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Text #9429

"Ligures", in Wikipedia.

The Ligures (singular Ligus or Ligur; English: Ligurians, Greek: Λίγυες) were an ancient Indo-European people who gave their name to Liguria, a region of north-western Italy. They spoke the old Ligurian language which is generally believed to have been an Indo-European language with both Italic and particularly strong Celtic affinities.

Because of the strong Celtic influences on their language and culture, they were known already in antiquity as Celto-Ligurians (in Greek Κελτολίγυες, Keltolígues).

According to Plutarch they called themselves Ambrones, which could indicate a relationship with the Ambrones of northern Europe.

Strabo tells us that they were of a different race from the Celts (by which he means Gauls) who inhabited the rest of the Alps, though they resembled them in their mode of life.

Aeschylus represents Hercules as contending with the Ligures on the stony plains near the mouths of the Rhone, and Herodotus speaks of Ligures inhabiting the country above Massilia (modern Marseilles, founded by the Greeks). Thucydides also speaks of the Ligures having expelled the Sicanians, an Iberian tribe, from the banks of the river Sicanus, in Iberia. The Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax describes the Ligyes (Ligures) living along the Mediterranean coast from Antion (Antibes) as far as the mouth of the Rhone; then intermingled with the Iberians from the Rhone to Emporion in Spain. People with Ligurian names were living south of Placentia, in Italy, as late as 102 AD.

In the 19th century, the Ligures’ question got the attentions of not a few scholars. Amédée Thierry, a French historian, linked them to the Iberians, while Karl Müllenhoff, professor of Germanic antiquities at the Universities of Kiel and Berlin, studying the sources of the Ora maritima by Avienus (a Latin poet who lived in the 4th century AD, but who used as source for his own work a Phoenician Periplum of the 6th century BC), held that the name Ligurians generically referred to various peoples who lived in Western Europe, including the Celts, but thought the real Ligurians were a Pre-Indo-European population. Arturo Issel, a Genoese geologist and paleontologist, who considered them direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon men that lived throughout Gaul from the Mesolithic.

Dominique-François-Louis Roget, Baron de Belloguet, claimed a “Gallic” origin. During the Iron Age the spoken language, the main divinities and the workmanship of the artifacts unearthed in the area of Liguria (see the many torcs) were of Celtic type.

In favor of an Indo-European origin thesis was Henri d’Arbois de Jubainville, 19th-century French historian, who argued the Ligurians were the earliest Indo-European speakers of the European West. De Jubainville’s Ligurian hypothesis soon found its reflection in a body of contemporary philological work. Later dubbed Celto-Ligurian, de Jubainville’s theory was much expanded in the second edition of his initial study and thereafter soon penetrated even archaeological treatments. It was associated by prehistorians with the funnel-beaker “people and expanded to cover much of Central Europea (cf. prominently, still McEvedy 1967:29ff.). Moreover, Julius Pokorny even adopted Celto-Ligurian as the basis for his Illyrian theory, linking it to an array of similar evidence from Eastern Europe, and now the Ligures-Illyrians were associated with the prehistoric Urnfield peoples.

According to a traditional belief, the Ligures represent the northern branch of a very old and different ethno-linguistic layer from the protolatin one, which would have occupied the Tyrrhenian area from Liguria to Sicily (Ligurian/Sicanian layer).

Little is known of the Ligurian language. Only personal names and place-names remain (with typical suffixes -asca or -asco = desinence for village, not to be confused with Celtic ending -brac, possibly meaning swamp). It appears to be an Indo-European branch with both Italic and particularly strong Celtic affinities.

Lucan in his Pharsalia (c. 61 AD) described Ligurian tribes as being long-haired, and their hair a shade of auburn (a reddish-brown):

…Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days

First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks

Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme.( Lucan, Pharsalia, I. 496, translated by Edward Ridley (1896))

The Ligures seem to have been ready to engage as mercenary troops in the service of others. Ligurian auxiliaries are mentioned in the army of the Carthaginian general Hamilcar in 480 BC. Greek leaders in Sicily continued to recruit their mercenary forces from the same quarter as late as the time of Agathocles.

