Cisalpine Gaul

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Map of Cisalpine Gaul, extending from Veneto on the Adriatic, to Pisa and Nice on the Mediterranean, to Lake Geneva in the west, and the Alps in the North, from Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas of the world. Antwerp, 1608. GalliaCisalpinaCartOrt.png
Map of Cisalpine Gaul, extending from Veneto on the Adriatic, to Pisa and Nice on the Mediterranean, to Lake Geneva in the west, and the Alps in the North, from Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas of the world. Antwerp, 1608.

Cisalpine Gaul (Latin : Gallia Cisalpina, also called Gallia Citerior or Gallia Togata [1] ) was the part of Italy inhabited by Celts (Gauls) during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. After its conquest by the Roman Republic in the 220s BC it was considered geographically part of Roman Italy but remained administratively separated. It was a Roman province from c. 81 BC until 42 BC, when it was de jure merged into Roman Italy as indicated in Caesar's unpublished acts (Acta Caesaris). [2] [3] Cisalpine means "on the hither side of the Alps" (from the perspective of the Romans), as opposed to Transalpine Gaul ("on the far side of the Alps"). [4]


Gallia Cisalpina was further subdivided into Gallia Cispadana and Gallia Transpadana, i.e. its portions south and north of the Po River, respectively. The Roman province of the 1st century BC was bounded on the north and west by the Alps, in the south as far as Placentia by the river Po, and then by the Apennines and the river Rubicon, and in the east by the Adriatic Sea. [5] In 49 BC all inhabitants of Cisalpine Gaul received Roman citizenship, [6] and eventually the province was divided among four of the eleven regions of Italy: Regio VIII Gallia Cispadana, Regio IX Liguria, Regio X Venetia et Histria and Regio XI Gallia Transpadana. [7]


Early history

Peoples of Cisalpine Gaul during the 4th to 3rd centuries BC Gallia Cisalpina-en.svg
Peoples of Cisalpine Gaul during the 4th to 3rd centuries BC

The Canegrate culture (13th century BC) may represent the first migratory wave of the proto-Celtic [8] population from the northwest part of the Alps that, through the Alpine passes, penetrated and settled in the western Po valley between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como (Scamozzina culture). They brought a new funerary practice—cremation—which supplanted inhumation. It has also been proposed that a more ancient proto-Celtic presence can be traced back to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (16th-15th century BC), when North Western Italy appears closely linked regarding the production of bronze artifacts, including ornaments, to the western groups of the Tumulus culture (Central Europe, 1600 BC - 1200 BC). [9] The bearers of the Canegrate culture maintained its homogeneity for only a century, after which it melded with the Ligurian aboriginal populations and with this union gave rise to a new phase called the Golasecca culture, [10] [11] which is nowadays identified with the Celtic Lepontii. [12] [13] Livy (v. 34) has the Bituriges, Arverni, Senones, Aedui, Ambarri, Carnutes, and Aulerci led by Bellovesus, arrive in northern Italy during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus (7th-6th century BC), occupying the area between Milan and Cremona. Milan (Mediolanum) itself is presumably a Gaulish foundation of the early 6th century BC, its name having a Celtic etymology of "[city] in the middle of the [Padanic] plain". Polybius in the 2nd century BC wrote about co-existence of the Celts in northern Italy with Etruscan nations in the period before the Sack of Rome in 390 BC.

Ligures lived in Northern Mediterranean Coast straddling South-east French and North-west Italian coasts, including parts of Tuscany, Elba island and Corsica. Ligurian tribes were also present in Latium (see Rutuli) [14] and in Samnium. [15] According to Plutarch they called themselves Ambrones, which could indicate a relationship with the Ambrones of northern Europe. [16] 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. Because of the strong Celtic influences on their language and culture, they were known in antiquity as Celto-Ligurians (in Greek Κελτολίγυες, Keltolígues). [17] Modern linguists, like Xavier Delamarre, argues that Ligurian was a Celtic language, similar to, but not the same as Gaulish. [18] The Ligurian-Celtic question is also discussed by Barruol (1999). Ancient Ligurian is either listed as Celtic (epigraphic) [19] or Para-Celtic (onomastic). [20]

The Veneti were an Indo-European people who inhabited north-eastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of the Veneto, Friuli, and Trentino. [21] By the 4th century BC the Veneti had been so Celticized that Polybius wrote that the Veneti of the 2nd century BC were identical to the Gauls except for language. [22] The Greek historian Strabo (64 BC–AD 24), on the other hand, conjectured that the Adriatic Veneti were descendant from Celts, who in turn were related to later Celtic tribe of the same name who lived on the Armorican coast and fought against Julius Caesar. He further suggested that the identification of the Adriatic Veneti with the Paphlagonian Enetoi led by Antenor — which he attributes to Sophocles (496–406 BC) — was a mistake due to the similarity of the names. [23]

