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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Ausuciates (Celts? / Celto-Ligurians?)
Incorporating the Auxucii

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 increased 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 Ausuciates are understood to have lived in and around Ossuccio, on Lake Como and about twenty-two kilometres to the north-east of Como itself. The commune of Ossuccio itself bears a mangled version of the tribe's name, from the Latin 'Ausucium', but little else is known about them other than the fact that their neighbours were the Orobii, amongst others.

According to the history of the commune, Como is an ancient town, once which has been inhabited since the Bronze Age (and perhaps earlier). It has also been a place of transit for the Alpine passes (Septimer in Val Bregaglia (Bergalei) and Spluga). It contains a 1907 discovery of an Iron Age necropolis with tombs dating to the third century BC, by which time the tribe and the region were being dominated by the Insubres.

By the time the Romans took over (in 195 BC), they recorded the fact that Ossuccio belonged to the powerful Celtic clan of the Auxucii (pronounced ossuci), who were federated to the Insubres. They are mentioned on a Roman plaque of the second century BC which has been preserved in the church of SS Agata & Sisinio. The name would seem to be a Celticised form of 'Ausuciates', which would make its people Celto-Ligurians, a blend of the two major groups in the region.

However, under Roman control, Ossuccio became a pagus which was known as Ausucium according to the Latin transliteration, and the inhabitants were the Ausuciates. Either the Romans restored the original name or that original has been lost and 'Ausuciates' is only the later Latin form.

The other alternative is that the Auxucii were always Celts, with no sizeable body of Ligurians to dominate and absorb here other than farmers who would go into making up the lower stratum of Auxucii society.

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), from Die Kelten in Österreich nach den ältesten Berichten der Antike, Gerhard Dobesch (in German), from Urbanizzazione delle campagne nell'Italia antica, Lorenzo Quilici & Stefania Quilici Gigli (in Italian), from La frontiera padana, Mauro Poletti (in Italian), 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 Le Alpi (Università di Trento).)

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)

474 BC

It seems that the Celtic arrival in northern Italy has not been entirely welcomed. The Etruscans, who themselves have been migrating northwards to the River Po from central Italy, have been clashing increasingly with the Celts for domination of the region.

A pivotal showdown takes place at the Battle of Ticinum in this year (which must be located close to the main Celtic settlement of Mediolanum which had been captured by the Bituriges and Insubres of Bellovesus around a century before).

The Etruscan force, which is little more than a well-armed militia, is butchered by the Celts in a ferociously fought battle. This victory confirms Celtic domination of the region for the next couple of centuries, so that it is called Gallia Cisalpina (Gaul on 'our' side of the Alps, 'ours' being the Latin and Italic side).

Western Alps
The Celtic tribes of northern Italy were large and dangerous to the Romans, unlike their fellow Celts in the Western Alps, who were relatively small in number and fairly fragmented, although they made up for that by being even more belligerent than their easterly cousins

From this conquest it is likely that Celtic groups fan out in search of their own slice of territory, all the while being under the protection of Mediolanum. This is the most likely period for the Tarvisii finding a home near the Adriatic and soon interbreeding with nearby Veneti locals to produce a Celto-Veneti hybrid group (if indeed that is what the Tarvisii are).

According to local history, the territory of the Ausuciates falls under the domination of the powerful Insubres. The Ausuciates would appear to gain a Celtic ruling elite, with the tribe's name being adapted by these incomers to Auxucii (from which today's Ossuccio descends, and with the name being recorded by the Romans).

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, ending the threat once and for all.

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).

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

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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