The ancient Veneti spoke Venetic, an extinct Indo-European language which is attested in approximately 300 short inscriptions dating from the 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 and Celtic. Venetic should not be confused with Venetian, a Romance language presently spoken in the region.
In Italy, these ancient people are also referred to as Paleoveneti to distinguish them from the modern-day inhabitants of the Veneto region, called Veneti in Italian. They are unrelated to the Gaulish Veneti, a Celtic tribe formerly living on the coast of Brittany, despite confusion by classical scholar Strabo (see the History section below).
Many tribes originally thought to have been Illyrians, such as Carni, Histri and Liburni, were actually related to Veneti. These groups lived respectively in Carnia, Istria, and parts of modern-day Croatia.
Etymology of the ethnonym Veneti
According to Julius Pokorný, the ethnonym Venetī (singular *Venetos) is derived from Proto Indo-European root *u̯en- 'to strive; to wish for, to love'. As shown by the comparative material, Germanic languages had two terms of different origin: Old High German Winida 'Wende' points to Pre-Germanic *Venétos, while Lat.-Germ. Venedi (as attested in Tacitus) and Old English Winedas 'Wends' call for Pre-Germanic *Venetós. Etymologically related words include Latin venus, -eris 'love, passion, grace'; Sanskrit vanas- 'lust, zest', vani- 'wish, desire'; Old Irish fine (< Proto-Celtic *venjā) 'kinship, kinfolk, alliance, tribe, family'; Old Norse vinr, Old Saxon, Old High German wini, Old Frisian, Old English wine 'Friend'.
The extent of the territory occupied by the ancient Veneti 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) and on the south by the Adriatic Gulf.
The origins of the Veneti are a much debated topic, with some scholars linking them with the Illyrians. An expert on the language of the Veneti, Karl Pauli, declared that the language was more closely related to that of the Illyrians than any other language. However, in the first half of the 20th century, this hypothesis was discredited by two other linguists: Vittore Pisani and Hans Krahe A people called the Enetoi (Eneti) is mentioned by Homer (who lived ca. 850 BC) in the Iliad, as inhabiting Paphlagonia on the southern coast of the Black Sea in the time of the Trojan War (ca. 1200 BC). The Paphlagonians are listed among the allies of the Trojans in the war, where their king Pylaemenes and his son Harpalion perished.
Roman historian Titus Livius (59 BC – AD 17), himself a native of the Veneti town of Patavium, claims that Trojan leader Antenor, together with a large number of Paphlagonians who had been expelled from their homeland by a revolution, migrated to the northern end of the Adriatic coast, where they later merged with indigenous people known as the Euganei. However, according to a classical source, Servius' commentary on Virgil's Aeneid, the Vindelicians were Liburnians, themselves most probably related to the Veneti. (A reference in Virgil seems to refer to the Veneti as Liburnians, namely that the "innermost realm of the Liburnians" must have been the goal at which Antenor is said to have arrived.) Thus, it seems that the ancient Liburnians may have encompassed a wide swath of the Eastern Alps, from Vindelicia, through Noricum, to the Dalmatian coast.
Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) attributes to Cornelius Nepos (100–24 BC) the identification of the Enetoi with the ancient Veneti. He lists the towns of Ateste, Acelum, Patavium, Opitergium, Belunum, and Vicetia as belonging to the Veneti.
The Greek historian Strabo (64 BC–AD 24), on the other hand, conjectured that the Adriatic Veneti were descendant from Celts who in turn were related to later Celtic tribe of the same name who lived on the Belgian coast and fought against Julius Caesar. He further suggested that the identification of the Adriatic Veneti with the Paphlagonian Enetoi led by Antenor — which he attributes to Sophocles (496–406 BC) — was a mistake due to the similarity of the names. Strabo also gives information on the then-current domains of the Veneti (Book V, Chapter 1).
In 303/302 BC the Lacedaemonian prince Cleonymus of Sparta led a fleet of mercenaries up the Brenta River intending on sacking Patavium; however, the ships were captured and destroyed by the Veneti. They had recurring fights with the Celtic peoples who then occupied most of Northern Italy, but also had peaceful relations with the Cenomani Celts who had settled in the region of Brescia and Verona, and eventually absorbed them. During the Second Punic War, they allied with the Romans against the Celts, Iberians, and the Carthaginian expedition (218-203 BC) led by Hannibal. They even sent troops to fight along with the Romans at the battle of Cannae.
See History of Veneto.
Other tribes originally thought to have been Illyrians were actually related to Veneti, such as:
Many archeological excavations are still under way in the Veneto today at sites such as Este, Padua, Oderzo, Adria, Vicenza, Verona and Altinum. 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.
- Storia, vita, costumi, religiosità dei Veneti antichi at .www.venetoimage.com (in Italian). Accessed on 2009-08-18.
