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European Kingdoms



Albices / Albici (Celto-Ligurians)
Incorporating the Albineses, Aptenses, Reii, Vordesnes, & Vulgientes

Prior to domination by Rome, the Alpine region contained various populations which had a complex, obscure, and ethnically-multilayered history. Two major ethnic groups were recorded (aside from intrusions by the Etruscans and Veneti), these being the Euganei on the north Italian plain and the Alpine foothills, and the Raeti in the Trentino and Alto Adige valleys.

There were a great many more minor groups, all of which seem to have formed part of the initial phase of the Golasecca culture. Generally they belonged to one or the other of these though, or to the coastal Ligurians who had gradually penetrated the Alps from the south, but who also extended a considerable way westwards along the Mediterranean coast.

The Ligurians were a people who, before and during the Roman republic period, could be found in north-western Italy. They largely occupied territory which today forms the region of Liguria, extending west into Piedmont to the south of the River Po and even as far as the French Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. Prior to Roman pressure they may have extended as far as northern Tuscany and across the Pyrenees into Catalonia.

The first century BC writer, Livy (Titus Livius Patavinus), wrote about the initial Celtic breakthrough into Italy through the western Alps, with the story dated to about 600 BC. Continuous waves of Celts followed that path over the next two or three hundred years to create a substantial Celtic population across the north Italian plain. This not only pushed out the previously-dominant Etruscans (through at-least-partially documented warfare), but certainly would also have compressed the main Ligurian population southwards (primarily) towards the coast.

Other Ligurian groups - certainly those in the western Alps - became Celto-Ligurians over time as the powerful newcomers increase dominance over them. More potential Ligurians in the north were compressed into the foothills of the Alps (the Lepontii), perhaps also taking on board a Raeti influx (or vice versa - their story is complicated), while the Vindelici could be found on the opposite side of the Alps.

The Albices or Albici cause a good deal of confusion amongst both ancient and modern scholars. Their names are highly similar and they live close by one another. Guy Barruol suggests that they are not two tribes but are different sides of the same coin, with the latter doing all the running (and battling in support of the coastal city of Massalia - today's Marseilles). That Albici side of the equation was actually formed from three tribes plus a fourth which was a sub-unit.

The Albineses were part of the Albici confederation. The tribe was located in Tricoriens Meridionaux (southern Tricorii), on the Plateau d'Albion, on the right-hand side of the Durance basin, and in the vicinity of Mont Venoux and Luberon. They held local communes such as St Christol and Manosque and its lavender fields, about sixty kilometres directly to the east of Avignon.

The Reii tribe or sub-tribe was attached to the Albices. They occupied territory in and around the River Colostre, part of the Verdon basin. The river is a left-hand tributary of the Durance, while the tribe's principal civitas is known to be Alebaece Reiorum Apollinarium (today's city of Riez, which still contains the remains of a temple of Apollo). The Vocontii and Sogiontii were to the north-west, the Bodiontici to the north, and the Salyes to the south and, according to Guy Barruol, the Reii were part of the Salyes confederation.

The Vordesnes were also part of the Albici confederation. Their principal civitas, today's town of Gordes, is assumed to derive from the tribe's name: first as 'Gordenses', then as 'Gordae', until it reached today's format. The tribe also occupied the region around the town, about forty-five kilometres to the east of Avignon. Nearby Apt Cathedral holds an epigraph which bears the tribe's name.

The Vulgientes (otherwise known as Aptenses after their later capital) formed the final part of this collection. Their principal civitas was Perreal, a little way to the north-west of the aforementioned town of Apt in today's Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of south-eastern France (until 45 BC - see below). This lies on the left bank of the River Cavalon, a tributary of the Durance. To the north were the Vocontii, to the south the Salyes, and to the west the Cavari.

The Alps

(Information by Trish Wilson, with additional information from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius (translated by Rev Canon Roberts), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from Les peuples préromains du Sud-Est de la Gaule: Étude de géographie historique, Guy Barruol (De Boccard, 1999), from Encyclopaedia Britannica (Eleventh Edition, Cambridge (England), 1910), from Encyclopaedia of the Roman Empire, Matthew Bunson (1994), and from External Links: Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny, and Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith (1854, Perseus Digital Library), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and L'Arbre Celtique (The Celtic Tree, in French), and Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz or Dictionnaire Historique de la Suisse or Dizionario Storico dell Svizzera (in German, French, and Italian respectively).)

c.600 BC

The first century BC writer, Livy (Titus Livius Patavinus), writes of an invasion into Italy of Celts during the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, king of Rome. This event will reshape the Alpine populations into a pattern which is familiar to Romans of the first century BC.

Ligurian coastline
The Ligurian coastline of modern Italy owes its name to the Ligurian people, a pre-Indo-European grouping which probably consisted of several influences prior to being Latinised by the Romans

As archaeology seems to point to a start date of around 500 BC for the beginning of a serious wave of Celtic incursions into Italy, this event has either been misremembered by later Romans or is an early precursor to the main wave of incursions, probably as a result of the same apparent overpopulation which doubtless forces the start of migration into Iberia around a century earlier than this.

That overpopulation is very evident in Gaul, as this is the direction from which the Celts travel. Their advance into the Po Valley means confrontation with Etruscans who dwell between the Apennines and the Alps.

It also forces the Ligurians southwards, and the ancestors of the Lepontii northwards, while the Raeti also have to relocate, concentrating themselves in the Alps (according to Pliny the Elder).

It is possible that the Ligurian relocation serves to fracture once-large tribes into the many smaller units which are later recorded in the western Alps (and beyond in the case of a potential component of the Cantabri tribe). Celticisation follows relocation to create a swathe of Celto-Ligurian tribes, many of which are located in what is now France, close to the Italian border.

Map of Alpine and Ligurian tribes, c.200-15 BC
The origins of the Euganei, Ligurians, Raeti, Veneti, and Vindelici are confused and unclear, but in the last half of the first millennium BC they were gradually being Celticised or were combining multiple influences to create hybrid tribes (click or tap on map to view full sized)

49 BC

With the Albici confederation constantly descending to the coast to help the beleaguered in Massalia, Julius Caesar now deals with this dual problem once and for all. He even goes so far as to build a new town in the heart of Albici territory (in today's de Vaucluse department, around the River Cavalon, a right-hand tributary of the River Durance, and between the Massif Luberon and Monts de Vaucluse, about fifty-two kilometres to the east of Avignon).

The threat from the confederation's three tribes - Albineses, Vordesnes, and Vulgientes - is ended. As for the beleaguered Massalia itself, its siege ends when it fully submits to Roman control.

The Romans detach the establishment of Antipolis from its metropolis, and grant it the status of city Roman civitas (according to both Pliny and Strabo). Having become independent, the Antipolitans begin to mint their own coinage.

Antibes in France
The city of Antipolis (Antibes) in the south of France is nestled between Cannes and Nice, with its origins dating to between about 300-200 BC as a sub-colony of a larger colony - Massalia (Marseilles)

45 BC

The Vulgientes have occupied their principal civitas of Perreal since the third century BC. Now an entire new town is either set up at nearby Apt, or an existing settlement of Apt is entirely rebuilt - information is unclear - on the orders of Julius Caesar.

It is named Colonia Apta Iulia Vulgentiium and the tribe is relocated here from Perreal (now Domaine Perreal at the centre of the Parc National Regional du Luberon).

The Roman empire soon unquestionably controls the entire Alpine region - giving it free access to Gaul and Germania. This probably serves to hasten the final decline and disappearance of any non-Indo-European traits, customs, and languages here.

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