The Ausones (Ancient Greek: Αὔσονες; Italian: Ausoni) were an Italic tribe settled in the southern part of Italy. They are sometimes confused with the Aurunci with whom they shared a common origin.[a]
According to a legend told by Diodorus Siculus, The King of the Ausones was Auson, son of Ulysses and Circe (or Calypso). The son of Auson was Liparus, whence the Lipari Islands name.
Only fragmentary news exist about historical Ausones.
The first Greek settlers found Italy inhabited by three major populations: Ausones, Enotri and Iapyges. The Ausones spoke an Indo-European language and were probably present in Italy at least from the 17th century BC.
Ausones in the Aeolian Islands and Sicily
From 1240 to 850 BC the Aeolian Islands are occupied by a group of Ausones led there by the legendary Liparus. According a legend Liparus is succeeded by Aeolus whose house, according to Homer, gave hospitality to Ulysses. This continuous occupation may have been interrupted violently when in the late 9th century BC the Ausonian civilisation site, Lipara, on the island of Lipari was burned and apparently not rebuilt. Around 1270 BC part of the Ausones moved from Campania to Sicily.
The excavations on Lipari have revealed an assemblage which shares many features with those of contemporary Southern Italy (in its Subapennine-Protovillanovan phases). This insular culture has been named as Ausonian I (1250/1200–1150 BC) and II (1150–850 BC) and associated with the Pantalica I and II (Cassibile) phases in Sicily (See Luigi Bernabò Brea).
The core of the Ausonian people lived in a territory called Ausonia (sometimes used for extension to denote the whole Italy): in the 8th century BC it included what is now southern Lazio and Campania until the Sele river.
Usage in classical texts
Ausones is the name given by Greek writers to one of the ancient nations or races that inhabited central Italy. The usage of ancient writers in regard to all these national appellations is very vague and fluctuating, and perhaps in no instance more so than in the case of the Ausones or Ausonians. But notwithstanding this uncertainty, some points appear to be pretty clearly made out concerning them.
1. The Ausonians were either identical with the Opicans or Oscans, or were at least a part of the same race and family. Aristotle expressly states that the part of Italy towards Tyrrhenia was inhabited by the Opicans, "who were called, both formerly and in his time, by the additional name of Ausones". Antiochus of Syracuse also stated, that Campania was at first occupied by the Opicans, "who were also called Ausonians". Polyoma, on the contrary, appears to have regarded the two nations as different, and spoke of Campania as inhabited by the Ausonians and Opicans; but this does not necessarily prove that they were really distinct, as some authors mention the Opicans and Oscans as if they were two different nations, though there can be no doubt that these are merely forms of the same name. Hecataeus also appears to have held the same view with Antiochus, as he called Nola in Campania "a city of the Ausones ".
2. The Ausones of tho Greeks were the same people who were termed Aurunci by the Romans. To Edward Bunbury writing in 1854 it appeared certain that Aurunci was originally the appellation given by the Romans to the people called "Ausones" by the Greeks: indeed, the two names are merely different forms of the same, with the change so common in Latin of the "s" into the "r" (Aurunci = Auronici = Auruni = Ausuni). For more details on this see Aurunci. But at a later period the two appellations were distinguished and applied to two separate tribes or nations by the Romans.
3. The name of Ausones, in this restricted and later sense of the term, is confined to a petty nation on the borders of Latium and Campania. In one passage Livy speaks of Cales as their chief city; but a little later he tells us that they had three cities, Ausona, Minturnae, and Vcscia, all of which appear to have been situated in the plains bordering on the Liris, not far from its mouth. At this period they were certainly an inconsiderable tribe, and were able to offer but little resistance to the Roman arms. Their city of Cales was captured, and soon after occupied by a Roman colony, 333 BC; and though a few years afterwards the success of the Samnites at Lautulae induced them to take up arms again, their three remaining towns were easily reduced by the Roman consuls, and their inhabitants put to the sword. On this occasion Livy tells us that "the Ausonian nation was destroyed"; it is certain that its name does not again appear in history, and is only noticed by Pliny among the extinct races which had formerly inhabited Latium.
However inconsiderable the Ausonians appear by the middle of the 4th century, it is clear that at a much earlier period they were a powerful and widely extended nation. For although it is probable that the Greeks frequently applied the name with little regard to accuracy, and may have included races widely different under the common appellation of Ausonians, it is impossible to account for this vague and general use of the name, unless the people to whom it really belonged had formed an important part of the population of central Italy. The precise relation in which they were considered as standing to the Opicans or Oscans it is impossible to determine, nor perhaps were tho ideas of the Greeks themselves upon this point very clear and definite. The passages already cited prove that they were considered as occupying Campania and the western coast of Italy, on which account the Lower Sea (Mare Infcrum, as it was termed by the Romans), subsequently known as the Tyrrhenian Sea, was in early ages commonly called by the Greeks the Ausonian Sea.[b] Other accounts, however, represent them as originally an inland people, dwelling in the mountains about Beneventum. Scymnus Chius also writes of them as occupying an inland region; and Strabo states that they had occupied the mountain tract above the Pontine marshes, and in Roman history only with Volscians.
