1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Veneti

VENETI, the name given to two ancient European tribes. (i) A Celtic people in the N.W. of Gallia Celtica, whose territory corresponded roughly to the department of Morbihan. They were the most powerful maritime people on the Atlantic and carried on a considerable trade with Britain. Their name still remains in the town of Vannes. In the winter of 57 B.C., with some of their neighbours, they took up arms against the Romans, and in 56 were decisively defeated in a naval engage- ment, details of which are given in Caesar's Bell. Gall. iii. and Dio Cassius xxxix. 40-43.

For criticisms of these narratives, and a discussion of the question of the scene of operations, see T. R. Holmes, Caesar's Conquest of Gaul (1899), pp. 205, 663, 674, and for the extent of their territory, p. 509.

(2) The inhabitants of a district in the north of Italy (also called 'Ewoi, Heneti, by the Greeks). The extent of their territory before their incorporation by the Romans is un- certain. It was at first included in Cisalpine Gaul, but under Augustus was known as the tenth region of Italy (Venetia and Histria). It was bounded on the W. by the Athesis (Adige), or, according to others, by the Addua (Adda); on the N. by the Carnic Alps; on the E. by the Timavus (Timavo) or the Formio (Risano) ; on the S. by the Adriatic Gulf. From the earliest times the Veneti appear to have been a peaceful people, chiefly engaged in commercial pursuits. They carried on an extensive trade in amber, which reached them overland from the shores of the Baltic. They were especially famous for their skill in the training and breeding of horses, attributed to their stay in Thrace, whence they brought the cult of Diomede into their Italian home. Homer (//. ii. 85) speaks of the Paphla- gonian Heneti as breeders of " wild mules," and their fond- ness for horses is regarded as a proof of their descent from the "horse-taming" Trojans. Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, who assisted them to repel the attacks of the Liburnian pirates, is said to have kept a stud in their country. Herodotus men- tions a curious [marriage custom, which seems of Eastern origin. Once a year the marriageable maidens of a village were collected together. Each young man chose a bride, for whom he had to pay a sum of money in proportion to her beauty. The sums thus obtained were used by the public officials to dower the less beautiful and thus afford them the chance of obtaining a husband. According to the pseudo- Scymnus of Chios (Periegesis, 400) the Veneti were fond of wearing black, a custom even now prevalent amongst them. They were a flourishing and wealthy people, and noted for their uprightness and morality.

The first historical menticm of the Veneti occurs in connexion with the capture of Rome by the Gauls, whose retreat is said to have been caused by an irruption of the Veneti into their territory (Polybius ii.' 18). At the request of the Romans they rendered them assistance in their wars against the Gauls north and south of the Po, and ever afterwards remained their loyal allies. Some time during the Second Punic War they passed, not by right of conquest but by force of circumstances, under Roman rule. At first they possessed complete autonomy in internal administration; in 89 Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo be- stowed upon them the jus Latinum; they probably obtained the full franchise from Caesar at the same time as the Trans- padane Gauls (49). Under the Empire Venetia and Istria were included in the tenth region of Italy, with capital Aquileia. Down to the time of the Antonines the country enjoyed great prosperity, which was interrupted by the invasion of the Qtiadi and Marcomanni and a destructive plague. From that time it was devastated at intervals by the barbarians^-by the Alamanni, Franks and Juthungi in 286; by the Goths under Alaric (beginning of the 5th century); by the Huns under Attila (452), who utterly destroyed Aquileia and several other cities. Under Theodoric the Great (ruler of Italy from 493- 526) the land had rest, and in 568 was occupied by the Lom- bards. The most important river of Venetia was the Athesis (Adige); its chief towns Patavium (see Padda), Aquilfeia (q.v.), Altinum (Altino), Belunum (Belluno, still a considerable town).

Language. — We have nearly 100 inscriptions which record the language spoken by the tribe in pre-Roman days, the bulk of which we owe to the admirable and devoted excavations carried out at Este since 1890 by Prof. A. Prosdocimi arid Signi A. Alfonsi. But a not unimportant number have' also come to light at Verona and Padua, and at different points along tie great North and South route of the Brenner Pass, especially at Bozen; and there are a few more scanty and scattered monu- ments in the Carinthian Alps now preserved chiefly in the Museums at Klagenfurt and Vienna (the K.K. Naturhistoriscftes Museum, Ethnographische Abteilung). All but a few of these Venetic inscriptions were seen and transcribed by the: present writer in the spring of 1908, and their texts with a careful collection of the local and personal names of the district made by Miss S. E- Jackson, will, appear as the first part of " The Pre-Italic Dialects" in the Proceedings of the British Academy.

