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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Alpine Tribes

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.

There were two major population movements to involve the Alpine region, and both probably had a major impact on the original groups there. The first was the Yamnaya horizon which brought in a steady wave of Indo-European migrants for a period of up to a millennium (see below for more on this). The second is likely to have been the Celtic breakthrough of the Alps to reach northern Italy, largely between about 600-300 BC. Whatever tribal and ethnic distributions the first movement had set up, they would have been greatly disturbed by the second movement. Between then and Roman domination, various recognisable intermixtures were formed, including Celto-Veneti, Euganei-Raeti, Liguro-Raeti, and the numerous Celto-Ligurian tribes. The Lepontii may contain several influences.

As for Rome's subsequent influence, the Alpine Wars could be said with a certain degree of truth to be a continuation of the Cantabrian Wars of Iberia, given the same commanders and the close sequence of the Cantabria, Alpina, and Germania Magna wars. In the Alps, the Bellum Alpinum happened to prepare the ground, literally, for the onslaught on the Germanic tribes by way of creating new roads from Italy into Germany which couldn't have been done until the Romans had control of the Alps and the surrounding territory between the mountains and major rivers of the Danube, Inn, Rhine, and Rhône.

Where the Alpine groups themselves are concerned, DNA research can be as much as hindrance as help in divining specific identities. One notable problem with DNA research is working out which historically-named tribes and groups belonged to which DNA type. When it comes to the Alpine tribes for instance - such as the Euganei, Ligurians (as a whole), Raeti, and Vindelici Ligurians (specifically - see feature link) - it would seem to be impossible to find a clear dividing line between Indo-European arrivals, the preceding Neolithic inhabitants (Near Eastern migrant farmers whose European journey as 'Old Europeans' originated in the Sesklo culture), and even earlier Palaeolithic inhabitants of Europe (although in fact the Raeti were most definitely not Indo-Europeans while the Vindelici probably were).

FeatureThe closest it may be possible to get is in terms of referencing Y-DNA types. These three belong, in order, to the following Y-DNA haplogroups: R1b (Indo-Europeans), G2a (Neolithics which include Oetzi, 'the Iceman' - see feature link), and I1 (Palaeolithics). The Vindelici may have started out as Neolithic/Palaeolithic Ligurians but they quickly became Celticised as these people gained regional ascendancy (becoming Celto-Ligurians), and may well even have been 'Indo-Europeanised' by the much earlier Bell Beaker culture which was likely dominated by proto-Italic groups.

The post-Neolithic strain of the later Celto-Ligurian ethnic make-up in the Alps came from the West Indo-European migration which took up Bell Beaker culture. It is most likely that there were two main streams (almost literally forming a river course and flowing along it for up to a millennium). Of these, the proto-Celtic and proto-Italic migration flow brushed the top of the Balkans, stopping for a while around in Hungary, and then continuing more gradually westwards. It certainly was not two migrations as has occasionally been proposed, just two streams of migration and a gradual build-up at the headwaters before a further course could be established and again, followed at a leisurely pace of seasonally-based progress.

Any splintering between the two main proto-groups would have been a natural part of the migration as various groups at various times followed the splinter they best fancied. Then these various groups of migrant communities would have taken control of regions and would have started to compete with their Indo-European cousins and Neolithic rivals to see who flourished the best. There were also northbound migratory streams (two, probably, plus minor tributaries), one of which may have supplied the original Venedi along the Vistula. This, then, was the basis behind the formation of all of the main Alpine ethnic strands by the time they were documented by the Romans.

The Alps

(Information by Trish Wilson, Edward Dawson, & Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius (translated by Rev Canon Roberts), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from Les peuples préromains du Sud-Est de la Gaule: Étude de géographie historique, Guy Barruol (De Boccard, 1999), 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), and Chiemgau Impact, and Chiemgau meteorite crater strewn field (Impact Structures).)

c.1200 - 1000

Groups from the proto-Italic/proto-Illyrian fringe along the Danube migrate outwards from there during the climate-induced social collapse at the end of the thirteenth century BC. The Hittites, Syria, and Canaan suffer especially badly from this, but so do the Mycenaeans, and the South-West Indo-Europeans, who soon begin to head southwards to populate much of the Balkans, including the Illyrian coast.

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece 1200 BC
Climate-induced drought in the thirteenth century BC created great instability in the entire eastern Mediterranean region, resulting in mass migration in the Balkans, as well as the fall of city states and kingdoms further east (click or tap on map to view full sized)

It would also seem to be around this time that large populations of proto-Italics migrate into the Italian peninsula. Separately, but part of the same general migratory movement, and whatever their own origins at the top of the Adriatic, the Veneti defeat the Euganei, occupy their former lands near the Adriatic coast, and dominate them in their new, restricted home in the Alpine foothills.

