Picentes or Picentini (Ancient Greek: Πίκεντες,
Πικεντῖνοι) refers to the population of Picenum, on the
Adriatic coastal plain of ancient Italy. Their endonym, if
any, is not known for certain. There is linguistic evidence that the
Picentini comprised two different ethnicities: a group known to
scholars as the "South Picenes" (or South Picenians) were an Italic
tribe, while the "North Picenes" (or North Picenians) appear to
have had closer links to non-Italic peoples.
Usage of the toponym
Picenum depends on the time period. The region
between the Apennines and the
Adriatic Sea south of
a Greek colony) was in
Picenum during the entire early historic
Rimini to the north the population was
multi-ethnic. In the
Roman Republic it was Gallia Togata, but the
Gauls were known to have combined or supplanted earlier populations.
The ager Gallicus, as it was called, was considered both Gaul and
Picenum. Under the
Roman Empire the coast south of
Rimini was united
or reunited with the country south of
Ancona as Picenum. By then the
only language spoken was Latin.
Ancona southward a language of the Umbrian group was spoken,
today called South Picene. It is attested mainly in inscriptions.
Umbrian was an Italic language. North of
non-Italic language, written in a version of the Old Italic script, is
attested by four inscriptions (three of which are very brief); this
has been termed, for convenience, North Picene. Both the meaning of
the inscriptions and the relationship of
North Picene to other
languages remains unknown. There is phonological evidence that it was
linked more closely to the
Indo-European language family
Indo-European language family (than to, for
example, Etruscan). Some authors have referred to
North Picene as
simply "Picene" – under a hypothesis that it represents the original
language across Picenum, although there is as yet evidence for this.
2 Mythology regarding the origins of the Picentes
4 See also
Statue of the
Capestrano Warrior at Chieti Museum.
One endonym of the Picentes, or at least the South Picenes, may be
Pupeneis or, according to
Edward Togo Salmon "something similar", as
this apparently ethnic name is used in four South Picenian language
inscriptions found near Ascoli Piceno. Later refinements of the
argument connected it to the Latin name Poponius, as in inscription TE
1 found near Teramo:
apaes ...púpúnis nir
"Appaes ... a Poponian man"
The connection between Poponian and Picentes, if any, remains
There is no mention in ancient sources of the endonym used by the
The first document to mention the Latin exonym
Picentes is the Fasti
triumphales, which record for 268/267 BC a triumph given to Publius
Sempronius Sophus for a victory de Peicentibus, "over the Picentes,"
where the -ei- is an
Old Latin form. The entire group of Latin Picene
words delivered subsequently appear to follow the standard rules for
Latin word formation. The root is Pīc-, provenience and meaning yet
unknown. The extended Pīc-ēn- is used to form a second-declension
adjective, appearing in such phrases as Pīcēnus ager, "Picene
country," Pīcēnae olivae, "Picene olives", and the neuter used as a
noun, Pīcēnum. These are not references to any people, *Pīcēni,
but to the country. Pīcēni where it occurs is the genitive case of
Pīcēnum and not a nominative plural; that is "of Picenum" and not
"the Piceni." Similarly Pīcēnus used alone implies Pīcēnus ager,
the "Picene (country)" and does not mean one resident of Picenum. This
adjective is never used of the people.
For the people, a third-declension adjective stem is formed:
Pīc-ent-, used in Pīcens and Pīcentes, "a Picentine" and "the
Picentines," which are nouns formed from the adjective. This adjective
can be used of people or of other words, as well as in a second
formation of the name of the country, Pīcentum. From it comes a final
name of the people, Pīcentini. The historical order in which these
words appeared or whether they came from each other remains unknown.
Mythology regarding the origins of the Picentes
Bronze fibula and "pettorale" at Museo Archeologico Nazionale delle
Marche Region coat of arms inspired by the picus legend.
According to Strabo, the Picentini were Sabine colonists,
although this is doubted by more recent scholars, who see the South
Picenes at least as more closely related to the Sabellians.
Strabo also relates a legend that a woodpecker (Latin: picus) led the
Picenum for the people who became the Picentini and apparently
a folk etymology of their ethnonym was "those of the woodpecker."
Strabo likewise reported myths that other regions of
colonized by people relying on the divinely-inspired guidance of a
ritually selected animal: a bull for the
Sabines and a wolf for the
Hirpini i.e. "those of the wolf" or hirpo. The woodpecker clearly
played a part in Picene religion and culture, which strengthens the
case for the animal being the source of their endonym. Modern
advocates of the theory include: Joshua Whatmough (influenced by James
George Frazer), believed that many Italic peoples had tribal totems.
According to Whatmough, Italia was thought to mean "land of
calves", while wolves were esteemed in varying ways by several
peoples, including the Hirpini, Romans and
Lucani (whose name was
apparently derived from a root such as *luco- "wolf".)
