History Files

European Kingdoms



Celto-Ligurian Tribes
Incorporating the Adanates, Brigiani, Brodionti, Ectini, Edenates, Eguituri, Esubiani, Gallitae, Nemaloni, Nemeturi, Nerusi, Oratelli, Suetri, Triullati, Ucenni, Veamini, Velauni, Vergunni, Vesubiani, & the Cotti Regnum

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 towards the coast.

Other Ligurian groups - certainly those in the western Alps - would have become 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.

Individual Celto-Ligurian tribes seem poorly documented, but by the first century BC they included a swathe of small groups. This multiplicity was probably the result of the broken landscape of the western Alpine region, with its many valleys and passes which would have forced fairly independent-minded groups to develop.

Many are named on the 'Trophy of the Alps', a Roman monument which was erected in 5 BC at the village of La Turbie. It commemorated the conquest of the Alps plus the submission of forty-four Ligurian tribes during Augustus' campaigns in 25 BC, 16 BC, and 15 BC, while also marking the boundary between Italy and Gaul. The inscription is severely faded on the original monument, but it was recorded by Pliny in his Natural History and records a dedication to Augustus.

Taken in alphabetical order, these tribes included the Albices and Albici, the Albineses, the Anatilli, the Aptenses, the Atacini, the Ausuciates, the Avantici, the Avatici, the Brigiani (or Brigianii or even Briganii - along the upper River Durance, around the town of Briançon), the Brodionti or Bodionti, or even Bodiontici (in the valley of the River Bleone), the Ectini (in the valley of the River Tinee (Tinea)), the Edenates or Adanates (or Adnates - in the Maurienne valley), and the Eguituri (in the upper valley of the River Verdon).

Then there were the Gallitae (in the upper valley of the Bleone), the Nemaloni (in the valley of the River Ubaye, and clearly bearing an entirely Celtic name), the Nemeturi (or Nemeturii) in the upper valley of the River Var, and also bearing an entirely Celtic name), the Nerusi (in the commune of Vence), the Reii, and the Vordesnes and Vulgientes.

Also noted were the Oratelli (in the valley of the River Bevera La Roya), the Sogionti (on the River Durance), the Suetri (on the middle reaches of the Verdon valley), the Triullati (Alpes Maritimes, but precise location uncertain), the Ucenni, Uceni, or Strabo's Iconiens (in the valley of the River Romanche), the Veamini (in the upper valley of the River Var), the Velauni (in the valley of the River Esteron), the Vergunni (in the upper valley of the River Verdon), and the Vesubiani or Esubiani (in the valley of the River Vesubie).

The Cotti Regnum was created in the eastern Alps through friendship agreements between a Ligurian king and the Romans, with the result that this small state survived intact until AD 63. The same intermixing and external influence which created the Celto-Ligurian tribes would also have worked to a far lesser extent in the reverse direction.

Celtic tribes which could potentially be included in this category include the Acitavones, Caturiges, Ceutrones, Graioceli, Medulli, Nantuates, Salassi, Seduni, Segovellauni, Segusini, Tricastii, and Veragri.

The Alps

(Information by Peter Kessler, Trish Wilson, & Edward Dawson, 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.

Early Rome
Early Rome would have looked more like a large, walled village than the collection of grand stone edifices which are more familiar from the imperial period

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).

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

Few, if any tribal oppida are known, although best guesses are provided. Celticisation follows relocation to create the Celto-Ligurian tribes listed below, alongside larger or better-recorded units such as the Acitavones, the Albices confederation, the Agesinates, the Anatilli, the Atacini, the Ausuciates, the Avantici, the Avatici, the Salassi, and the Sogionti. Many of these are located in what is now France, close to the Italian border, unless otherwise specified:

The Adanates (Adnates) or Edenates or can be found in the Maurienne valley, on the northern side of the Cottian Alps, between the communes of St Michel de Maurienne and Modane, just south of the Parc Nationale de la Vanoise and north of the Haute-Alpes (Department Savoie).

The Brigianii are in the upper River Durance area, around the town of Briançon and neighbouring communes.

The Brodionti occupy the valley of the River Bleone around the city of Digne (les Bains) and neighbouring communes (Digne is the capital of today's Haute-Alpes de Provence), and in the region of the Alpine foothills rather than the Alps proper.

The Ectini are in the valley of the River Tinee (Tinea), in today's Alpes Maritimes province, around the commune of St Etienne de Tinee.

Western Alps
The Celtic tribes of the western Alps were relatively small and fairly fragmented, but they made up for that with a level of belligerence and fighting ability which often stunned their major opponents, including the Romans

The Eguituri are in the upper valley of the River Verdon, plus the valley of the River Issole which flows into the River Verdon, and around the communes of Thorame-Haute and Thorame-Basse, in today's Haut-Alpes de Provence.

