History Files

European Kingdoms



Euganei (Alpines)
Incorporating the Stúni & Triumpilini

MapThe Euganei (or Euganeans) were not part of the West Indo-European migration into southern Central Europe from its Pontic steppe homeland 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 latter migrating from the eastern steppes immediately before their rise around 800 BC - unlikely, as they would have had to make their way through various Indo-European groups (see map for more information).

Herodotus claimed the Etruscans as descendants of Lydian colonists who landed in Etruria in the thirteenth century BC (perhaps following the collapse of the Hittite empire). Hellicanus of Lesbos ascribes Etruscan existence to the settlement of Pelasgian refugees, fleeing from Hellenic domination of Thessaly. 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 they exhibit aspects of Palaeolithic, Neolithic, and Indo-European settlers in the region).

FeatureRecent genetic studies seem to support these westward migration stories to an extent, claiming an unusual eastern heritage for the Etruscans that 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 that had migrated westwards much as their Neolithic farmer ancestors had done, arriving in Greece to form the Sesklo culture in the seventh millennium BC and then migrating outwards after that. The 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, or sub-tribes), amongst which were the Triumpilini 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 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.

(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), 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.)

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 Veneti tribe.

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 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 that 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), but it also sees the Euganei lose Verona to the Cenomani.

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 that 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.

This marks a clear dividing line between the preceding Celtic dominance of the Alpine region and the 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.