Traces of prehistoric settlements in the Gubbio area are documented as far back as the middle Palaeolithic period. Recent archaelogical digs have led to the identification of sites dating back to the Bronze era, very close to the town.
Gubbio was an important centre for the Umbrians, as is demonstrated by the Eugubine Tablets (3rd - 1st century B.C.), the most remarkable epigraphic heirloom of pre-Roman Italy. They consist of seven bronze tablets which offer ritual directions for particular ceremonies, and also give indications as to the organization of the Eugubine city-state. Gubbio was an ally of Rome as far back as the 3rd century B.C. As a municipality under the authority of the Crustumina tribe, the town flourished in the early centuries of the Empire, as one can still see today from the many archaelogical remains, among which those of the Roman Theatre. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Iguvium was destroyed during the Gothic war. Subsequently it came under the domination of Byzantium, from which, after various vicissitudes, it freed itself in the 8th c., during which time it was several times occupied by the Lombard kings. During the 11th c. Gubbio passed from the pre-eminent authority of the bishop to a state of self-government. Both Barbarossa (in 1163) and Henry VIth (1191) garanted to the Gubbio consuls wide-ranging jurisdiction and privileges which caused strong hostility from neighbouring Perugia, which in 1217 defeated Eugubium, thus obliging it to renounce its ambitions of expansion.1262 marks the ascendancy of the Guelphs, and initiates a long period of peace and prosperity, with the exception of the attempt by the Ghibelines to take over the city in 1300. The population of Gubbio grew, art and craft developed (especially wool craft), new walls were built as well as the imposing city halls.
Development came to a halt in 1350, when Giovanni Gabrielli became lord of the city. In 1354 Cardinal Albornoz defeated the tyrant, and Gubbio came under the dominion of the church, but with relative autonomy. In 1376 the town rebelled against this state of affairs; soon afterwards Bishop Gabriele Gabrielli took power.
There ensued a period of internal fighting which ended with the subjection of Gubbio to the Montefeltro family (1384). The domination of the Counts and Dukes of Urbino (Montefeltro until 1508, Della Rovere until 1631) gave rise to a period of relative civic prosperity when the arts flourished, especially under the dominion of Guidantonio and Federico di Montefeltro.
Federico began the construction in Renaissance style of the Ducal Palace. The people of Gubbio remained faithful to the lords of Urbino even during the brief hegemony of Valentino (1502) and of Lorenzo dei Medici (1516-1519).
The period during which Gubbio was a direct appendage of the Papal States was characterized by gradual economic and political decline. At the time of Napoleon the town was made part of the Cisalpine Republic (1798), then of the Roman Republic (1798-1799), and finally, from 1808 to 1814, of the Italic Kingdom. In 1860, shortly after its annexation to the Kingdom of Italy, Gubbio was included in Umbria.