Vaccaei or Vaccei were a pre-Roman Celtic people of Spain, who
inhabited the sedimentary plains of the central
Duero valley, in the
Meseta Central of northern
Hispania (specifically in Castile and
León). Its capital was
Intercatia in Paredes de Nava.
6 See also
8.1 Further reading
9 External links
Iberian Peninsula in the 3rd century BC.
Vaccaei were probably largely of Celtic descent and probably
related to the Celtiberians. Their name may be derived from the
Celtic word vacos, meaning a slayer, since they were celebrated
fighters. However, some scholars have reasoned that the name
‘Vaccaei’ may actually derive from ‘Aued-Ceia’, a contraction
of Ceia, the presumed ancient name of the modern river Cea, prefixed
by the Indo-European root *aued- (water).
They often acted in consort with their neighbours, the Celtiberi,
suggesting that they may have been part of the Celtiberian peoples.
They had a strict egalitarian society practising land reform and
communal food distribution. This society was part of an
Hispano-Celtic substrate, which explains the cultural, socio-economic,
linguistic and ideological affinity of the Vaccaei, Celtiberians,
Vettones, Lusitani, Cantabri,
Astures and Callaeci. The
Vaccean civilization was the result of a process of local evolution,
importing elements from other cultures, whether by new additions of
people or cultural and trading contacts with neighbouring groups. It
is also believed that it was from the Vaccei that the warlike Arevaci
stemmed from around the late 4th Century BC to conquer the eastern
Archeology has identified the Vaccei with the 2nd
Iron Age ‘Duero
Culture’ – which evolved from the previous early
Iron Age ‘Soto
de Medinilla’ (c. 800-400 BC) cultural complex of the middle Duero
basin –, being also affiliated with the Turmodigi. This is confirmed
by the stratigraphic study of their settlements, where have been found
elements of the Vaccean culture on top of the remains of earlier
cultures. For example, at
Pintia (modern-day Padilla de
Valladolid), there is evidence of continuous human settlement since
Eneolithic times to the Iron Age, when the Vaccean period arose. The
Pintia is currently being excavated by an international
field school students’ team every summer under the supervision of
University of Valladolid
University of Valladolid and the Federico Wattenberg Center of
A grave excavated at
Pintia in June 2008, containing many perfume
The Vaccei were considered the most cultivated people west of the
Celtiberians, and were distinguishable by a special collectivist type
social structure, which enabled them to exploit successfully the
wheat- and grass-growing areas of the western plateau.
The Vaccean homeland extended throughout the center of the northern
Meseta, along both banks of the
Duero River. Their capital was
Palencia or Palenzuela) and Ptolemy lists in
their territory some twenty towns or Civitates, including
Helmantica/Salmantica (Salamanca), Arbucala (Toro), Pincia or Pintia
Duero – Valladolid),
Paredes de Nava
Paredes de Nava –
Palencia), Cauca (Coca – Segovia), Septimanca (Simancas), Rauda
(Roa), Dessobriga (Oserna) and Autraca or Austraca – located at the
banks of the river Autra (Odra), seized from the
Autrigones in the
late 4th century BC – to name but a few. Although its borders are
difficult to define, and shifted from time to time, it can be said to
have occupied all of the province of Valladolid, and parts of León,
Palencia, Burgos, Segovia, Salamanca and Zamora. By the time of the
arrival of the Romans, the Cea and Esla rivers separated the Vaccaei
Astures in the northwest, while a line traced between the
Esla and the Pisuerga rivers was the border with the Cantabri. To the
east, the Pisuerga and Arlanza rivers marked the frontier with the
Turmodigi, and a little farther south, the
Arevaci were their
neighbors and allies. On the south and southeast lay the
an area that roughly corresponds to the distribution of verracos
around the highlands of Ávila and Salamanca and Aliste (Zamora),
between them and the Lusitanians. It is likely that there was some
contact with the latter to the west of Zamora.
Traditionally aggressive, the Vaccei were far from being the
“harmless and submissive nation” portrayed by Paulus Orosius.
They participated in the 5th century BC
Celtici migrations alongside
off-shots of the
Lusones to settle in the west and
southwest regions of the Iberian Peninsula. In the early 3rd Century
BC they aided the smaller
Turmodigi people in their liberation from
the rule of the Autrigones. The Vaccei enter the historical record
around the late 3rd century BC, when in 221-220 BC they allied
themselves with the
Olcades to thwart Hannibal Barca’s
offensive into their respective territories, but they were defeated
after the fall of Salmantica and Arbucala to the
Carthaginians. The Vaccei appear to have taken no part in the
2nd Punic War, though in 193-192 BC they joined the combined force of
Carpetani, Vettones, and
Celtiberians that was defeated by Consul
Marcus Fulvius at the battle of Toletum. Alongside the Lusitani,
they were again beaten by the
Hispania Ulterior Lucius
Postumius Albinus during its first incursion into the central Meseta
in 179 BC.
