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Eth. VESTINI (Eth. Οὐηστῖνοι), a people of Central Italy, who occupied a mountainous tract extending from the coast of the Adriatic to the lofty mountains near the sources of the Aternus. Here they met the Sabines, whose territory bounded then on the W.; thence they were bounded by the high mountain range which forms the southern barrier of the valley of the Aternus, and separated them from the Aequi and Marsi; while towards the S. and E. the river Aternus itself, from the point where it takes the sudden bend towards the NE., became the limit of their territory, and their frontier towards the Peligni and Marrucini. Along the coast of the Adriatic they held only the narrow space between the mouth of the Aternus and that of the Matrinus, a distance of about 6 miles; the latter river apparently formed the northern limit of their territory from its mouth to its source, and thence to the high ridge of the Central Apennines their exact frontier cannot be traced. But it is almost immediately after passing the point where the Vestini adjoined the Praetutii on the one hand and the Sabines on the other, that the chain of the Apennines rises abruptly into the lofty group or mass, of which the Monte Corno (commonly called the Gran Sasso d'Italia) is the highest summit. This mountain is the most elevated in the whole range of the Apennines, attaining to a height of 9500 feet; and those immediately adjoining it are but little inferior, forming a rugged and irregular mass of mountains, which is continued without interruption by a range of inferior but still very considerable elevation, in a SE. direction. This range is almost continuous with the equally lofty ridge of the Monte Morrone, the two being separated only by the deep and narrow gorge below Popoli, through which the Aternus finds its way to the sea. Hence the territory of the Vestini is naturally divided into two distinct regions, the one consisting of the upper valley of the Aternus, W. of the lofty mountain range above described, the other of the tract on the E. of the same mountains, sloping gradually thence to the sea. This last district is very hilly and rugged, but has the advantage ofa far milder climate than that of the basin of the Aternus, which is a bleak and cold upland region, having much analogy with the valley of the Peligni (of which it may be considered in some degree as a continuation), but from its considerable elevation above the sea (2380 feet in its upper part) suffering still more severely from cold in winter. The Vestini, however, did not occupy the whole of the valley of the Aternus; Amiternum, near the sources of that river, which was one of the oldest abodes of the Sabines, having continued, even in the days of Pliny, to belong to that people, and though Ptolemy assigns it to the Vestini, it is probable that in this, as in many similar cases, he was guided by geographical views rather than the real ethnical distribution of the tribes. (Strab. v. p.228; Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17; Ptol. 3.1.59.) But the precise line of demarcation between the Vestini and the Sabines, cannot now be determined.

No author has left to us any distinct statement concerning the origin and affinities of the Vestini, but there seems to be no reason to doubt that they were, in common with the other tribes by which they were surrounded, a Sabine race. It would indeed have been almost impossible for that people to have extended themselves to the S., and sent forth their numerous colonies, the Peligni, the Samnites, &c., had not the valley of the Aternus been already occupied by a kindred and friendly race. The close connection which we find subsisting between the four tribes of the Vestini, Marrucini, Peligni, and Marsi, may be also taken as a strong presumption of their common origin, and there seem good reasons for supposing them all to have been derived from a Sabine stock. The first mention of the Vestini in history occurs in B.C. 324, when they concluded an alliance with the Samnites against Rome. It was feared that their example would be speedily followed by the Marrucini, Peligni, and Marsi, but this was not the case, and the Vestini, unsupported by their allies, were unable to resist the Roman arms: they were defeated and dispersed by the consul D. Junius Brutus, and took refuge in their fortified towns, of which Cutina and Cingilia were successively taken by assault. (Liv. 8.29.) From this time we hear nothing more of the Vestini till B.C. 301, when they concluded a treaty with the Romans, which appears to have been an alliance on favourable terms (Id. 10.3); and from this time the Vestini became the faithful allies of the rising republic. In the enumeration of the forces of the Italian allies in B.C. 225, Polybius mentions the Vestini, together with the Marsi, Marrucini, and Frentani (the Peligni being omitted), and estimates their joint contingent at 20,000 foot and 4000 horse soldiers (2.24); but we have no means of judging of the proportion furnished by each nation.

