Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography/Abori'gines

ABORI'GINES (Άβοριγίνες), a name given by all the Roman and Greek writers to the earliest inhabitants of Latuim, before they assumed the appellation of Latini. There can be no doubt that the obvious derivation of this name (ab origine) is the true one, and that it could never have been a national tide really borne by any people, but was a mere abstract appellation invented in later times, and intended, like the Autochthones of the Greeks, to designate the primitive and original inhabitants of the country. The other derivations suggested by later writers, — such as Aberrigines from their wandering habits, or the absurd one which Dionysius seems inclined to adopt, "ab δρεσι" from their dwelling in the mountains, — are mere etymological fancies, suggested probably with a view of escaping from the difficulty, that, according to later researches, they were not really autochthones, but foreigners coming from a distance (Dionys. i. 10; Aur. Vict. Orig. Gent. Rom. 4). Their real name appears to have been Casci (Saufeius, ap. Serv. ad Aen. i. 6), an appellation afterwards used among the Romans to signify anything primitive or old-fashioned. The epithet of Sacrani, supposed by Niebuhr to have been also a national appellation, would appear to have had a more restricted sense, and to have been confined to a particular tribe or subdivision of the race. But it is certainly remarkable that the name of Aborigines must have been established in general use at a period as early as the fifth century of Rome; for (if we may trust the accuracy of Dionysius) it was already used by Callias, the historian of Agathocles, who termed Latinus "king of the Aborigines" (Dionys. i. 72): and we find that Lycophron (writing under Ptolemy Philadelphus) speaks of Aeneas as founding thirty cities "in the land of the Boreigonoi" a name which is evidently a mere corruption of Aborigines. (Lycophr. Alex. 1253; Tzetz. ad loc.; Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 80.)

A tradition recorded both by Cato and Varro, and which Niebuhr justly regards as one of the most credible of those transmitted to us from antiquity, related that these Aborigines first dwelt in the high mountain districts around Reate and in the vallies which extend from thence towards the Mt, Velino and the Lake Fucinus. From hence they were expelled by the Sabines, who descended upon them from the still more elevated regions around Amiternum, and drove them forwards towards the W. coast: yielding to this pressure, they descended into the valley of the Anio, and from thence gradually extended themselves into the plains of Latium. Here they came in contact with the Siculi, who were at that time in possession of the country; and it was not till after a long contest that the Aborigines made themselves masters of the land, expelled or reduced to slavery its Siculian population, and extended their dominion not only over Latium itself, but the whole plain between the Volscian mountains and the sea, and even as far as the river Liris. (Dionys. i. 9, 10, 13, 14, ii. 49; Cato, ap. Priscian. v. 12. § 65.) In this war we are told that the Aborigines were assisted by a Pelasgian tribe, with whom they became in some degree intermingled, and from whom they first learned the art of fortifying their towns. In conjunction with these allies they continued to occupy the plains of Latium until about the period of the Trojan war, when they assumed the appellation of Latini, from their king Latinos. (Dionys. i. 9, 60; Liv. i. 1, 2.)

Whatever degree of historical authority we may attach to this tradition, there can be no doubt that it correctly represents the fact that the Latin race, such as we find it in historical times, was composed of two distinct elements: the one of Pelasgic origin, and closely allied with other Pelasgic races in Italy; the other essentially different in language and origin. Both these elements are distinctly to be traced in the Latin language, in which one class of words is closely related to the Greek, another wholly distinct from it, and evidently connected with the languages of the Oscan race. The Aborigines may be considered as representing the non-Pelasgic part of the Latin people; and to them we may refer that portion of the Latin language which is strikingly dissimilar to the Greek. The obvious relation of this to the Oscan dialects would at once lead us to the same conclusion with the historical traditions above related: namely, that the Aborigines or Casci, a mountain race from the central Apennines, were nearly akin to the Aequi, Volsci, and other ancient nations of Italy, who are generally included under the term of Oscans or Ausonians; and as clearly distinct from the tribes of Pelasgic origin, on the one hand, and from the great Sabellian family on the other. (Niebuhr, vol i. p. 78 — 84; Donaldson, Varronianus p. 3; Abeken, Mittelitalien pp. 46, 47.)

Dionysius tells us that the greater port of the cities originally inhabited by the Aborigines in their mountain homes had ceased to exist in his time; but he has preserved to us (i. 14) a catalogue of them, as given by Varro in his Antiquities which is of much interest. Unfortunately most of the names contained in it are otherwise wholly unknown, and the geographical data are not sufficiently precise to enable us to fix their position with any certainty. The researches of recent travellers have, however, of late years given increased interest to the passage in question, by establishing the fact that the neighbourhood of Reate, and especially the valley of the Salto, a district commonly called the Ciolano, abound with vestiges of ancient cities which, from the polygonal, or so-called Cyclopean style of their construction, have been referred to a very early period of antiquity. Many attempts have been consequently made to identify these sites with the cities mentioned by Varro; but hitherto with little success. The most recent investigations of this subject are those by Martelli (an Italian antiquarian whose local knowledge gives weight to his opinions) in his Storia dei Siculi (Aquila, 1830, 8vo.), and by Bunsen (Antichi Stabilimenti Italici, in the Annali dell Istituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica vol. vi. p. 100, seq.). But the complete diversity of their results proves how little certainty is to be attained. In the following enumeration of them, we can only attempt to give the description of the localities according to Varro, and to notice briefly their supposed identifications.

