Veneter (Adriatic Sea)

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Peoples on the Italian Peninsula in the 6th century BC Chr.

The Venetians were an ancient people who settled the northeastern part of what is now Italy . There they are called Paleoveneti to distinguish them from today's inhabitants of the Veneto region , whose name in Italian is Veneti . They gave their names to the Veneto region and the city of Venice .

Their territory extended west to the Athesis , or according to some assumptions to the Adda , north to the Alps and east to Timavo in today's Friuli. In their area, Patavium and Ateste were the political and cultural centers.

An ancient founding legend led the Venetians back to a Paphlagonian people, the Enetoi , who lived in the 2nd millennium BC. After the destruction of Troy and the death of their king Pylaimenes from their homeland in Asia Minor under the leadership of the Trojan Antenor to the northern Adriatic region , where they settled.

The Venetian Indo-Europeans were ethnolinguistic . Their language, the Venetian , documented by around 300 short inscriptions , either formed an independent branch within the Indo-European language family or belonged to the Italian languages .

The archaeological expression of the Venetians is the Este culture , which got its name from the Este site.

origin of the name

The Venetians appear in the sources as Venetici , Heneti or Eneti . In older works they also appear as Paleo-Venetians, or in Italian as Paleoveneti, either to distinguish them from today's inhabitants of Veneto - then also as Veneti adriatici - or to distinguish them from other groups who also appear under this name like the groups in Eastern Europe or Asia Minor.

The term “Veneti” appears frequently in the sources of classical antiquity. Herodotus knows them as Eneti among the Illyrian peoples, Tacitus as Veneti , Venedi or Venedae in contrast to the Sarmatians ; Pliny knows her as Venetulani in Latium . An Indo-European word root should sound like: * whom ("love"). The * wenetoi would therefore be the 'popular' or the 'lovable', the 'loving'.


The history of the Venetians can be divided into two phases, namely the older one, which dates back to the 5th century BC. Chr., And which is characterized by an independent development, and the younger, in which first strong Celtic influence was noticeable, then a slow Roman assimilation, which is considered complete in the 1st century AD.

In the older phase there were relations with the Villanova culture , in the Aegean and the Middle East, then with the Etruscans . In the younger phase the Etruscans and Celts dominated. Then there were the Boier , with whom they were often at war, then in the northeast the Carni (Καρνίοι), probably also Celts, but possibly also Venetians, and finally the Illyrians in the east and southeast . Even the ancient authors confused the Illyrians and the Venetians, or considered the Venetians to be a branch of the Illyrians, a division that may be located in the 9th century.

Finally, the relationship with Roman culture grew closer and closer, especially since they were often allied with Rome and there was perhaps a traditional clientele between Latins and Venetians. Assimilation was already well advanced in the late republic, although retreat areas of Venetian culture remained in the peripheral zones until the late imperial era.

The Venetians initially settled in the area around Lake Garda and the Colli Euganei . From there they extended their territory south and east to the Tartaro-Canalbianco-Po di Levante river canal system to the coast of the Adriatic . In the east they reached the Tagliamento . There are also remains of the Veneto-Illyrian culture as far as the Isonzo . Towards the north, the extent is less clearly recognizable, although they also populated the Adige , Brenta and Piave as far as the Alps, such as in Cadore .

The origin

Roman historiography

According to Roman historiography, the Venetians came from Paphlagonia , a region in Asia Minor on the Black Sea. Expelled from there, they took part in the battle for Troy , where the old Antenor managed to return Helena to the Greeks. Pylaimenes , the leader of the "Eneti" , also died before Troy . They then turned to Antenor, who led them to the northern Adriatic. There they drove out the Euganeans .

In Virgil ( Aeneis . I, 242-249) Antenor appears as the founder of Padua. The hero Diomedes, also attributed to the Venetians, is said to have been the founder of Spina and Adria .

Pliny the Elder thinks ( Naturalis historia . III, 130): "Venetos troiana stirpe ortos auctor est Cato", that is, that Cato claimed that the Venetians were of Trojan descent.

Strabon ( Geographika . V, 3), on the other hand, thinks that the Venetians are Celts, because the Veneti of Armorica, today's Brittany , have the same name. Caesar was also of the opinion that they should be regarded as Celts because of the linguistic similarity.

Modern research

Today it is assumed that the Venetians actually immigrated from the east. In doing so, they displaced the previous population to the north and west. However, the arrival by sea or even the descent from Greeks or from a Greek-inspired culture is unlikely, nor is a Breton relationship.

