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Title: Celto-Ligurians  
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Subject: Noricum, Salyes
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The Ligures (singular Ligus or Ligur; English: Ligurians, Greek: Λίγυες) were an ancient Indo-European people who gave their name to Liguria, a region of north-western Italy.[1]

Classical sources

According to Plutarch they called themselves Ambrones, but this does not necessarily indicate a relationship with the Ambrones of northern Europe. They were ignorant of their own origin.[2]

Classical references and toponomastics suggest that the Ligurian sphere once extended further than the present boundary of Liguria. Ligurian toponyms have been found in Sicily, the Rhône valley, Corsica and Sardinia.

Aeschylus represents Hercules as contending with the Ligures on the stony plains near the mouths of the Rhone, and Herodotus speaks of Ligures inhabiting the country above Massilia (modern Marseilles, founded by the Greeks). Thucydides also speaks of the Ligures having expelled the Sicanians, an Iberian tribe, from the banks of the river Sicanus, in Iberia.[3] The Periplus of Pseudo-Scylax describes the Ligyes (Ligures) living along the Mediterranean coast from Antion (Antibes) as far as the mouth of the Rhone; then intermingled with the Iberians from the Rhone to Emporion in Spain.[4] People with Ligurian names were living south of Placentia, in Italy, as late as 102 AD.[5]

19th-century origins theories

In the 19th century, the Ligures' question got the attentions of not a few scholars. Amédée Thierry, a French historian, linked them to the Iberians,[6] while Karl Müllenhoff, professor of Germanic antiquities at the Universities of Kiel and Berlin, studying the sources of the Ora maritima by Avienus (a Latin poet who lived in the 4th century AD, but who used as source for his own work a Phoenician Periplum of the 6th century BC),[7] held that the name Ligurians generically referred to various peoples who lived in Western Europe, including the Celts, but thought the real Ligurians were a Pre-Indo-European population.[8]

Dominique-François-Louis Roget, Baron de Belloguet, claimed a "Gallic" origin.[9]

In favor of a Pre-Indo-European origin thesis were Henri d'Arbois de Jubainville, 19th-century French historian, who argued that the Ligurians, together with the Iberians, constituted the remains of the native population that had spread in Western Europe with the Cardium Pottery culture cardial ceramic,[10] or related to the Bell Beakerfolk and Arturo Issel, a Genoese geologist and paleontologist, who considered them direct descendants of the Cro-Magnon men that lived throughout Gaul from the Mesolithic.[11]

Ligurian language

Little is known of the Ligurian language. Only place-names and personal names remain. It appears to be an Indo-European branch with both Italic and particularly strong Celtic affinities. Strabo tells us that they were of a different race from the Celts (by which he means Gauls) who inhabited the rest of the Alps, though they resembled them in their mode of life.[12]

Physical appearance

Lucan in his Pharsalia (c. 61 AD) described Ligurian tribes as being long-haired, and their hair a shade of auburn (a reddish-brown):

...Ligurian tribes, now shorn, in ancient days

First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks
Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme.[13]


The Ligures seem to have been ready to engage as mercenary troops in the service of others. Ligurian auxiliaries are mentioned in the army of the Carthaginian general Hamilcar in 480 BC.[14] Greek leaders in Sicily continued to recruit their mercenary forces from the same quarter as late as the time of Agathocles.[15][16]

The Ligures fought long and hard against the Romans, but were displaced from their homeland[17] and eventually assimilated into Roman culture during the 2nd century BC.


Numerous tribes of Ligures are mentioned by ancient historians, among them:

See also



  • ARSLAN E. A. 2004b, LVI.14 Garlasco, in I Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo, Catalogo della Mostra (Genova, 23.10.2004-23.1.2005), Milano-Ginevra, pp. 429–431.
  • ARSLAN E. A. 2004 c.s., Liguri e Galli in Lomellina, in I Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo, Saggi Mostra (Genova, 23.10.2004-23.1.2005).
  • Raffaele De Marinis, Giuseppina Spadea (a cura di), Ancora sui Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo, De Ferrari editore, Genova 2007 (scheda sul volume).
  • John Patterson, Sanniti,Liguri e Romani,Comune di Circello;Benevento
  • Giuseppina Spadea (a cura di), I Liguri. Un antico popolo europeo tra Alpi e Mediterraneo" (catalogo mostra, Genova 2004-2005), Skira editore, Genova 2004
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