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Adriatic Veneti

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Adriatic Veneti

Groups within the Italian peninsula in the Iron Age. Veneti are in brown.

The Veneti (also called heneti in Latin, ἐνετοί enetoi in Greek) were an Indo-European people who inhabited north-eastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of the Veneto.[1]

In Italy, these ancient people are also referred to as Paleoveneti to distinguish them from the modern-day inhabitants of the Veneto region, called Veneti in Italian.[2]

Many tribes originally thought to have been Illyrians, such as Carni, Histri and Liburni, were actually related to Veneti. These groups lived respectively in Carnia, Istria, and parts of modern-day Croatia.[3]


  • Etymology of the ethnonym Veneti 1
  • Language 2
  • Geography 3
  • History 4
    • Archaeology 4.1
    • Classical sources 4.2
    • Pre-Roman period 4.3
    • Roman assimilation 4.4
  • Archaeological Findings 5
  • Related peoples 6
  • Current research 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
    • Additional primary sources 9.1
  • External links 10

Etymology of the ethnonym Veneti

According to Julius Pokorný, the ethnonym Venetī (singular *Venetos) is derived from Proto Indo-European root *u̯en- 'to strive; to wish for, to love'. As shown by the comparative material, Germanic languages had two terms of different origin: Old High German Winida 'Wende' points to Pre-Germanic *Venétos, while Lat.-Germ. Venedi (as attested in Tacitus) and Old English Winedas 'Wends' call for Pre-Germanic *Venetós. Etymologically related words include Latin venus, -eris 'love, passion, grace'; Sanskrit vanas- 'lust, zest', vani- 'wish, desire'; Old Irish fine (< Proto-Celtic *venjā) 'kinship, kinfolk, alliance, tribe, family'; Old Norse vinr, Old Saxon, Old High German wini, Old Frisian, Old English wine 'Friend'.[4]


The ancient Veneti spoke Venetic, an extinct Indo-European language which is attested in approximately 300 short inscriptions dating from the 6th to 1st centuries BC. Venetic appears to share several similarities with Latin and the Italic languages, but also has some affinities with other IE languages, especially Germanic and Celtic. Venetic should not be confused with Venetian, a Romance language presently spoken in the region.


The extent of the territory occupied by the ancient Veneti before their incorporation by the Romans is uncertain. It included cities of the modern Roman Italy. Regio X was bounded on the west by the Athesis (Adige), or according to others, by the Addua (Adda); on the north by the Alps; on the east by the Sava river in Slovenia) and on the south by the Adriatic Gulf.



Venetic Civilization is divided into five periods.

Dates Description
I. c. 10th century -
9th century BC
Veneti settle the Po Valley where they encounter the Proto-Villanovan culture
II. c. 8th century -
7th century BC
Ossuary fibulae and bronze artifacts attest to growing dominance in the region with two main centers at Este and Padua, respectively
III. c. 6th century -
mid-4th century BC
Venetic expansion throughout the Veneto and Friuli to the Adige, into the Piave Valley, and to Belluno
IV. c. mid-4th century -
2nd century BC
Decline of Venetic culture; Veneti maintain their language and customs but are heavily influenced by Celts and Etruscans
V. after 2nd century BC Alliance with Rome leads to gradual Romanization

Classical sources

Herodotus (c. 484–425 BC) at one point mentions the Veneti of the Adriatic (Histories V.9) and at another refers in passing to the "Eneti in Illyria" (Histories I.196) whose supposed marriage customs, he claims, mirrored those of the Babylonians.[5] This led early scholars to seek to link the Veneti with the Illyrians.[6] Thus, Karl Pauli, a late 19th-century expert on the Venetic language, declared that the language was more closely related to that of the Illyrians than to any other language, even though knowledge of Venetic is limited to personal names, nouns, and verbs used in dedicatory formulae and there is even fewer remains of an Illyrian language upon which to base his claim.[7] In the first half of the 20th century, this hypothesis was discredited by many other linguists, among them Vittore Pisani and Hans Krahe[8] More recent linguistic and paleontological studies cast further doubt on an Illyrian origin of the Veneti.[9]

An older Greek tradition is presented in Homer's (fl. c. 850 BC) Iliad. In Book II, Homer says that the ἐνετοί (Enetoi) inhabited Paphlagonia on the southern coast of the Black Sea in the time of the Trojan War (c. 1200 BC). The Paphlagonians are listed among the allies of the Trojans in the war, where their king Pylaemenes and his son Harpalion perished.[10]

Polybius (c. 200 – c. 118 BC) claims that in 4th century BC the Veneti, although surrounded by Gauls, were not Gauls themselves.[11][12]

Roman historian Titus Livius (59 BC – AD 17), himself a native of the Venetic town of Patavium, records that after the fall of Troy, the Trojan prince Antenor became the leader of these Paphlagonians after they all had been expelled from their homeland. Together, they migrated to the northern end of the Adriatic coast, where they established a settlement and conquered and merged with indigenous people known as the Euganei.[13]

