The Ligures (singular Ligus or Ligur; English: Ligurians, Greek: Λίγυες) were an ancient Indo-European people who gave their name to Liguria, a region of north-western Italy. They spoke the old Ligurian language which is generally believed to have been an Indo-European language (close to Celtic and Italic languages).
Because of the strong Celtic influences on their language and culture, they were known already in antiquity as Celto-Ligurians (in Greek Κελτολίγυες, Keltolígues).:112
Classical references and toponomastics suggest that the Ligurian sphere once extended further than the present boundary of Liguria. Ligurian toponyms have been found in Sicily, the Rhône valley, Languedoc, Corsica, Sardinia and the Iberian peninsula.
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. The Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax describes the Ligyes (Ligures) living along the 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. People with Ligurian names were living south of Placentia, in Italy, as late as 102 AD.
19th-century origins theories
In the 19th century, the Ligures' question got the attentions of not a few 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 Avienus (a Latin poet who lived in the 4th century AD, but who used as 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 Pre-Indo-European population.
In favor of a Pre-Indo-European origin thesis were Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville, 19th-century French historian, who argued that the Ligurians, together with the Iberians, constituted the remains of the native population that had spread in Western Europe with the Cardium Pottery culture cardial ceramic, or related to the Bell Beakerfolk and Arturo Issel, a Genoese geologist and paleontologist, who considered them direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon men that lived throughout Gaul from the Mesolithic.
Little is known of the Ligurian language. Only place-names and personal names remain. It appears to be an Indo-European branch with both Italic and particularly strong Celtic affinities. Strabo tells us that they were of a different race from the Celts (by which he means Gauls) who inhabited the rest of the Alps, though they resembled them in their mode of life.
...Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days
First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks
Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme.
The 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 in 480 BC. Greek leaders in Sicily continued to recruit their mercenary forces from the same quarter as late as the time of Agathocles.
The 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.
Numerous tribes of Ligures are mentioned by ancient historians, among them:
- Alpini (or Montani) (in the hinterland of Savona)
- Apuani (in Lunigiana)
- Bagienni (or Vagienni) (in the area of Bene Vagienna)
- Briniates (or Boactes) (in the area of Brugnato)
- Cosmonates (in the area of Castellazzo Bormida)
- Deciates (in modern Provence, west of the river Var)
- Friniates (in the area now called Frignano)
- Genuates (or Genuenses) (in and around Genoa)
- Helysici (near Narbonne)
- Ilvates (or Iluates) (if different from the Iriates) (on the island of Elba)
- Iriates (or Ilvates, Iluates?) (in the territory of Tortona, Voghera and Libarna)
- Langates (or Langenses) (north of the Genuates)
- Lapicini (or Lapicinii)
- Laevi (along the Ticino River and in the area of Pavia)
- Libici (or Libui)
- Magelli (or Mucelli) (in the Mugello region)
- Marici (near the confluence of the rivers Orba, Bormida and Tanaro)
- Oxybii (or Oxibii) (in modern Provence)
- Sabates (in the area of Vado Ligure)
- Salassi (Gallo-ligurian people) (in and around Aosta Valley)
- Salluvii (or Saluvii) (if different from the Salyes) (in modern Provence)
- Salyes (or Salii, or also Salluvii, Saluvii?) (in modern Provence)
- Statielli (or Statiellates) (in the valleys of the Orba [left bank], Bormida and Tanaro)
- Sueltri (or Suelteri)
- Taurini (or Taurisci) (Gallo-ligurian people) (in Turin region)
- Tigulli (or Tigullii)
- Veiturii (west of the Genuates, in and around Voltri [now a suburb of Genoa])
- Veleiates (or Veliates) (between Veleia and Libarna)
In the island of Corsica and far northeast Sardinia dwelt a group of tribes called Corsi, although they are classified as nuragic tribes (that may have been related to the Iberians, the Aquitanians or to the Etruscans) they also may have been a group of ligurian tribes, like the Ilvates in the neighboring Ilva (Elba) island (nuragic tribes, in Corsica and Sardinia, were not necessarily from the same ethnic origin or spoke the same language):
- Belatones (Belatoni)
- Cilebenses (Cilibensi)
- Corsi Proper, they dwelt at the extreme north-east of Sardinia, near the Tibulati and immediately north of the Coracenses.
- Cumanenses (Cumanesi)
- Lestricones/Lestrigones (Lestriconi/Lestrigoni)
- Longonenses (Longonensi)
- Tibulati, they dwelt at the extreme north of Sardinia, about the ancient city of Tibula, near the Corsi (for whom Corsica is named) and immediately north of the Coracenses.
- "Liguria", in William Smith (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854)
- Baldi, Philip (2002). The Foundations of Latin. Walter de Gruyter.
- Boardman, John (1988). The Cambridge ancient history: Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525-479 BC. p. 716.
- William Smith, ed. (1854). "Liguria". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
- Shipley, Graham (2008). "The Periplous of Pseudo-Scylax: An Interim Translation".
- Amédée Thierry, Histoire des Gaulois depuis les temps les plus reculés.
- 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 "paludi ligustine").
- Karl Viktor Müllenhoff, Deutsche Alterthurnskunde, I 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, Paris 1868.
- Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville, Les Premiers Habitants de l'Europe d'après les Écrivains de l'Antiquité et les Travaux des Linguistes: Seconde Édition, volume II, Paris 1894, libro II, capitolo 9.
- Arturo Issel Liguria geologica e preistorica, Genova 1892, II volume, pp.356-357.
- Strabo, Geography, book 2, chapter 5, section 28.
- Lucan, Pharsalia, I. 496, translated by Edward Ridley (1896).
- 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. p. 15.
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- 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, 23.10.2004-23.1.2005).
- Raffaele De Marinis, Giuseppina Spadea (a cura di), Ancora sui Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo, De Ferrari editore, Genova 2007 (scheda sul volume).
- John Patterson, Sanniti,Liguri e Romani,Comune di Circello;Benevento
- Giuseppina Spadea (a cura di), I Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo" (catalogo mostra, Genova 2004-2005), Skira editore, Genova 2004