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Eth. PICENTI´NI (Eth. Πικεντῖνοι, Ptol.; Πίκεντες, Strab.), a tribe or people of Central Italy, settled in the southern part of Campania, adjoining the frontiers of Lucania. Their name obviously indicates a close connection with the inhabitants of Picenum on the opposite side of the Italian peninsula; and this is explained by Strabo, who tells us that they were in fact a portion of that people who had been transported by the Romans from their original abodes to the shores of the Tyrrhenian sea. (Strab. v. p.251.) The period of this transfer is not mentioned, but it in all probability took place on or shortly after the conquest of Picenum by the Romans, B.C. 268. During the Second Punic War, the Picentini espoused the cause of Hannibal, for which conduct they were severely punished after the close of the war, being, like the Lucanians and Bruttians, prohibited from military service, and employed for the inferior duties of public messengers and couriers. They were at the same time compelled to abandon their chief town, which bore the name of Picentia, and to disperse themselves in the villages and hamlets of the surrounding country. (Strab. l.c.) The more effectually to hold them in check, the Romans in B.C. 194 founded in their territory the colony of Salernum, which quickly rose to be a flourishing town, and the chief place of the surrounding district (Strab. l.c.; Liv. 34.45; Vell. 1.15). Picentia, however, did not cease to exist: Florus indeed appears to date its destruction only from the period of the Social War (Flor. 3.18); but even long after this it is mentioned as a town both by Mela and Pliny, and its name is still found in the Tabula as late as the 4th century. (Mel. 2.4.9; Plin. Nat. 3.5. s. 9; Tab. Peut.) The name of Vicenza is still borne by a hamlet on the road from Salerno to Eboli, and the stream on which it is situated is still called the Vicentino; but it is probable that the ancient city was situated rather more inland. (Romanelli, vol. iii. p. 610; Zannoni, Carta del Regno di Napoli.

The boundaries of the Picentini are clearly marked both by Strabo and Pliny. They occupied the southern slope of the ridge of mountains which separates the gulf of Posidonia from that of Naples, extending from the promontory of Minerva to the mouth of the Silarus. Ptolemy alone extends their confines across the range in question as far as the mouth of the Sarnus, and includes Surrentum among their towns. (Ptol. 3.1.7.) But there is little doubt that this is inaccurate.

The name of Picentini is generally confined by geographers to the petty people in question, that of Picentes being given to the people of Picenum on the Adriatic. But it is doubtful how far this distinction was observed in ancient times. Picentinus is used as an adjective form for “belonging to Picenum” both by Pompey (ap. Cic. Att. 8.1. 2, c.) and Tacitus (Tac. Hist. 4.63); while Strabo uses Πικεντῖνοι for the people of Picenum, and Πίκεντες for those in Campania. The latter are indeed so seldom mentioned that we can hardly determine what was the general usage in regard to them.


hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 8.1.2
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.63
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 45
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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