For a long time, however, the descent from the Illyrians and thus a connection with the Indo-Europeans was considered likely. This assumption goes back to Herodotus, who in his Historien (I, 196; V, 9) writes of Ἐνετοί as part of the Illyrians who were resident on the Adriatic. This thesis was accepted by Carl Pauli in the 19th century and prevailed until the middle of the 20th century. However, Vittore Pisani and Hans Krahe were able to show that Herodotus was referring to a people who lived on the east side of the Adriatic, by no means in Italy. Linguistic studies meanwhile rule out a split from the Illyrians. First said Krahe, language hang with the Oscan , that the language of the Samnites together, and the Umbrian, but then there was a tendency for more Latino Faliscan .

Today a common root of Latin and Venetian is accepted. This refers to eastern Central Europe and extends into the 3rd millennium BC. From there they probably moved southward together in the 15th century BC. While one part moved on to Lazio , the other part stayed in northeastern Italy. Probably the Venetians overlaid the Euganeans .

8-2 Century BC Chr.

The Venetians created an independent culture (the so-called Este culture), which can be recognized archaeologically in their bronze and ceramic works, as well as in religious-artistic expressions, their tillage, weapons and clothing, as well as their proto-urban and urban ones Centers.

From the early 4th century onwards, Gauls invaded their territory and reached Rome. The Romans turned to the Venetians for help, especially since Antenor made them relatives. As early as 283 BC They linked friendship and alliance relationships. The Roman Senate had formed a formal alliance with the Venetians and the Cenomaniac , although the latter were themselves Gauls.

Rome sent in 225 BC Envoys to the two allied groups in northern Italy to make an alliance against the Gallic Boier and the Insubrians . Even in the Second Punic War , the Venetians and Cenomanians remained allies of Rome, while all other Gallic groups fought on the Carthaginian side. With these two allies, Rome began the conquest of northern Italy after the war. Still, the Venetians do not appear in any of the relevant battles. Romans were allowed to settle in their area, they built roads and gradually the culture of the Venetians adapted to the Roman ones.

Integration into the Roman Empire

181 BC The Romans founded the city of Aquileia near the Venetian territory with the intention of repelling invasions by the Celtic Gauls . Eventually this area was acquired in 163 BC. Integrated into the province of Gallia Cisalpina . The Venetians received 49 BC Roman citizenship and were gradually Romanized.

Villages and settlements

In the early days the Venetians settled in small villages between the Adige and Lake Garda, but also in the foothills of the Alps. One of the most important necropolises was in Mel between Belluno and Feltre . Their places of residence were on waterways and sandy road elevations as well as on hills, in so-called oppida . The early settlements consisted of a few rectangular huts that were strung together. With the growth of the towns, larger houses were built, as well as those in which manual and artistic activities were pursued. The more important places on the rivers also had harbors, and canals were built. Such urban centers emerged mainly from the Adige, Brenta and Piave. The most important places were Altinum , Este , Padua , Oppeano , Montebelluna and Gazzo Veronese .

The houses were built in a wooden frame construction, the compartments were filled with clay. The foundation was made of stones, which increased their durability against moisture. The floor was made of tamped clay, the roof of thatch. The center of the house was the fireplace, which rested on mud, clay and pebbles. In the area close to the Alps, mining houses facing south were preferred.

Clothes and weapons

Venetian helmet from Oppeano (5th century BC), Museo archeologico nazionale di Firenze

Prominent persons, such as priests, heads of state and other notables, wore long, heavy woolen coats that were placed around their shoulders. Underneath, both sexes wore a tunic made of lighter material, with short or long sleeves. Women also wore aprons and head or shoulder scarves. Boots and hats were in use, the latter probably also to differentiate between function and class. The men shaved their heads many times.

Jewelery was found in many places, such as hairpins, earrings, brooches, necklaces, bracelets. They were made from gold and silver, from shells and corals, from amber and pearls.

Round shields, similar to those of the Greek hoplites , and helmets with a comb were used for defense in combat . Their weapons of attack were lances, then large swords. Egg-shaped shields later came into use, and they took over the helmet shape of the Gauls.


The written sources are extremely sparse with regard to religion. On the other hand, there were many places of worship, necropolis and votive offerings . The places of worship were found in sacred forests, in clearings that were surrounded by large trees. Processions with chants and dances were performed there, and small, wooden buildings were used as places for ceremonies. A group of priests was responsible for the sacred fire, ritual slaughter, and writing, an art that few knew. The bodies of the deceased were cremated and their ashes were put in urns. During the burial, offerings in the form of food and drink were made during feasts.

