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The Brutii were one of the Neolithic peoples of Italy who for centuries remained in undisturbed occupation of the southwestern tip of the Italian peninsula, a territory once known as Bruttium and now known as Calabria. Originally they may have migrated to southern Italy from North Africa, or from Illyria, or from both places. The Bruttii constantly quarreled with the Greeks, who had begun to establish colonies in southern Italy by the 7th century B.C. The Bruttii were further affected by waves of Oscan-speaking Lucanians who moved into the area in the 4th century B.C. The Lucanians gained control of much of Bruttium as well as of the region immediately to the north that bears their own name, Lucania.
The Greeks greatly influenced the culture of the Bruttii, especially their art, and the Bruttii used both the Greek and Oscan languages. In the middle of the 4th century B.C. the Bruttii broke away from their Lucanian captors, and their name, unknown before then though perhaps of great antiquity, became the Lucanian word for "runaway." The Bruttii conquered certain Greek cities by the 3rd century B.C. and assimilated the Greek inhabitants. The Bruttii, except for those in the Roman-garrisoned city of Rhegium, joined with Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, in his war against Rome (280-275), but when Pyrrhus withdrew, Bruttium was conquered by the Romans.
The Romans annexed some of its territory, including half of the Sila Forest, famous for pitch and shipbuilding material. The Bruttian support of the Carthaginian general Hannibal in the late 3rd century B.C. resulted in the loss of more territory to Rome and the pacification of the entire area by Roman colonists.