Monday, February 16, 2009

Caesar Augustus' "Conquered Alpine Peoples" - Part 2

The Celts

We can take a more in-depth look at these various pre-Roman peoples, like the Celts, at a later time. The Celts did indeed invade Northern Italy, like they did so many other regions of Europe, and even beyond Europe, like Turkey. It should be noted that some sources even place them in Northern Italy much earlier (sixth century BC), and even as a place of possible origin. However, it's usually accepted that the first Celtic culture really thrived in the area that is now modern southern Germany and nearby areas of central Europe, although some place the origin in more northern Germany and Holland.

The Celts are sometimes thought of as more of a culture than an ethnic type. However, early Greek and Roman historians describe them as generally being quite tall. The concept of them as being similar to a red haired "Irish" type of people may not be accurate. They may have been more dark haired, but the picture is really not entirely clear, and evidence surfaces from time to time that changes archeologists and anthropologists view of the Celts. With their centuries long wanderings, they may have started out as more of a particular ethnic type, and later morphed into more of a culture, with scattered regional groups.

Celtic Gaul

Pre-Roman Gaul was a Celtic nation in the area that is now France. Although made up of separate tribes, it would still constitute a nation, as they united to defend themselves against the invading Romans. It should also be pointed out that these pre-Roman regions and tribes were also certainly pre-Christian. They had various pagan beliefs. Druidism, for example, is a Celtic-originated tradition. All of these areas are so expansive, but I want to stick with Northern Italian Celts, just prior to their being conquered by the Romans. It is important to know that they did invade Northern Italy from Gaul. It was probably somewhere between the definition of a migration and an invasion. It is known that they pushed the Etruscans south on many occasions.

From Wikipedia webpage for Celts: "Alps and Po Valley

"There was an early Celtic presence in northern Italy since inscriptions dated to the sixth century BC have been found there. In 391 BC Celts "who had their homes beyond the Alps streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Appeninne mountains and the Alps" according to Diodorus Siculus. The Po Valley and the rest of northern Italy (known to the Romans as Cisalpine Gaul) was inhabited by Celtic-speakers who founded cities such as Milan. Later the Roman army was routed at the battle of Allia and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.

"At the battle of Telemon in 225 BC a large Celtic army was trapped between two Roman forces and crushed.

"The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe, but it was not until 192 BC that the Roman armies conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdoms in Italy.

"The Celts settled much further south of the Po River than many maps show. Remnants in the town of Doccia, in the province of Emilia-Romagna, showcase Celtic houses in very good condition dating from about the 4th century BC."

The subject of the Celts is so expansive and ambiguous, that I have to hold myself back from really wanting to dive into it and go on and on. It's such a fascinating subject. I want to go more into this in later entries, and keep this to the era just prior to the Roman period (in the Italian Alps). The following link, which shows interactive Celt and Roman maps, shows a Celtic territory that is more expansive than I have been reading in other sources. The first map shown is from about 800 BC., and shows territory in Northern Italy.

From Wikipedia webpage for "Cisalpine Gaul

"Cisalpine Gaul (Latin: Gallia Cisalpina, meaning "Gaul on this side of the Alps") was the Roman name for a geographical area (later a province of the Roman Republic), in the territory of modern-day northern Italy (including Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Veneto), inhabited by the Celts. Sometimes referred to as Gallia Citerior (Hither Gaul), Provincia Ariminum, or Gallia Togata (Toga-wearing Gaul, indicating the region's early Romanization). Gallia Transpadana denoted that part of Cisalpine Gaul between the Padus (now Po) and the Alps, while Gallia Cispadana was the part to the south of the river. The province was governed from Mutina (modern-day Modena), where in 73 BC forces under Spartacus defeated the legion of Gaius Cassius Longinus, the provincial governor.

"The River Rubicon marked its southern boundary with Italia proper, and it was upon crossing this river in 49BC that Julius Caesar, with his battle-hardened legions which resulted from the conquest of Gaul, precipitated a civil war throughout the Roman Republic that led to the eventual establishment of the Roman Empire.