- Paleoveneti at the Italian wikipedia
- Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992,ISBN 0-631-19807-5. Page 183: "... We may begin with the Venetic peoples, Veneti, Carni, Histri and Liburni, whose language set them apart from the rest of the Illyrians. ..." Page 81: "... " In Roman Pannonia the Latobici and Varciani who dwelt east of the Venetic Catari in the upper Sava valley were Celtic but the Colapiani of the Colapis (Kulpa) valley were Illyrians ( ..."
- Pokorny 1959: 1146 - 1147; Steinacher 2002: 33
- Aleksandar Stipčević - Illyrians, The Illyrian Art, The Illyrian Cult Symbols
- Francisco Villar, Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1997.
- Homer, Iliad; Online version at classics.mit.edu, accessed on 2009-08-18. Book II: "The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from Enetae, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini."
- Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, Book 1, Chapter 1: "Antenor sailed into the furthest part of the Adriatic, accompanied by a number of Enetians who had been driven from Paphlagonia by a revolution and after losing their king Pylaemenes before Troy were looking for a settlement and a leader. The combined force of Enetians and Trojans defeated the Euganei, who dwelt between the sea and the Alps and occupied their land. The place where they disembarked was called Troy, and the name was extended to the surrounding district; the whole nation were called Veneti."
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book VI, Chapter 2 - Paphlagonia: "Beyond [the river Billis ]begins the nation of Paphlagonia, by some writers called Pylæmenia; it is closed in behind by the country of Galatia. In it are Mastya, a town founded by the Milesians, and then Cromna, at which spot Cornelius Nepos also places the Heneti, from whom he would have us believe that the Veneti of Italy, who have a similar name, are descended. The city also of Sesamon, now called Amastris, Mount Cytorus, distant sixty-three miles from Tium, the towns of Cimolis and Stephane, and the river Parthenius. The promontory of Carambis, which extends a great distance into the sea, is distant from the mouth of the Euxine three hundred and twenty-five miles, or, according to some writers, three hundred and fifty, being the same distance from the Cimmerian Bosporus, or, as some persons think, only three hundred and twelve miles. There was formerly also a town of the same name, and another near it called Armene; we now find there the colony of Sinope, distant from Mount Cytorus one hundred and sixty-four miles."
- Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book III, Chapter 23 - Istria, its People and Locality.
- Strabo, Geography, Book IV, Chapter 4: "It is these Veneti [the Gallic tribe of the Belgae], I think, who settled the colony that is on the Adriatic (for about all the Celti that are in Italy migrated from the transalpine land, just as did the Boii and Senones), although, on account of the likeness of name, people call them Paphlagonians. I do not speak positively, however, for with reference to such matters probability suffices." Book V, Chapter 1: "Concerning the Heneti there are two different accounts: Some say that the Heneti too are colonists of those Celti of like name who live on the ocean-coast; while others say that certain of the Heneti of Paphlagonia escaped hither with Antenor from the Trojan war, and, as testimony in this, adduce their devotion to the breeding of horses — a devotion which now, indeed, has wholly disappeared, although formerly it was prized among them, from the fact of their ancient rivalry in the matter of producing mares for mule-breeding." Book 13, Chapter 1: "At any rate, Sophocles says that [...] Antenor and his children safely escaped to Thrace with the survivors of the Heneti, and from there got across to the Adriatic Henetice, as it is called."
- Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992,ISBN 0-631-19807-5,page 183,"We may begin with the Venetic peoples, Veneti, Carni, Histri and Liburni, whose language set them apart from the rest of the Illyrians"
- Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992,ISBN 0-631-19807-5,page 81,"In Roman Pannonia the Latobici and Varciani who dwelt east of the Venetic Catari in the upper Sava valley were Celtic but the Colapiani of the Colapis (Kulpa) valley were Illyrians"
- Structure and Scale in the Roman Economy by Richard Duncan-Jones,2002,page 164,"... This allowed the city to draw on the Carni and Catali (tribes `attributed' to Tergeste by Augustus) for new supplies of ..."
- The Cambridge Ancient History by Alan K. Bowman, ISBN 0-521-26430-8,page 575
- The classical gazetteer: a dictionary of ancient geography, sacred and profane by William Hazlitt,1851,page 311,"SECUSSES, a people of Histria"
- Aldo Luigi Prosdocimi, Aldo (2002). Veneti, Eneti, Euganei, Ateste: i nomi, in AA.VV., Este preromana: una città e i suoi santuari. Treviso: Canova, pp. 45-76.
- Anna Maria Chieco Bianchi et al. (1988), Italia Omnium Terrarum Alumna: la civiltà dei Veneti, Reti, Liguri, Celti, Piceni, Umbri, Latini, Campani e Iapigi. Scheiwiller, Milan.
- Loredana Capuis biography and publications at the site of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti. Accessed on 2009-08-19.
Additional primary sources
- Polybius - ii.17.4-6, 18.1-3; ii.23.1-3; ii.24.7-8
- Xenophon - Anabasis (Xenophon), (known as Anabasis III in the Loeb Classical Library edition), I.viii.5; V.ii.22, iv.13, v.12, 22, vi.3, 6; VI.i.1, 6, 11, 13, 14, 15. ISBN 0-674-99101-X
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