1. Palatium, from which the city on the Palatine hill at Borne was supposed to have derived its name (Varr. de L.L. v. § 53; Solin. I. § 14), is placed by Varro at 25 stadia from Reate; and would appear to have been still inhabited in his time. (See Bunsen, p. 129, whose suggestion of πόλις οίκουμένη for πόλεως οίκουμένης is certainly very plausible.) Ruins of it are said to exist at a place stall called Pallanti, near Torricella, to the right of the Via Salaria, at about the given distance from Reate. (Martelli, p. 195.) Gell, on the other hand, places it near the convent of La Foresta, to the N. of Rieti, where remains of a polygonal character are also found. Bunsen concurs in placing it in this direction, but without fixing the site.

2. Tribula (Τρίβολα), about 60 stadia from Beate; placed by Bunsen at Santa Felice, below the modern town of Cantalice whose polygonal walls were discovered by Dodwell. Martelli appears to confound it with Tribula Mutusca, from which it is probably distinct.

3. Suesbula, or Vesbula (the MSS. of Dionysius vary between Συεσβόλα and Ούεσβόλα), at the same distance (60 stadia) from Tribula, near the Cersunian Mountains. These are otherwise unknown, but supposed by Bunsen to be the Monti di Leonessa, and that Suesbula was near the site of the little city of Leonessa from which they derive their name.

4. Suna (Σούνη), distant 40 stadia from Suesbola, with a very ancient temple of Mars: 5. Mephlya (Μηφύλα), about 30 stadia from Suna, of which some rains and traces of walls were still visible in the time of Varro: and 6. Orvinium (Όρουίνιον), 40 stadia from Mephyla, the ruins of which, as well as its ancient sepulchres, attested its former magnitude; — are all wholly unknown, but are probably to be sought between the Monti di Leonessa and the valley of the Velino. Martelli, however, transfers this whole group of cities (including Tribula and Suesbula), which are placed by Bunsen to the N. of Rieti to the vallies of the Turano and Salto S. of that city. 7. Corsula (Κορσούλα) a city destroyed shortly before the time of Varro, is placed by him at 80 stadia from Reate, along the Via Curia, at the foot of Mt. Coretum. This road is otherwise unknown*, but was probably that which led from Reate towards Terni (Interamna), and if so, Corsula must have been on the left bank of the Velinus, but its site is unknown.

In the same direction were: 8. Issa, a town situated on an island in a lake, probably the same now called the Lago del Pie di Lugo: and 9. Marruvium (Μαρούίον), situated at the extremity of the same lake. Near this were the Septem Aquae, the position of which in this fertile valley between Reate and Interamna is confirmed by their mention in Cicero (ad Att. iv. 15).

10. Returning again to Reate, and proceeding along the valley of the Salto towards the Lake Fucinus (Dionysius has τήν έπί Λατίνην όδόν είσιούσιν, for which Bunsen would read τήν έπί λίμνην: but in any case it seems probable that this is the direction meant), Varro mentions first Batia or Vatia (Βατία), of which no trace is to be found: then comes

11. Tiora, surnamed Matiene (DRGR Greek, ή καλουμένη Ματιήνη), where there was a very ancient oracle of Mars, the responses of which were delivered by a woodpecker. This is placed, according to Varro, at 300 stadia from Reate, a distance which so much exceeds all the others, that it has been supposed to be corrupt; but it coincides well with the actual distance (36 miles) from Rieti to a spot named Castore, near Sta. Anatolia in the upper valley of the Salto which was undoubtedly the site of an ancient city, and presents extensive remains of walls of polygonal construction. (Bunsen, p. 1 1 5 ; Abeken, Mittelitialien. p. 87.) We learn also finom early Martyrologies, that Sta. Anatolia, who has given name to the modern village, was put to death "in civitate Thora, apud lacum Velinum." (Clnver. Ital. p. 684.) Hence it seems probable that the name of Castore is a corruption of Cas-Tora (Castellum Torae), and that the ruins viable there are really those of Tiora.

12. Lista (DGRG Greek|Λίότα}}), called by Varro the metropolis of the Aborigines, is placed by him, according to our present text of Dionysius, at 24 stadia from Tiora; but there seem strong reasons for supposing that this is a mistake, and that Lists was really situated in the immediate neighborhood of Reate. [Lista.]

13. The last city assigned by Varro to the Aborigines is Cotylia, or Cutilia (Κοτύλια), celebrated for its lake, concerning the site of which (between Civita Ducale and Antrodoao) then exists no doubt [Cutilia.]

Among the cities of Latium itself, Dionysius (i. 44, ii. 35) expressly assigns to the Aborigines the foundation of Antemnae, Caenina, Fibulnea Tellenae, and Tibur: some of which were wrested

  • The MSS. of Dionyaus have διά τής Ίουρίας όδού, a name which is certainly corrupt. Some editors would read Ίουνίας, but the emendation of Κονρίας suggested by Bunsen is fer more probable. For the further investigation of this point, see Reate.

f Holstenius, however (Not. ad Clver. p. 114) places Tiora in the valley of the Turano, at a place called Colle Piccolo where there is also a celebrated church of Sta. Anatolia. by them from the Siculians, others apparently new settlements. Little historical dependence can of course be placed on these statements , but they were probably meant to distinguish the cities in question from those which were designated by tradition as of Pelasgian origin, or colonies of Alba.

Sallust (Cat. 6) speaks of the Aborigines as a rude people, without fixed laws or dwellings, but this is probably a mere rhetorical exaggeration: it is clear that Varro at least regarded them as possessed of fortified towns, temples, oracles, &c.; and the native traditions of the Latins concerning Janus and Saturn indicate that they had acquired all the primitive arts of civilisation before the period of the supposed Trojan colony.[ E. H. B. ]