On the whole, it is probable that the name was applied with little discrimination to all the native races who, prior to the invasion of the Samnites, occupied Campania and the inland mountainous region afterwards known as Samnium, and from thence came to be gradually applied to all the inhabitants of central Italy. But they seem to have been regarded by the best authorities as distinct from the Oenotrians, or Pelasgic nations, which inhabited the southern parts of the peninsula; though other authors certainly confounded them. Hellanicus according to Dionysius wrote of the Ausonians as crossing over into Sicily under their king Siculus, where the people meant are clearly the Siculi. Again, Strabo wrote of Temesa as founded by the Ausones, where he must probably mean the Oenotrians, the only people whom we know of as inhabiting these regions before the arrival of the Greeks.
The use of the name of Ausonia for the whole Italian peninsula was merely poetical, at least it is not found in any extant prose writer; and Dionysius indicates that it was used by the Greeks in very early times, associates it with Hesperia and Saturnia, both of them obviously poetical appellations. Lycophron, though he does not use the name of Ausonia, repeatedly applies the adjective "Ausontan" both to the country and people, apparently as equivalent to "Italian"; for he includes under the appellation, Arpi in Apulia, Agylla in Etruria, the neighbourhood of Cumae in Campania, and the banks of the Crathis in Lncania, Apollonius Rhodius, a little later, seems to use the name of Ausonia precisely in the sense in which it is employed by Dionysius Periegetes and other Greek poets of later times (for the whole Italian peninsula). It was probably only adopted by the Alexandrian writers as a poetical equivalent for Italia, a name which is not found in any poets of that period. From them the name of Ausonia was adopted by the Roman poets in the same sense, and at a later period became not uncommon even in prose writers. The etymology of the name of Ausones is uncertain; but it seems not improbable that it is originally connected with the same root as Oscus or Opicus.
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In the park of Roccamonfina remains of a polygonal line of walls belonging to the Ausonian civilization have been discovered.
- "At a later period, in the fourth century B.C. the two names of Aurunci and Ausones had assumed a distinct signification, and came to be applied to two petty nations, evidently mere subdivisions of the same great race" Bunbury 1854a, p. 343.
- "Pliny, on the contrary (iii. 5 s. 10,10. s. 15), and, if we may trust his authority, Polybius also, applied the name of Ausonhim Mare, to the sea on the SE. of Italy, from Sicily to the Iapygian Promontory, but this is certainly at variance with tho customary usage of the term" (Bunbury 1854b, p. 345).
- Diodorus Siculus V,7.
- In the territory of Reggio Calabria according to Diodorus Siculus, as also in Temesa (Strabo VI, 255) and Tauriano (Cato, Origines III). The Pelleni a tribe settled in the inland of Crotone is also claimed as Ausonian (Lycophron, Alexandra, vv. 910–929).
- Livy Ab urbe condita, IX, 25.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Aristotle Pol. vii. 10.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Antiochus of Syracuse v. p. 242.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Strab. l. c.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites ap. Steph. B. s. v. Νῶλα.
- Bunbury 1854a, p. 343.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Livy viii. 16, ix. 25.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Livy ix. 25.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Pliny iii. 5. s. 9
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Strab. v. 233; Dionys. i. 11; Lycophr. Alex. 44; Apoll. Rhod. iv. 590.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Festus, s. v, Ausonia.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Scymnus Chius Perieg. 226.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Strabo p. 233.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 see Aristot. l. c.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Dionysius i. 22.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 345 cites Strabo vi. p. 255.
- Bunbury 1854b, pp. 345–346 cites Dionysius i. 35.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 346 cites Lycophron Alex. 593, 615, 702, 922, 1355.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 346 cites Apoll. Khod. iv. 553, 660, etc.; Dion. Per. 366, 383, etc.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 346 cites Virgle Aen. vii. 55, x. 54, etc.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 346.
- Bunbury 1854b, p. 346 cites Buttmann, Lexil. vol i. p. 68; Donaldson, Varronianus, pp.3, 4.
- Bunbury, Edward Hurbert (1854). "Aurunci". In Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography I. London: John Murray. p. 343.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Bunbury, Edward Hurbert (1854). "Ausones". In Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography I. London: John Murray. pp. 345–346.