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Title: Lusitani  
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Subject: 61 BC, 155 BC, 178 BC, Sulpicia (gens), Campaign history of the Roman military, Lusitanic, Vettones, Military history of Spain, Lucius Postumius Albinus (consul 173 BC), Vaccaei
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The Lusitanians (or Lusitani in Latin) were an Indo-European people living in the west of the Iberian Peninsula centuries before it became the Roman province of Lusitania (most of modern Portugal, Extremadura and a small part of the province of Salamanca). They spoke the Lusitanian language, an Indo-European language which might have been heavily influenced by Celtic or was closely related to Celtic, if not a form of archaic Celtic or proto Celtic. Modern Portuguese people see the Lusitanians as their ancestors. The most notable Lusitanian was Viriathus.


Some modern authors consider them to be indigenous and initially dominated by the Celts, before gaining full independence from them. Alternatively, archeologist Scarlat Lambrino proposed that they were originally a tribal group of Celtic origin related to the Lusones of Saefs origin. Diodorus Siculus considered the Lusitanians a Celtic people: "Those who are called Lusitanians are the bravest of all Cimbri".[1] Strabo differentiated the Lusitanians from the Iberian tribe.[2] The classical sources also mention Viriathus as the leader of the Celtiberians.[3] The Lusitanians were also called Belitanians, according to Artemidorus.[4][5]

Ethnological speculations abound on the origin Lusitanians and whether they had some substantial connection with the Lusones or that the similarity in their tribal names was merely accidental.

The first area settled by the Lusitanians was probably the Douro valley and the region of Beira Alta; then they moved south, and expanded on both sides of the Tagus river, before being conquered by the Romans.

The original Roman province of Lusitania briefly included the territories of Asturia and Gallaecia, but these were soon ceded to the jurisdiction of the Provincia Tarraconensis in the north, while the south remained the Provincia Lusitania et Vettones. After this, Lusitania's northern border was along the Douro river, while its eastern border passed through Salmantica and Caesarobriga to the Anas (Guadiana) river.


Categorising Lusitanian culture generally, including the language, is proving difficult. Some believe it was essentially a pre-Celtic Iberian culture with substantial Celtic influences, while others argue that it was an essentially Celtic culture with strong indigenous pre-Celtic influences.

Lusitanians lived in round and rectangular houses 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 and lived in a primitive social organization, which appears to be linked to the Atlantic Late Bronze Age. 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, the falcata and the brass spear. Roman records attest to their presence among Carthaginian mercenaries in battles in the Pyrenees.


Main article: Lusitanian mythology

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 or heavily influenced by Celtic mythology, and during later Roman rule, it also became heavily influenced by Roman mythology, while the Romans also adopted some Lusitanian gods. Also well attested in inscriptions are the names Bandua, often with a second name linked to a locality such as Bandua Aetobrico and Nabia, possibly a goddess of rivers and streams.

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


Main article: Lusitanian language

The Lusitanian language was a paleohispanic language that clearly belongs to the Indo-European family and may be related to 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".


The Lusitanians were a single large tribe that lived between the rivers Douro and Tagus. As the Lusitanians fought fiercely against the Romans for independence, the name Lusitania was adopted by the Gallaeci, tribes living north of the Douro, and other closely surrounding tribes, eventually spreading as a label to all the nearby peoples fighting Roman rule in the west of Iberia. It was for this reason that the Romans came to name their original province in the area, that initially covered the entire western side of the Iberian peninsula, Lusitania.

Tribes, often known by their Latin names, living in the area of modern Portugal, prior to 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.


The Lusitanians were considered by historians, as agile and strong in guerrilla fights. These, were selected among the strongest to defend the populace, in mountainous sites.[6]

They used hooked saunians made all of iron, and wielded swords and helmets like to those of the Celtiberians. They threw their darts at a great distance, and yet were sure to hit their marks and wound it deeply. Being of active and nimble bodies, they could easily pursue their enemy and decapitate their heads. In time of peace, they had a kind of a light and airy way of dancing, which required great agility and nimbleness of the legs and thighs. In time of war they marched observing-time and measured, when they are just ready to charge the enemy.[7]

Apiano narrates, when Praetor Brutus sacked Lusitania after chasing Viriathus, the women fought valiantly next to their men. Implying that women also received formal training.[8]

War with the Romans and eventual Romanisation

Main article: Lusitanian War

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 (who had been sent as emissaries to the Romans), Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus, bribed by Marcus Popillius Laenas. However, when Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus returned to receive their reward by the Romans, the Consul Servilius Caepio ordered their execution, declaring, "Rome does not pay traitors".

After the death of Viriatus, the Lusitanians kept fighting under the leadership of Tautalus (Greek: Τάυταλος), but gradually, 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


External links

  • Detailed map of the Pre-Roman Peoples of Iberia (around 200 BC)
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