The Ligures fought long and hard against the Romans, but as a result of these hostilities many were displaced from their homeland and eventually assimilated into Roman culture during the 2nd century BC. Roman sources describe the Ligurians as smaller framed than the Gauls, but physically stronger, more ferocious and fiercer as warriors, hence their reputation as mercenary troops.

In the island of Corsica and far northeast Sardinia dwelt a group of tribes called Corsi, although they are classified as nuragic tribes (that may have been related to the Iberians, the Aquitanians or to the Etruscans) they also may have been a group of ligurian tribes, like the Ilvates in the neighboring Ilva (Elba) island (nuragic tribes, in Corsica and Sardinia, were not necessarily from the same ethnic origin or spoke the same language).


ARSLAN E. A. 2004b, LVI.14 Garlasco, in I Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo, Catalogo della Mostra (Genova, 23.10.2004-23.1.2005), Milano-Ginevra, pp. 429–431.

ARSLAN E. A. 2004 c.s., Liguri e Galli in Lomellina, in I Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo, Saggi Mostra (Genova, 23.10.2004–23.1.2005).

Raffaele De Marinis, Giuseppina Spadea (a cura di), Ancora sui Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo, De Ferrari editore, Genova 2007 (scheda sul volume).

John Patterson, Sanniti,Liguri e Romani,Comune di Circello;Benevento Giuseppina Spadea (a cura di), I Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo” (catalogo mostra, Genova 2004–2005), Skira editore, Genova 2004

Text #9430

"Ligurian language (ancient)", in Wikipedia.

The Ligurian language was spoken in pre-Roman times and into the Roman era by an ancient people of north-western Italy and south-eastern France known as the Ligures. Very little is known about this language (mainly place names and personal names remain) which is generally believed to have been Indo-European; it appears to have shared many features with other Indo-European languages, primarily Celtic (Gaulish) and Italic (Latin and the Osco-Umbrian languages).

Xavier Delamarre argues that Ligurian was a Celtic language, similar to, but not the same as Gaulish. His argument hinges on two points: firstly, the Ligurian place-name Genua (modern Genoa, located near a river mouth) is claimed by Delamarre to derive from PIE *ǵenu-, “chin(bone)”. Many Indo-European languages use ‘mouth’ to mean the part of a river which meets the sea or a lake, but it is only in Celtic that reflexes of PIE *ǵenu- mean ‘mouth’. Besides Genua, which is considered Ligurian (Delamarre 2003, p. 177), this is found also in Genava (modern Geneva), which may be Gaulish. However, Genua and Genava may well derive from another PIE root with the form *ǵenu-, which means “knee” (so in Pokorny, IEW).

Delamarre’s second point is Plutarch’s mention (Marius 10, 5-6) that during the Battle of Aquae Sextiae in 102 BC, the Ambrones (who may have been a Celtic tribe) began to shout “Ambrones!” as their battle-cry; the Ligurian troops fighting for the Romans, on hearing this cry, found that it was identical to an ancient name in their country which the Ligurians often used when speaking of their descent (outôs kata genos onomazousi Ligues), so they returned the shout, “Ambrones!”.

The Ligurian-Celtic question is also discussed by Barruol (1999).

Strabo indicates that the Ligurians were different from the Celts:

As for the Alps… Many tribes (éthnê) occupy these mountains, all Celtic (Keltikà) except the Ligurians; but while these Ligurians belong to a different people (hetero-ethneis), still they are similar to the Celts in their modes of life (bíois).

Herodotus (5.9) wrote that sigunnai meant ‘hucksters, peddlers’ among the Ligurians who lived above Massilia.

French historian and philologist Marie Henri d’Arbois de Jubainville held that Ligurian was the first Indo-European language spoken in Western Europe and was related to Sicel. In his work Premiers Habitants de l’Europe (2nd edition 1889-1894) Jubainville proposed an early Indo-European substrate language for Corsica, Sardinia, eastern Spain, southern France and western Italy based on the occurrence there of place names ending in -asco, -asca, -usco, -osco, -osca, as well as -inco, -inca. For examples of the Corsican toponymy cited by Jubainville, see Prehistory of Corsica.

