Albani people

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For other uses, see Albani.

Albani was the Latin name in the Roman Republic for the inhabitants of Alba Longa, southeast of Rome.

Origins[edit]

According to legend, Ascanius, son of Trojan War hero Aeneas, founded the Albani tribe when he settled Alba Longa around 1152 BC.[1] Literary sources suggest the city’s name is derived from the white (alba) sow Aeneas saw when arriving in Latium.[2] Based on limited archaeological evidence, experts say the Albani tribe inhabited the long ridge between the modern-day Lake Albano and Monte Cavo (see map below).[3]

Power in Latium[edit]

At its height, the Albani and the city of Alba Longa exerted great power and influence over Latium. In particular, literary sources such as Pliny the Elder’s Historia Naturalis state that Alba Longa headed a league of city-states in Latium, possibly called Prisci Latini.[4] Most of these sources tend to vary regarding the political structure of the alliance as well as Alba Longa’s hegemonic role. Many historians say it is uncertain if the Albani exerted any sort of dominance since most of the surviving sources are biased.[5]

The Prisci Latini are the colonists sent out by the Alban king, Latinus Silvius, who would be made to submit to Roman authority following the destruction of Alba Longa in the mid-7th century BC.[6] Those colonists would be a part of 30 villages that would form the populi Albenses which may have been related to the 30 Latin villages of the same time in ancient Latium.

Religious customs[edit]

However, Pliny and others generally agree that the communities of Latium gathered at Alba Longa for sacrificial rites. Every year in the spring, the tribes would congregate on Mons Albanus (Monte Cavo) to worship Iuppiter Latiaris. The festival was known as Feriae Latinae.[7] The major custom in this ceremony was a great banquet, which required all attending cities to bring food, especially meat. These offerings were then divided among the attendants and owning some of the food signified membership within the league.[8] Pliny lists 30 tribes participating in the Feriae Latinae. This festival continued as an annual event through the imperial age of Rome. There is also evidence that leaders from the surrounding tribes of Latium met at a spring in Alba Longa known as Aqua Ferentia.[9] This supports the theory that the Albani were a central figure in Latium. Alba Longa was also known for its wine and good stone quarries.[9]

Downfall[edit]

The prosperity of the Albani people declined in the seventh century BC. Tullus Hostilius waged war against Alba Longa and ultimately devastated the city, sparing only the temples.[9] Historians attribute our lack of archaeological evidence to Tullus Hostilius’ campaign.[5] Indeed, portions of the city wall’s foundation are all that remain. After this victory, Rome assumed the command that had long been held by the Albani. Many from Alba Longa immigrated to Rome following the war and some of Rome’s most elite patrician families (including the Julii) trace their heritage back to Alba Longa, which illustrates its importance in the history of Rome.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Alba Longa." Oxford Classical Dictionary. 2003 ed.
  2. ^ "Alba Longa." A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. 1873 ed.
  3. ^ "Alba Longa." A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. 1873 ed.
  4. ^ Bostock, John, Henry Thomas Riley, ed. The Natural History of Pliny. Vol 3. London, H. G. Bohn: 1855.
  5. ^ a b Ashby, Thomas. "Alba Longa." Journal of Philology 27.53 (1899): 37-44.
  6. ^ Barthold Niebuhr The History of Rome, Volume 1 1871 p.198-199, Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities III.34, Livy Ab urbe condita I.3
  7. ^ Walbank, F. W., ed. The Cambridge Ancient History. Vol. 7. Cambridge, Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1989
  8. ^ Walbank, F. W., ed. The Cambridge Ancient History. Vol. 7. Cambridge, Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1989
  9. ^ a b c d "Alba Longa." A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. 1873 ed.