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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Uberi (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.

MapThe Raeti 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 Uberi were the south-westernmost of the Raeti Tribes, in what is now Switzerland. They were neighboured to the north and east by units of the Vennonetes in this mountainous country, by the Camuni to the east, by the Lepontii to the south, and by the Seduni to the west.

They are recorded as occupying territory around the source of the Rhone, Valles des Conches (Gommertal), as far as Viege (Visp) in the Canton Valais. According to the Swiss Historical Lexicon recent excavations in the commune of Gamsen, not far from Brig (Valais), has produced interesting archaeological finds. In the case of Gamsen it states that little has changed since that period in this area of Switzerland, with it still being mainly agricultural, filled with farmers and shepherds.

The lexicon also states that the Uberi had close contacts with the Lepontii, their southern neighbours. That would have meant access to all of the cultural advances which the Lepontii possessed. Brig is at the northern end of the Simplon Pass. The pass connects that town with the Lepontii chief town of Domodossola. One of the Swiss communes along the pass was Grono, not far from Bellinzona, another important Lepontii town.

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, 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 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. 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).

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

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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