The Oenotrians ("tribe led by Oenotrus" or "people from the land of vines - Οἰνωτρία") were an ancient people of uncertain origin who inhabited a territory from Paestum to southern Calabria in southern Italy. By the sixth century BC, the Oenotrians had been absorbed with other Italic tribes.
Ancient Greek writers stated that Oenotrians arrived there at the beginning of the Iron Age (11th century BC) from Greece through the Strait of Otranto together with other people of the same ethnic group. According to some interpretations these would be the legendary Pelasgians. According to Pausanias and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Oenotria was named after Oenotrus, one of the fifty (the youngest) sons of Lycaon who migrated there from Arcadia in Peloponnese. According to Antoninus Liberalis, their arrival triggered the migration of the Elymians to Sicily. The settlement of the Greeks with the first stable colonies, such as Metapontum, founded on a native one (Metabon), pushed the Oenotrians inland. From these positions a "wear and tear war" was started off with the Greek colonies, which they plundered more than once. From the 5th century BC onwards, they disappeared under the pressure of a Oscan people, the Lucanians. Virgil mentions them as the settlers of Hesperia whose descendants now call their land Italy.
A likely derivation of the ethnonym Oenotrian would be the Greek οἶνος (oinos), "wine", as the Oenotrians inhabited a territory rich in vineyards, with Oenotria (or Enotria) being extended to refer to the entirety of Southern Italy. Hesychius mentions the word οἴνωτρον (oinōtron), a kind of a vine stake.
According to a traditionalist view, the Oenotrians represent the southern branch of a very old and different ethno-linguistic layer from the proto-latin one, which would have occupied the Tyrrhenian area from Liguria to Sicily (Ligurian/Sicanian layer).
- Niebuhr, Barthold Georg (1847). The History of Rome, Volume 1. London: John Wertheimer & Co. p. 34.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece, Arcadia, 8.3.5 (Theoi Project)
- Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities. Book I, 11-13 (LacusCurtius)
- Virgil (2006). The Aeneid. New York: Penguin Classics. p. 65. ISBN 9780143105138.
- οἶνος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Simon and Schuster, 2004, ISBN 0-684-80001-2, p. 716. "...calling southern Italy Oenotria, "land of the grape." Over the next couple of centuries, Rome advanced the art of winemaking considerably."
- οἴνωτρον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- Sciarretta, Antonio (2010). Toponomastica d'Italia. Nomi di luoghi, storie di popoli antichi. Milano: Mursia. pp. 174–194. ISBN 978-88-425-4017-5.