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The Ligures (singular Ligus or Ligur; English: Ligurians, Greek: Λίγυες) were an ancient people who gave their name to Liguria, which once stretched from Northern Italy into southern Gaul. According to Plutarch they called themselves Ambrones which means ¨people of the water¨. The Ligures inhabited what now corresponds to Liguria, northern Tuscany, Austria (Noricum), Bavaria, Piedmont, part of Emilia-Romagna, part of Lombardy, and parts of southeastern France.
Classical references and toponomastics suggest that the Ligurian sphere once extended further into central Italy (Taurisci): according to Hesiod's Catalogues (early 6th century BC) they were one of the three main "barbarian" peoples ruling over the Western border of the known world (the others being Aethiopians and Scythians). Avienus, in a translation of a voyage account probably from Marseille (4th century BC) speaks of the Ligurian hegemony extending up to the North Sea, before they were pushed back by the Celts. Ligurian toponyms have been found in Sicily, the Rhône valley, Corsica and Sardinia.
It is not known for certain whether they were a pre-Indo-European people akin to Iberians; a separate Indo-European branch with Italic and Celtic affinities; or even a branch of the Celts or Italics. Kinship between the Ligures and Lepontii has also been proposed. Another theory traces their origin to Baetica (modern Andalusia) and southern Lusitania (modern Algarve and Alentejo).
Numerous tribes of Ligures are mentioned by ancient historians, among them:
- Alpini (or Montani) (in the hinterland of Savona)
- Apuani (in Lunigiana)
- Bagienni (or Vagienni) (in the area of Bene Vagienna)
- Briniates (or Boactes) (in the area of Brugnato)
- Cosmonates (in the area of Castellazzo Bormida)
- Deciates (in modern Provence, west of the river Var)
- Friniates (in the area now called Frignano)
- Genuates (or Genuenses) (in and around Genoa)
- Helysici (near Narbonne)
- Ilvates (or Iluates) (if different from the Iriates) (on the island of Elba)
- Iriates (or Ilvates, Iluates?) (in the territory of Tortona, Voghera and Libarna)
- Langates (or Langenses) (north of the Genuates)
- Lapicini (or Lapicinii)
- Laevi (along the Ticino River and in the area of Pavia)
- Libici (or Libui)
- Magelli (or Mucelli) (in the Mugello region)
- Marici (near the confluence of the rivers Orba, Bormida and Tanaro)
- Oxybii (or Oxibii) (in modern Provence)
- Sabates (in the area of Vado Ligure)
- Salassi (in modern Aosta Valley)
- Salluvii (or Saluvii) (if different from the Salyes) (in modern Provence)
- Salyes (or Salii, or also Salluvii, Saluvii?) (in modern Provence)
- Statielli (or Statiellates) (in the valleys of the Orba [left bank], Bormida and Tanaro)
- Sueltri (or Suelteri)
- Taurini (or Taurisci)
- Tigulli (or Tigullii)
- Veiturii (west of the Genuates, in and around Voltri)
- Veleiates (or Veliates) (between Veleia and Libarna)
- Vocontii (in modern Provence, on the east bank of the Rhône)
- "Liguria", in Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854)
- T. Livii Patavini Historiarum libri qui supersunt, Volume 18
- B. Campora, "Capriata d'Orba", in Rivista di storia, arte, archeologia per le province di Alessandria e Asti, p. 22
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