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Cantabri

Cantabri

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The Cantabri were a pre-Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 Celtic people which lived in the northern Atlantic coastal region of ancient Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

, from the 4th to late 1st centuries BC.

Origins


A detailed analysis of place-names in ancient Cantabria shows a strong Celtic element along with an almost equally strong "Para-Celtic" element (both Indo-European) and thus disproves the idea of a substantial pre-Indo-European or Basque presence in the region.

Location


The Cantabri inhabited the highlands of the northern Spanish Atlantic coast, comprising the whole of modern Cantabria
Cantabria
Cantabria is a Spanish historical region and autonomous community with Santander as its capital city. It is bordered on the east by the Basque Autonomous Community , on the south by Castile and León , on the west by the Principality of Asturias, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea.Cantabria...

 province, the eastern Asturias
Asturias
The Principality of Asturias is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, coextensive with the former Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages...

, the nearby mountainous regions of Castile-León
Castile and León
Castile and León is an autonomous community in north-western Spain. It was so constituted in 1983 and it comprises the historical regions of León and Old Castile...

 and the northern fringes of Palencia
Palencia
Palencia is a city south of Tierra de Campos, in north-northwest Spain, the capital of the province of Palencia in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon...

 and Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

 provinces. By the 1st century BC they had gathered into a tribal confederacy with the town of Aracillum (Castro de Espina del Gallego, Sierra del Escudo – Cantabria), located at the strategic Besaya river valley, as their political seat. Other important Cantabrian strongholds included Noega (Castro de la Campa Torres, Gijón
Gijón
Gijón , officially Gijón / Xixón, is a coastal industrial city and a municipality in the autonomous community of Asturias in Spain. Early mediaeval texts mention it as "Gigia". It was an important regional Roman city, although the area has been settled since earliest history...

 – Asturias), Villeca/Vellica (Monte Cildá? – Palencia), Bergida (Castro de Monte Bernório? – Palencia) and Amaya/Amaia (Peña Amaya – Burgos).

Religion



Literary and ephigraphic evidence confirms that, like their Gallaeci and Astures neighbours’, the Cantabri were polytheistic, worshipping a complex, vast pantheon of male and female Indo-European deities in sacred oak or pine woods, mountains, water-courses and small rural sanctuaries.

Druidism does not appear to have been practiced by the Cantabri, though there is enough evidence for the existence of a organized priestly class who performed elaborated rites, which included ritual steam baths, festive dances, oracles, divination
Divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

, human and animal sacrifices. To this respect, Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 mentions that the peoples of the north-west sacrificed horses to an unnamed God of War, and both Horace
Horace
Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

 and Silius Italicus
Silius Italicus
Silius Italicus, in full Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius Italicus , was a Roman consul, orator, and Latin epic poet of the 1st century CE,...

 added that the Concani had the custom of drinking the horse’s blood at the ceremony.

Culture



The names of some of the tribes and clans in their Mountains Confederation and some related traditions distinguished them from proper Celts in having elements of a previous and still strong local culture, and by its local people, and as the classic observers noted, in common with others along the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

.

According to Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 Cantabria also contained gold, silver, tin, lead and iron mines, as well as magnetite and amber, but little is known about them; Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 also mentions salt extraction in mines, such as the ones existent around Cabezón de la Sal
Cabezón de la Sal
Cabezón de la Sal is a municipality located in the autonomous community of Cantabria, Spain. According to the 2007 census, the city has a population of 7,971 inhabitants.- Notable people:*Nacho Vigalondo*Juan Jose Cobo*Jairo Samperio...

.

History


Regarded as savage and untamable mountaineers, the Cantabri long defied the Roman Legions and made a name for themselves for their independent spirit and freedom. The earliest references to them are found in the texts of ancient historians such as Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 and Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

 who mention Cantabrian mercenaries in Carthaginian service fighting at the battle of Metaurus in 207 BC.
Another author, Cornelius Nepos
Cornelius Nepos
Cornelius Nepos was a Roman biographer. He was born at Hostilia, a village in Cisalpine Gaul not far from Verona. His Gallic origin is attested by Ausonius, and Pliny the Elder calls him Padi accola...