"The province was merged into Italia about 43–42 BC, as part of Octavian's "Italicization" program during the Second Triumvirate. The end of the provincia required a new governing law or lex, though its contemporary title is unknown. The parts of it that are inscribed on a bronze tablet preserved in the museum at Parma are entirely concerned with arranging the judiciary; the lex appoints two viri and four viri juri dicundo. The lex also mentions a Prefect of Mutina. Virgil and Livy were born in Gallia Cisalpina, and were two famous sons of the Province."

It's important to note that the Roman invasion of Cisalpine Gaul (Alpine Italy) was long after the Etruscans were gone. Although called a "southern Gaul" by the Romans, it was actually populated by both ancient Italic tribes and Celtic tribes. The first few names of Caesar Augustus' "conquered Alpine peoples" were Italic Alpine tribes, due to their fearsome resistance. Therefore, it would be false to assume that the Celts were the only ones who bravely resisted. It was both cultural groups. It reads from the Wikipedia "Trophy of Augustus" link: "The Trophy of the Alps or Trophy of Augustus was built by the Roman emperor Augustus to celebrate his definitive victory over the ancient Celto-Ligurian tribes who populated the region and who had harassed merchants along Roman roads." The term "Celto-Ligurian" was just a catch-all word, but, as mentioned in part one, not all the Italic Alpine tribes were Ligures.

From Wikipedia entry for List of Celtic tribes: "Cisalpine Gaul (Northern Italy)

"Cisalpine Gaul, meaning literally "Gaul on this side of the Alps", was the Roman name for a region of Italy inhabited by Gauls, roughly corresponding with modern northern Italy.

"* Salassi - Aosta Valley and Canavese (Northern Piedmont) (Ivrea)
* Graioceles - Northwestern Piedmont in the Graian Alps
* Seguses (or Cotties) - Western Piedmont on Cottian Alps (Susa)
* Taurini - Piedmont (Turin)
* Vertamocorii - Eastern Piedmont (Novara)
* Insubres - Western Lombardy (Milan)
* Orobii or Orumbovii - Central Lombardy (Bergamo)
* Cenomani - Eastern Lombardy (Brixia, Cremona)
* Boii - Central Emilia-Romagna (Bologna)
* Lingones - North-eastern Emilia-Romagna (Ferrara), Po Valley
* Senones - South-eastern Emilia-Romagna (Rimini) and Northern Marche (Senigallia)"

See the Trophy of Augustus link for a list of all the major tribes who were conquered in Cisalpine Gaul (Italics and Celts), and direct links to many of those tribes. Also see the List of Celtic tribes for direct links to many of the various Celtic tribes mentioned above. I would also like to take this time to say that I would like to symbolically designate the above flag, which is fictional, as the flag of the Celto-Ligurian federation which opposed Rome. Not as an anti-Roman sentiment, but as a symbol of what we were at one time, and for the bravery they displayed in standing up to one of the greatest, if not THE greatest army the world has ever known. The historical record shows clearly that they fought them tooth and tail. The symbol is a Celtic one, which was used in Northern Italy, not to be confused with the Celtic Sun of the Alps symbol, which was also used by the Northern Italian Celti. The colors can reflect the ruggedness of the ancient Alps, and it has the sun symbolism on it.

The ancient Alpine region, just prior to Roman invasion, colonization, and Christianization, was more undeveloped and much more heavily forested. The Italic tribes and their Celtic neighbors were living peacefully together. Last fall, I visited a mountainous and heavily forested area. It was later in the day. Houses were very sporadically located in this area, and it was rather dark due to the large trees blocking out the sun. I really feel that this was a visual glimpse of what much of the ancient Alps looked like, at least the more pre-Alpine mountain valleys. Game was much more abundant. Believe it or not, lions once lived in Europe, and maybe in the lower Alpine valleys. They were probably very similar to Asiatic lions, with short manes. There were a lot more bears and wolves in those forests as well. It was rugged and beautiful.

