File:Incisione foppe nadro.jpg

The Camunni were ancient population located during the Iron Age (I millennium BC) in Val Camonica; the latin name Camunni was attributed to them by the authors of the first century. They are also called ancient Camuni, to distinguish them from the current inhabitants of the valley (the Camuni or Camunians). The Camunni are among the greatest producers of rock art in Europe, their name is linked to the famous rock engravings of Valcamonica.

People of obscure origin, is located in a region, the Val Camonica, already marked by a millennial cultural tradition, dating back to early Neolithic. The Camunni (in ancient greek Καμοῦνοι for Strabo or Καμούννιοι for Cassius Dio) are mentioned by classical historiographical sources from the first century BC, in corresponding to the iron age in Val Camonica (since the twelfth century BC until about Romanization).

Conquered by Rome at the beginning of the 1st century AD, the Camunni were gradually incorporated into the political and social structures of the Roman Empire while a self-governament (the Res Publica Camunnorum) and the Roman citizenship since the second half of the I century, with a rapid process of latinisation.


The Camunni in the classical sourcesEdit

The greek historian Strabo (63/64 BC – ca.24 AD ) claimed the Camunni as a part of peoples Rhaetian and approached the Lepontii, which were offspring of Celts:

Ἑξῆς δὲ τὰ πρὸς ἕω μέρη τῶν ὀρῶν καὶ τὰ ἐπιστρέφοντα πρὸς νότον Ῥαιτοὶ καὶ Ὀυινδολικοὶ κατέχουσι, συνάπτοντες Ἐλουηττίοις καὶ Βοίοις· ἐπίκεινται γὰρ τοῖς ἐκείνων πεδίοις. Οἱ μὲν οὖν Ῥαιτοὶ μέχρι τῆς Ἰταλίας καθήκουσι τῆς ὑπὲρ Οὐήρωνος καὶ Κώμου. Καὶ ὅ γε Ῥαιτικὸς οἶνος, τῶν ἐν τοῖς Ἰταλικοῖς ἐπαινουμένων οὐκ ἀπολείπεσθαι δοκῶν, ἐν ταῖς τούτων ὑπωρείαις γίνεται· διατείνουσι δὲ καὶ μέχρι τῶν χωρίων, δι' ὧν ὁ Ῥῆνος φέρεται· τούτου δ' εἰσὶ τοῦ φύλου καὶ Ληπόντιοι καὶ Καμοῦνοι. Οἱ δὲ Ὀυινδολικοὶ καὶ Νωρικοὶ τὴν ἐκτὸς παρώρειαν κατέχουσι τὸ πλέον· μετὰ Βρεύνων καὶ Γεναύνων, ἤδη τούτων Ἰλλυριῶν. Ἅπαντες δ' οὗτοι καὶ τῆς Ἰταλίας τὰ γειτονεύοντα μέρη κατέτρεχον ἀεὶ καὶ τῆς Ἐλουηττίων καὶ Σηκοανῶν καὶ Βοίων καὶ Γερμανῶν. Ἰταμώτατοι δὲ τῶν μὲν Ὀυινδολικῶν ἐξητάζοντο Λικάττιοι καὶ Κλαυτηνάτιοι καὶ Ὀυέννωνες, τῶν δὲ Ῥαιτῶν Ῥουκάντιοι καὶ Κωτουάντιοι.
Strabo Geography IV, 6.8

The Roman historian Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD), citing Cato the Elder (234–149 BC) Origines , spoke instead of Camunni as one of several tribes Euganee:

Verso deinde in Italiam pectore Alpium Latini iuris Euganeae gentes, quarum oppida XXXIIII enumerat Cato. ex iis Trumplini, venalis cum agris suis populus, dein Camunni conpluresque similes finitimis adtributi municipis
File:Naquane kernunnos.jpg

Contacts with the Etruscans and CeltsEdit

Around the fifth century BC, the Etruscans, already widespread in the Po Valley, had contacts with the alpine populations. Traces of influence of this culture persist in camunian alphabet, which made over two hundred entries, and that is very similar to the North Etruscan alphabets, and in the same rock art.[2] Around the third century BC, arrived in Italy the Gauls Celtic who, coming from transalpine Gaul, settled in the Po Plain and came in touch with the camunian population: it testifies to the presence, among the stone carvings of Valcamonica of figures of deities Celtic which Kernunnos.[1]

The Roman conquestEdit


The Valcamonica was subject to Rome in the context of the campaigns of conquest of Augustus of Rezia arc and Alpine, conducted by his generals Drusus more and Tiberius (the future emperor) against the mountain peoples of the 16 and 15 BC to complete the conquest of Eastern Alpine front was Publius Silius Nerva, governor of Illyricum, which proceeded from the placing of the valleys Como to Lake Garda (including therefore the Valcamonica), in addition to Vennoneti of Val Venosta.

