As to the latter, there are traditions of their conflicts with the Umbrians, and we may perhaps draw an inference regarding their extension in very early times towards the south from isolated names, such as that of the island of Ilva (Elba) compared with the Ligurian Ilvates. To this period of Umbrian greatness the evidently Italian names of the most ancient settlements in the valley of the Po, Atria (black-town), and Spina (thorn-town), probably owe their origin, as well as the numerous traces of Umbrians in southern Etruria (such as the river Umbro, Camars the old name of Clusium, Castrum Amerinum). Such indications of an Italian population having preceded the Etruscan especially occur in the most southern portion of Etruria, the district between the Ciminian Forest (below Viterbo) and the Tiber. In Falerii, the town of Etruria nearest to the frontier of Umbria and the Sabine country, according to the testimony of Strabo a language was spoken different from the Etruscan, and inscriptions bearing out that statement have recently been brought to light there, the alphabet and language of which, while presenting points of contact with the Etruscan, exhibit a general resemblance to the Latin.(1) The local worship also presents traces of a Sabellian character; and a similar inference is suggested by the primitive relations subsisting in sacred as well as other matters between Caere and Rome. It is probable that the Etruscans wrested those southern districts from the Umbrians at a period considerably subsequent to their occupation of the country on the north of the Ciminian Forest, and that an Umbrian population maintained itself there even after the Tuscan conquest. In this fact we may presumably find the ultimate explanation of the surprising rapidity with which the southern portion of Etruria became Latinized, as compared with the tenacious retention of the Etruscan language and manners in northern Etruria, after the Roman conquest. That the Umbrians were after obstinate struggles driven back from the north and west into the narrow mountainous country between the two arms of the Apennines which they subsequently held, is clearly indicated by the very fact of their geographical position, just as the position of the inhabitants of the Grisons and that of the Basques at the present day indicates the similar fate that has befallen them. Tradition also has to report that the Tuscans wrested from the Umbrians three hundred towns; and, what is of more importance as evidence, in the national prayers of the Umbrian Iguvini, which we still possess, along with other stocks the Tuscans especially are cursed as public foes.

In consequence, as may be presumed, of this pressure exerted upon them from the north, the Umbrians advanced towards the south, keeping in general upon the heights, because they found the plains already occupied by Latin stocks, but beyond doubt frequently making inroads and encroachments on the territory of the kindred race, and intermingling with them the more readily, that the distinction in language and habits could not have been at all so marked then as we find it afterwards. To the class of such inroads belongs the tradition of the irruption of the Reatini and Sabines into Latium and their conflicts with the Romans; similar phenomena were probably repeated all along the west coast. Upon the whole the Sabines maintained their footing in the mountains, as in the district bordering on Latium which has since been called by their name, and so too in the Volscian land, presumably because the Latin population did not extend thither or was there less dense; while on the other hand the well-peopled plains were better able to offer resistance to the invaders, although they were not in all cases able or desirous to prevent isolated bands from gaining a footing, such as the Tities and afterwards the Claudii in Rome.(2) In this way the stocks here became variously mingled, a state of things which serves to explain the numerous relations that subsisted between the Volscians and Latins, and how it happened that their district, as well as Sabina, afterwards became so early and speedily Latinized.

Samnites

The chief branch, however, of the Umbrian stock threw itself eastward from Sabina into the mountains of the Abruzzi, and the adjacent hill-country to the south of them. Here, as on the west coast, they occupied the mountainous districts, whose thinly scattered population gave way before the immigrants or submitted to their yoke; while in the plain along the Apulian coast the ancient native population, the Iapygians, upon the whole maintained their ground, although involved in constant feuds, especially on the northern frontier about Luceria and Arpi. When these migrations took place, cannot of course be determined; but it was presumably about the time when kings ruled in Rome. Tradition reports that the Sabines, pressed by the Umbrians, vowed a -ver sacrum-, that is, swore that they would give up and send beyond their bounds the sons and daughters born in the year of war, so soon as these should reach maturity, that the gods might at their pleasure destroy them or bestow upon them new abodes in other lands. One band was led by the ox of Mars; these were the Safini or Samnites, who in the first instance established themselves on the mountains adjoining the river Sagrus, and at a later period proceeded to occupy the beautiful plain on the east of the Matese chain, near the sources of the Tifernus. Both in their old and in their new territory they named their place of public assembly--which in the one case was situated near Agnone, in the other near Bojano--from the ox which led them Bovianum. A second band was led by the woodpecker of Mars; these were the Picentes, "the woodpecker-people," who took possession of what is now the March of Ancona. A third band was led by the wolf (-hirpus-) into the region of Beneventum; these were the Hirpini. In a similar manner the other small tribes branched off from the common stock--the Praetuttii near Teramo; the Vestini on the Gran Sasso; the Marrucini near Chieti; the Frentani on the frontier of Apulia; the Paeligni on the Majella mountains; and lastly the Marsi on the Fucine lake, coming in contact with the Volscians and Latins.

The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy Page 50

Italian Authors

Italian Books

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book