Bituriges Cubi

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A map of Gaul in the 1st century BC, showing the relative positions of the Celtic tribes. The term Germani (Germania = the fertile land) is a description of territory populated by various ethnicities - not of a tribe.
Silver denier of the Bituriges Cubi, 1780 mg. Hotel de la Monnaie.

The Bituriges Cubi (Gaulish: Biturīges Cubi) were a Gallic tribe dwelling in the later province of Berry during the Iron Age and the Roman period. They had a homonym tribe, the Bituriges Vivisci, in the Bordelais region, which could indicate a common origin, although there is no direct evidence of this.[1]


They are mentioned as Bituriges by Caesar (mid-1st c. BC),[2] Bitoúriges oi̔ Kou͂boi (Βιτούριγες οἱ Κοῦβοι) and Koúbois Bitoúrixi (Κούβοις Βιτούριξι) by Strabo (early 1st c. AD),[3] Bituriges ... qui Cubi appellantur by Pliny (1st c. AD),[4] and as Bitoúriges oi̔ Kou͂boi (Βιτούριγες οἱ Κοῦβοι) by Ptolemy (2nd c. AD).[5][6]

The Gaulish ethnonym Biturīges means 'kings of the world', or possibly 'perpetual kings'. It derives from the stem bitu- ('world', perhaps also 'perpetual'; cf. OIr. bith 'world, life, age', bith- 'eternally', Old Welsh bid, OBret. bit 'world') attached to riges ('kings'; sing. rix). Whether the meaning 'perpetual' was already associated with bitu- in ancient Celtic languages or appeared later in Old Irish remains uncertain. In any case, the meaning 'world' probably emerged from the notion of 'living world, place of the livings', since the Proto-Celtic stem *bitu- derives from Proto-Indo-European *gʷiH-tu-, meaning 'life' (cf. Lat. vīta 'life', OCS žiti 'to live').[7][8][9]

The city of Bourges, attested ca. 400 AD as civitas Biturigum ('civitas of the Bituriges', Bituricas in 844, Bituris in 1182), and the region of Berry, attested in 860 as pagus Biturigus ('pagus of the Bituriges'), are named after the Gallic tribe.[10]


Their chief town during the pre-Roman era was the oppidum of Avaricum Biturigum (modern Bourges).[11] Their dwelled west of the Aedui, south of the Carnutes and Cenomani, north of the Pictones, Lemovices and Arverni, and east of the Turones.[1]

Besides Avaricum or Mediolanum (Châteaumeillant) on the road from Paris and Orléans to Arvernum (Clermont-Ferrand), Argentomagus (Saint-Marcel near today's Argenton-sur-Creuse), Déols (vicus Dolensi or Dolus in the 6th c.) or Levroux on the road from Toulouse to Paris were other oppidums of the Bituriges.


According to a legend recounted by Livy, the Bituriges ruled over all of Gaul ca. 600 BC. Faced with overpopulation in their homeland, the Biturigian king Ambigatus sent his sister's sons Bellovesus and Segovesus in search of new territories to settle. Segovesus headed towards the Hercynian Forest, while Bellovesus is said to have led the Gallic invasion of northern Italy.[11]

While Tarquinius Priscus reigned at Rome, the Celts, who make up one of the three divisions of Gaul, were under the domination of the Bituriges, and this tribe supplied the Celtic nation with a king. Ambigatus was then the man, and his talents, together with his own and the general good fortune, had brought him great distinction; for Gaul under his sway grew so rich in corn and so populous, that it seemed hardly possible to govern so great a multitude.

— Livy 2019. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, 5.34.

Many Greek ceramics and amphoras imported from Massalia, as well as local productions of fine art pottery dated to the second part of the 6th century BC were found on the site Bourges, which, according to historian Venceslas Kruta, gives archeological credit to the essence of the tradition reported by Livy evoking the power of the people of the region well before his own time.[12]

In the 1st century BC, the Bituriges Cubi were client of the Aedui as part of their confederation headed. During the Gallic Wars, they supported the Arverni in their fight against Caesar, and suffered great losses in the siege of their oppidum named Noviodunum, followed by their chief town Avaricum in 52 BC, the only oppidum in their territory spared by the scorched-earth tactics of Vercingetorix. They also took part in the defence of Alesia during the siege of the oppidum by the Romans. After the defeat of Vercingetorix, Rome had to suppress a Gallic revolt in the territory of the Bituriges in 51 BC. Their submission to Rome was reportedly quick, and they asked Caesar to intervene against their neighbours the Carnutes only a few weeks later.[1][11]


A passage from Livy, summa imperii penes Biturges ('all the power in the hands of the Bituriges'), has become the motto of the city of Bourges.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kruta 2000, p. 471.
  2. ^ Caesar. Commentarii de Bello Gallico, 7:5:5.
  3. ^ Strabo. Geōgraphiká, 4:2:2.
  4. ^ Pliny. Naturalis Historia, 4:109.
  5. ^ Ptolemy. Geōgraphikḕ Hyphḗgēsis, 2:7:10.
  6. ^ Falileyev 2010, s.v. Bituriges Cubi.
  7. ^ Lambert 1994, p. 36.
  8. ^ Delamarre 2003, p. 76.
  9. ^ Matasović 2009, p. 67.
  10. ^ Nègre 1990, p. 152.
  11. ^ a b c Busse & Koch 2006, pp. 214–215.
  12. ^ Kruta 2000, p. 145.
  13. ^ "Bourges - Armes et devise". Ville de Bourges.

Primary sources[edit]

  • Livy (2019). History of Rome. Loeb Classical Library. Translated by Yardley, J. C. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674992566.