Some of the world’s most famous linguists expanded on the idea. Julius Pokorny adapted it as the basis for his Illyria-Venetic theory. Paul Kretschmer saw evidence for Ligurian in Lepontic inscriptions, now seen as Celtic. Hans Krahe, focusing on river-names, converted the concept into his theory of the Old European hydronymy.


Barruol, G. (1999) Les peuples pré-romains du sud-est de la Gaule - Etude de géographie historique, 2d ed., Paris

Delamarre, X. (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise (2nd ed.). Paris: Editions Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6

Strabo (1917) The Geography of Strabo I. Horace Jones, translator. Loeb Classical Library. London, William Heinemann.

Text #9431

"Liguria", in Wikipedia.

Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, with capital Genoa. Liguria is bordered by France to the west, Piedmont to the north, and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. The narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Some mountains rise above 2000 m; the watershed line runs at an average altitude of about 1000 m. The highest point of the region is the summit of Monte Saccarello (2201 m).

The winding arched extension goes from Ventimiglia to La Spezia. Of this, 3,524.08 square kilometres (1,360.65 sq mi) are mountainous (65% of the total) and 891.95 square kilometres (344.38 sq mi) are hills (35% of the total). Liguria’s natural reserves cover 12% of the entire region, or 60,000 hectares of land. They are made up of one national reserve, six large parks, two smaller parks and three nature reserves.

The continental shelf is very narrow, and so steep it descends almost immediately to considerable marine depths along its 350-km coastline. Except for the Portovenere and Portofino promontories, it is generally not very jagged, and is often high. At the mouths of the biggest watercourses there are small beaches, but there are no deep bays and natural harbours except for those of Genoa and La Spezia.

The ring of hills lying immediately beyond the coast together with the sea account for a mild climate year-round. Average winter temperatures are 7 to 10 °C (45 to 50 °F) and summer temperatures are 23 to 24 °C (73 to 75 °F), which make for a pleasant stay even in the dead of winter. Rainfall can be abundant at times, as mountains very close to the coast create an orographic effect. Genoa and La Spezia can see up to 2,000 mm (79 in) of rain in a year; other areas instead show the normal Mediterranean rainfall of 500 to 800 mm (20 to 31 in) annually.

Evidence of Neanderthals living in the area was discovered in the region of Loano, whereas in Ventimiglia, in the grotto of “Balzi Rossi”, numerous remains were found of Cro-Magnon.

According to Classical sources, the Ligurians (Ligures), once lived in a far broader territory than present-day Liguria. For example, the Greek colony of Massalia, modern Marseille was recorded to lie in Ligurian territory.

During the first Punic War, the ancient Ligurians were divided, some of them siding with Carthage and a minority with Rome, whose allies included the future Genoese. Under Augustus, Liguria was designated a region of Italy (Regio IX Liguria) stretching from the coast to the banks of the Po River. The great Roman roads (Aurelia and Julia Augusta on the coast, Postumia and Aemilia Scauri towards the inland) helped strengthen territorial unity and increase communication and trade. Important towns developed on the coast, of which evidence is left in the ruins of Albenga, Ventimiglia and Luni.

Text #9432

Beyond. "Celtic-Ligurian"


Although paeolithic cave dwellings have been discovered in the hills of this region, the earliest “modern” history began around 1000 BC along the coast of the Mediterranean, which was occupied by the Ligurians.

In 500-400 BC, the Greeks set up trading posts at sites along the coast, including Antibes, Nice and Monaco. About the same time, the Celts from further North invaded Provence, and ended up mingling with the ancient Ligurians.

Three Celtic tribes, the Cavares, the Méminiens and the Voconces, once occupied the area that’s now the department of the Vaucluse.

