, on Perseus
  2. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, 6.2.4, on Perseus
  3. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 1.35, on LacusCurtius