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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Isarci (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.

MapRaeti 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 Isarci were located immediately to the south of the Breuni, in the Val de Sarra or Sarcha - a corruption of their tribal name - near Val Camonica. Specifically, they occupied the upper reaches of the River Isarco in South Tyrol, which flows through the Wipptal, with the first town on this course being Sterzing (Vitipeno) in the Italian province of Bolzano.

This is about sixty-nine kilometres to the north of Bolzano, with the river flowing into the Adige (Etsch) just south of Bolzano, while Sterzing is about thirty-five kilometres to the north-east of Merano as the crow flies, although a road trip covers 96.5 kilometres.

If there has been something of a problem with this tribe it could be due to the fact that, until the end of the First World War, the South Tyrol was part of Austria, and the river was known as the Eisack. The de-Germanising of names has raised some difficulties with identification.

The tribe's major oppidum is unknown, but this could have been at Sterzing (Vitipeno), the major commune of the Wipptal in which, in 14 BC, Drusus set up a military camp which was known as Vitipenum, near the Celto-Roman settlement of Vibidina, from which 'Wipptal' takes its name.

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.

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.

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

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).

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 AD 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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