3 The  Camillo Story

The Veneto

During the Bronze Age the Veneto region was populated by an Indoeuropean people, different from the existing Italic population and from the Celts that came from the North, beyond the Alps.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus of 490 B.C., considered the Veneti as migrants to the area and refers to them as "Illiri", probably in reference to their proximity to the neighbouring Illiria, the now ex-Jugoslavia region. These people did in fact often invade the Veneto and provided a constant menace, later dealt with by the Romans. However it is evident that there undoubtedly was a certain amount of genetic intermingling with these people.  

According to Livio, a Latin historian, born in Padua in 59 B.C. the leader of the Veneti was supposed to have been Antenore, a Trojan hero, whose life was spared after the fall of Troy at the hands of the Greeks and supposedly led a group of followers to the Veneto and there founded the city of Padua. Today there is in fact a monument in that city with the inscription: "The Tomb of Antenore".

The Veneti were basically agricultural but also renowned for their relatively sophisticated technology for the production of glass ornaments that, together with amber, were traded as far as Greece and Cyprus. As we have seen, the position of the Veneto region was favourable for trade, which certainly helped it prosper. They also traded with the neighbouring Etruscan lands and to a certain extent, with the lands beyond the Alps, where there was a certain predilection for wine. From this latter area often came the invading Celts, a tall fair-haired, blue-eyed race, who also certainly left a mark in the genetic heritage of the Veneti.

Not much is known of the ancient Veneti, but we have some indirect indication. Polibio states in the second century B.C., "the area close to the Adriatic was inhabited by another, very ancient population, that of the Veneti, whose customs and behaviour was little different to that of the Celts, but with another language".

The Celts were often described by ancient Roman scholars and by Julius Ceasar himself who was given many a headache: a tall people with blond hair, plastered with chalk to make it stand up, in order to create a frightening aspect, "for they had a passion for war and were irascible, always ready for a fight ... and ready to brave danger, armed only with their strength and audacity."

Alexander the Great, confident that his fame had reached far into the Celtic lands, asked their ambassadors what they feared most and was dismayed with the answer "The only thing we fear is that the sky should fall on our heads."

A Celtic tribe, the Boi, settled further south and founded the city of Bononia, later known as Bologna, hence the origin of this city's name. Another tribe, the Cenomani, settled in the Brescia - Verona area. These tribes came down from the North, encouraged by the better climate, fertile lands and particularly enticed by by olive oil, figs and wine. Plinio makes a specific statement to this effect, giving it as the main reason for the Celtic invasions of the city of Chiusi.

With a close proximity of Celts to the West and to the South, there certainly was much intermingling between the two peoples and a transmission of physical and personality characteristics.

It is interesting to note that the Celts spread to Normandy in France and to the British Isles, where they remained genetically and linguistically unaltered to the present day. At the turn of the last century, poverty forced many to seek better fortune in Australia, bringing with them their courageous and often boisterous ways. The noble fame of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers (ANZACS) in the First World War, can probably be attributed to their Celtic origins.

In 183 B.C. the Romans founded a colony in the Veneto territory, at Aquileia and helped them against the attacks of the Celts, whom the Romans called "Gauls". The Veneti thus slowly came under the influence of Roman law and culture.

Because of the Veneto's strategic geographical position, its mixture of mountains, hills and plains, with an abundance of water and for its industrious population, the Veneto prospered and its ports became busy and important, laying the foundations for the future grandeur of its capitol, Venice.

Venice was founded in the 6th century A.D., when the resident Veneto population was forced to seek refuge in the many marshy islands of the large lagoon in the area, in order to escape the constant invasions of the barbarians from the north. Venice slowly grew and increased in power, widely expanding its influence and culminating with the conquest of Constantinople and the founding of the Latin Oriental Empire in 1204. Then followed a century long battle for power with its rival on the Tirrenian coast, world Genoa.


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