It may even be the case that the Veneti take on board some elements of Euganei culture and language, forming a Venetic-Euganei mixture which may explain Veneti differences from their potential proto-Illyrian origin.

Some of the more westerly Euganei eventually dominate outlying Raeti groups in turn, to form a Euganei-Raeti hybrid. Perhaps not coincidentally, the early phase of the Villanova culture begins around the same time as all of this activity. Located in central and upper Italy, this is probably the first Iron Age culture in the peninsula.

Villanovan ware
The bowl on the left is a restored eighth or seventh century BC Villanovan example, while the chalice and kantharos are Etruscan from the seventh to sixth centuries BC

c.500 - 335 BC

The Chiemgau impact (or hypothesis) is a controversial assertion that Central Europe is struck by a meteorite, with the dates used here being the most likely period for that impact. There seems to be a core resistance to its acceptance which dismisses it as 'an obsolete scientific theory', but the evidence to back it up is growing and is rather convincing to an open mind.

The location is in Upper Bavaria, part of the heartland of Celtic territory at this time (but also incorporating Vindelici territory), with Lake Chiemsee at its centre. The hypothesis asserts that a large cosmic body (a comet or an asteroid) strikes the ground and leaves a large crater-strewn field with all the relevant impact evidence which such a strike entails.

A strike like this must have a severe effect on the tribes in the region. Much like the Tunguska strike of 1905 and the Tschebarkul 2013 super bolide of Tscheljabinsk in Russia which is seen far and wide even without the aid of modern communications technology, this strike is likely to be witnessed by a great many people.

Chiemgau impact site
At the very beginning of the European Iron Age (the height of the so-called Celtic era), a large cosmic body penetrated Earth's atmosphere and caused a huge natural catastrophe in the region of south-eastern Bavaria (Germany)

The means of narrowing the impact date to around 500-335 BC is highly detailed (see the Chiemgau Impact link in the sources, above), but this would certainly serve to provide a reason for Gauls being quoted as fearing nothing but the sky falling on their heads (the Asterix strips make especial use of this quirk).

In additional, and perhaps coincidentally, it is during this period that the Second Wave migration of P-Celtic speakers begins, with tribes moving outwards from their heartland. Intrusions into the Alpine region, right around to the Mediterranean coast, forms hybrid groups such as the Celto-Ligurians, Celto-Veneti, and also Liguro-Raeti.

91 - 89 BC

The Etruscans, Frentani, Hirpini, Iapyges, Lucani, Marrucini, Marsi, Paeligni, Picentes, Samnites, Umbri, and Vestini fight the Social War (Italian War, or Marsic War) against Rome. The Euganei are conquered at the same time as the war ends in 89 BC, which gains the iron ore mines for Rome, while the Veneti gain Roman citizenship.

This marks a clear dividing line between the preceding Celtic dominance of the Alpine region and increasing Roman dominance. Celticisation is replaced with Latinisation with the result that non-Indo-European elements in the Alpine region largely seem to lose their native language within a century or two. The fact that the Roman empire soon unquestionably controls the entire Alpine region probably hastens the final decline and disappearance of non-Indo-European traits, customs, and languages here.

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)

25 - 15 BC

The Alpine Wars sees the commanders of the recent Cantabrian Wars of Iberia (where they had fought against the Astures and Cantabri confederations) now in the Alps. These commanders are Tiberius, his brother Drusus, and Publius Silius Nerva (Noricum) who, despite his cack-handed efforts in Iberia, has since become governor of Illyricum.

This is part of a series of three wars which follow one another, ending in Germania Magna. The Alpine Wars (or Bellum Alpinum) prepare the ground for the Roman onslaught against the Germanic tribes. They cover four stages, the major being the third, a two-pronged attack which is spearheaded by Tiberius and Drusus, one moving in from Gaul and the other from northern Italy.

Stage one of the attack sees the Salassi as the first to fall. Stage two occurs in the Noricum and Pannonia, although this has nothing to do with the Trumpilini, Camuni, Venostes, and Vennonetes who are the first to fall under the imperial heel during stage three. This campaign must be quite something, given what is achieved during the summer of 15 BC.

Source of the Ticino
The mountainous Alpine country of the Raeti would have supplied a relatively tough tribal life during which it would seem that they never particularly thrived or expanded and which led to their easy absorption into Celtic and Latin cultures

The wars are necessary from the Roman standpoint in order to secure full control, in turn, both of Iberia and the Alps. Doing so in the latter will fill in a gap between Roman Italy and occupied Gaul. The Brigantii and their immediate neighbours are defeated by 15 BC, including the Vindelici, the Raeti, and the Ambisontes. All of them are drawn into the newly-forming imperial structure for the duration of its existence.

 
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