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European Kingdoms

Barbarians

 

Vindelici (Ligurians / Celto-Ligurians?)
Incorporating the Alcimoenni, Clautinatii, & Cotuanti

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 Vindelici tribal confederation demonstrates this Ligurian penetration, although the distance travelled by this one is unusual. Possibly it was triggered by the massed Celtic penetration of the western Alps between about 600-400 BC (see timeline for more on this). By the middle of the first century BC this confederation was located to the north and east of Lacus Brigantinus in the Roman province of Rhaetia (around the modern Lake Constance), in what is now western Austria in Europe. It was neighboured to the north by the vast homeland of the Boii, to the east by the Sevarces and Alauni, to the south by the tribes of the Raeti, and to the west by the Brigantii and Latobrigi (see map for more information).

The main Alpine page covers the full background of ethnic intermingling and DNA analysis for Alpine tribes. However, in addition to that introduction to the Vindelici and showing what they were up against in survival terms, one more possibility must be mentioned because it would explain why the Vindelici, Veneti, and Venedi all have similar names, as well as explaining other similar aspects. If the postulated first wave of West Indo-Europeans contained a large central component which was using some form of the 'vend/vened' name then this could have spread via smaller migrations to Switzerland, Venice, and the Vistula where the three were later to be found.

FeatureThat would mean that the Venedi/Veneti/Vindelici tribes were not Celts, strictly speaking, but instead had closer linguistic and cultural ties to proto-Italics and Illyrians, seemingly the main components of the West Indo-European population. This would also explain why Caesar did not name the Armorican Veneti as Belgae (see feature link for more).

Classifications as they exist today are based on surviving dominant cultures (that of Rome, primarily). They have little to do with linguistic and cultural realities. It may be more realistic to view the Vindelici in their earlier days as West Indo-Europeans who fell somewhere between Celts and Italics, as could be the Ligurians and Venetics. The Vindelici were therefore most likely to be much more closely related to the Ligurians on the coast to the south, and to the Venetics in and around Venice to their south-east.

The Vindelici, Strabo states, are a folk (a group in their own right, not a sub-tribe). He gives tribal names as follows: Clautinatii (possibly the same as the Cosuanetes and Strabo's Cotuanti), Licattii (Licates), and Vennones. The Alcimoenni, Catenates, and Rucinates (not the same as Strabo's Rucantii) were further Vindelici tribes (or Liguro-Raeti) as, possibly, were the Sevarces of the Noricum. They probably spoke a language which was of the P-West Indo-European group, with that 'p' sound substituted for the 'k' and 'q' sound, similar to P-Italic and P-Celtic. A name breakdown appears to produce 'vind' (from 'windos', meaning 'white'), plus the suffix '-el' (a diminutive?), plus the suffix '-ic' ('of or pertaining to') which is still in use today.

Note that the Vennones tribe generally are classed as Raeti, but Strabo classifies them as Vindelici. However, for the purposes of clarity and probability they are covered on the Raeti Tribes page. Confusingly perhaps, Strabo also indicates that the Vindelici are not Ligurians. He refers to the neighbouring Brigantii as a sub-tribe of the Vindelici, and the Brigantii are most certainly Celts (he probably meant the Brigiani).

The Alcimoenni tribal name has a sequence in 'A-L-C-M', something which is very suggestive, but a problem exists because it is not known for certain whether the Vindelici language was based on Q-Celtic or P-Celtic (despite general assumptions). In any case, a sheer guess is that the name means 'the speakers' (and the word 'druid' may have a similar meaning), but only if the name is related to the Latin 'eloquens', meaning 'eloquent, persuasive, fluent'. The letters 'n' and 'm' are fairly interchangeable, so the sequence of consonants is the same. The '-oenni' ending is probably a typical addition of multiple suffixes, with '-oen' being a possible group plural in Vindelici which is related to '-on', while the '-i' is the Latin suffix which was added to it.