In 299 BC the Romans captured Nequinum, a city of the Umbrians,
colonized it and renamed it
Narni (after the River Nar). They also
concluded a treaty with a people
Livy calls the
Picentes (the term
used is cum Picenti populo, "with the Picentine people"). In 297
Picentes warned the Roman Senate that they had been approached
Samnites asking for alliance in renewed hostilities with Rome.
The Senate thanked them.
After a gap in the record of nearly 30 years the
Picentes appear again
in a totally different relationship with Rome. The Ager Gallicus on
the northeast coast of
Italy had for some time been populated by
different ethnic groups, mainly Picentes, Etruscans and Gauls. Ancona
had been placed there by the Greeks of Sicily; north of it the Gauls
predominated. In 283 BC after a series of victories over the Gauls,
including the Battle of Lake Vadimon, the Romans expelled the Gallic
Senones from the coastal region and annexed it down to Ancona, after
which it became "Gallia Togata." In 268 BC the
Picentes were defeated
in Gallia Togata by two consular armies. Evidently they had rebelled
against Rome, probably in 269.
Ancona and Asculum remained independent but the rest of
annexed. The Romans placed two more colonies to hold it: Ariminum in
268 and Firmum in 264. Between these years they moved large
Picentes to Campania, giving them land at
Paestum and on
the river Silarus and assisted them to build a city, Picentia. They
also placed a garrison at Salernum to monitor them.
that in his time they had depopulated the city in favor of villages
scattered about the
Salerno region. In Ptolemy's time (2nd century
AD) a population named by him the Picentini were still at Salernum and
North Picene language
South Picene language
Ancient peoples of Italy
^ a b Philip Baldi, 1999, The Foundations of Latin, The Hague, Mouton
de Gruyter, pp. 134–6, 152–3.
^ language articles use the SIL International
classification. Salmon proposed unsuccessfully that
South Picene is
the language from which Osco-Umbrian descended subsequent to the 6th
^ Salmon, Edward Togo (1988). "The Iron Age: the peoples of Italy". In
Boardman, John; Hammond, NGL; Lewis, DM; et al. The Cambridge Ancient
History. Volume 4: Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean, c.525
to 479 BC (2nd ed.). pp. 697–698. ISBN 0-521-22804-2. Four
of those found north of the Tronto or near
Ascoli Piceno allude to a
people called Pupeneis or something similar: could these be the Italic
Picentes known to the Romans?
^ Weiss, Michael (2001). "Observations on the
South Picene Inscription
TE 1 (S. Omero)" (PDF). Cornell University. Retrieved 30 August
^ Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles (2007) . "Pīcēnum". A
Latin Dictionary. Perseus Digital LIbrary, Tufts University. Retrieved
4 September 2010.
^ Strabo, Geography (V, 3, 1):The
Sabini not only are a very
ancient race but are also the indigenous inhabitants (and both the
Picentini and the Samnitae are colonists from the Sabini, and the
Leucani from the Samnitae, and the Brettii from the Leucani).
^ A system of ancient and mediaeval geography for the use of schools
and colleges. by Charles Anthon. by Michigan Historical Reprint
Series,ISBN 1-4255-7080-1,2005,page 302,"... in Strabo's time, a
city of note. - PICENUM. (A.) NAME, BOUNDARIES, &C. 1. Picénum
took its name from the Picentes, its inhabitants, who were a colony of
Sabines ; ..."
^ Strabo. Geography. Book V, Chapter 4, Sections 2 and 12. The
Picentini are originally from the Sabine country, a woodpecker having
led the way ... and hence their name, for they call this bird 'picus',
and consider it sacred to Mars
^ Whatmough, Joshua (1937). The Foundations of Roman Italy. New York:
Haskell House Publishers Ltd. p. 242.
Livy (1st century AD). "Book 10, Chapter 10". History of Rome.
Check date values in: date= (help)
Livy (1st century AD). "Book 10, Chapter 11". History of Rome.
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^ Boatwright, Mary T; Gargola, Daniel J; Talbert, Richard JA (2004).
The Romans: From Village to Empire. New York, Oxford: Oxford
University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-19-511876-6. By the 260s,
few, if any, communities in Etruria, Umbria and
Picenum possessed any
real independence.... The
Picentes revolted in 269.
^ Staveley, ES (1989). "Rome and
Italy in the Early Third Century". In
Walbank, Frank William. The Cambridge Ancient History. Volume VII: the
Hellenistic World: Part 2: The Rise of Rome to 220 BC. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. p. 425. Certainly, steps designed to
consolidate her hold in the north-east followed this incident in quick
succession: the foundation in 268 of the Latin colony of Ariminum ....
the annexation of the whole Picentine land save for ...
Ancona and ...
Asculum; the transportation of large numbers of
Picentes to the ager
Picentinus on the west coast, and finally in 264 the planting of a
second large Latin colony on the coast at Firmum.
Strabo (1st century AD). "Book 5, Chapter 4, Section 13".
Geography. Check date values in: date= (help)
^ Ptolemaeus, Claudius (2nd century AD). "Book III, Chapter I, Section
7". Check date values in: date= (help); Missing or empty