Natural forces, especially the healing water, found admiration. In Este a vial was found in which the name of the goddess of healing was found. Reitia was at the same time the protective goddess of newborn babies and fertility. As a symbol she carried the key to the afterlife.

Language and ethnicity

Monuments of the language are from the 6th to the 1st century BC. Chr. Handed down. At first the Venetians wrote in an alphabet similar to the Etruscan, later in Latin. Giacomo Devoto and other linguists suspected, due to their proximity to Latin, that the two groups had come to Italy together in the course of the Indo-European immigration.

About 700 inscriptions were known in 2014, the oldest of them dating from between 600 and 500 BC. While the earlier inscriptions were in the Venetian language, this language was used in the 1st century BC. Superseded by Latin, even if Venetian was used until the time of Augustus . Recent excavations indicate that there were ethnic minorities in the Veneto and that the assumption of ethnicity of the Venetians is possibly a fundamentally wrong concept. The word venetkens appears on the stele of Isola Vicentina (Vicenza). This was probably built in the border area to the Raeti . The inscription is possibly an expression of the ethnic ideas of the contemporaries, but the monument can hardly be classified in terms of time. Otherwise, the idea of ​​an ethnic identity goes back exclusively to the Roman sources, which emerged considerably later. A territorial dominance of the Venetians for the earlier Iron Age can certainly not be proven.


The situles stand out among the works of art . Usually they are decorated with a chased figural relief, often in the form of picture friezes. The vessels are tapered towards the bottom and have a flat surface. They were made from sheet bronze , were about 25-30 cm high and provided with a handle. The Venetians went from the geometric to the naturalistic representation, such as on the Situla Benvenuti , on which human images appear for the first time. This form of the situla probably originated before the immigration to Italy, but the external design seems to have originated in Veneto.



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  • Aldo Prosdocimi (ed.): Popoli e civiltà dell'Italia antica. Rome 1974.
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  • Jozef Šavli , Matej Bor , Ivan Tomažič (eds.): Our ancestors - the Venetians. Edition Veneti, Vienna 1988, ISBN 3-85013-110-6 .
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  • Robert Nedoma , Wojciech NowakowskiVeneter. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 32, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2006, ISBN 3-11-018387-0 , pp. 133-139.
  • Elisa Perego: Final Bronze Age and social change in Veneto. Group membership, ethnicity and marginality. In: Antiquité (MEFRA). Volume 126, No. 2. Rome 2014. ISSN  0223-5102


  1. Titus Livius : Ab urbe condita. Book 1, 1, 1-3.
  2. Harald Haarmann: Lexicon of the fallen languages. Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-47596-5 , p. 206.
  3. Aldo Prosdocimi: Veneti, Eneti, Euganei, Ateste - i nomi. In: AA.VV .: Este preromana, una città ei suoi santuari . Canova, Treviso 2002, pp. 45-76.
  4. Alessandra Aspes (ed.): Il Veneto nell'antichità. Preistoria e protostoria. Verona 1984, p. 663.
  5. ^ For example, Aldo Prosdocimi: Popoli e civiltà dell'Italia antica ; see. Francisco Villar: Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa. Il Mulino, Bologna 1997, p. 490.
  6. ^ Francisco Villar: Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa. Il Mulino, Bologna 1997, pp. 633f.
  7. ^ Francisco Villar: Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa. Il Mulino, Bologna 1997, p. 480.
  8. Alessandra Aspes (ed.): Il Veneto nell'antichità. Preistoria e protostoria. Verona 1984, p. 674.
  9. ^ Plutarch: De fortuna Romanorum . 12, 325.
  10. Buchi and Cavalieri Manasse, p. 15.
  11. Alessandra Aspes (ed.): Il Veneto nell'antichità. Preistoria e protostoria. Verona 1984, pp. 680-683.
  12. ^ Francisco Villar: Gli Indoeuropei e le origini dell'Europa. Il Mulino, Bologna 1997, p. 490; Alessandra Aspes (Ed.): Il Veneto nell'antichità. Preistoria e protostoria. Verona 1984, p. 666.
  13. Alessandra Aspes (ed.): Il Veneto nell'antichità. Preistoria e protostoria. Verona 1984, pp. 668f.