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European Kingdoms



Taurini (Ligurians)

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, but who also extended a considerable way westwards along the Mediterranean coast.

FeatureThere were many groups in Southern Europe which formed the Ligurian people, with not even a confederation uniting them all. In fact, many Ligurian groups formed confederations in their own right, although the case for the Taurini is obscure. Rarely mentioned in the historical record, it is unclear whether the Taurini were formed of a confederation of smaller groups or were one single tribe (see feature link for more on the Ligurians in general).

Not large in number, they appeared to control one of the passes through the western arm of the Alps, on what is now the Italian side. They were caught up in events merely due to this unhappy accident. Located towards the north-western edge of Ligurian territory by the middle of the first century BC, they were neighboured to the north-east by the Anamares and Libici (probably - both tribes have unresolved questions regarding their existence), while on the other side of the Alps were the Segusini and Tricastii.

Their principle settlement of Taurasia has been linked to modern Milan's district of Vanchiglietta in terms of its location. It was captured by Hannibal Barca of Carthage following a three day siege in 218 BC. Hannibal, though, merely wanted to get his army through the Alps and was not interested in regional domination. Instead it was republican Rome which soon renewed its stranglehold on these farmers who also collected pine nuts to vary their diet (according to Pliny the Elder).

The Taurini may have integrated to a great extent with Celts following their invasion of northern Italy. Soon becoming Celto-Ligurians, they may even have been indivisible from them by the third century BC. They took part in the Gallic War of 235-222 BC, seemingly as an extension of the other Gauls who were involved in the war.

The Alps

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson and 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, from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius, translated by Rev Canon Roberts, 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 The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Polybius, Histories.)

c.600 BC

Bellovesus and his massed horde of people from the Bituriges, Insubres, and several other tribes, reaches the barrier of the Alps with an enormous force of horse and foot. This barrier is one which has apparently not previously been breached by Celts, and they make the crossing with some trepidation after attacking the Salyes (Ligurians).

Map of the Etruscans
This map shows not only the greatest extent of Etruscan influence in Italy, during the seventh to fifth centuries BC, but also Gaulish intrusion to the north, which compressed Etruscan borders there (click or tap on map to view on a separate page)

Their path takes them through the passes of the Taurini and the valley of the Douro and, once across the mountain barrier, 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).

Over the next two centuries, other bodies of Celts follow the route set by Bellovesus. The Cenomani under Elitovius are first, and then the Libui, Saluvii, Boii, and Lingones and finally the Senones, in 391 BC.

It is highly likely that the Taurini start to receive their first influences from the culturally-dominant Celts and, within a century at most, can probably be classed as Celto-Ligurians.

Source of the Ticino
The mountainous Alpine country of the Raeti into which some Ligurians also penetrated would have supplied a relatively tough tribal life, with little thriving or expansion, and relatively easy absorption into Celtic and Latin cultures

231 - 225 BC

The two most extensive Gallic tribes of northern Italy, the Boii and Insubres, send out the call for assistance against Rome to the tribes living around the Alps and on the Rhône. Rather than each of the tribes sending their own warriors, it appears that individual warriors are effectively hired from the entire Alpine region as mercenaries.

Polybius calls them Gaesatae, describing it as a word which means 'serving for hire'. They come with their own kings, Concolitanus and Aneroetes, who have probably been elected from their number in the Celtic fashion.

The Gaesatae are offered a large sum of gold on the spot and the wealth of Rome is also pointed out - wealth which can be theirs if they stick to their task.

The mercenaries are easily persuaded, and are proud to remind the other Gauls of the campaign which had been undertaken by their own ancestors in which they had seized Rome. This strongly suggests that a proportion of the Gaesatae (probably including their kings) are descended from members of the Senones tribe, as it had been this tribe which had led the occupation of Rome in 389 BC.

Celtic warriors
While most of the Gauls of the third century BC fought fully clothed, their Gaesatae mercenaries tended to fight with nothing more than their weapons, and not even the trousers shown here

Rome has been informed of what is coming, and hurries to assemble the legions. Even its ongoing conflict with the Carthaginians takes second place, and a treaty is hurriedly agreed with Hasdrubaal, commander in Iberia, which virtually confirms Carthaginian rule there. Such is Rome's haste that they approach the Gaulish frontier before the Gauls have even stirred.

It is 225 BC when the Gaesatae forces cross the Alps and enter the valley of the Padus with a formidable army, furnished with a variety of armour. The Boii, Insubres, and Taurini accompany them but the Cenomani and Adriatic Veneti are persuaded to side with Rome, forcing the Gauls to detach a force to guard their flank.

Despite this, their main army consists of about a hundred and seventy thousand foot and horse, which petrifies the Romans and reminds them of 389 BC.

As well as the four new legions, they are accompanied by Etruscans, Sabines, Sarsinates, and Umbri, and more Cenomani and Veneti. Defending Rome and its territories are Ferrentani, Iapygians, Latins, Lucanians, Marrucini, Marsi, Messapians, Samnites, and Vestini, plus two more legions on Sicily and in Tarentum.

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)

The first battle, when it comes, is near Faesulae, outside the subjugated Etruscan city of Clevsin. The Romans are decimated and routed by superior Gaulish tactics. A fresh army under Lucius Aemilius arrives, and Aneroetes counsels retreat with their booty and army intact, ready to launch a fresh attack when ready.

Consul Gaius Atilius lands at Pisae with the Sardinian legion and the Gauls find themselves caught between two Roman armies. The battle is fierce, and the Gauls gain the head of Gaius Atilius.

However, the battle turns against them and large numbers of Gauls are cut down or taken prisoner, including Concolitanus. Aneroetes is able to flee with his band of followers, and they commit suicide together. The war ends in 222 BC with the submission of the last tribes to resist.

Samnite soldiers
Roman military tactics may have owed something to the Samnites, with this efficient and seasoned warrior force matching the Romans and bettering them in the fourth century BC

218 - 217 BC

The Second Punic War starts at Saguntum (near modern Valencia) in Iberia. Using Gadir as a base, Hannibal Barca sets out to attack Rome, leading his Carthaginian armies over the Alps into Italy.

He has to fight off resistance by Gaulish tribes such as the Allobroges along the way (and also by the Taurini, presumably for what they see as an invasion of their territory), but is supported by other Gauls such as the Insubres, who rebel against their Roman occupiers.

At first he wins great victories at Trasimeno and Cannae which all but destroys Roman military strength, but he is denied the reinforcements to pursue his victory by an opposing political faction back at home.

Map of European Tribes
This vast map covers just about all possible tribes which were documented in the first centuries BC and AD, mostly by the Romans and Greeks, and with an especial focus on 52 BC (click or tap on map to view at an intermediate size)

As the tidal wave of invasion passes by and dies down, Roman domination of the Boii, Gaesatae, Insubres, Lingones, and Taurini is renewed. The Celto-Ligurian Taurini gradually become Latinised and subsequently disappear from history.

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