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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapVindelici (Ligurians)
Incorporating the Alcimoenni, Clautinatii, Licattii, & Rucinates

The Vindelici tribal confederation was, by the middle of the first century BC, located to the north and east of Lacus Brigantinus in Rhaetia (the modern Lake Constance), in what is now western Austria. They were neighboured to the north by the vast homeland of the Boii, to the east by the Sevarces and Alauni, to the south by the tribes of the Raeti, and to the west by the Brigantii and Latobrigi.

FeatureWhere the Alpine groups are concerned, DNA research can be as much as a hindrance as a help in divining identity. One notable problem with DNA research is working out which historically-named tribes and groups belonged to which DNA type. When it comes to the Alpine tribes for instance - such as Euganei, Ligurians, Raeti, and Vindelici - it would seem to be impossible to find a clear dividing line between Indo-European arrivals and the previous Neolithic (Middle-Eastern migrant farmers whose European journey as 'Old Europeans' originated in the Sesklo culture) and Palaeolithic inhabitants (although in fact the Raeti were most definitely not Indo-Europeans while the Vindelici probably were). The closest it may be possible to get is in terms of referencing Y-DNA types. These three are, in order, of the following Y-DNA haplogroups: R1b (IEs), G2a (Oetzi, 'the Iceman' - see feature link), and I1 (Palaeolithics). The Vindelici may have started out as Neolithic/Palaeolithic Ligurians but they quickly became Celticised as these people gained regional ascendancy.

It is most likely that there were two main streams of West Indo-European migration (almost literally forming a river course and flowing along it for up to a millennium), with the Celtic/Italic one brushing the top of the Balkans, stopping for a while around the Hungary area, and then continuing more gradually. That's not two migrations, just two streams of migration and a gradual build-up at the headwaters before a further course could be established and again followed at a leisurely pace of progress. The splintering would have been a natural part of the migration as various groups at various times followed the splinter they best fancied. Then these various groups of migrant communities would take control of regions and start to compete with their cousins and rivals to see who flourished the best. There were also northbound migratory streams (two, probably, plus minor tributaries), one of which may have supplied the original Venedi along the Vistula.

One more possibility must be mentioned because it would explain why the Vindelici, Veneti, and Venedi all have similar names, and would also explain other aspects. If that postulated first wave of West Indo-Europeans contained a large central component that was using some form of the 'vend/vened' name then this could have spread via smaller migrations to Switzerland, Venice, and the Vistula. This would mean that the Venedi/Veneti/Vindelici were not Celts, strictly speaking, but instead had closer linguistic and cultural ties to the Italics and Illyrians. This would also explain why Caesar did not name the Veneti as Belgae.

Note that the Vennones tribe generally are classed as Raeti, but Strabo classifies them as Vindelici. However, for the purposes of clarity and probability they are covered on the Raeti main page. Confusingly perhaps, Strabo also indicates that the Vindelici are not Ligurians. He refers to the neighbouring Brigantii as a sub-tribe of the Vindelici, and the Brigantii are most certainly Celts. Classifications as we have them today are based on surviving dominant cultures (that of Rome, primarily) and have little to do with linguistic and cultural realities. It may be more realistic to view the Vindilici as West Indo-Europeans who fall somewhere between Celts and Italics, as could be the Ligurians and Venetics. The Vindilici were therefore most likely to be closest related to the Ligurians on the coast to the south, and the Venetics in and around Venice to their south-east.

