), a Celtic people, whose country Caesar names Venetia (B. G.
3.9). The Veneti lived on the coast of the Atlantic (B. G.
2.34), and were one of the Armoric or Maritime states of Celtica. On the south they bordered on the Namnetes or Nannetes, on the east they had the Redones, and on the north the Osismii, who occupied the most western part of Bretagne.
Strabo (iv. p.195
) made a great mistake in supposing the Veneti to be Belgae.
He also supposes them to be the progenitors of the Veneti on the coast of the Hadriatic, whom others supposed to be Paphlagonians; however, he gives all this only as conjecture.
The chief town of the Veneti was Dariorigum, afterwards Veneti, now Vannes
[DARIORIGUM.] The river Vilaine
may have been the southern boundary of the Veneti.
Caesar (Caes. Gal. 3.9
) describes the coast of Venetia as cut up by aestuaries, which interrupted the communication by land along the shore. Most of the towns (Ib.
12) were situated at the extremity of tongues of land or peninsulas, so that when the tide was up the towns could not be reached on foot, nor could ships reach them during the ebb, for the water was then too shallow.
This is the character [p. 2.1271]
of the coast of the French department of Morbihan,
which corresponds pretty nearly to Caesar's Venetia. On this coast there are many bays and many “lingulae” as Caesar calls them (Pointes
The most remarkable peninsula is Quiberon,
which runs out into the sea near 10 miles, and is insulated at high water. The Veneti commanded the sea in these parts, and as the necessities of navigation often drove vessels to their ports, they made them pay for the shelter. The Veneti had trade with Britain, with Devonshire
the parts of the island which were nearest to them. They were the most powerful maritime state on the Atlantic.
Their vessels were made nearly flat-bottomed, in order that they might the better take the ground when they were left dry by the ebb.
The heads were very high, and the sterns strong built, to stand the violence of their seas.
The material was oak. Instead of ropes they had chain cables, the use of which has been revived in the present century. Strabo (iv. p.195
) writes as if the ropes of the rigging were chains, which is very absurd, and is contradicted by Caesar, who says that the yards were fastened to the masts by ropes, which the Romans cut asunder in the sea-fight with the Veneti (3.14). Instead of sails they used skins and leather worked thin, either because they had. no flax and did not know its use, or, as Caesar supposes it to be more likely, because flaxen sails were not suited for the tempests of that coast.
The Veneti rose against the Romans in the winter of B.C. 57, and induced many other neighbouring states to join them, even the Morini and Menapii. They also sent to Britain for help. Caesar, who was absent in Italy during the winter (B.C. 57--56), sent orders to build ships on the Loire,
probably in the territory of the Andes, Turones and Carnutes, where his legions were quartered, and the ships were floated down to the Ocean.
He got his rowers from the Provincia.
In the meantime he came himself into Gallia.
He protected his rear against attack by sending Labienus to the country of the Treviri, to keep the Belgae quiet and to stop the Germans from crossing the Rhine.
He sent P. Crassus with twelve cohorts and a large body of cavalry into Aquitania to prevent the Celtae from receiving any aid from these parts; and he kept the Unelli [UNELLI
], Curiosolites and Lexovii in check by sending Q. Titurius Sabinus into those parts with three legions. D. Brutus commanded Caesar's fleet and the Gallic ships furnished by the Pictones and Santones, and other states that had been reduced to obedience.
Caesar began the campaign by besieging the Venetian towns that were situated on the extremities of the tongues of land; but as the Veneti had abundance of ships, they removed themselves by water from one town to another, when they could no longer resist the besieger. They did this during a great part of the summer, and Caesar could not prevent it, for he had not yet got together all his ships.
After taking several of their towns he waited for the remainder of his fleet. The Veneti with about 220 of their best equipped ships came out of port to meet the Romans. The Roman ships could not do the Gallic ships any damage by driving the heads of their vessels against them, for the Gallic ships were too high at the prow and too strong; nor could the Romans have attacked them by raising wooden frameworks on their decks, for the Gallic ships were too high.
The only advantage that the Roman ships had was in the oars, which the Gallic ships had not. They could only trust to their sails. The Romans at last fixed sharp hooks at the end of long poles, and laying hold of the enemy's rigging with them, and then putting their own vessels in motion by the oars, they cut the ropes asunder, and the yards and sails falling down, the Venetian ships were useless. Everything now depended on courage, in which the Romans had the advantage; and the men were encouraged by the presence of Caesar and the army, which occupied all the hills and higher ground which commanded a view of the sea. The Roman ships got round the Venetian, two or three about each, for they had the advantage in number of vessels, and the men began to board the enemy. Some ships were taken and the rest tried to sail away, but a dead calm came on and they could not stir.
A very few ships escaped to the land at nightfall.
The battle lasted from the fourth hour in the morning to sunset. Thus was destroyed the first naval power that was formed on the coast of the Atlantic. The Veneti lost their ships, all their young men of fighting age, and most of their men of mature age and of rank. They surrendered unconditionally. Caesar put to death all the members of the Venetian state assembly, on the ground that they had violated the law of nations by imprisoning Q. Velanius and T. Silius, who had been sent into their country in the previous winter to get supplies for the Roman troops who were quartered along the Loire
The rest of the people were sold by auction; all, we must suppose, that Caesar could lay hold of. Thus the territory of the Veneti was nearly depopulated, and an active commercial people was swept from the earth. The Veneti never appear again as a powerful state. When Vercingetorix was rousing all Gallia to come against Caesar at Alesia (B.C. 52), the contingent of all the Armoric states, seven or eight in number, was only 6000 men (B. G.
Dio Cassius (39.40--43) has four chapters on the history of this Venetian war, which, as usual with him, he puts in confusion, by misunderstanding Caesar and making his own silly additions.