The Romans had to get through the Celto-Ligurians first, before they could conquer other regions. I seriously doubt that the reason for the invasion was the harassment they suffered along Roman roads, but was probably more due to simple imperialism. Those roads also had to be made entirely safe if they wanted to guarantee their supply lines for the invasion of the more northern lands. Also, they wanted to get at that timber, which probably looked unlimited. Centuries later, the Arabs would almost totally deforest Sicily in only two centuries. Natural resources are always a motivation for invasion, much more than the official reason (to stop the harassment on Roman roads). The truth of this history is also a very inconvenient fact against the irresponsible concept of "Italians (Romans) invading Northern Europe (Celtic Gaul)." In reality, they had to conquer the fierce Alpine peoples first.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Etruscan Girl" song (by The Nays)

Thanks to our friend Eureka for sending this. Description from YouTube channel widecrossing ( "A young man falls in love with a picture of an Etruscan flute girl in his Art History book leading to a fanciful song about the imaginary relationship he could have had, ironically the man meets a modern woman who fits the bill and they fall in love and live happily ever after. This song was written and performed by the NaYs, a band originating in Lincoln, Massachusetts. For a full quality mp3 version of this song visit"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Caesar Augustus' "Conquered Alpine Peoples" - Part 1

I wanted to expand a little bit on the Italian Alpine region at the end of pre-Roman times.


The original inhabitants of the Italian Alps and the lowlands just south of them, that we know of, were early Italic peoples. In the west-central they were known as the Ligures, in the central-east they sometimes are referred to as being of the "Euganei" race, and in the eastern reaches there was the Adriatic Veneti. All of these groups may have been more-or-less similar, but had different language groups and some different cultural characteristics.

From Wikipedia: "Ligures

"The Ligures (singular Ligus or Ligur; English: Ligurians, Greek: Λίγυες) were an ancient people who gave their name to Liguria, which once stretched from Northern Italy into southern Gaul. According to Plutarch they called themselves Ambrones which means ¨people of the water¨. The Ligures inhabited what now corresponds to Liguria, northern Tuscany, Piedmont, part of Emilia-Romagna, part of Lombardy, and parts of southeastern France.

"Classical references and toponomastics suggest that the Ligurian sphere once extended further into central Italy (Taurisci): according to Hesiod's Catalogues (early 6th century BC) they were one of the three main "barbarian" peoples ruling over the Western border of the known world (the others being Aethiopians and Scythians). Avienus, in a translation of a voyage account probably from Marseille (4th century BC) speaks of the Ligurian hegemony extending up to the North Sea, before they were pushed back by the Celts. Ligurian toponyms have been found in Sicily, the Rhône valley, Corsica and Sardinia.

"It is not known for certain whether they were a pre-Indo-European people akin to Iberians; a separate Indo-European branch with Italic and Celtic affinities; or even a branch of the Celts or Italics. Kinship between the Ligures and Lepontii has also been proposed. Another theory traces their origin to Betica (modern Andalusia).

"The Ligures were assimilated by the Romans, and before that by the Gauls, producing a Celto-Ligurian culture.


"Numerous tribes of Ligures are mentioned by ancient historians, among them:

* Apuani
* Bagienni
* Briniates
* Cerdiciates
* Commoni
* Deciates
* Euburiates
* Friniates
* Garuli
* Hercates
* Ilvates
* Ingauni
* Intemellii
* Lapicini
* Laevi
* Marici
* Oxybii
* Statielli
* Sueltri (or Suelteri)
* Taurini (or Taurisci)
* Tiguli
* Vagienni (an alternative name for the Bagienni"

Note: For a description of most of these tribes, see the "Ligures link" in the first paragraph

From Wikipedia: "Euganei

"The Euganei (fr. Lat. Euganei, Euganeorum; cf. Gr. εὐγενής (eugenēs) 'well-born') is a semi-mythical proto-Italic ethnic group that dwelt near present-day Verona. They were according to Titus Livius' The History of Rome defeated by the Adriatic Veneti and the Trojans. Their descendants settled west of the Athesis (Adige) river, around the lakes Sebinus, Edrus, and Benacus, where they occupied 34 towns, which were admitted by Augustus to the rights of Latin cities."

