Human settlements in Apulia date back to at least 250,000 years ago, as fossils of the so called Uomo di Altamura (a form of Homo neanderthalensis) show. There are several findings of the prehistoric age discovered during archeological excavations, such as Menhirs and Dolmens.
Around the I millennium B.C., the Dauni, Peuceti and Messapi peoples settled down on the territory (they probably came from Illyria); then, during the Hellenic age, many Greek colonies were founded, especially in the southern area of the region, and among these colonies is the Spartan city of Tarentum.
The mighty Rome perfectly understood the strategic importance of Apulia. The Romans captured the ports of Brindisi and Taranto and established their dominion over the region in the III century B.C. Later the Regio II Apulia et Calabria was established: it also included the Samnium, a part of the present Molise and eastern Basilicata. With the creation of the Via Appia road and, during the imperial age, of the Via Traiana road, the region held a supremacy for the production of grain and oil, becoming the most important exporter towards the Eastern provinces.
Apulia went through a troubled period after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The territory was held by many and diverse peoples but in the end it became a dominion of the Byzantine Empire. Bari became the capital of a province that extended to modern Basilicata, and was ruled by a catapano(Byzantine governor).
Both with the Normans and the Swabians, headed by the mighty dynasty of the Hohenstaufen, Apulia reached a major civil, political and social development which was at its height under emperor Frederick the II, who fostered the creation of many laical and religious buildings, of high artistic value.
Between 1200 and 1400 Apulia was under the Angevin domination and included in the Reign of Naples; the Angevins were succeeded by the Spanish, who accentuated the power of big landowners on the territory.
The Bourbons restored peace after years of struggles for power.
During the years of the French domination (1806- 1815), the region was modernized through a series of laws, the abolition of feudalism and judicial reforms.
Liberal movements (1820) developed in the whole region and they witnessed the diffusion of Masonry and the Carbonarist Movement.
The establishment of the Kingdom of Italy (1861) parted Apulia in three administrative provinces: Foggia, Bari and Lecce, to which Brindisi and Taranto were added in the ‘900s.
During the time of Fascism Apulia underwent important land drainages in wide areas and, after the land reform of the second postwar period, the region enjoyed an overall agricultural development.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the region’s economy shifted from the primary sector to the service sector, with a remarkable development of the touristic sector.
In 2004, finally, the sixth Apulian province was established: it comprises the territories of Barletta-Andria-Trani and ten municipalities which were part of the provinces of Bari and Foggia. This province will become fully operative after the provincial elections in 2009.