Allies of the
Arevaci during the Celtiberian Wars, the Vaccei assumed
a more important role by supporting their neighbors, despite being
subjected to the punitive campaigns carried out by the Roman Consuls
Lucius Licinius Luculus (151-150 BC), Marcus Popilius Laenas
(139-138 BC) and Marcus Emilius Lepidus (137 BC). After the
Numantia in 134-133 BC, the Vaccei were technically
submitted and included into
Hispania Citerior province; however,
during the Sertorian Wars they lend their support to Quintus
Sertorius, with several Vacceian towns remaining loyal to his cause
even after his death. In 76 BC, Sertorius’ sent one of its cavalry
commanders, Gaius Insteius, to the vacceian country in search of
remounts for its battered mounted troops. The backlash came in 74
Pompey besieged the vacceian capital Pallantia,
setting on fire its adobe brick walls and stormed Cauca.
Defeated in 73 BC by
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius and Pompey, the
Vaccei rose again in 57-56 BC in a joint uprising with the Turmodigi
and northern Celtiberians, only to be crushed by the
Citerior Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos Iunior. Pressured by
Cantabri raids, the Vaccei rebelled a last time in 29 BC,
just prior to the Astur-Cantabrian wars, only to be subdued by Consul
Titus Statilius Taurus.
The Vaccei were later aggregated to the new
province created in 27 BC by Emperor Augustus.
The Basques came to be called mistakenly
Vaccaei and Vacceti by
several early medieval chronicles and authors.
Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula
^ Cremin, The
Celts in Europe (1992), p. 57.
^ a b c d Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí (2002). The Celts: A History. Cork:
Collins Press. p. 75. ISBN 0-85115-923-0.
^ Martino, Roma contra Cantabros y
Astures – Nueva lectura de las
fuentes, p. 18, footnote 14.
^ Almagro-Gorbea, Martín; Alberto J. Lorrio (2004). "War and Society
in the Celtiberian World". Journal of Interdisciplinary Cetlic
^ Koch, John T. (2006). Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia.
ABC-CLIO. p. 481.
^ Cólera, Carlos Jordán (March 16, 2007). "The
Celts in the Iberian
Peninsula:Celtiberian" (PDF). e-Keltoi. 6: 749–750. Retrieved 16
^ Diodorus Siculus, Bibliothekes Istorikes, V: 34, 3.
^ Ptolemy, Geographia, II, 5, 6
^ Paulus Orosius, Historiarum adversus Paganus, 5, 5.
^ Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, 21: 5.
^ Polybius, Istorion, 3, 13.
^ Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, 37: 7, 6.
^ Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, 40: 35, 39, 44, 47-50.
^ Appian, Romaika, 6, 51-52; 54.
^ Appian, Romaika, 17, 79.
^ Livy, Fragmenta Librii, 91.
^ Appian, Romaika, 1, 112.
^ Frontinus, Stratagematikom, II, 11, 2.
^ Cassius Dio, Romaïké istoría, 39, 54.
Blanco, António Bellido, Sobre la escritura entre los Vacceos, in
ZEPHYRUS – revista de prehistoria y arqueologia, vol. LXIX,
Enero-Junio 2012, Ediciones Universidad Salamanca, pp. 129–147.
Collins, Roger, The Vaccaei, the Vaceti, and the rise of Vasconia,
Studia Historica VI. Salamanca, 1988. Reprinted in Roger Collins, Law,
Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain. Variorum (1992).
Cremin, Aedeen, The
Celts in Europe, Sydney, Australia: Sydney Series
in Celtic Studies 2, Centre for Celtic Studies, University of Sydney
(1992) ISBN 0-86758-624-9.
Alvarado, Alberto Lorrio J., Los Celtíberos, Universidad Complutense
de Madrid, Murcia (1997) ISBN 84-7908-335-2
Duque, Ángel Montenegro et alli, Historia de España 2 –
colonizaciones y formacion de los pueblos prerromanos, Editorial
Gredos, Madrid (1989) ISBN 84-249-1013-3
González-Cobos, A.M., Los Vacceos – Estudio sobre los pobladores
del valle medio del
Duero durante la penetración romana, Universidad
Pontificia, Salamanca (1989)
Motoza, Francisco Burillo, Los Celtíberos – Etnias y Estados,
Crítica, Grijalbo Mondadori, S.A., Barcelona (1998, revised edition
2007) ISBN 84-7423-891-9
Leonard A Curchin (5 May 2004). The Romanization of Central Spain:
Complexity, Diversity and Change in a Provincial Hinterland.
Routledge. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-1-134-45112-8.
Almagro-Gorbea, Martín, Les Celtes dans la péninsule Ibérique, in
Les Celtes, Éditions Stock, Paris (1997) ISBN 2-234-04844-3
Berrocal-Rangel, Luis, Los pueblos célticos del soroeste de la
Península Ibérica, Editorial Complutense, Madrid (1992)
Berrocal-Rangel, Luis & Gardes, Philippe, Entre celtas e íberos,
Fundación Casa de Velázquez, Madrid (2001)
Martino, Eutimio, Roma contra Cantabros y
Astures – Nueva lectura de
las fuentes, Breviarios de la Calle del Pez n. º 33, Diputación
provincial de León/Editorial Eal Terrae, Santander (1982)
Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí, The Celts: A History, The Collins Press, Cork
(2002) ISBN 0-85115-923-0
Koch, John T.(ed.), Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia,
ABC-CLIO Inc., Santa Barbara, California (2006)
ISBN 1-85109-440-7, 1-85109-445-8
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)
Detailed map of the Pre-Roman Peoples of Iberia (around 200 BC)
Álvarez-Sanchís, Jesús R. (2005), "Oppida and Celtic society in
western Spain". e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies