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The Greeks gradually came to apply the name "Italia" to a larger region, but it was during the reign of Emperor Augustus (end of the 1st century BC) that the term was expanded to cover the entire peninsula until the Alps.
The Ancient peoples of pre-Roman Italy – such as the Umbrians, the Latins (from which the Romans emerged), Volsci, Oscans, Samnites, Sabines, the Celts, the Ligures, and many others – were Indo-European peoples; the main historic peoples of possible non-Indo-European heritage include the Etruscans, the Elymians and Sicani in Sicily and the prehistoric Sardinians, which includes the Nuragic civilisation.
The long and triumphant reign of its first emperor, Augustus, began a golden age of peace and prosperity.
After various unsuccessful attempts, the Italian Wars of Independence, the Expedition of the Thousand and the Capture of Rome resulted in the eventual unification of the country, now a great power after centuries of foreign domination and political division.
Since Middle Age, Italian explorers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery.
Nevertheless, Italy's commercial and political power significantly waned with the opening of the Atlantic trade route and the route to the Indian Ocean via the Cape of Good Hope, both of which bypassed the Mediterranean.
Today Italy has the third largest nominal GDP in the Eurozone and the eighth largest in the world.
As an advanced economy the country also has the sixth worldwide national wealth and it is ranked third for its central bank gold reserve.
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Furthermore, the Italian city-states constantly engaged one another in bloody warfare, culminating in the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries that left them exhausted, with no one emerging as a dominant power.