, claims that the Cantabrian tribes first submitted to Rome upon Cato the elder
Cato the Elder
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

’s campaigns in Celtiberia in 195 BC, and later Cantabri warbands fought for the Vaccaei and Celtiberians
Celtiberians
The Celtiberians were Celtic-speaking people of the Iberian Peninsula in the final centuries BC. The group used the Celtic Celtiberian language.Archaeologically, the Celtiberians participated in the Hallstatt culture in what is now north-central Spain...

 in the Celtiberian Wars
Celtiberian Wars
The Celtiberian Wars or Spanish Wars were a series of three wars lasting, off and on, from 181 to 133 BC. They were fought between the advancing legions of the Roman Republic and the Celtiberian tribes of Hispania Citerior. The First Celtiberian War lasted from 181 to 179...

 of the 2nd century BC.
Such was their reputation as fiercest fighters that when a battered roman army under Consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 Gaius Hostilius Mancinus
Gaius Hostilius Mancinus
Gaius Hostilius Mancinus was a Roman consul in 137 BC. Due to his campaign against Numantia in northern Spain, Plutarch called him "not bad as a man, but most unfortunate of the Romans as a general." During this campaign in the Numantine War, Mancinus was defeated, showing some cowardice,...

 was besieging Numantia
Numantia
Numantia is the name of an ancient Celtiberian settlement, whose remains are located 7 km north of the city of Soria, on a hill known as Cerro de la Muela in the municipality of Garray....

 in 137 BC, the rumour of the approach of a large combined Cantabri-Vaccaei relief force was enough to cause the rout of 20,000 panic-stricken Roman legionaries, forcing Mancinus to surrender under humiliating peace terms.

By the early 1st century BC however, the Cantabri began to play a double game by lending their services to individual Roman Generals on occasion but, at same time, supported rebellions within Roman Spanish provinces and carried out raids in times of unrest. This opportunistic policy led them to side with Pompey
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 during the final phase of the Sertorian Wars (82–72 BC), and they continued to follow the Pompeian cause until the defeat of his Generals Afranius
Afranius
Afranius was the name of several people in ancient Rome:*Lucius Afranius , a Roman comic poet*Lucius Afranius , consul in 60 BC...

 and Petreius at the battle of Ilerda (Lérida) in 49 BC. Prior to that, the Cantabri had unsuccessfully intervened in the Gallic Wars
Gallic Wars
The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. They lasted from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the...

 by sending in 56 BC an army to help the Aquitani
Aquitani
The Aquitani were a people living in what is now Aquitaine, France, in the region between the Pyrenees, the Atlantic ocean and the Garonne...

 tribes of south-eastern Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 against Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

’s Legate Publius Crassus
Publius Crassus
In Roman literary sources, Publius Crassus may refer to several ancient Romans of the gens Licinia, including:*Publius Licinius Crassus Dives In Roman literary sources, Publius Crassus may refer to several ancient Romans of the gens Licinia, including:*Publius Licinius Crassus Dives (consul 205...

.

Under the leadership of the Cheiftain Corocotta
Corocotta
According to several historians of the 20th century, Corocotta was a Cantabrian warrior leader during the 1st century BC. His great achievement was the union of the disperse Cantabri clans in an alliance against the invading Roman armies, to the great exasperation of the powerful empire.He fought...

, the Cantabri’s own predatory raids on the Vaccaei, Turmodigi
Turmodigi
The Turmodigi were a small and obscure pre-Roman ancient Spanish people that occupied the area within the Arlanzón and Arlanza river valleys in the 2nd Iron Age.- Origins :Of mixed origins, the Turmodigi remain a mysterious people...

 and Autrigones
Autrigones
Location of the tribe of the Autrigones.The Autrigones were a pre-Roman people of ancient Spain, described by the Roman historian Paulus Orosius as neighbours of the Gallaeci, and thus had their homeland in the northwest of Hispania.-Location:Their historical territory now lies split between the...

 – whose rich territories they coveted, according to Florus
Florus
Florus, Roman historian, lived in the time of Trajan and Hadrian.He compiled, chiefly from Livy, a brief sketch of the history of Rome from the foundation of the city to the closing of the temple of Janus by Augustus . The work, which is called Epitome de T...

 –, coupled by their backing to a Vaccaei anti-Roman revolt in 29 BC, ultimately led to the outbreak of the 1st Astur-Cantabrian war
Cantabrian Wars
The Cantabrian Wars occurred during the Roman conquest of the modern provinces of Cantabria, Asturias and León, against the Asturs and the Cantabri. They were the final stage of the conquest of Hispania.-Antecedents:...