The Cavares were along the Rhone and Durance rivers and occupied the Pays d’Orange (Arausio), the Pays d’Avignon (Aouenion) and the Pays de Cavaillon. Around the 5th century BC the Cavares began trading with the Phoceans, who had penetrated up the Rhone from Marseille. The Cavares had a continued alliance with the Phoceans and then with Rome, eventually leading them to a futile attempt to stop Hannibal’s crossing the Rhone in 218 BC. By the 2nd-century BC, the Cavares dominated the region from Cavaillon to Valence (Isére) [map] .

The Méminiens, one of the tribes in the Cavares confederation, were located northeast of Carpentras, on the southern flanks of Mont Ventoux.

The Voconces had their capital at Vaison (now Vaison-la-Romaine), northeast of Orange.

In 122 BC, the Celts were defeated by the Romans, beginning the Gallo-Roman era of Provence. (Julius Caesar officially conquered Gaul in 58-51 BC, although the surrender of Vercingétorix still left the majority of the war-like Gaullish tribes still fighting, against the Romans and against each other.)

By the 1st century BC the Romans dominated Provence. The Cavares, the Méminiens and the Voconces were enveloped into the Narbonnaise, and following the division of Gaul into 17 provinces, they became part of the Viennoise province.

Text #9433

"Lepontic language", in Wikipedia.

Lepontic is an ancient Alpine language that was spoken in parts of Rhaetia and Cisalpine Gaul (what is now Northern Italy) between 550 and 100 BC. Lepontic is attested in inscriptions found in an area centered on Lugano, Switzerland, and including the Lake Como and Lake Maggiore areas of Italy.

Lepontic is a Celtic language. While some recent scholarship (e.g. Eska 1998) has tended to consider it simply as an early outlying form of Gaulish and closely akin to other, later attestations of Gaulish in Italy (Cisalpine Gaulish), the majority opinion since Lejeune 1971 continues to view it as a distinct Continental Celtic language. Within this latter view, the earlier inscriptions found within a 50 km radius of Lugano are considered Lepontic, while the later ones, to the immediate south of this area are considered Cisalpine Gaulish.

Lepontic was assimilated first by Gaulish, with the settlement of Gaulish tribes north of the River Po, and then by Latin, after the Roman Republic gained control over Gallia Cisalpina during the late 2nd and 1st century BC.

The majority view (e.g. Lejeune 1971, Koch 2008) is that Lepontic is a distinct Continental Celtic language. A minority opinion considers it simply an early form of Cisalpine Gaulish (or Cisalpine Celtic) and thus a dialect of the Gaulish language (e.g. Eska 1998). An earlier view, which was prevalent for most of the 20th century and until about 1970, regarded Lepontic as a “para-Celtic” western Indo-European language, akin to but not part of Celtic, possibly related to Ligurian (Whatmough 1933 and Pisani 1964). However, Ligurian itself has been considered akin to, but not descended from, Common Celtic, see Kruta 1991 and Stifter 2008.

Referring to linguistic arguments as well as archaeological evidence, Schumacher even considers Lepontic a primary branch of Celtic, perhaps even the first language to diverge from Proto-Celtic. In any case, the Lepontic inscriptions are the earliest attestation of any form of Celtic.

Lepontic is known from around 140 inscriptions written in the alphabet of Lugano, one of five main Northern Italic alphabets derived from the Etruscan alphabet. Similar scripts were used for writing the Rhaetic and Venetic languages and the Germanic runic alphabets probably derive from a script belonging to this group.

The grouping of all inscriptions written in the alphabet of Lugano into a single language is disputed. Indeed, it was not uncommon in antiquity for a given alphabet to be used to write multiple languages. And, in fact, the alphabet of Lugano was used in the coinage of other Alpine tribes, such as the Salassi, Salluvii, and Cavares (Whatmough 1933, Lejeune 1971).