Gallic expansion and Roman conquest

Detail of the Tabula Peutingeriana showing northern Italy between Augusta Pretoria (Aosta) and Placentia (Piacenza); the Insubres are marked as inhabiting the Po Valley upstream of Ticeno (Pavia) and downstream of the Trumpli and Mesiates which occupy the upper reaches of the Sesia and Agogna rivers. ORL 61 Tabula Peutingeriana.jpg
Detail of the Tabula Peutingeriana showing northern Italy between Augusta Pretoria (Aosta) and Placentia (Piacenza); the Insubres are marked as inhabiting the Po Valley upstream of Ticeno (Pavia) and downstream of the Trumpli and Mesiates which occupy the upper reaches of the Sesia and Agogna rivers.

In 391 BC, Celts "who had their homes beyond the Alps, streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Appennine mountains and the Alps" according to Diodorus Siculus. The Roman army was routed in the battle of Allia, and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.

The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War ending in 290 BC sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe. At the Battle of Telamon in 225 BC, a large Celtic army was trapped between two Roman forces and crushed.

In the Second Punic War, the Boii and Insubres allied themselves with the Carthaginians, laying siege to Mutina (Modena). In response, Rome sent an expedition led by L. Manlius Vulso. Vulso's army was ambushed twice, and the Senate sent Scipio with an additional force to provide support. These were the Roman forces encountered by Hannibal after his crossing of the Alps. The Romans were defeated in the Battle of the Ticinus, leading to all the Gauls except for the Cenomani to join the insurgency. Rome then sent the army of Tiberius Sempronius Longus who engaged Hannibal in the Battle of the Trebia, also resulting in a Roman defeat, forcing Rome to temporarily abandon Gallia Cisalpina altogether, returning only after the defeat of Carthage in 202 BC.

Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica completed the conquest of the Boii in 191 BC, [24] although the Ligurians were only finally subdued when the Apuani were defeated by Marcus Claudius Marcellus in 155 BC. [25]

Roman province

Sometimes referred to as Gallia Citerior ("Hither Gaul"), Provincia Ariminum, or Gallia Togata ("Toga-wearing Gaul", indicating the region's early Romanization). Gallia Transpadana denoted that part of Cisalpine Gaul between the Padus (now the Po River) and the Alps, while Gallia Cispadana was the part to the south of the river.

Probably officially established around 81 BC, the province was governed from Mutina (modern-day Modena), where, in 73 BC, forces under Spartacus defeated the legion of Gaius Cassius Longinus, the provincial governor.

In 49 BC, with the Lex Roscia, Julius Caesar granted to the populations of the province the full Roman citizenship.

The Rubicon River marked its southern boundary with Italia proper. By crossing this river in 49 BC with his battle-hardened legions, returning from the conquest of Gaul, Julius Caesar precipitated the civil war within the Roman Republic which led, eventually, to the establishment of the Roman Empire. To this day the term "crossing the Rubicon" means, figuratively, "reaching the point of no return".

The province was merged into Italia about 42 BC, as part of Octavian's "Italicization" program during the Second Triumvirate. The dissolution of the provincia required a new governing law or lex, although its contemporary title is unknown. The parts of it inscribed on a bronze tablet preserved in the museum at Parma are entirely concerned with arranging the judiciary: the law appoints two viri and four viri juri dicundo and also mentions a Prefect of Mutina.

Virgil, Catullus and Livy, [26] three famous sons of the province, were born in Gallia Cisalpina. [27]


Gallic Phalerae (a type of military decoration) found in Lombardy; Santa Giulia Museum (Brescia) CelPha.jpg
Gallic Phalerae (a type of military decoration) found in Lombardy; Santa Giulia Museum (Brescia)

The Canegrate culture

The Canegrate culture reflects a late Bronze Age to early Iron Age culture in the Pianura Padana. These areas are now known as western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont and Canton Ticino.

The Canegrate culture testifies to the arrival of Urnfield [29] migratory wave of populations from the northwest part of the Alps that, crossing the alpine passes, had yet infiltrated and settled down in the western Po area between Lake Maggiore and the Lake of Como (see: Scamozzina culture). They were bearers of a new funerary practice, which supplanted the old culture of inhumation instead introducing cremation.

The population of Canegrate maintained its own homogeneity for a limited period of time, approximately a century, after which they blended with the Ligurian aboriginal populations to create a new culture called the Golasecca culture.

Golasecca culture

The Culture of Golasecca (9th to 4th centuries BC) spread between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age in the areas of northwestern Lombardy and Piedmont, and the Canton Ticino . At the end of the prehistoric period, this was an area where travelers frequently stopped and had contact with the Hallstatt culture to the west, the Urnfield culture to the north and with the Villanova culture to the south. The Golasecca culture was initially concentrated in the foothills area south of the Alps. It later spread throughout the lakes area, and established many settlements representing this original culture. The oldest remains found thus far can be dated from the 9th century BC.


