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Peoples of Cisalpine Gaul, 391–192 BC.
The Roman Regio IX Liguria.
Iron Age groups within the Italian peninsula.
Liguria is located in
the upper left corner of the map.
Roman Italy, showing
Liguria located between the rivers of the Var and
Ligures (singular Ligus or Ligur; English: Ligurians, Greek:
Λίγυες) were an ancient Indo-European people who appear to have
originated in, and gave their name to, Liguria, a region of
north-western Italy. Elements of the
Ligures appear to have
migrated to other areas of western Europe, including the Iberian
Little is known of the Old Ligurian language. It is generally believed
to have been an Indo-European language with particularly strong Celtic
affinities, as well as similarities to Italic languages. Only some
proper names have survived, such as the inflectional suffix -asca or
Because of the strong Celtic influences on their language and culture,
they were known in antiquity as Celto-Ligurians (in Greek
2 Modern theories on origins
4 See also
According to Plutarch, the Ligurians called themselves Ambrones, which
could indicate a relationship with the
Ambrones of northern Europe.
Strabo tells that they were of a different race from the
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.
Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax
Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax describes the Ligyes (Ligures) as living
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.
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 I in 480 BC. Greek leaders in
Sicily continued to recruit their mercenary forces from the same
quarter as late as the time of Agathocles.
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.
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.
People with Ligurian names were living south of Placentia, in Italy,
as late as 102 AD.
Modern theories on origins
Traditional accounts suggested that the
Ligures represented the
northern branch of an ethno-linguistic layer older than, and very
different to, the proto-Italic peoples. It was widely believed that
that a "Ligurian-Sicanian" culture occupied a wide area of southern
Europe, stretching from
Liguria to Sicily and Iberia. However,
while any such area would be broadly similar to that of the
paleo-European "Tyrrhenian culture" hypothetised by later modern
scholars, there are no known links between the Tyrrenians and
In the 19th century, the origins of the
Ligures drew renewed attention
from 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
Latin poet who lived in the
4th century AD, but who used as a 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
Italian geologist and paleontologist
Arturo Issel considered Ligurians
as being direct descendants of the
Cro-Magnon men which lived
Gaul from the
Dominique-François-Louis Roget, Baron de Belloguet, claimed a
"Gallic" origin of the Ligurians. During the
Iron Age the spoken
language, the main divinities and the workmanship of the artifacts
unearthed in the area of
Liguria (such as the numerous torcs found)
were similar to those of Celtic culture in both style and type.
Those in favor of an Indo-European origin included Henri d'Arbois de
Jubainville, a 19th-century French historian, who argued the Ligurians
were the earliest Indo-European speakers of the Western Europe.
Jubainville's "Celto-Ligurian hypothesis", as it latter became known,
was significantly expanded in the second edition of his initial study.
It inspired a body of contemporary philological research, as well as
some archaeological work. The Celto-Ligurian hypothesis became
associated with the
Funnelbeaker culture and "expanded to cover much
of Central Europe".
Julius Pokorny adapted the Celto-Ligurian hypothesis into one linking
Ligures to the Illyrians, citing an array of similar evidence from
Eastern Europe. Under this theory the "Ligures-Illyrians" became
associated with the prehistoric Urnfield peoples.
Main article: List of ancient Ligurian tribes
List of ancient Ligurian tribes
Ancient peoples of Italy
^ "Liguria", in William Smith (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman
^ The suffixes -asca or -asco do not appear to be related to the
Celtic -brac, possibly meaning "swamp".
^ Baldi, Philip (2002). The Foundations of Latin. Walter de Gruyter.
^ a b Boardman, John (1988). The Cambridge ancient history: Persia,
Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525–479 BC.
^ Strabo, Geography, book 2, chapter 5, section 28.
^ a b William Smith, ed. (1854). "Liguria". Dictionary of Greek and
^ Shipley, Graham (2008). "The Periplous of Pseudo-Scylax: An Interim
Herodotus 7.165; Diodorus Siculus 11.1.
^ Diodorus Siculus 21.3.
^ Broadhead, William (2002). Internal migration and the transformation
of Republican Italy (PDF) (Ph.D.). University College London.
^ Lucan, Pharsalia, I. 496, translated by Edward Ridley (1896).
^ Sciarretta, Antonio (2010). Toponomastica d'Italia. Nomi di luoghi,
storie di popoli antichi. Milano: Mursia. pp. 174–194.
^ Amédée Thierry, Histoire des Gaulois depuis les temps les plus
^ Postumius Rufius Festus (qui et) Avienius, Ora maritima, 129–133
(nel quale in modo oscuro indica i Liguri come abitanti a nord delle
"isole oestrymniche"; 205 (Liguri a nord della città di Ophiussa
nella penisola iberica); 284–285 (il fiume Tartesso nascerebbe dalle
^ Karl Viktor Müllenhoff, Deutsche Alterthurnskunde, I volume.
Liguria geologica e preistorica, Genoa 1892, II volume,
^ Dominique François Louis Roget de Belloguet, Ethnogénie gauloise,
ou Mémoires critiques sur l'origine et la parenté des Cimmériens,
des Cimbres, des Ombres, des Belges, des
Ligures et des anciens
Celtes. Troisiéme partie. Preuves intellectuelles. Le génie gaulois,
^ Gilberto Oneto Paesaggio e architettura delle regioni padano-alpine
dalle origini alla fine del primo millennio, Priuli e Verlucc, editori
2002, pp. 34–36, 49.
^ See, in particular McEvedy 1967:29ff.
^ Henning, Andersen (2003). Language Contacts in Prehistory: Studies
in Stratigraphy. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 16–17.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ligures.
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,
Raffaele De Marinis, Giuseppina Spadea (a cura di), Ancora sui Liguri.
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Genova 2007 (scheda sul volume).
John Patterson, Sanniti,Liguri e Romani,Comune di Circello;Benevento
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The eastern hemisphere in the 3rd Century BC, prior to the Roman
Republic's incorporation of Ligu