History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


Tricastii / Tricastini (Gauls / Celto-Ligurians?)

FeatureIn general terms, the Romans coined the name 'Gaul' to describe the Celtic tribes of what is now central, northern, and eastern France. The Gauls were divided from the Belgae to the north by the Marne and the Seine, and from the Aquitani to the south by the River Garonne, while also extending into Switzerland, northern Italy, and along the Danube (see feature link for a discussion of the origins of the Celtic name).

MapBy the middle of the first century BC, there existed a cluster of smaller tribes in the Alpine region of western Switzerland and the French/Italian border (see map link for all tribal locations). This included the Tricastii or Tricastini, who occupied a small territory in the modern département of the Drôme, between the Rubion and Aygues, on the banks of the Rhône.

They were neighboured to the north by the Allobroges and Segusini, to the east by the Edenates and Brigiani Celto-Ligurian tribes, to the south by the Segovellauni and Caturiges, and more distantly to the west by the Helvii.

Their name is a tricky one to break down. With the '-in/on' and '-i' suffixes removed, the first part, 'tri', means 'three'. The second part could be *kasti, meaning 'hate', or *Kasti-, part of a personal name, or even *kasto, meaning 'fast'. The 'triple haters', perhaps. Or the 'triple fast'? Given the tribe's small size and location amidst a swathe of Celto-Ligurian tribes, perhaps there was some influence to that name which would make it hard to analyse on the basis of it being purely Celtic.

The Tricastii were mentioned in Ptolemy's Geography as members of Gallia Narbonensis, with their oppidum at Neomagus. Even today the region they occupied is known as Tricastin. Livy also mentioned them in his History of Rome, including their territory in those regions which Celts had to pass through to reach Italy. At some point during the first century BC, the Tricastii were apparently absorbed by the Segovellauni and were never again mentioned.

The Alps

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information by Trish Wilson, from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from Geography, Ptolemy, from Roman History, Cassius Dio, from Research into the Physical History of Mankind, James Cowles Pritchard, from Les peuples préromains du Sud-Est de la Gaule: Étude de géographie historique, Guy Barruol (De Boccard, 1999), and from External Link: Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), 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).)

218 BC

Writing in the mid-second century BC, Polybius provides the Allobroges, Segovellauni, and Tricastii with their first mention in history. The Allobroges are already established on the western side of the Alps where they control many of the important passes through the Alpine mountains.

They (and 'other tribes' which may include the Medulli) unsuccessfully attempt to resist the passage of Hannibal and his Carthaginian army which is on its way to attack Rome during the Second Punic War.

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)

Perhaps not unexpectedly, it seems to be fellow Celts, the Boii, who first show the mountain passes to Hannibal, after the Segovellauni have escorted them through Allobroges lands. Tribal politics often means using your enemy's enemy to strike a blow against them.

58 - 56 BC

The Segovellauni remain allied to Julius Caesar during the Gallic Wars which see the rest of the Gaulish tribes subjugated under Roman authority. With a number of belligerent tribes occupying the Alpine region around them, this small tribe probably welcomes Roman protection and support for its very existence.

The region's Gaulish tribes are now largely under Roman domination, and it could be around this point that the Tricastii join up with the Segovellauni and surrender their individual identity. Unfortunately the event is not recorded by Roman writers.

Western Alps
The Celtic tribes of the western Alps were relatively small and fairly fragmented, but they made up for that with a level of belligerence and fighting ability which often stunned their major opponents, including the Romans

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.