There is some debate whether the Lepontic language should be considered as a Gaulish dialect or an independent branch within Continental Celtic. Apart from Lepontic, the "Cisalpine Gaulish language" proper would be the Gaulish language as spoken by the Gauls invading northern Italy in the 4th century BC. This is a dialect of the larger Gaulish language, with some known phonetic features distinguishing it from Transalpine dialects, such as -nn- replacing -nd- and s(s) replacing -χs-.

See also

Related Research Articles

Celts Ethnolinguistic group

The Celts are a collection of Indo-European peoples of Europe identified by their use of the Celtic languages and other cultural similarities. The history of pre-Celtic Europe and the exact relationship between ethnic, linguistic and cultural factors in the Celtic world remains uncertain and controversial. The exact geographic spread of the ancient Celts is disputed; in particular, the ways in which the Iron Age inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland should be regarded as Celts have become a subject of controversy. According to one theory, the common root of the Celtic languages, the Proto-Celtic language, arose in the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture of Central Europe, which flourished from around 1200 BC.

La Tène culture archaeological culture

The La Tène culture was a European Iron Age culture. It developed and flourished during the late Iron Age, succeeding the early Iron Age Hallstatt culture without any definite cultural break, under the impetus of considerable Mediterranean influence from the Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul, the Etruscans, and Golasecca culture.

Gaul historical region of Western Europe inhabited by Celtic tribes

Gaul was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. It was inhabited by Celtic tribes, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Switzerland, and parts of Northern Italy, Netherlands, and Germany, particularly the west bank of the Rhine. It covered an area of 494,000 km2 (191,000 sq mi). According to Julius Caesar, Gaul was divided into three parts: Gallia Celtica, Belgica, and Aquitania. Archaeologically, the Gauls were bearers of the La Tène culture, which extended across all of Gaul, as well as east to Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia, and southwestern Germania during the 5th to 1st centuries BC. During the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, Gaul fell under Roman rule: Gallia Cisalpina was conquered in 203 BC and Gallia Narbonensis in 123 BC. Gaul was invaded after 120 BC by the Cimbri and the Teutons, who were in turn defeated by the Romans by 103 BC. Julius Caesar finally subdued the remaining parts of Gaul in his campaigns of 58 to 51 BC.

Gallia, was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age occupied by present-day France, Belgium and other neighbouring countries.

Lepontii historical ethnical group

The Lepontii were an ancient Celtic or Ligurian people occupying portions of Rhaetia in the Alps during the late Bronze Age/Iron Age. Recent archeological excavations and their association with the Golasecca culture and Canegrate culture point to a Celtic affiliation. From the analysis of their language and the place names of the old Lepontic areas, it was hypothesized that these people represent a layer similar to that Celtic but previous to the Gallic penetration in the Po valley. The suggestion has been made that the Lepontii may have been celticized Ligurians.

The Ligurian language was spoken in pre-Roman times and into the Roman era by an ancient people of north-western Italy and current south-eastern France known as the Ligures.

Ligures Ethnic group

The Ligures were an ancient population that gave the name to Liguria, a region of north-western Italy.

Lingones Gallic tribe

The Lingones were a Gallic tribe of the La Tène and Roman periods. They dwelled in the region surrounding the present-day city of Langres, between the provinces of Gallia Lugdunensis and Gallia Belgica.

Lepontic language Ancient Celtic language

Lepontic is an ancient Alpine Celtic language that was spoken in parts of Rhaetia and Cisalpine Gaul between 550 and 100 BC. Lepontic is attested in inscriptions found in an area centered on Lugano, Switzerland, and including the Lake Como and Lake Maggiore areas of Italy.

The Volcae were a tribal confederation constituted before the raid of combined Gauls that invaded Macedonia c. 270 BC and fought the assembled Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae in 279 BC. Tribes known by the name Volcae were found simultaneously in southern Gaul, Moravia, the Ebro valley of the Iberian Peninsula, and Galatia in Anatolia. The Volcae appear to have been part of the late La Tène material culture, and a Celtic identity has been attributed to the Volcae, based on mentions in Greek and Latin sources as well as onomastic evidence. Driven by highly mobile groups operating outside the tribal system and comprising diverse elements, the Volcae were one of the new ethnic entities formed during the Celtic military expansion at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Collecting in the famous excursion into the Balkans, ostensibly, from the Hellene point of view, to raid Delphi, a branch of the Volcae split from the main group on the way into the Balkans and joined two other tribes, the Tolistobogii and the Trocmi, to settle in central Anatolia and establish a new identity as the Galatians.