Virgil (70-19 BC), in his epic the Aeneid, relates the same tradition.[14] A commentary on Virgil's Aeneid by the grammarian Maurus Servius Honoratus (fl. c. AD 400) is said to imply a link between the Veneti and the "Vindelicians" who are related to Liburnians from the Istrian Coast. (However, the reference to the Veneti in Virgil seems to place them in the "innermost realm of the Liburnians" which must have been the goal at which Antenor is said to have arrived. This, thus, only implies that the ancient Liburnians may have once encompassed a wide swath of the Eastern Alps, from Vindelicia, through Noricum, to the Dalmatian coast before the coming of the Veneti.)

Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) attributes to Cornelius Nepos (100–24 BC) the identification of the Enetoi with the ancient Veneti.[15] He lists the towns of Ateste, Acelum, Patavium, Opitergium, Belunum, and Vicetia as belonging to the Veneti.[16]

The Greek historian Strabo (64 BC–AD 24), on the other hand, conjectured that the Adriatic Veneti descended from Celts who in turn were related to later Celtic tribe of the same name who lived on the Belgian 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.[17] Strabo also gives information on the then-current domains of the Veneti.[18]

Pre-Roman period

The territory of the Veneti came to the notice of the Greek in the 4th c. BC. Strabo records that Dionysius I of Syracuse (c. 432 – 367 BC), desiring the famed horses of the Veneti, founded trading colonies along the Adriatic coast.[19] The Sicilian tyrant favored the town of Adria[20] as a trading partner, helping it build canals which linked it to the sea and broke the trading monopoly of Spina.[21] In 303/302 BC the Lacedaemonian prince Cleonymus of Sparta led a fleet of mercenaries up the Brenta River intending on sacking Patavium. However, the Veneti fought back and the Spartan ships were captured and destroyed.[22]

The Veneti had recurring trouble from the Celtic peoples who then occupied most of Northwestern Italy, although with the Cenomani Celts who had settled in the region of Brescia and Verona, and eventually absorbed them, they maintained peaceful relations. During the Second Punic War, they allied with the Romans against the Celts, Iberians, and the Carthaginian expedition (218-203 BC) led by Hannibal. Livy records that they sent men to fight along with the Romans at the battle of Cannae.

Roman assimilation

See History of Veneto.

Archaeological Findings

According to artifacts, tombs, and religious votive objects, one can gain some idea of Venetic society. There were heads of villages. Among landowners were the wealthy who were buried with amber jewelry. There were horsemen, fishermen, and those involved in animal husbandry. 7th c. BC merchants at Este used bronze coins while by the 3rd c. BC silver money was in use, especially at Padua. Farmers cultivated grain and grape vines. Artisans produced objects of ceramic, pottery, bronze, and engaged in wool-weaving. Artifacts show that among the sports enjoyed were boxing and boat races.[23]

Related peoples

Other tribes originally thought to have been Illyrians were actually related to Veneti, such as:

Current research

Many archeological excavations are still under way in the Veneto today at sites such as Este, Padua, Oderzo, Adria, Vicenza, Verona and Altinum. Studies are also being done on the vast influence of the Greeks in the Adriatic and their interaction with the Veneti, particularly focusing on the Euboeans, Phocaeans and Corinthians. Villanovan and more significantly, Etruscan activity in the region and their strong links to the Veneti are also attested to.