The Gallitae occupy the upper valley of the Bleone, Hautes Alpes de Provence (see Brodionti).

The Nemaloni can be found in the valley of the River Ubaye (Provence), halfway between the rivers Duranece and Bleone in the region known as Barcelonette. This is about fifty-six kilometres to the south of Embrun and near the mountain known as Massif des Monges.

The Nemeturi inhabit the upper valley of the River Var, in the province of Alpes-Maritimes.

The Nerusi occupy the area around the commune of Vence (Latin Vintium) in the Alpine foothills, some forty-eight kilometres west-north-west of Nice.

The Oratelli can be found in the valley of the River Bevera La Roya, to the east of the River Vesubie, Alpes Maritimes.

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)

The Suetri can be found in the Haut-Alpes de Provence, close to the Adunicates, in the middle reaches of the Verdon valley and extending to the River Jabron around the town of Castellane. The tribe is usually (often) classed as being Gaulish, but their territory would suggest Celto-Ligurians. Ptolemy notes that territory as being centred around Salinae (modern Le Salins).

The Triullati are obscure even by Celto-Ligurian standards, with only a general location being known: the Alpes Maritimes, one of the smallest departments in France, with much of it forming the Cote d'Azur or the Alpine foothills.

One suggestion for the tribe is that it occupies the valley of the River Tinee, between the Vesubie and the Var, around the region known as the Parc Nationale de Mercantour which is in the Alps proper.

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

The Ucenni or Uceni can be found in the valley of the River Romanche, just south of Grenoble in the region known as Oisans. The Romanche is a tributary of the River Drac, itself a tributary of the River Isere.

The Veamini live along the upper valley of the River Var, Alpes Maritimes, around the commune of Guillaumes.

The Velauni inhabit the valley of the River Esteron, a tributary of the River Var, Alpes-Maritimes, between the Nerusi and the Suetri tribes.

The Vergunni can claim as their home the upper valley of the River Verdon around the commune of Vergons, Haut-Alpes de Provence, the commune being halfway between Digne and Nice.

The Vesubiani or Esubiani are in the valley of the River Vesubie, Alpes Maritimes, around the local commune of St Martin de Vesubie approximately fifty-six kilometres to the north of Nice.

60 BC

The Tergestini are a Ligurian tribe which occupies part of the Cisalpine region of Gaul. They inhabit the region around Trieste in north-western Italy. Their main settlement is at Tergeste (modern Trieste) to which Julius Caesar (governor of Gallia Cisalpina from circa 60 BC) grants the status of colony. The settlement has already been under the governance of the Roman republic since its completion of the conquest of northern Italy around 180 BC.

Source of the Ticino
The mountainous Alpine country of the Raeti into which some Ligurians also penetrated would have supplied a relatively tough tribal life, with little thriving or expansion, and relatively easy absorption into Celtic and Latin cultures

fl 50s BC

Donnus (I)

Chieftain of Ligurian tribes in the Cottian Alps region.

52 BC

The Celts have rallied around Vercingetorix of the Arverni. After some success against Julius Caesar and his Roman legions, the Gaulish cavalry is routed in battle. Vercingetorix withdraws in good order to Alesia, a major fort belonging to the Mandubii which Caesar subsequently besieges until the Gauls surrender.

Donnus commands the Ligurians around the Cottian Alps, although the tribes he controls are not specified. He initially opposes Caesar, but later comes to an agreement with him which means peace in his particular Alpine region.

fl 30s - 3 BC

Cottius (I)

Son. Became prefect of Rome, nominally independent.

27 BC

By the time at which Caesar Augustus (Octavian) becomes dictator of Rome in fact but not in name, many of the non-Indo-European elements in the Alpine region and the western Alps largely seem to have lost their native language, with it having been replaced by Celtic speech and now face the certainty of being Latinised.

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.

Caesar Augustus
During his long 'reign' as Rome's first citizen, Augustus brought peace to the city and oversaw its transition from failing republic to vigorous and expanding empire

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.

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.

Cottius - for whom the Cottian Alps are named - initially maintains the independence of his people (who may or may not include the Segusini). Later he agrees to an alliance with Rome which in effect makes him a client king of the Cotti Regnum. He and his family continue to govern as prefects of Rome.

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

3 BC - AD 4

Gaius Julius Donnus (II)

Son. Prefect of Rome, nominally independent.

AD 5 - 63

Marcus Julius Cottius (II)

Son. Prefect of Rome. Territories annexed upon death.


The Cottian prefecture is annexed by Emperor Nero upon the death of Cottius II. In its place Nero creates the province of Alpes Cottiae., one of three Alpine provinces which also includes the Alpes Graiae et Poeninae and Alpes Maritimae. During the medieval period this territory is divided between the duchy of Savoy and the county of Albon.

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

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