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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

MapLigurians / Ligures
Incorporating the Apauni, Decietae, Epanterii, Hercates, Inguani, Intemelii, Laevi, Marisci, Orobi, Oxybii, Tergestini, Trumplini, & Vagienni

The Ligurians (Ligures, Liguri or, to the Greeks, Ligyes (Αίγυες) and Ligystini (Αιγυστῖνοι)) were a people who, before and during the Roman republic period, could be found in north-western Italy. They largely occupied territory that 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, seemingly part of a pre-Indo-European population which occupied much of the western Mediterranean coastline.

FeatureWhere the Alpine groups and related bodies such as the Ligurians are concerned, DNA research can be as much as a hindrance as a help in divining identity. One notable problem with DNA research is working out which historically-named tribes and groups belonged to which DNA type. When it comes to the Alpine tribes for instance - such as Euganei, Ligurians (in part), Raeti, and Vindelici - it would seem to be impossible to find a clear dividing line between West Indo-European arrivals and the previous Neolithic and Palaeolithic inhabitants (although in fact the Raeti were most definitely not Indo-Europeans while the Vindelici probably were, while the Neolithics were the descendants of Middle-Eastern migrant farmers whose European journey as 'Old Europeans' originated in the Sesklo culture). The closest it may be possible to get is in terms of referencing Y-DNA types. These three are, in order, of the following Y-DNA haplogroups: R1b (IEs), G2a (Oetzi, 'the Iceman' - see feature link), and I1 (Palaeolithics). The Ligurians may have started out as Neolithic/Palaeolithic people - and they are described as being of small stature, but brave, strong, and energetic - but they quickly became heavily Celticised as these people gained regional ascendancy.

A breakdown of the Lingones tribal name shows that the core 'ling' is the actual name. Since in proto-Celtic *liguru- means 'tongue' and in Latin 'lingua' means both language and tongue, or speech, then one may guess that the name is some dialect of Celtic which perhaps has been influenced by another speech due to a non-Celtic tribe being conquered, such as the Vindelici perhaps. This also points to the Ligurians possibly having the same name in their pre-Indo-European speech (known as Old Ligurian). The name(s) would mean 'the speakers', perhaps in reference to orators or even druids. Sadly the Ligurians left no inscriptions, making impossible a firm identification of their language.

The Ligurians were not one people, or even a single confederation, instead being formed of several smaller groups which included (definitely) the Inguani (towards the east of their core territory) and Intemelii (or Inteme'lli, to the west but still on the eastern side of the Alps), both of whom were mentioned by Livy and in more detail by Strabo, and (probably) the Commoni, Euganei, Salyes, Tergestini, and Trumplini. Along with mentioning the main east and west tribes, Polybius adds the Oxybii and the Decietae (Deciates) to the list, both of which lived on the western side of the Alps. Other definite Ligurian tribes included the Apauni (near the north-west Italian coast alongside the Intemelli), the Salassi, Taurini, and Vagienni on the upper course of the Po, and the Laevi and Marisci to the north of the Po. Confirmed Celto-Ligurian hybrid tribes included the Orobi (Orumobii or Orumbovii) in the northern Italian valleys of Bergamo, Como, and Lecco (see below, circa 1000 BC), and the Hercates, a name seemingly adopted by migrants passing through the great Hercynia silva (Hercynian Forest - see circa 2000 BC).

The Ligurians are often held to be the ancestors of many of the western Mediterranean's early populations - such as the Sardinians and Corsicans - in much the same way as the Pelasgians were held by the ancient Greeks to be the original inhabitants of Greece (in fact there are some apparent links between Ligurians and Pelasgians (or at least Greeks in general), such as a shared habit of putting retsina in their wine). While one recent DNA survey has supported a Corsican-Sardinian link, the other has formed quite the opposite view, suggesting that the Corsicans and Sardinians were of different origins. It proposed that the people of Tuscany (and therefore Ligurians) bear the closest affiliation to Corsicans, judged to be a Neolithic connection which introduced the first permanent settlements. More work in this field is needed to produce a definitive result. The Ligurians are also accused by Thucydides of forcing the Sicani to migrate from Iberia to Sicily.