Modern surveys on the Veneti and other Ancient Italic peoples, including the Venetic inscriptions from Este, were published by A. L. Prosdocimi,[30] A. M. C. Bianchi[31] and L. Capuis.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Storia, vita, costumi, religiosità dei Veneti antichi at (in Italian). Accessed on 2009-08-18.
  2. ^ Paleoveneti at the Italian WorldHeritage
  3. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0-631-19807-5. Page 183: "... We may begin with the Venetic peoples, Veneti, Carni, Histri and Liburni, whose language set them apart from the rest of the Illyrians. ..." Page 81: "... " In Roman Pannonia the Latobici and Varciani who dwelt east of the Venetic Catari in the upper Sava valley were Celtic but the Colapiani of the Colapis (Kulpa) valley were Illyrians ( ..."
  4. ^ Pokorny 1959: 1146–1147; Steinacher 2002: 33
  5. ^ Herodotus. The Histories. Translated by Aubrey de Selincourt. (New York: Penguin Books, 1972), 120; 343.
  6. ^ Mallory, J.P.; Adams, D.Q. (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 318.  
  7. ^ Aleksandar Stipčević - Illyrians, The Illyrian Art, The Illyrian Cult Symbols
  8. ^ Francisco Villar, Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1997.
  9. ^ R. Battaglia, "Dal paleolitico alla civilita atestina," in Storia di Venezia, I (Venice, 1957), 168-72; F. Sartori, "Galli transalpine transgressi in Venetiam," in Aquileia Nostra XXXI (1960), col. 6; G.B. Pellegrini and A.L. Prosdocimi, La Lingua Venetica, I (Padua, 1967), 7.
  10. ^ Homer, Iliad; online version at, accessed on 2009-08-18. Book II: "The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from Enetae, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini."
  11. ^ Polybius, Histories II.17,5-6
  12. ^ H. H. Scullard (2002). History of the Roman World: 753 to 146 BC. p. 16. ... of healing. In the fourth century their culture became so Celticized that Polybius described the second-century Veneti as practically indistinguishable ... 
  13. ^ Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, Book 1, Chapter 1: "Antenor sailed into the furthest part of the Adriatic, accompanied by a number of Enetians who had been driven from Paphlagonia by a revolution and after losing their king Pylaemenes before Troy were looking for a settlement and a leader. The combined force of Enetians and Trojans defeated the Euganei, who dwelt between the sea and the Alps and occupied their land. The place where they disembarked was called Troy, and the name was extended to the surrounding district; the whole nation were called Veneti."
  14. ^ Virgil, Aeneid, I, 242-249.
  15. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book VI, Chapter 2 - Paphlagonia: "Beyond [the river Billis ]begins the nation of Paphlagonia, by some writers called Pylæmenia; it is closed in behind by the country of Galatia. In it are Mastya, a town founded by the Milesians, and then Cromna, at which spot Cornelius Nepos also places the Heneti, from whom he would have us believe that the Veneti of Italy, who have a similar name, are descended. The city also of Sesamon, now called Amastris, Mount Cytorus, distant sixty-three miles from Tium, the towns of Cimolis and Stephane, and the river Parthenius. The promontory of Carambis, which extends a great distance into the sea, is distant from the mouth of the Euxine three hundred and twenty-five miles, or, according to some writers, three hundred and fifty, being the same distance from the Cimmerian Bosporus, or, as some persons think, only three hundred and twelve miles. There was formerly also a town of the same name, and another near it called Armene; we now find there the colony of Sinope, distant from Mount Cytorus one hundred and sixty-four miles."
  16. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book III, Chapter 23 - Istria, its People and Locality.
  17. ^ 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."
  18. ^ Strabo, Geography, Book V, Chapter 1.
  19. ^ Geography V.1.4
  20. ^ Strabo (Geography V.1.8) and Ptolemy (III.1.53) claim Adria was a Venetic town, while Varro (De lingua latina 161), Livy (V.33) and Pliny (N.H. III.120) suggest it was Etruscan.
  21. ^ According to Pliny (N.H. III.120) Spina was of Venetic foundation, but according to Ps.Scillace (Periplo 17), Strabo (Geography V.1.7), and Polybius (Histories II.17.1) it was Greek.
  22. ^ Livy, X.2
  23. ^ Franco Bordin, Storia del Veneto: dale origini alla conquista dei longobardi, (Padua: Zielo Editore, 1999), 17.
  24. ^ a b Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0-631-19807-5, page 183,"We may begin with the Venetic peoples, Veneti, Carni, Histri and Liburni, whose language set them apart from the rest of the Illyrians"
  25. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992, ISBN 0-631-19807-5, page 81,"In Roman Pannonia the Latobici and Varciani who dwelt east of the Venetic Catari in the upper Sava valley were Celtic but the Colapiani of the Colapis (Kulpa) valley were Illyrians"
  26. ^ Structure and Scale in the Roman Economy by Richard Duncan-Jones,2002, page 164,"... This allowed the city to draw on the Carni and Catali (tribes `attributed' to Tergeste by Augustus) for new supplies of ..."
  27. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History by Alan K. Bowman, ISBN 0-521-26430-8, page 575
  28. ^ The classical gazetteer: a dictionary of ancient geography, sacred and profane by William Hazlitt,1851, page 311,"SECUSSES, a people of Histria"
  29. ^ Pliny NH III 3,69.
  30. ^ Aldo Luigi Prosdocimi, Aldo (2002). Veneti, Eneti, Euganei, Ateste: i nomi, in AA.VV., Este preromana: una città e i suoi santuari. Treviso: Canova, pp. 45-76.
  31. ^ Anna Maria Chieco Bianchi et al. (1988), Italia Omnium Terrarum Alumna: la civiltà dei Veneti, Reti, Liguri, Celti, Piceni, Umbri, Latini, Campani e Iapigi. Scheiwiller, Milan.
  32. ^ Loredana Capuis biography and publications at the site of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti. Accessed on 2009-08-19.

Additional primary sources

External links

  • Extensive Bibliography - Studies on the Veneti Dr. Loredana Calzavara-Capuis (in Italian).
  • Venetic inscriptions Adolfo Zavaroni (in Italian).
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