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LEPO´NTII

Eth. LEPO´NTII (Eth. Ληπόντιοι, Strab., Ptol.), an Alpine people, who inhabited the valleys on the south side of the Alps, about the head of the two great lakes, the Logo di Como and Lago Maggiore. Strabo tells us distinctly that they were a Rhaetian tribe (iv. p. 206), and adds that, like many others of the minor Alpine tribes, they had at one time spread further into Italy, but had been gradually driven back into the mountains. (Ib. p. 204.) There is some difficulty in determining the position and limits of their territory. Caesar tells us that the Rhine took its rise in the country of the Lepontii (B. G. 4.10), and Pliny says that the Uberi (or Viberi), who were a tribe of the Lepontii, occupied the sources of the Rhone (Plin. Nat. 3.20. s. 24). Ptolemy, on the contrary (3.1.38), places them in the Cottian Alps; but this is opposed to all the other statements, Strabo distinctly connecting them with the Rhaetians. Their name occurs also in the list of the Alpine nations on the trophy of Augustus (ap. Plin. l.c.), in a manner quite in accordance with the statements of Caesar and Pliny; and on the [p. 2.161]whole we may safely place them in the group of the Alps, of which the Mont St. Gothard is the centre, and from which the Rhone and the Rhine, as well as the Reuss and the Ticino, take their rise. The name of Val Levantina, still given to the upper valley of the Ticino, near the foot of the St. Gothard, is very probably derived from the name of the Lepontii. Their chief town, according to Ptolemy, was Oscela or Oscella, which is generally supposed to be Domo d'Ossola; but, as the Lepontii are erroneously placed by him in the Cottian Alps, it is perhaps more probable that the town meant by him is the Ocelum of Caesar (now Uxeau), which was really situated in that district. [OCELUM]

The name of ALPES LEPONTIAE, or Lepontian Alps, is generally given by modern geographers to the part of this chain extending from Monte Rosa to the St. Gothard; but there is no ancient authority for this use of the term.

[E.H.B]

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    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.20
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