Ligurian coastal territory, from the Port of Monoecus as far as Tyrrhenia, is not only exposed to the wind but is also harbourless, except for shallow mooring-places and anchorages. Lying above this coast are the enormous beetling cliffs of the mountains, which leave only narrow passes to the sea. The Ligurians lived mainly off their sheep, plus milk and a drink made of barley. They were also able to make good use of copious amounts of timber that was suitable for ship-building. These products and resources allowed them to trade quite effectively with the later-arriving Italic tribes of Italy. While apparently no use at all as cavalrymen, they produced excellent heavy-armed soldiers and skirmishers. From the fact that they use bronze shields some ancient writers inferred that they were Greeks (another pointer to a possible shared origin with Pelasgians or Greeks).

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information by Maurizio Puntin, from Res Gestae, Livy (Titus Livius Patavinus), from Ligustica, Albert Karl Ernst Bormann (in three parts, 1864-1868), from Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, Harry Thurston Peck (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1898), from the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, from Geography, Ptolemy, and from External Links: Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Polybius, Histories.)

from c.2000 BC

Following their gradual arrival over the previous few centuries, West Indo-European groups (probably the earliest arrivals) have become amalgamated with Late Neolithic natives (Ligurians) to produce Celto-Ligurian hybrids. Expanding outwards from their initial Alpine and nearby territories, these tribes are currently in control of large areas of central and western Europe but not necessarily the deep Mediterranean coastal strip that is the core Ligurian territory. Represented by Bell Beaker culture, and with some knowledge of copper-working, some of their outermost elements begin moving into the British Isles. Those which remain behind are gradually superseded by Urnfield folk and eventually become fully Celticised.

The Hercates tribe of Celto-Ligurians is one of those to form at some point after the arrival of West Indo-Europeans. The tribe's name is an interesting one, not least because it closely mirrors that of the Celtic tribe called the Hercuniates. Both are named after an ancient proto-Indo-European word for an oak: 'perkʷu-s', or 'perk' plus suffixes. The word survives in English, of course, but Celtic uses an unrelated word for oak, 'deru' or 'derwa'. The 'p' in 'perku' later becomes an 'h' (and is dropped entirely by the English). So the name of both tribes refers to an ancient word for oak.

Hercynian Forest
The Riesengebirge was part of the once-vast Hercynian Forest which spread eastwards from southern Germany and which proved a serious impediment to Roman expansion

The Romans later record the name of Hercynia silva, the vast Hercynian Forest, which spread eastwards from southern Germany and which proves a serious impediment to Roman expansion. The Greeks know it as Orcynia - the same name with a slight variation in spelling. This is the 'oak forest', and its name seems already to be old by the time it is recorded - so old in fact that 'herk' means 'oak' no matter who lives there or records its existence. This implies that it dates back to proto-West-Indo-European, virtually the first arrival of Indo-Europeans in the region. It also means that early-forming Celto-Ligurians could adopt the name as the Hercates, and later-emerging Celts could do so as the Hercuniates.

from c.1000 BC

The Orobii tribe inhabits the northern Italian valleys of Bergamo, Como, and Lecco in the first millennium BC. Pliny the Elder ascribes to them the foundation of the cities of Como, Bergamo, Licini Forum, and Parra. He and his contemporaries think of them as being of Greek origin, tracing the etymology of their ethnonym from the Greek 'Ορων βιον'. Modern scholars see the Orobii as a population of Celticised Ligurians (Celtico-Ligurians) which forms between this point and around 600 BC with the contribution of Celtic immigrants from the Rhine and the Danube areas.

c.600 BC

Bellovesus and his mass 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 that 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, are under attack by the Salyes (Ligurians). Seeing this as an omen of their own fortunes, the Celts briefly go to the assistance of the Massalians to help them secure their position.