The Alps

(Information by Edward Dawson, Peter Kessler, & Trish Wilson, with additional information from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius (translated by Rev Canon Roberts), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), 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 Chiemgau Impact, and Chiemgau meteorite crater strewn field (Impact Structures).)

c.500 - 335 BC

The Chiemgau impact (or hypothesis) is a controversial assertion that Central Europe is struck by a meteorite, with the dates used here being the most likely period for that impact. There seems to be a core resistance to its acceptance which dismisses it as 'an obsolete scientific theory', but the evidence to back it up is growing and is rather convincing to an open mind.

Chiemgau impact site
At the very beginning of the European Iron Age (the height of the so-called Celtic era), a large cosmic body penetrated Earth's atmosphere and caused a huge natural catastrophe in the region of south-eastern Bavaria (Germany)

The location is in Upper Bavaria, part of the heartland of Celtic territory at this time (but also incorporating what later is certainly Vindelici territory), with Lake Chiemsee at its centre. The hypothesis asserts that a large cosmic body (a comet or an asteroid) strikes the ground and leaves a large crater-strewn field with all the relevant impact evidence which such a strike entails.

A strike like this must have a severe effect on the tribes in the region. Much like the Tunguska strike of 1905 and the Tschebarkul 2013 super bolide of Tscheljabinsk in Russia which is seen far and wide even without the aid of modern communications technology, this strike is likely to be witnessed by a great many people.

The means of narrowing the impact date to around 500-335 BC is highly detailed (see the Chiemgau Impact link in the sources, above), but this would certainly serve to provide a reason for Gauls being quoted as fearing nothing but the sky falling on their heads (the Asterix strips make especial use of this quirk).

In additional, and perhaps coincidentally, it is during this period that the Second Wave migration of P-Celtic speakers begins, with tribes moving outwards from their heartland.

Lake Constance
Lake Constance (now part of Switzerland) was a Roman lake during the first century AD, with the local headquarters at Brigantium, former tribal capital of the Brigantii

5th century BC

The Brigantii migrate into the Cispadane Gaul region of the Alps, arriving in an area which has already been settled for a millennium. Strabo later states that they are a sub-tribe of the Vindelici, who occupy territory to the north-east. This could indicate the route taken by the Brigantii to reach their new home, but it also raises the possibility that they are not Gauls, or perhaps only partially so.

The Vindelici have an uncertain ancestry, possibly being a blend of Celts and Ligurians. The Ligurian element may not even arrive here until this century, perhaps forced northwards by the massed Celtic intrusion into the western Alps. It is hard to think why Ligurians would otherwise leave the fertile south to fight their way through the hostile northern Alps - although overpopulation has been the reason for the Celts performing a similar crossing of the Alps.

Equally possible is the idea that the Brigantii are Ligurians who are commanded by a Gaulish elite - there is even a Brigiani tribe which may have been confused with the Brigantii.

Even if it is indeed the Brigantii who are involved here, the act of referring to them as Celts is merely the modern naming convention which has been inherited from the Romans. Thinking of the term as valid or invalid may be irrelevant. 'Celt' may simply be what some West Indo-European speakers call themselves and others not - and with the Celts long in the ascendance in Central Europe, some non-Celtic people may arbitrarily adopt the term in order to fit in.

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)

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.

At about the same time as he is fighting the Cantabrian Wars in Iberia (29-19 BC), he wages a steady, determined campaign against the Alpine tribes in the Alpine Wars. In a period of ten years he 'pacifies the Alps all the way from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian seas' (written by Augustus himself).

The wars are necessary from the Roman standpoint in order to secure full control of Iberia and the Alps. Doing so in the latter will fill in a gap between Roman Italy and occupied Gaul. The Brigantii and their immediate neighbours are defeated by 15 BC, including the Vindelici, the Raeti, and the Ambisontes. All of them are drawn into the newly-forming imperial structure for the duration of its existence.

 
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