While many of the later inscriptions clearly appear to be written in Cisalpine Gaulish, some, including specifically all of the older ones, are said to be in an indigenous language distinct from Gaulish and known as Lepontic. Until the publication of Lejeune 1971, this Lepontic language was regarded as a pre-Celtic language, possibly related to Ligurian (Whatmough 1933, Pisani 1964). Following Lejeune 1971, the consensus view became that Lepontic should be classified as a Celtic language, albeit possibly as divergent as Celtiberian, and in any case quite distinct from Cisalpine Gaulish (Lejeune 1971, Kruta 1991, Stifter 2008). Some have gone further, considering Lepontic and Cisalpine Gaulish essentially one and the same (Eska 1998). However, an analysis of the geographic distribution of the inscriptions shows that the Cisalpine Gaulish inscriptions are later and from an area to the south of the earlier (Lepontic) inscriptions, with which they display significant differences as well as similarities.

While the language is named after the tribe of the Lepontii, which occupied portions of ancient Rhaetia, specifically an Alpine area straddling modern Switzerland and Italy and bordering Cisalpine Gaul, the term is currently used by some Celticists (e.g. Eska 1998) to apply to all Celtic dialects of ancient Italy. This usage is disputed by those who continue to view the Lepontii as one of several indigenous pre-Roman tribes of the Alps, quite distinct from the Gauls who invaded the plains of Northern Italy in historical times.

The older Lepontic inscriptions date back to before the 5th century BC, the item from Castelletto Ticino being dated at the 6th century BC and that from Sesto Calende possibly being from the 7th century BC (Prosdocimi, 1991). The people who made these inscriptions are nowadays identified with the Golasecca culture, a Celtic culture in northern Italy (De Marinis 1991, Kruta 1991 and Stifter 2008). The extinction date for Lepontic is only inferred by the absence of later inscriptions.


De Marinis, R.C. (1991). “I Celti Golasecchiani”. In Multiple Authors, I Celti, Bompiani.

Eska, J. F. (1998). “The linguistic position of Lepontic”. In Proceedings of the twenty-fourth annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society vol. 2, Special session on Indo-European subgrouping and internal relations (February 14, 1998), ed. B. K. Bergin, M. C. Plauché, and A. C. Bailey, 2–11. Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistics Society.

Eska, J. F., and D. E. Evans. (1993). “Continental Celtic”. In The Celtic Languages, ed. M. J. Ball, 26–63. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-01035-7.

Gambari, F. M., and G. Colonna (1988). “Il bicchiere con iscrizione arcaica de Castelletto Ticino e l’adozione della scrittura nell’Italia nord-occidentale”. Studi Etruschi 54: 119–64.

Koch, John T. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO.

Lejeune, M. (1970–71). “Documents gaulois et para-gaulois de Cisalpine”. Études Celtiques 12: 357–500.

Lejeune, M. (1971). Lepontica. Paris: Société d’Éditions ‘Les Belles Lettres’.

Lejeune, M. (1978). “Vues présentes sur le celtique ancien”. Académie Royale de Belgique, Bulletin de la Classe des Lettres et des Sciences morales et politiques 64: 108–21.

Lejeune, M. (1988). Recueil des inscriptions gauloises: II.1 Textes gallo-étrusques. Textes gallo-latins sur pierre. Paris: CNRS.

Pisani, V. (1964). Le lingue dell’Italia antica oltre il latino (2nd ed.). Turin: Rosenberg & Sellier.

Prosdocimi, A.L. (1991). “Lingua e scrittura dei primi Celti”. In Multiple Authors, I Celti, pp. 50–60, Bompiani.

Tibiletti Bruno, M. G. (1978). “Ligure, leponzio e gallico”. In Popoli e civiltà dell’Italia antica vi, Lingue e dialetti, ed. A. L. Prosdocimi, 129–208. Rome: Biblioteca di Storia Patria.

Tibiletti Bruno, M. G. (1981). “Le iscrizioni celtiche d’Italia”. In I Celti d’Italia, ed. E. Campanile, 157–207. Pisa: Giardini.

Whatmough, J. (1933). The Prae-Italic Dialects of Italy, vol. 2, “The Raetic, Lepontic, Gallic, East-Italic, Messapic and Sicel Inscriptions”, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press

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