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European Kingdoms



Arusnates/ Arusnati (Raeti?) (Alpines)

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.

MapThe Raeti Tribes were not part of the West Indo-European migration into southern Central Europe between about 3500-2500 BC. Instead they seem to have borne a degree of relationship with the Etruscans of north-western Italy. This is discussed in more detail on the main Raeti page (and see map for general tribal distributions in the first centuries BC and AD).

The Arusnates or Arusnati were located in the Valpolicella region which is famous for its wine production. It lies just to the north of Verona, within the basin of the Adige and just to the east of Lake Garda.

More precisely they may have occupied territory around the commune of Dolcè which is on the border of the provinces of Verona and Trentino, or that of Negrar di Valpolicella, in a region which was known to the Romans as pagus Arusnatium, although they later became attached to the Municipium Verona while at the same time maintaining a certain degree of autonomy in their administrative affairs

Their only traces of lapidary (the practice of shaping stone, minerals, or gemstones) are kept in Verona's Maffeiano Lapidary Museum and in San Giorgio di Valpolicella, a museum which is attached to the Lombard parish church of the seventh century AD (amongst the best preserved in the Verona area). Fragments of more than two hundred terracotta votive statuettes are kept here, representing gods, votive depositors, and animals.

Some archaeological excavation on the hill of San Giorgio (especially in front of the eastern apse of the church) has brought to light various findings which attest to the presence of human settlement since the earliest of times. In addition to a rectangular Bronze Age hut, successive structures have been traced to the fourth century BC, all in the shape of a 'Rhaetian House' which is typical of the Alpine and sub-Alpine territories.

The inhabitants of this particular village were agriculturalists and livestock breeders. The San Giorgio excavations have also brought to light what must have been a metallurgical laboratory, one which probably dates to the fourth century BC. It testifies to metalworking activity of considerable importance.

In fact this laboratory has an area which would have been used as a warehouse for manufactured goods which would demonstrate that this area of production was not intended solely to satisfy the needs of the small local community. Copper artefacts have also been found - a raw material which is not available on site - showing that the production plant had interchange relationships with other, more distant centres.

When it comes to identifying the Arusnates, the most recent studies suggest a connection with Etruscan culture, which seems to permeate various Rhaetian pockets in the Cisalpine area. Both Livy and Pliny suggested Etruscan origins for the Arusnates. Their name could derive from 'Aruns' or 'Arruns', a hero of Etruscan mythology who is linked to the city of Chiusi (Clusium to the Latins). Etruscans did colonise areas of northern Italy around the sixth to fourth centuries BC, prior to the coming of the Celts in the region.

Girolamo Asquin, a nineteenth century historian, suggested that the Arusnates were of a Gallo-Celtic origin (Gauls), his hypothesis being based on the distribution of broad beans. This, though, overlooks the likelihood of Celtic influence and integration on existing populations after the arrival of Hallstatt Celts in the sixth century BC.

The Alps

(Information by Trish Wilson, with additional information by Peter Kessler, Edward Dawson, & Maurizio Puntin, 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), 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

Bellovesus and his massed horde of people from the Bituriges, Insubres, and several other tribes begin a migration across the Alps and into northern Italy. This barrier is one which has apparently not previously been breached by Celts, but they are also deterred by a sense of religious obligation, triggered by news reaching them that another group looking for territory, a force of Massalians, is under attack by the Salyes (Ligurians).

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)

Following a defeat of the Salyes, the Celts make the crossing, heading through the passes of the Taurini and the valley of the Douro. Then they defeat Etruscans in battle not far from the Ticinus. Bellovesus and his people settle around the Ticinus and build a settlement called Mediolanum (modern Milan).

This could herald the start of the period in which - if they are not already there - various Celtic tribes settle the western Alps rather than following Bellovesus into Italy, such as the Veragri, while the native Ligurians are compressed southwards towards the Mediterranean, westwards to create a Celto-Ligurian hybrid group, and possibly northwards (specifically the Lepontii).

The Raeti and the many Raeti Tribes may not see any immediate change, but Celtic influences over them will steadily increase.

25 - 15 BC

Augustus determines that the Alpine tribes need to be pacified in order to end their warlike behaviour, alternately attacking or extracting money from Romans who pass through the region, even when they have armies in tow.

He wages a steady, determined campaign against them during the Alpine Wars, and in a period of ten years he 'pacifies the Alps all the way from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian seas' (written by Augustus himself).

La Turbie and the Trophy of Augustus
The Tropaeum Alpium ('Trophy of the Alps') stands majestically in the commune of La Turbie on the French Riviera, overlooking the principality of Monaco, and marking the final victory over the Alpine tribes by Augustus

14 BC

Emperor Augustus creates the province of Alpes Maritimae (the maritime, or seaward, Alps). It has its capital at Cemenelum (modern Nice, although this is switched in 297 to Civitas Ebrodunensium, modern Embrun). The history of the Alpine region's population of Celts, Celto-Ligurians, Euganei, and Raeti is now tied to that of the empire.

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