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The Lusitanians (or Lusitani in Latin) were an Indo-European people living in the Western Iberian Peninsula long before it became the Roman province of Lusitania (modern Portugal south of the Douro River and what now is Extremadura in modern Spain). They spoke the Lusitanian language, and were either of Celtic origin or else became Celticized over time. The modern Portuguese people see the Lusitanians living in the western Iberian peninsula as their ancestors. The most notable Lusitanian was Viriathus.

Contents

Origins

Lusitanians may have come from the Alps and settled in the region in the 6th century BC. But historians and archeologists are undecided about their ethnic origins. Some modern authors consider them to be indigenous and initially dominated by the Celts, before gaining full independence from them. The archeologist Scarlat Lambrino proposed that they were originally a tribal group of Celtic origin related to the Lusones that inhabited the east of the Iberian Peninsula. Possibly, both tribes came from the Swiss mountains. Many prefer to see the Lusitanians as native Iberian, resulting from intermarriage between tribes, which is disproved since Lusitanians were without a doubt Indo-European and Iberians were not.

Ethnological theories abound on the origin of Lusones and Lusitanians. Also the Lusitanians may have an ethnolinguistic link with the Italic peoples of the Italian peninsula, which is commonly believed given by the history of the Mediterranean region.

The first area settled by the Lusitanians was probably the Douro valley and the region of Beira Alta; in Beira they stayed until they defeated the Celts and other tribes, then they expanded up to the Tagus middle valley (current Spanish Extremadura), before being conquered by the Romans.

Originally the Roman province of Lusitania included the territories of Asturia and Gallaecia, but these were later ceded to the jurisdiction of new Provincia Tarraconensis and the former remained as Provincia Lusitania et Vettones. Its northern border was along the Douro, while on its eastern side its border passed through Salmantica and Caesarobriga to the Anas (Guadiana) river.

Culture

Lusitanian culture was influenced by Celtic culture.

Lusitanian lunula from Miranda do Corvo (Portugal)

Lusitanians lived in small quadrangular houses (round in the north) with a single floor, made of stones. Their clothes were made of wool or of goat skin. They wore necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry made of gold. They made their jewels using a filigree method, or by hammering. Wine was only used in festivities and they usually drank water, goats milk and beer. Lusitanians practiced monogamy. They used boats made of leather, or from harvested lumber.

They used anointing-rooms twice a day and took baths in vapors that rose from heated stones, then bathing in cold water.

They practiced gymnastic exercises such as boxing and racing. They sacrificed goats, horses, and human prisoners to Cariocecus, god of war.

In battles with the Romans, Lusitanians gained a reputation as fierce fighters. They used weapons such as the dagger, the iron javelin, and the brass spear. Roman records attest to their presence among Carthaginian mercenaries in battles in the Pyrenees.

Religion

The Lusitanians worshipped various gods in a very diverse polytheism, using animal sacrifice. They represented their gods and warriors in rudimentary sculpture. Endovelicus was the most important god: his cult eventually spread across the Iberian peninsula and beyond, to the rest of the Roman Empire and his cult maintained until the 5th century; he was the god of public health and safety. The goddess Ataegina was especially popular in the south; as the goddess of rebirth (Spring), fertility, nature, and cure, she was identified with Proserpina during the Roman era. Lusitanian mythology was related to Celtic mythology, and during later Roman rule it also became heavily influenced by Roman mythology, as Romans also started venerating Lusitanian gods. Runesocesius, the javelin god, was also an important god, and often formed the supreme trinity in the Lusitanian pagan religion with Endovelicus and Ataegina.

The Lusitanians practiced the cult of the dead, and used cremation.

Language

The Lusitanian language was a paleohispanic language that clearly belongs to the Indo-European family like the Celtiberian language.

The precise filiation of the Lusitanian language inside Indo-European family is still in debate: there are those who endorse that it is a Celtic language with an obvious "celticity" to most of the lexicon, over many anthroponyms and toponyms. A second theory relates Lusitanian with the Italic languages; based on a relation of the name of Lusitanian deities with other grammatical elements of the area. Finally, Ulrich Schmoll proposed a new branch to which he named "Galician-Lusitanian".