There were numerous regional Euganei tribes, who seem to have predated the others, having a culture that artifacts point to as going back many thousands of years.

From Wikipedia: "Adriatic Veneti

"The Veneti (Enetoi Ενετοί in Greek) were an ancient people who inhabited north-eastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of the Veneto. They spoke Venetic, an independent Indo-European language, which is attested in approximately 300 short inscriptions dating from 6th to 1st centuries BC. Venetic appears to share several similarities with Latin and the Italic languages, but also has some affinities with other IE languages, especially Germanic as well as Celtic.


"The north-eastern portion of Italy was also once home to an indigenous group known as the Euganei. They superseded and later mixed with the group that came to be known as the Veneti. In Italy these ancient Veneti are sometimes referred to as Paleoveneti so as to distinguish them from the modern-day Veneti in Italy. The extent of their territory before their incorporation by the Romans is uncertain. It was at first included in Cisalpine Gaul, but later became known as the tenth region of Italy. It was bounded on the west by the Athesis (Adige), or according to others, by the Addua (Adda); on the north by the Alps; on the east by the Timavus (Timavo river in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, known as Timâf) and on the south by the Adriatic Gulf. From the earliest times the Veneti appear to have been a peaceful people, chiefly engaged in commercial pursuits.

"Historical references

"According to Livy, himself one of the Veneti from Patavium, the Veneti were formed by a merging of the indigenous peoples known as the Euganei and a Trojan-Paphlagonian tribe known as the Eneti (or Enetoi in Greek) who had settled in the area between the Alps and the Adriatic sea. Homer and perhaps more significantly, Pliny the Elder points out that with the death of king Pylaemenes of the Paphlagonians, Antenor the Trojan led the Eneti across the Mediterranean towards the coast of north-east Italy near the Brenta river where their descendants, the Veneti lived (Natural History, vi.2.5). Homer (Iliad, ii.852) speaks of the Paphlagonian Eneti as breeders of "wild mules" and their fondness for horses is regarded as proof of their descent from the "horse-taming" Trojans. This is further stipulated by Pliny the Elder who indicates the Veneti ancestry as being Trojan (Natural History, iii.130). Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, who assisted the Veneti to repel the attacks of the Liburnian pirates, is said to have kept a stud in their country (Strabo v.1.4).

"Recent studies

"The ancient Veneti traded metals and in particular gold. Many archeological excavations are still underway in the Veneto today with particular focus on the traditional Paleoveneto sites such as Este, Padua, Oderzo, Adria, Vicenza, Verona and Altinum to name but a few. Studies are also being done on the vast influence of the Greeks in the Adriatic and their interaction with the Veneti, particularly focusing on the Euboeans, Phocaeans and Corinthians. Villanovan and more significantly, Etruscan activity in the region and their strong links to the Veneti are also attested to.


"Dr. Anna Maria Chieco Bianchi compiled the Italia Omnium Terrarum Alumna (1988) academic reference point for all studies on the Italic peoples which provides a thorough account of the Veneti and the various inscriptions from Este. Chieco Bianchi and Dr. Capuis have established a thorough literary body, predominantly in Italian, of studies on the Veneti. Dr. Capuis, an Associate Professor in Pre-Roman Italian Civilsation at the University of Padua, has contributed along with Doctors De Min, Serafini, Malnati and others under the auspices of the Veneto regional government on a collaborative effort. The Superintendent for the Archaeological Heritage of the Veneto Region has released a recent series of publications with the aforementioned professors on the ancient Veneti and Etruscans as part of a project which commenced in 2003 and was aimed at bringing together all of the foremost archaeological experts on this topic.