Then they make the crossing with some trepidation, heading through the passes of the Taurini and the valley of the Douro. Following that they defeat Etruscans in battle not far from the Ticinus. Bellovesus and his mainly Insubres people settle around the Ticinus and build a settlement called Mediolanum (modern Milan).

Map of the Etruscans
This map shows the greatest extent of Etruscan influence in Italy during the seventh to fifth centuries BC, and the location of the main body of Ligurians in relation to them

c.400 - 391 BC

Following the route set by Bellovesus and the Bituriges around 600 BC, other bodies of Celts have gradually invaded northern Italy, probably due to overpopulation in Gaul and the promise of fertile territory just waiting to be captured. The first of these is the Cenomani, followed by the Libui and Saluvii, both of which settle near the ancient tribe of the Laevi.

205 - 203 BC

The Ingauni name is first mentioned in 205 BC, on the occasion of the landing of Mago, brother of Hannibal of Carthage, in Liguria. The Ingauni are currently engaged in hostilities with the Epanterii, a neighbouring tribe which appears to dwell further inland. Mago concludes an alliance with the Inguani, and supports them against the Alpine tribes of the interior. He subsequently returns to their capital following his defeat by the Romans in Cisalpine Gaul during the Second Punic War, and it is from here that he departs for Africa in 203 BC.

185 - 180 BC

The Ingauni are at war with the Romans in 185 BC Their territory is invaded by the consul Appius Claudius, who defeats them in several battles and takes six of their towns. Four years later, in 181/180 BC, they are still in arms, and are attacked for the second time by the proconsul Aemilius Paullusm having come close to overwhelming him in his camp. Roman accounts state that 15,000 of the enemy are killed and 2,500 taken prisoner (seemingly an imbalance as prisoners more normally outnumber fatalities). This victory procures the submission of the whole Ligurian people to Roman authority.

The maritime Intemelli and Ingauni and their piratical habits are mentioned at this point in history - 180 BC - when a Roman squadron has to pay them a visit to repress their activities. A colony of Ligurians is transplanted from the north by Rome and resettled in the Tamarus valley, close to the Hirpini and to the north of Beneventum. Known as the Ligures Barniani et Corneliani, their colony is still recognisably distinct during the lifetime of Pliny in the first century AD.

154 BC

The Hellenic city of Massilia, with its ties of friendship with Rome since the Second Punic War, appeals for aid against the Oxybii who control the Argens valley and the Decietae. The tribes are defeated by the Roman Consul Quintus Opimius.

143 BC

Thanks to Dio Cassius and Livy, the Celto-Ligurian Salassi receive their first mention in history when they are attacked without provocation by Consul Appius Claudius (who must be quite aged by now). However, he is punished for his aggression by being defeated with the loss of five thousand men. He soon returns with more men and wreaks his revenge, apparently slaying 50,100 members of the tribe and claiming the honour of a triumph.

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

60 BC

The Tergestini are a tribe in 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.

AD 23

The final edition of Strabo's Geography is published and the complete work survives today. He talks a good deal about Roman battles to clear the passes to Gaul, passes that are occupied by the Ligurians amongst others. The 'Trophy of the Alps' is a Roman monument that is erected in 5 BC at the village of La Turbie both to commemorate the conquest of the Alps and the submission of forty-four Ligurian tribes during Augustus' campaigns in 25 BC, 16 BC, and 15 BC and to mark the boundary between Italy and Gaul. Strabo also goes more deeply into the Ligurian background, such as obliquely suggesting a Greek or Pelasgian link because both they and the Ligurians add retsina to their wine.

The Ligurians remain identifiable in the form of the Ingauni and Intemelii, two main groups that are sometimes referred to by modern writers as tribes. The main settlement for the former is Albingaunum (modern Albenga), and for the latter Albium Intemelium (now Vintimiglia). They retain their piratical habits but, in effect, live on reservations (prescribed territory which is fixed in sized by the Romans). In time all Ligurians and Celto-Ligurians are subsumed by Roman (Latin) culture and language.