The alphabet of the inscriptions, in all its varieties, is probably (in spite of Pauli, Die Vetietef, p. 226, whose judgment seems somewhat arbitrary) either dprived from or at least influenced by some form of the Etruscan alphabet, since it not merely coin- cides with that alphabet in several characteristic signs, such as the use of the compound symbol vh (3 ^) with the value of/, but lacks the symbols for the mediae B D G. These, or the sounds which had descended from them in Venetic, were represented by using symbols which in the Western Greek alphabets denoted kindred sounds; )fc. 2 where we should expect d (zoto," he gave "), $ 4> where we should expect b (4>ohivos, "Boius"), T (i.e. x) where we should expect g (-e-xo, " ego "). But though we find the symbols in positions where they correspond to the mediae in kindred languages, it is uncertain what the precise variety of sound which they denoted was; thus, for example, Venetic -e-xo, is certainly equivalent, to the Latin ego, but we cannot be certain that the sound of the two words was precisely- the same. The symbol for 6 is not used to denote d (since that is represented by 2). In the inscriptions of Padua and Verona the sign is O and seems there to denote some variety of sound closely akin to /; the word which at Padua and Verona is written •e-kupe- Oari-s- (probably meaning " charioteer ") appears as ecupetaris in Latin alphabet in an inscription published by Elia Lattes (" Iscrizioni Inedite Venete ed Etrusche," Rendiconti del R. 1st. Lomb. di Sc. e Le.tt., Serie ,ll. voL 34, 1901). The full Venetic alphabet at its best period is preserved for us on several curious and interesting dedicatory objects found at Este, which were offered to the goddess of the place called Rehtia, a name obviously equivalent to Latin Rectia, some of whose prerogatives, to judge from the long nails which aire offered to heir, frequently, accompanied by small Wedges, would seem to have been -those of the goddess whom Horace calls Necessitas (Odes, i. 35, 17)." The offerings in question are thin bronze plates of whose surface the greater part is covered by alphabetic signs, with an inscrip- tion stating that such and such a worshipper makes an offering of the plate to the Goddess Rectia. Besides the letters of the alphabet in their order, these plates contain a kind of catalogue of the most common combination of letters, and although none of the plates is now completely preserved this characteristic and their general likeness to One another provide enough' material to place the alphabet of Este beyond all doubt. It is written from right to left, and the alternate lines curi round so that the letters proceed in the opposite direction and stand with their feet turned towards those in the preceding line. This charac- teristic, technically known as " serpentine boustrophedon,"

with the sign for h (I|l), points to some connexion with tha alphabets : of the East Italic ("Sabellic".): inscriptions (see Sabeixic).

The alphabet of Este then, in what the archaeological remains show to have been the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., was as follows:—

Pauli (Die Venetez, p. 229) compares it to the Western Greek alphabet as used in Elis, but it is difficult to point to any especial mark of affinity with this particular branch of the Western alphabet, while there are some marked differences, such as X instead of Elean T, Q instead of Elean (prevailingly) ^ and j^. >l£ instead of I and 'I' instead of the regular Western though the latter symbol is not quoted as occurring in Elis itself (B. S. Roberts, Greek Epigraphy, i. 390).

Even the few words that have already been cited from the in- scriptions will have shown that the language belongs to the Indo-European group. Unfortunately the inscriptions of Este; although numerous, belong to only_ two classes, dedications and epitaphs; hence the forms with which they supply us, though "attested by welcome repetition, are somewhat limited in number. The typical beginning for a dedication is mexo . . â– â– zona-s-to sahnateh rehtiiah, i.e. " me dedit Rectiae Sanatrici," " so and so gave me to the Healing Goddess Rectia"; and sometimes the form of the verb is simply z-o-to. The correspondence of these two forms with the Greek middle aorist of the verb (4-5oro), and with the Latin donare is obvious, and the present writer is convinced, for reasons which it is impossible to state fully here, that the dots which, it will be observed, are placed on either side of the last sound of their syllable, denote the accent of the word; the moet striking evidence being the coincidence in position of the dots with the place of the Greek accent on kindred words; for example, the cognomen Lehvo-s- on an inscription of Vicenza is clearly identical with the Latin Laeviis and the Greek XotfAt. These signs are altogether absent from some words, e.g. from the Accusative iux° (presumably a proclitic) and syllables containing the letter HI, whose form would make the dots a cumbrous addition. One other inscription of special linguistic interest should be cited here; it appears to be the artist's inscription of a vase, of the 6th century B.C. found recently at Padua—

νοδο hiuθeari vhαχ-s-ιο

where the first name appears to be identical with the Latin Otho and to explain its aspirate, and the last word appears to be the Venetic equivalent of the Latin fecit, but to be in the middle voice without any augment: If this interpretation be correct—and the use of *iroiij<re by Greek artists commends it strongly— the form illustrates in rather a striking way the character of the language as intermediate between Greek and Latin.[1]

In the archaeological aspect the Venetic remains are particularly interesting as representing very fully the culture of what is known as the early Iron Age, the monuments of which were discovered in the excavations at Villanova, and are now admirably exhibited in the Museum at Bologna. The earliest begin, according to the generally accepted dating, from the nth century B.C. The remains at Este begin a very little later, but no inscriptions appear upon them until we reach the pottery of the 6th century B.C. It remains therefore to be determined whether this Venetic language was the proper speech of the people who, as it is generally supposed, brought with them the early Iron culture into Italy from north of the Alps in the nth century B.C., or whether it was the language of the people of the soil whom they conquered. So far as the scanty linguistic evidence at present extends, in the place names and the personal names of the Ligurian and the Venetic districts, it appears to the present writer on the whole to be more in favour of the second 1 view. This probability would become a certainty if we could accept as established the view of Professor Ridgeway and others, which identifies the authors of the early Iron culture with the Umbrians of historical times and ascribes to them the Umbro-Safine language (which with Latin constitutes the Italic division of the Indo- European languages), and which almost certainly was the language originally spoken by the patrician class at Rome (see further Sabini). Even now it must be admitted that this view possesses a high degree of probability.

The chief authority on the Venetic inscriptions published up to 1908 is Carl Pauh (Atiital. Studten, vol. 3, " Die Veneter," Leipzig, 1891), but so far as the present writer's observation may be trusted the text which Pauli gives of the inscriptions is somewhat defective. Some were reported by Mommsen, Die Insehriften NorditaUschen Alphabets (Zurich, 1853) ; the rest have been recorded in the Notizie degli Scavi /as they appeared, by Ghirardini in the volumes for 1880 and 1888, by Prosdocimi in that for 189a. These articles contain careful accounts of the archaeological remains.

  1. Some further details will be found in the Preliminary Report presented to the British Academy published in the Athenaeum, August 8th, 1908.