"Venetic language

"This work and others on the Venetic languages stems predominantly from the foundations laid by Aldo Prosdocimi and Giovanni Pellegrini with La Lingua Venetica (1967) and Michel Lejeune's Manuel de la langue vénète (1974). Prosdocimi has gone on to publish in 2002 several other articles and catalogues concerning the Venetic script. In particular a study on the alphabet and inscriptions and an article on the names Veneti, Eneti, Euganei, Ateste where specific references are made to inscriptions cross-referenced with archaeological materials at the site of Ateste. Another of the most recent major publications on the ancient Venetic language has been entered in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages by Dr. Rex Wallace [6] from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This was done as a part of several Italic language submissions to the University for inclusion in the 2004 tome along with the Sabellian chapter also by Wallace, Latin by J.P.T. Clarkson and Etruscan by Helmut Rix.Many tribes thought to be Illyrians are actually Veneti.


"The ancient Veneti are not to be confused with the later Venetians, who traditionally speak Venetian, a Romance language; both of whom originate from the modern-day Veneto region and are known in Italian as Veneti.

"Peoples of the name Veneti are also historically attested to in Gaul (see Veneti (Gaul)) and other parts of Europe, but it should be emphasized that these were not one and the same people."

To keep things in chronological order, at one point, Etruscan civilization was present in most of the area between modern Naples and southern Lombardy. The Umbri, Volsci, and other peoples who lived south of the Etruscans, all similar in many ways to the Etruscans, lived in a part of the north-central area of the ancient Italian peninsula. The earlier mentioned Italic Alpine tribes lived in the Alpine region. All seemed to co-exist quite well, with the advance of Etruscan civilization being a peaceful one, promoted mainly by trade.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Il Postino, The Godfather, and Thoughts on Indifferent Stereotypes

If the average American witnessed an interchange between two individuals, with one person proclaiming that they were from Manchester, England, and with the other person adding in response "Oh, you must be in the IRA!," they very likely (if they at least had an IQ over 80) would cringe at the stunning and incorrigible ignorance. However, this is what Northern Italians endure all the time. Usually, a stereotype has at least some truth to it, even if it is exaggerated, out of context, or not put up to the scrutiny of the relative overall facts. In some rare instances, there is no truth to it. In some even rarer instances, reality is 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

[Note: the above analogy is in reference to an indifferent and illogical stereotype, and is not in reference to anything regarding the movement for Irish independence]

The 1994 movie 'Il Postino', starring the famous Sicilian actress Maria Grazia Cucinotta, was filmed on the small island of Pantelleria. Pantelleria is a part of Italy, despite the fact that its small population of native inhabitants are ethnic Tunisians. In reality, whether we like it or not, many people might just as well think that the coastal town featured in the movie could just as well be on the coast of the Adriatic in the Veneto.

In the famous scene in 'The Godfather' where Michael Corleone is first shown hiding out in the Sicilian mountain town of Corleone, which the author of 'The Godfather' book, Mario Puzo, referred to as "appearing like a strange looking Moorish village"; well, many people could just as well assume that this could have been an Alpine village in Lombardy. After all, to many, it was merely "in Italy."

Once I skimmed through an old book of "ethnic jokes," usually targeted at white ethnic group identities. Well, I was surprised that some jokes, particularly the Italian and Polish ones, were rather vicious. The Italian jokes were often, in a contrived-light hearted way, based on the idea that "Italians can't do anything right." For 600 years, as is made crystal clear in the scholarly 2003 book 'Human Accomplishment', Northern Italians have been at the very top in every single area of human endeavor, not the least of which has been the technology that has brought mankind to Saturn in recent years, and soon to PLUTO! This is reality, not fantasy. Only German ingenuity could stand up to the comparison with Northern Italy during the last six centuries, with "Anglo-America" certainly catching up during the last century and a half.

I once had a grammar school teacher in Daly City who was a man of Irish descent, and very proud of it. He made a point of making "Italian jokes" to his fifth grade class. Many of the students were born in the third world and had no concept of white cultures at all.... AT ALL. A couple of years later, I had a teacher who was of Sicilian descent, and went on that "the Mafia was necessary to get Italians out of Italian ghettos" which is total nonsense. Anyway, teachers often don't do the right thing anymore than the average person, but I just wanted to add the example of me, personally, enduring "Italian jokes" which, in actuality, the content of which would be light years closer to his Irish culture (organized crime) than to mine.