Tribes

Map showing the main pre-Roman tribes in Portugal and their main migrations. Turduli movement in red, Celtici in brown and Lusitanian in a blue colour. Most tribes neighbouring the Lusitanians were dependent on them. Names are in Latin.

The Lusitanians were primarily a single tribe that lived between the rivers Douro and Tagus. Later, the name Lusitania was adopted by ancient Calaicians or Gallaeci (tribes living in the north of Douro River) and other closely surrounding tribes, eventually spreading as a label to all the local people fighting the Roman rule - but also because they were all culturally and ethnically very similar. Most of these tribes were from the north of the Douro river.

Tribes, often known by their Latin names, living in the area of Portugal prior to the Roman rule:

  • Bardili (Turduli) - living in the Setúbal peninsula;
  • Bracari - living between the rivers Tâmega and Cávado, in the area of the modern city of Braga;
  • Callaici -living north of the River Douro;
  • Celtici - Celts living in Alentejo;
  • Coelerni - living in the mountains between the rivers Tua and Sabor;
  • Cynetes or Conii - living in the Algarve and the south of Alentejo;
  • Equaesi - living in the most mountainous region of modern Portugal;
  • Grovii - a mysterious tribe living in the Minho valley;
  • Interamici - living in Trás-os-Montes and in the border areas with Galicia (in modern Spain);
  • Leuni - living between the rivers Lima and Minho;
  • Luanqui - living between the rivers Tâmega and Tua;
  • Lusitani - being the most numerous and dominant of the region;
  • Limici - living in the swamps of the river Lima, on the border between Portugal and Galicia);
  • Narbasi - living in the north of modern Portugal (interior) and nearby area of southern Galicia;
  • Nemetati - living north of the Douro Valley in the area of Mondim;
  • Paesuri - a dependent tribe of the Lusitanians, living between the rivers Douro and Vouga;
  • Quaquerni - living in the mountains at the mouths of rivers Cavado and Tâmega;
  • Seurbi - living between the rivers Cávado and Lima (or even reaching the river Minho);
  • Tamagani - from the area of Chaves, near the river Tâmega;
  • Tapoli - another dependent tribe of the Lusitanians, living north of the river Tagus, on the border between modern Portugal and Spain;
  • Turduli - in the east of Alentejo (Guadiana Valley);
  • Turduli Veteres - the "ancient Turduli" living south of the estuary of the river Douro;
  • Turdulorum Oppida - Turduli living in the Portuguese region of Estremadura;
  • Turodi - living in Trás-os-Montes and bordering areas of Galicia;
  • Vettones - living in the Spanish provinces of Ávila and Salamanca, as well as parts of Zamora, Toledo and Cáceres;
  • Zoelae - living in the mountains of Serra da Nogueira, Sanabria and Culebra, up to the mountains of Mogadouro in northern Portugal and adjacent areas of Galicia.

War with the Romans and eventual Romanisation

Since 193 BC, the Lusitanians had been fighting the Romans. In 150 BC, they were defeated by Praetor Servius Galba: springing a clever trap, he killed 9,000 Lusitanians and later sold 20,000 more as slaves in Gaul (modern France). Three years later (147 BC), Viriathus became the leader of the Lusitanians and severely damaged the Roman rule in Lusitania and beyond. In 139 BC Viriathus was betrayed and killed in his sleep by his companions (that had been sent as emissaries to the Romans), Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus, bribed by Marcus Pompilius Lenas. However, when Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus return to receive their reward by the Romans, the Consul Servilius Cipianus ordered their execution, declaring, "Rome does not pay traitors".

After Viriathus' rule, the Lusitanians became largely romanised and more interbred with them, acquiring Roman culture and language; the Lusitanian cities, in a manner similar to those of the rest of the romanised Iberian peninsula, eventually gained the status of "Citizens of Rome". The Portuguese language itself is a local evolution of the Roman language, Latin.

Contemporary meaning

Lusitanians are often used by Portuguese writers as a metaphor for the Portuguese people, and similarly, Lusophone is used to refer to a Portuguese speaker.

Lusitanic is at present a term used to categorize persons who share the linguistic and cultural traditions of the Portuguese-speaking nations and territories of Portugal, Brazil, Macau, Timor-Leste, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea Bissau and others.

See also

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