Roman Gaul

Roman Gaul refers to Gaul under provincial rule in the Roman Empire from the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD.

Golasecca culture Archaeological culture in Northern Italy

The Golasecca culture was a Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age culture in northern Italy, whose type-site was excavated at Golasecca in the province of Varese, Lombardy, where, in the area of Monsorino at the beginning of the 19th century, Abbot Giovanni Battista Giani made the first findings of about fifty graves with pottery and metal objects.

Insubres ancient people of Gaul

The Insubres or Insubri were a Lepontic population settled in Insubria, in what is now the Italian region of Lombardy. They were the founders of Mediolanum (Milan). Though completely Gaulish at the time of Roman conquest, they were the result of the fusion of pre-existing Ligurian and Celtic population with Gaulish tribes.

The Celtic Cisalpine Gaulish inscriptions are frequently combined with the Lepontic inscriptions under the term Celtic language remains in northern Italy. While it is possible that the Lepontians were autochthonous to northern Italy since the end of the 2nd millennium BC, it is well-known that the Gauls invaded the regions north of the river Po in several waves since the 5th century BC. They apparently took over the art of writing from the Lepontians, including some of the orthographic peculiarities. There are 20 Cisalpine Gaulish inscriptions, five of which are longer than just one or two words. The inscriptions stem largely from the area south of the Lepontians.

Prehistoric Italy aspect of history

The prehistory of Italy began in the Paleolithic period, when the Homo species colonized the Italian territory for the first time, and ended in the Iron Age, when the first written records appeared in the Insular Italy.

The Carni were a tribe of the Eastern Alps in classical antiquity, settling in the mountains separating Noricum and Venetia.

The Canegrate culture was a civilization of Prehistoric Italy which developed from the recent Bronze Age until the Iron Age, in the areas of what are now western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont, and Ticino. Canegrate represented a completely new cultural dynamic to the area expressed in pottery and bronzework making it a typical example of the western Hallstatt culture.

The Cisalpine Celtic languages of northern Italy include the Lepontic language and the Cisalpine Gaulish language.


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  8. "The Golasecca civilization is therefore the expression of the oldest Celts of Italy and included several groups that had the name of Insubres, Laevi, Lepontii, Oromobii (o Orumbovii)". (Raffaele C. De Marinis)
  9. Maps of the Golasecca culture. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2010-08-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  12. Stifter, David (2008). Old Celtic Languages (PDF). pp. 24–37.
  13. Hazlitt, William. The Classical Gazetteer (1851), p. 297.
  15. Boardman, John (1988). The Cambridge ancient history: Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525-479 BC. p. 716.
  16. Baldi, Philip (2002). The Foundations of Latin. Walter de Gruyter. p. 112.
  17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-18. Retrieved 2015-03-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. Kruta, Venceslas (1991). The Celts. Thames and Hudson. p. 54.
  19. Kruta, Venceslas (1991). The Celts. Thames and Hudson. p. 55.
  20. Storia, vita, costumi, religiosità dei Veneti antichi at (in Italian). Accessed on 2009-08-18.
  21. History of the Roman World: 753 to 146 BC by H. H. Scullard,2002, page 16: "... of healing. In the fourth century their culture became so Celticized that Polybius described the second-century Veneti as practically in- distinguishable ..."
  22. Strabo, Geography, Book IV, Chapter 4: "It is these Veneti [the Gallic tribe of the Belgae], I think, who settled the colony that is on the Adriatic (for about all the Celti that are in Italy migrated from the transalpine land, just as did the Boii and Senones), although, on account of the likeness of name, people call them Paphlagonians. I do not speak positively, however, for with reference to such matters probability suffices." Book V, Chapter 1: "Concerning the Heneti there are two different accounts: Some say that the Heneti too are colonists of those Celti of like name who live on the ocean-coast; while others say that certain of the Heneti of Paphlagonia escaped hither with Antenor from the Trojan war, and, as testimony in this, adduce their devotion to the breeding of horses — a devotion which now, indeed, has wholly disappeared, although formerly it was prized among them, from the fact of their ancient rivalry in the matter of producing mares for mule-breeding." Book 13, Chapter 1: "At any rate, Sophocles says that [...] Antenor and his children safely escaped to Thrace with the survivors of the Heneti, and from there got across to the Adriatic Henetice, as it is called."
  23. Livy, 36.38
  24. Fasti Triumphales
  26. The Dawn of the Roman Empire, by Livy, John Yardley, Waldemar Heckel.
  27. "Museo del monastero di Santa Giulia in Brescia". Retrieved 2011-09-16.
  28. Kruta, Venceslas: La grande storia dei celti. La nascita, l'affermazione e la decadenza, Newton & Compton, 2003, ISBN   88-8289-851-2, ISBN   978-88-8289-851-9

Further reading