The action of the Roman conquest is also mentioned by the Roman historian of Greek Cassius Dio (155 or 163/164, after 229 AD):

καὶ γὰρ Καμούννιοι καὶ Ὁέννιοι αλπικα γένη, όπλα τε αντηραντο καὶ νικηθέντες aπο Ποιβλιο Σιλίου εχειρώθησαν.
Cassius Dio Historia romana, liv XX

and is celebrated in the Trophy of the Alps ( "Tropaeum Alpium"), Roman monument erected in 7–6 BC and located at the French town of La Turbie, which reported on to the frontal inscription the name of the conquered alpine peoples:

File:Iscrizione camunni brescia.jpg

After the Roman conquest the Camunni were attached to the nearest town in a semi-subjection through the practice of adtributio, which allowed to maintain their own tribal constitution and the city became dominant administrative, judicial and fiscal.[4] The city to which were assigned Camunni was probably Brixia. Initially he was assigned the status of peregrinus, then obtained the Roman citizenship and Flavian Age were attributed to the tribe Quirina[5], although it maintained a certain self-government: it is mentioned as Res Publica Camunnorum.

The Romanization proceeded from Civitas Camunnorum (Cividate Camuno), a city founded by the Romans around 23 BC, during the principate of Tiberius, starting from the first century the Camunni are already included in the stable political and social structures Roman, as witnessed by the numerous testimonies of legionaries, artisans and even gladiators of camunian origins in several areas of the Roman Empire. Even religion went through the mechanism of interpretatio romana, to a syncretism with the Roman's one.[6]


The stone carvings were to have a particular value due to celebratory rituals, commemorative, initiatory and propitiatory.

Of the Roman period is the Sanctuary of Minerva found in Spinera of Breno in 1986 and finely decorated with mosaics.

The beginning of the Middle Ages coincided with the arrival at the Camunni the Christian religion. From the 4th–5th century we witnessed the destruction of the ancient places of worship, with the removal of statues stele of Ossimo and Cemmo and the burning of the Sanctuary of Minerva[6].


The testimonies of the language spoken by Camunni are scarce and not deciphered: among the Rock Drawings in Valcamonica there are some inscriptions written in camunic language, thanks to a northern variant of the Etruscan alphabet. Knowledge about Camuno remains too uncertain to be able to determine whether it belongs to a language family more broadly.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Umberto Sansoni-Silvana Gavaldo, L'arte rupestre del Pià d'Ort: la vicenda di un santuario preistorico alpino, p. 156; "Ausilio Priuli, Piancogno su "Itinera"" (in italian). Retrieved 02-04-2009. .
  2. "Incisioni rupestri sul sito del comune di Paspardo" (in italian). Retrieved 02-04-2009. .
  3. CIL, 5, 4957
  4. "L'adtributio e la Tabula clesiana su "Le Alpi on line. Storia e archeologia della Alpi" (Università di Trento)" (in italian). Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  5. "Guida turistica a Cividate Camuno - La romanizzazione" (in italian). Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Serena Solano, Il santuario di Minerva su "Itinera"" (in italian). Retrieved 2009-03-13. 


Primary SourcesEdit

Literature historiographicEdit

  • Raffaele De Marinis, Le popolazioni alpine di stirpe retica in G. Pugliese Carratelli (a cura di) Italia omnium terrarum alumna, Milano, Garzanti-Scheiwiller, 1988. pp. 95–155
  • Lino Ertani, La Valle Camonica attraverso la storia, Esine, Tipolitografia Valgrigna, 1996.
  • Francesco Fedele, L'uomo, le Alpi, la Valcamonica - 20.000 anni di storia al Castello di Breno, Boario Terme, La Cittadina, 1988.
  • Valeria Mariotti, Il teatro e l'anfiteatro di Cividate Camuno, Arti grafiche BMB, 2004. ISBN 88-7814-254-9
  • Pietro Paolo Ormanico, Considerationi sopra alcvne memorie della Religione Antica dei Camvli, ò Camvni, Bornato, Sardini Editrice [1639], 1983.
  • Umberto Sansoni; Silvana Gavaldo, L'arte rupestre del Pià d'Ort: la vicenda di un santuario preistorico alpino, Edizioni del Centro, 1995.
  • Ronald Syme, Le Alpi in Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, Vol. VIII.

See alsoEdit


de:Camunni es:Camunni fr:Camunni it:Camuni la:Camunni lmo:Camunni pl:Kamunowie pt:Camunni ru:Камуны

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