, which resulted in their conquest and partial annihilation by Emperor Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

. The remaining Cantabrian population and their tribal lands were absorbed into the newly created Transduriana Province.

Nevertheless, the harsh measures devised by Augustus and implemented by his General Marcus Vispanius Agrippa to pacify the province in the aftermath of the campaign only contributed to further instability in Cantabria. Near-constant tribal uprisings (including a serious slave revolt in 20 BC that quickly spread to neighbouring Asturias) and guerrilla warfare continued to plague the Cantabrian lands until the early 1st century AD, when the region was granted a form of local self-rule upon being included in the new Hispania Tarraconensis
Hispania Tarraconensis
Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania. It encompassed much of the Mediterranean coast of Spain along with the central plateau. Southern Spain, the region now called Andalusia, was the province of Hispania Baetica...

 province.

Romanization


Although the Romans founded colonies and established military garrisons at Castra Legio Pisoraca (camp of Legio IIII MacedonicaPalencia
Palencia
Palencia is a city south of Tierra de Campos, in north-northwest Spain, the capital of the province of Palencia in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon...

), Octaviolca (near Valdeolea
Valdeolea
Valdeolea is a municipality in Cantabria, northern Spain. It is located in a hill region crossed by the Camesa river and its numerous affluents....

 – Cantabria) and Iuliobriga (Retortillo
Retortillo
Retortillo is a municipality located in the province of Salamanca, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 264 inhabitants....

 – Reinosa
Reinosa
Reinosa is a municipality in Cantabria, Spain. , it has 10,307 inhabitants.-External links:* * - Cantabria 102 Municipios...

), Cantabria never became fully romanized and its people preserved many aspects of Celtic language, religion and culture well into the roman period. The Cantabri did not lose their warrior skills though, providing auxiliary troops (Auxilia) to the Roman Imperial army for decades, which participated in the conquest of Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 by Emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

 in AD 43.

Like their Astures’ neighbours, the Cantabri re-emerged amid the chaos of the barbarian invasions of the late 4th century AD, only to be absorbed by the Visigoths in the early 6th century AD. Thenceforward the Cantabri were Christianized and gradually assimilated, though they only became fully latinised in their language and culture after the Muslim Conquest of Iberia in the early 8th century AD.

See also

  • Astures
  • Aquitani
    Aquitani
    The Aquitani were a people living in what is now Aquitaine, France, in the region between the Pyrenees, the Atlantic ocean and the Garonne...

  • Cantabria
    Cantabria
    Cantabria is a Spanish historical region and autonomous community with Santander as its capital city. It is bordered on the east by the Basque Autonomous Community , on the south by Castile and León , on the west by the Principality of Asturias, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea.Cantabria...

  • Cantabrian wars
    Cantabrian Wars
    The Cantabrian Wars occurred during the Roman conquest of the modern provinces of Cantabria, Asturias and León, against the Asturs and the Cantabri. They were the final stage of the conquest of Hispania.-Antecedents:...

  • Corocotta
    Corocotta
    According to several historians of the 20th century, Corocotta was a Cantabrian warrior leader during the 1st century BC. His great achievement was the union of the disperse Cantabri clans in an alliance against the invading Roman armies, to the great exasperation of the powerful empire.He fought...

  • Gallic Wars
    Gallic Wars
    The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. They lasted from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the...

  • Ligures
    Ligures
    The Ligures were an ancient people who gave their name to Liguria, a region of north-western Italy.-Classical sources:...

  • Roman Civil Wars
    Roman civil wars
    There were several Roman civil wars, especially during the late Republic. The most famous of these are the war in the 40s BC between Julius Caesar and the optimate faction of the senatorial elite initially led by Pompey and the subsequent war between Caesar's successors, Octavian and Mark Antony in...

  • Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula
    Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula
    This is a list of the Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian peninsula .-Non-Indo-European:*Aquitanians**Aquitani**Autrigones - some consider them Celtic .**Caristii - some consider them Celtic ....


Further reading

  • González Echegaray, J., Las Guerras Cántabras, Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander (1999)
  • Peralta Labrador, E., Los Cántabros antes de Roma, Biblioteca Archaeologica Hispana 5, Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid (2000)
  • Zapatero, Gonzalo Ruiz et alli, Los Celtas: Hispania y Europa, dirigido por Martín Almagro-Gorbea, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Editorial ACTAS, S.l., Madrid (1993)

External links