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European Kingdoms



Pritanni (Celts? / 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 Pritanni (not to be confused with the Britons whose name has a similar-sounding root) are not attested in Greek or Roman works from the ancient world. Instead the existence of the tribe has been deduced from the life of St Florin who inhabited the Prättigau in Switzerland's Davos district on the Austrian border, immediately to the south of Liechtenstein.

Robert von Planta was an early twentieth century Swiss philologist who came up with the idea of a Rhaetic-Romanic idioticon - 'Romansch' is both the local dialect of Grissons and one of the four official languages of Switzerland - and he was he who came up with the 'Dicziunari Rumantsch Grishun', and later the 'Raetische Namenbuch'. The term 'Churrheatic' is a very local Rhaetic dialect of the Chur region. It is also used to designate people who were born or who lived in the area.

The name Prättigau is, in Romansch, 'Val Partens', or in older forms 'Portennis, Pertennis'. The Pretanni inhabited this and the neighbouring Montafon in the Sankt Gallenkirch area of the southern Vorarlberg state of western Austria. The Churrheatic term 'Britannia' - in the sense of the 'land of the Pritanni' - lives on in the names Partnun (or Parthun, an alpine pasture to the immediate north-east of the village of St Antönien in the Prättigau), and in Partenen in Montafon.

St Florin or St Florian is the local patron saint both for Chur and Vaduz (Liechtenstein), dating to about the eighth century AD. Both a cleric and a hermit, he is said to be something of a miracle worker, with his cult starting quite early on, around AD 720.

Any Pretanni people who may have existed during his life would have been seven or eight hundred years removed from the Raeti tribes which faced increasing Roman administration, so that earlier existence remains an unknown. The name would appear to be Celtic, quite possibly a late infusion, but the people would seem to be of typical Raeti stock.

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), 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

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, while 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 - including the Pritanni - may not see any immediate change, but Celtic influences over them will steadily increase.

Source of the Ticino
The mountainous Alpine country of the Raeti would have supplied a relatively tough tribal life during which it would seem that they never particularly thrived or expanded and which led to their easy absorption into Celtic and Latin cultures

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.

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.

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

AD 46

The best information regarding the Anauni, Sinduni, and Tulliassi comes from a bronze tablet which is known as the Tabula Clesiana. Discovered in 1869 in the village of Cles (South Tyrol in today's Austria), all three tribes are mentioned, along with the fact that they are being granted full civic rights by Emperor Claudius, rights which include Roman citizenship. Today the tablet is kept in the museum of the Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento.

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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