The Vindelici, Strabo states, are a folk (a group in their own right, not a sub-tribe), and gives tribal names of Clautinatii (possibly the same as the Cosuanetes), Licattii (Licates), and Vennones. The Alcimoenni and Rucinates were further Vindelici tribes as, possibly, were the Sevarces of the Noricum. They probably spoke a language that was of the P-West Indo-European group, with that 'p' sound substituted for the 'k' and 'q' sound, similar to P-Italic and P-Celtic. A name breakdown appears to produce 'vind' (from 'windos', meaning 'white'), plus the suffix '-el' (a diminutive?), plus the suffix '-ic' ('of or pertaining to') which is still in use today. The Alcimoenni tribal name has a sequence in 'A-L-C-M' that is very suggestive, but a problem exists because it is not known for certain whether the Vindelici language was based on Q-Celtic or P-Celtic (despite the general assumption above). In any case, a sheer guess is that the name means 'the speakers' (and the word 'druid' may have a similar meaning), but only if the name is related to the Latin 'eloquens', meaning 'eloquent, persuasive, fluent'. The letters 'n' and 'm' are fairly interchangeable, so the sequence of consonants is the same. The '-oenni' ending is probably a typical addition of multiple suffixes, with '-oen' being a possible group plural in Vindelici which is related to '-on', while the '-i' is the Latin suffix that was added to it.

(Information by Edward Dawson and Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius (translated by Rev Canon Roberts), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: Indo-European Chronology - Countries and Peoples, and Indo-European Etymological Dictionary, J Pokorny, and Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith (1854, Perseus Digital Library), and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed), and Chiemgau Impact.)

c.500 - 335 BC

The Chiemgau impact (or hypothesis) is a controversial assertion that Central Europe is struck by a meteorite, with the dates used here being the most likely period for that impact. There seems to be a core resistance to its acceptance which dismisses it as 'an obsolete scientific theory', but the evidence to back it up is growing and is rather convincing to an open mind. The location is in Upper Bavaria, part of the heartland of Celtic territory at this time (but also incorporating Vindelici territory), with Lake Chiemsee at its centre. The hypothesis asserts that a large cosmic body (a comet or an asteroid) strikes the ground and leaves a large crater-strewn field with all the relevant impact evidence that such a strike entails.

Lake Constance
Lake Constance (now part of Switzerland) was a Roman lake during the first century AD, with the local headquarters at Brigantium, former tribal capital of the Brigantii

A strike like this must have a severe effect on the tribes in the region. Much like the Tunguska strike of 1905 and the Tschebarkul 2013 super bolide of Tscheljabinsk in Russia which has been seen far and wide even without the aid of modern communications technology, this strike will be witnessed by a great many people. The means of narrowing the impact date to around 500-335 BC is highly detailed (see the link in the introduction, above), but this would certainly serve to provide a reason for the Gauls being quoted as fearing nothing but the sky falling on their heads (the Asterix strips make especial use of this). In additional, and perhaps coincidentally, it is during this period that the Second Wave migration of P-Celtic speakers begins, with tribes moving outwards from their heartland.

5th century BC

The Brigantii migrate into the Cispadane Gaul region of the Alps, arriving in an area that has already been settled for a millennium. Strabo later states that they are a sub-tribe of the Vindelici, who occupy territory to the north-east. This could indicate the route taken by the Brigantii to reach their new home, but it also raises the possibility that they are not Gauls, or perhaps only partially so. The Vindelici have an uncertain ancestry, possibly being a blend of Celts and Ligurians, making it possible that the Brigantii are Ligurians who are commanded by a Gaulish elite. Even referring to the Brigantii as Celts is merely the modern naming convention that has been inherited from the Romans. Thinking of the term as valid or invalid may be irrelevant. 'Celt' may simply be what some West Indo-European speakers call themselves and others not - and with the Celts long in the ascendance in central Europe, some non-Celtic people may arbitrarily adopt the term in order to fit in.

25 - 15 BC

Augustus determines that the Alpine tribes need to be pacified in order to end their warlike behaviour, alternately attacking or extracting money from Romans who pass through the region, even when they have armies in tow. He wages a steady, determined campaign against them, and in a period of ten years he 'pacifies the Alps all the way from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian seas' (written by Augustus himself). The Brigantii and their immediate neighbours are defeated by 15 BC, including the Vindelici, the Raeti, and the Ambisontes.