Friday, 3 April 2009

Who Were The Celts: Alps and Po Valley

It had been known for long time that there was an early Celtic (Lepontic, sometimes called Cisalpine Celtic) presence in Northern Italy since inscriptions dated to the sixth century BC have been found there.
The Canegrate culture (13th century B.C.) testifies for the arrival of a first migratory big wave of probably Celtic 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 the Lake Maggiore and the Lake of Como. They were bearers of a new funerary ideology, who supplanted the old culture of inhumation, introducing the cremation.
From the archaeological evidences it can be deduced that their impact with the precedent populations had not been completely pacific. The absolutely typical and isolated Canegrate findings do not make to think to a connection with the precedent Polada culture and of a graduated insertion of theirs.
The population of Canegrate maintained his own homogeneity for a limited period of time, approximately a century, in order to melt themselves then with the Ligurian aboriginal populations and to give origin with this union to a new phase called the Golasecca culture.
The site of Golasecca, where the Ticino exits from Lake Maggiore, was particularly suitable for long-distance exchanges, in which Golaseccans acted as intermediaries between Etruscans and the Halstatt culture of Austria, supported on the all-important trade in salt.
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 Appeninne mountains and the Alps" according to Diodorus Siculus. The Po Valley and the rest of northern Italy (known to the Romans as Cisalpine Gaul) was inhabited by Celtic-speakers who founded cities such as Milan. Later the Roman army was routed at the battle of Allia and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.
At the battle of Telamon in 225 BC a large Celtic army was trapped between two Roman forces and crushed.
The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe, but it was not until 192 BC that the Roman armies conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdoms in Italy.
The Celts settled much further south of the Po River than many maps show. Remnants in the town of Doccia, in the province of Emilia-Romagna, showcase Celtic houses in very good condition dating from about the 4th century BC.

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