No other mention is found in history of the Vestini, with the exception of casual notices of their troops serving as auxiliaries in the Roman armies (Ennius, Ann. Fr. 8.6; Liv. 44.40), until the outbreak of the Social War, in B.C. 90. On this occasion they followed the example of the Marsi and Peligni, as well as of their more immediate neighbours the Picentines, and were among the first to declare themselves in insurrection against Rome. Liv. Epit. lxxii.; Oros. 5.18; Appian, App. BC 1.39.) There can be no doubt that throughout that contest they furnished their contingent to the armies of the Marsi; but their name is not specially mentioned till towards the close of the war, when we learn that they were defeated and reduced to submission, apparently somewhat sooner than the other confederates. [p. 2.1283](Liv. Epit. lxxv, lxxvi; Appian, App. BC 1.52; Oros. 5.18.) There is no doubt that they at this time received the Roman franchise, and henceforth became merged in the ordinary condition of Roman citizens. Hence we hear nothing more of them in history, though it is evident that they retained their existence as a separate tribe, which is recognised by all the geographers, as well as by inscriptions. (Strab. v. p.241; Plin. Nat. 3.12. s. 17; Ptol. 3.1.59; Orell. Inscr. 4036.) From the last source we learn that they were enrolled in the Qutirinian tribe. Their territory was included in the Fourth Region of Augustus (Plin. Nat. 1. l.c.), but in the later division of Italy it was separated into two, the maritime district being united with Picenum, while the inland portion or valley of the Aternus was included (together with the Sabines and Peligni) in the province of Valeria. (Lib. Colon. pp. 227, 228; Bingham's Eccles. Antiq. ix. ch. 5, sect. 3.) We learn from Juvenal that they continued to retain their primitive simplicity and rustic habits of life even under the Roman Empire. (Juv. 14.181.) Silius Italicus speaks of them as a race,: hardy and warlike, and habituated to the chase: their rugged mountains were doubtless still the refuge of many wild animals. (Sil. Ital. 8.513.) The more inland parts of their territory abounded in excellent upland pastures, which produced a kind of cheese that was highly esteemed at Rome. (Plin. Nat. 11.42. s. 97; Martial, 13.31.)

The most important physical feature of the territory of the Vestini is the Monte Corno or Gran Sasso d'Italia, which, as already observed, is the highest summit of the Apennines. This was identified by Cluver, who has been followed by most later writers, with the Cunarus Mons of Servius (Serv. ad Aen. 10.185). But Silius Italicus (8.517) places the MONS FISCELLUS, a name much better known, among the Vestini; and though this is opposed to the statement of Pliny that that mountain contains the sources of the Nar, there seems much reason to believe that Pliny has here confounded the Nar with its tributary the Velinus [NAR], which really rises in, a group closely connected with the Gran Sasso, and that it was therefore that remarkable mountain range which was known to the ancients as the Mons Fiseellus.

The following towns are noticed by ancient writers as belonging to the Vestini. PINNA now called Civita di Penne, appears to have been the chief of those which were situated on the eastern slope of the mountains. Lower down, and only a few miles from the sea, was ANGULUS now Civita S. Angelo. ATERNUM, at the mouth of the river of the same name, now Pescara, was the seaport of the Vestini, and, being the only one along this line of coast for some distance, served also as that of the Marrucini. In the valley of the Aternus were: PELTUINUM (Ansedonia), about 14 miles S. of Aquila; AVEIA the remains of which are still visible at Fossa, about 6 miles S. of Aquila; and PIT1NUM, still called Torre di Pitino, about 2 miles E. of the same city, which must have immediately adjoined the territory of Amiternum. FURCONIUM the ruins of which are still visible at Civita di Bagno, a little to the S. of Aquila, though an important place in the early part of the middle ages, is not mentioned by any writer before Paulus Diaconus (Hist. Lang. 2.20), and was certainly not a municipal town in the time of the Romans. PRIFERNUM (mentioned only in the Tab. Peut.) is of very uncertain site, but is supposed to have been near Assergio. Aquila, the present capital of this district, is a wholly modern city, having been founded by the emperor Frederic II. in the 13th century, when its population was gathered together from the surrounding towns of Amiternum, Aveia, Furconium, &c., the complete desolation of which apparently dates from this period. AUFINA which according to Pliny (3.12. s. 17) was in his time united for municipal purposes with Peltuinum, still retains the name of Ofena. CUTINA and CINGILIA two towns of the Vestini mentioned by Livy (8.29), are wholly unknown, and the sites assigned to them by Romanelli, at Civita Aquana and Civita Retenga respectively, are merely conjectural.

The topography of the Vestini is specially illustrated in the work of Giovenazzi (Della Città d'Aveja nei Vestini, 4to. Roma, 11773), as well as by Romanelli (vol. iii. pp. 241--284).


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.5.39
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.6.52
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 11.42
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 44, 40
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 29
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 13.31
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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