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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Euganei (Alpines)
Incorporating the Stúni

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 Euganei (or Euganeans) were not part of the West Indo-European migration into southern Central Europe between about 3500-2500 BC. Instead they may have borne a degree of relationship with the Etruscans of north-western Italy (although the Celtic Encyclopaedia lists them as Ligurians). Possibly they (and the Etruscans) were indigenous, but one school of thought from the twentieth century had the Etruscans migrating from the eastern steppe immediately before the start of their historical period around 800 BC - unlikely, as they would have had to make their way through a swathe of Indo-European groups (see map for more information).

Many ancient writers ascribe the Euganei name to a Greek word which meant 'of honourable descent', with that descent being from Greeks in the army of the Mycenaean hero, Hercules, who refused to cross the cold expanse of the Alps. If true then the numbers of these Indo-Europeans would have been small, probably too small to do anything other than influence a tribal name and muddy the genetic readings (a problem with all of the Alpine groups, as explained on the main Alpine tribes page).

FeatureRecent genetic studies seem to support these westward migration stories to an extent, claiming an unusual eastern heritage for the Etruscans which is found in no other Italian peoples (see feature link for more on this). The most likely answer is that they were related to groups in Anatolia which had migrated westwards much as their Neolithic farmer ancestors had done when they arrived in Greece in the seventh millennium BC to form the Sesklo culture, before subsequently expanding farther into Europe. The original non-Indo-European Alpine tribes could have been an early northwards extension of a related group, or possibly indigenous Palaeolithic groups who took on board Etruscan language influences and culture (probably due to a takeover by a small Etruscan elite).

The Euganei initially had tribal centres around Verona and Padua (Patavium). They extended towards the Raeti and shared territory with them, mining and trading in iron ore. Cato counts thirty-four Euganei towns (and therefore groups, tribes, sub-tribes, or even clans). Amongst these were the Trumpilini of Val Trompia, a people who were claimed as being sold along with their territory (in other words, they probably accepted payment for loyalty to republican Rome).

The dominant tribe seems to have been the Stúni (while Strabo also mentions the Stoni or Stúni among the minor Alpine tribes. Mannert thinks they dwelt near the sources of the River Chiese, around the site of the modern village of Storo). The Camuni or Camunni (around Val Camonica at the south-western end of Raeti territories are ascribed as being Euganei by Pliny, but not by others who generally place them amongst the Ligurians).

From the third millennium BC, as that West Indo-European migration increased, the Euganei found themselves surrounded. It was the Veneti on the Adriatic coast who came to dominate them (an arrival story for the Veneti incorporates the Trojan War - see below). By the time the Romans were available to document these northern Italian and Alpine tribes the Euganei were a client tribe of the Veneti and had lost their former capital of Verona to the Cenomani.

The Alps

(Information by Edward Dawson and Peter Kessler, with additional information by 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 The Celtic Encyclopaedia, 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.1183 BC

According to an often-repeated story by ancient writers, Antenor, ally of Aeneas of the Dardanians, sails into the furthest part of the Adriatic (the northern reaches), accompanied by a number of Enetians who have been driven from Paphlagonia by revolution following the death of their king, Pylaemenes, before the gates of Troy. They defeat the Euganei and occupy their lands near the coast, later to be known as the Adriatic Veneti.

Whether or not the Trojan War actually is involved, the story would seem to describe the arrival of the Veneti (at around the time at which Italic tribes are also migrating into Italy proper) and with the Euganei being forced to occupy less fertile territory in the foothills of the Alps as a result.

Verona in Italy
Verona was initially the chief citadel of the Euganei, before they were forced out by the more powerful Celtic tribe of the Cenomani, probably in the sixth or fifth centuries BC

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, probably as a result of the same apparent overpopulation in southern Germany which doubtless forces the start of migration into Iberia around a century earlier.

The Celtic advance into the Po Valley also forces the Raeti to relocate into the Alps (according to Pliny the Elder). Unfortunately for the Euganei they now lose Verona to the far bigger and more technologically advanced Cenomani.

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

222 BC

By the time that Rome has finally won the Gallic War in northern Italy by subjugating the Celtic tribes there, those very Gauls have been present in the region for over three hundred years. The Insubres tribe at least may have integrated to an extent with surrounding Etruscans, Italics (most likely the Umbri), Ligurians, and Raeti, providing the external influences which eventually subsume the original identity of the Euganei, Ligurians, and 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 war is the result of increasing inequality in Roman land ownership, and the spark for conflict is delivered by the assassination of the reforming Marcus Livius Drusus. The Euganei are conquered at the same time as the war ends in 89 BC, which gains the iron ore mines for Rome.

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)

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.

 
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