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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapAnamares / Anares & Libui / Libici (Gauls)

FeatureIn general terms, the Romans coined the name 'Gaul' to describe the Celtic tribes of what is now central, northern and eastern France. The Gauls were divided from the Belgae to the north by the Marne and the Seine, and from the Aquitani to the south by the River Garonne, and they also extended into Switzerland, northern Italy, and along the Danube. By the middle of the first century BC, the Anamares and Libici were minor tribes whose precise location along the southern bank of the River Padus in Italy is uncertain, but who could count as their neighbours the Insubres, Cenomani, Libici, and Taurini.

Also known as the Anares and Anamari, this tribe's name can be broken down as follows: 'mar' is sea or ocean. But the prefix is either the intensive 'an(a)-' (adverb part of speech used to make it more forceful, but 'mar' is a noun, not a verb), or the negative 'an-' with an extra added 'a' to separate the 'n' from the 'm'. So this puzzling name looks either very much like 'ocean', or 'no ocean'. Maybe it just means that they lived inland, away from the ocean, which they did in the Po (Padus) valley. That idea is the preferred one. By inference the name could be interpreted as 'the inlanders' or even, using Celtic humour, 'the landlubbers'.

The Libici or Libui name is more problematic. Proto-Celtic did not appear to have a word spelled 'lib-'. One must therefore conjecture that the Romans heard a 'v' sound and understood it as a 'b' sound, because the Roman letter 'v' was sounded as a 'w'. A 'v' sound would originally have been a 'w' sound in proto-Celtic, altered to a 'v' subsequently. In proto-Celtic, 'liwos' means 'colour'. So the tribe may have been 'the colour people'. That seems rather odd for a tribal name. Another possibility is that the tribe's speech had mutated a different word, 'gliwos', by dropping or softening the initial 'g', and hardening the 'w' into a 'v'. The word 'gliwos' means 'battle', so they would be 'the battlers'.

The existence of the Anamares is largely conjectural while the Libici are scarcely mentioned. The former tribe seem to have occupied part of the Padus river valley in northern Italy, above the Ligures and close to the Insubres and Cenomani. They are not mentioned during the Gaulish invasion of northern Italy, raising the possibility that they did not exist at that time. Instead they could have been formed as offshoots of one of the larger tribes that are better attested in history.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information from Foundations of Latin, Philip Baldi, from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin, from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, and from External Links: Jones' Celtic Encyclopaedia, and Polybius, Histories.)

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. 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. Livy writes that two centuries before major Celtic attacks take place against Etruscans and Romans in Italy, a first wave of invaders from Gaul fights many battles against the Etruscans who dwell between the Apennines and the Alps.

Gauls on expedition
An idealised illustration of Gauls on an expedition, from A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume I by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

At this time, the Bituriges are the supreme power amongst the Celts, but the commander of the force that enters Italy, Bellovesus, also leads fellow settlers. These are members of the Aeduii, Ambarri, Arverni, Aulerci, Bituriges, Carnutes, and Senones. The body of people led by Bellovesus himself apparently consists mainly of Insubres, a canton (or sub-division) of the Aeduii. The Anamares are not mentioned in this event, either because they are too small to be worthy of it, or because they do not yet exist.

c.400 - 391 BC

Following the route set by Bellovesus and the Bituriges around 600 BC, other bodies of Celts have gradually invaded northern Italy, probably due to overpopulation in Gaul and the promise of fertile territory just waiting to be captured. The first of these is the Cenomani, followed by the Libui and Saluvii, both of which settle near the ancient tribe of the Laevi. Then the Boii and Lingones cross the Pennine Alps, while in 391 BC the Senones are the last to come. They occupy the country from the River Utis (or Utens) to the Aesis (near Ancona, which marks the border between the Picentes and the Umbri in Italy). It is this last tribe which Livy states comes to the Etruscan city of Clevsin (Clusium to the Romans), and from there to Rome, although whether alone or with the help of the Cisalpine peoples is unclear.

224 BC

Buoyed by its victory over the Gauls of northern Italy in 225 BC, Rome attempts to clear the entire valley of the Padus. Two legions are sent under the command of the consuls of that year, and the Boii are terrified into submission. However, incessant rain and an outbreak of disease prevents the legions from achieving anything greater.

223 BC

Two fresh consuls lead two more legions into the Padus, marching through the territory of the Anamares, who live not far from Placentia (some readings of the original text translate this as the Ananes and their home in the Marseilles region, which would be impossible given the nature of this campaign). They secure the friendship of this tribe and cross into the country of the Insubres, near the confluence of the Adua and Padus. Some skirmishing aside, peace is agreed with this tribe, and the Romans head for the River Clusius. There they enter Cenomani lands, with these allies providing some reinforcements. Then the Romans return to the Insubres and begin laying waste to their land. The tribe is faced with no choice but to fight, and their defeat is all but inevitable.

Celtic warriors
While most of the Gauls of the third century BC fought fully clothed, their Gaesatae mercenaries tended to fight with nothing more than their weapons, and not even the trousers shown here

222 BC

With peaceful overtures by the Insubres being firmly rejected by Rome, the tribe calls on the Gaesatae once more. Together they fight the Romans and withdraw intact to Mediolanum. The stronghold is stormed by the Romans and, following some hard fighting, the Insubres are left with no option but to surrender, their unnamed chief making a complete submission to Rome. This act effectively ends the Gallic War in northern Italy, as Rome now dominates all of the tribes there. The illusive Anamares and Libui disappear from history.