History of Finland between 500 BC - 1149
The Iron Age in Finland is considered to last from c.500 BC until c.1150 AD when the Swedish Conquest of Finland was complete and written history in Finland (the Middle Ages) begins. There is no evidence of any form of writing in Finland, runes or otherwise, prior to the Swedish Conquest and all evidence regarding Finnish history prior to Swedish involvement is based on archaeological findings and the scant records of contemporaneous third parties. The three main dialectal groups of Finnish-speakers, (proper-)Finns, Tavastians and Karelians probably emerged during the Iron Age. The archaeological culture of the Åland Islands had a more prominent Swedish character than the rest of the country, possibly suggesting Scandinavian settlement.
The earliest findings of imported iron blades and local iron working appear in 500 BC. From about 50 AD, there are indications of a more intense long-distance exchange of goods in coastal Finland. Inhabitants exchanged their products, presumably, mostly furs, for weapons and ornaments with the Balts and the Scandinavians as well as with the peoples along the traditional eastern trade routes. The existence of richly furnished burials, usually with weapons, suggests that there was a chiefly elite in southern and western parts of the country. Hillforts spread over most of southern Finland at the end of the Iron and early Medieval Age. There is no commonly accepted evidence of early state formations in Finland, and the presumedly Iron Age origins of urbanisation are contested.
In the early Iron Age a word similar to Finns appeared for the first time in a written document when Tacitus mentions Fenni in his Germania. However, it is unclear if these have anything to do with the present Finnish people. The first Scandinavian documents mentioning a "land of the Finns" are two runestones: (Söderby, Sweden, with the inscription finlont (U 582 †), Gotland with the inscription finlandi (G 319 M) dating from the 11th century.
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.