Organized crime is basically an enhanced, predatory, gang-oriented, black market. There has been a black market in any civilized society for the last 6,000 years. However, in Europe, and extended to America, it is by far (by a country mile!) more prevalent (the bad 1-2%) in Southern Italian, Irish, Albanian, Russian, Jewish, and Corsican cultures. Again, "the bad 1%." Other white ethnicities have been more impoverished, and still had no unusual problem of organized crime at all. For example, Andalucia, over say... the last 150 years, has had a great rate of poverty, much more than Sicily or Ireland, and is in no way known for organized crime. The same could be said of many other European regions. It is necessary to bring this subject up, in a responsible manner, when the stereotype is placed on our doorstep. Logic and facts must be adhered to here.

There have been many movies produced by Hollywood regarding Italian-Americans in northeast cities, that at least present a strong image to the audience. In them are some very strong stereotypes, from various slang words, mannerisms, attitudes, speech, dress, and the "Italian tough guy culture" of the street. Virtually none of this rings any bell to me. In certain period pieces, there could be some similarity to various attitudes presented, if they are/were common attitudes of that time period in regards to America at large, but not to the Italian-American urban culture, real or imagined (or exaggerated).

Where I grew up, when it was much more largely made up of European Americans, it was the Irish or Portuguese youth (using examples of other White people for relative comparison) who had problems with the law at a much greater comparative rate, and it was the Italians (predominantly people of northwest Italian descent) who were model citizens. In New York City, it is a different situation, but one in which "we" are not even represented in the demographic mix, or to such a small degree that comparison would be impossible. For clarity, from our perspective in the American experience, Irish and Southern Italians are dramatically intertwined with us, but still have a much different history when compared.

The 1971 movie 'Dirty Harry' seemed to present the main character of Harry Calahan as a racist Irish-American police detective in San Francisco. Later movies with the same character altered him into a "he hates everyone equally" type of guy. When looking at those movies though, it's obvious that he hated mainly Italians. He frequently featured a mafia in San Francisco, even though there hadn't been a mafia arrest here in over a half century! There had been a small local Sicilian mafia in San Francisco and San Jose that didn't amount to a hill of beans, and was long gone, yet he was able to change reality, as movies frequently do. Those were Clint Eastwood's movies. His vision. In recent years, Eastwood married a woman who was a mixture of Mexican, Japanese, and African-American, and has children by her, so obviously he's not racist, but simply hates Italians period.

I wanted to conclude with the examples of the Hollywood movies depicting urban northeast Italian-American life. I think that they were able to present neighborhoods that were clean, colorful, and safe, as a general rule, which is the norm I believe (albeit in the backdrop of the "tough guy culture" presented). Still, and taking in consideration that many things are exaggerated, I did find much of the culture in those movies to not ring the faintest bell of familiarity in me. In other words, I didn't feel any more closeness to that culture than I would if they had presented a Polish-American neighborhood. Still, I always admired the ability of Southern Italians to hold onto their culture, and of their togetherness.

3-17-09 ADDITION: I wanted to add two points to this entry. First, in regards to the "San Francisco and San Jose Mafias." I didn't pull "Sicilian" out of a hat for convenience. According to crime reporter and author Carl Sifakis, the two local mafias were in fact, Sicilian in origin. Also, I don't think I exaggerated in the Clint Eastwood/Harry Calahan example. In the 1988 Dirty Harry movie 'The Dead Pool', a "San Francisco Italian Mafia" was presented, even though none existed anymore according to the FBI. Even when a tiny mafia gang did exist, it was just several Sicilian families, and not the Northern Italian majority in any way. Do you see how obscene this is?? We're forced out of this city that we built, by behavioral groups who were hostile to our culture, ethnically bigoted in fact, then presented as "the criminal element" by a person who was born in San Francisco.... and who singles out "Italians" in numerous movies he's made, as clearly the worst people of them all.... AND gets away with it without criticism! I say this in the context of San Francisco as a place where most of the "Italians" were of Ligurian, Tuscan, or Piemontese descent.