1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bruttii

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BRUTTII, an ancient tribe of lower Italy. This tribe, called Bruttii and Brittii in Latin inscriptions, and Βρέττιοι on Greek coins and by Greek authors, occupied the south-western peninsula of Italy in historical times, the ager Bruttius (wrongly called Bruttium) corresponding almost exactly to the modern Calabria. It was separated from Lucania on the north by a line drawn from the mouth of the river Lāus on the west to a point a little south of the river Crathis on the east. To part or the whole of this peninsula the name Italia was first applied. In alliance with the Lucanians the Bruttii made war on the Greek colonies of the coast and seized on Vibo in 356 B.C., and, though for a time overcome by the Greeks who were aided by Alexander of Epirus and Agathocles of Syracuse, they reasserted their mastery of the town from about the beginning of the 3rd century B.C., and held it until it became a Latin colony at the end of the same century (see Corp. Inscr. Lat. x. p. 7, and the references there given). At this time they were speaking Oscan as well as Greek, and two of three Oscan inscriptions in Greek alphabet still testify to the language spoken in the town in the 3rd century B.C. We know, however, that the Bruttians, though at this date speaking the same language (Oscan) as the Samnite tribe of the Lucani, were not actually akin to them. The name Bruttii was used by the Lucanians to mean "runaway slaves," but it is considerably more likely that this signification was attached to the tribal name of the Bruttii from the historical fact that they had been conquered and expelled by the Samnite invaders (cf. the use of Σκύθαι to mean "policemen" at Athens, and still more closely the German, French and English word "slave" derived from "Slav"), than that the tribe when living in territory it could call its own should have adopted an opprobrious name taken from the language of hostile neighbours (see Strabo vi. I, 4; Diod. Sic. xvi. 15). Mommsen pointed out (Unterital. Dialekte, p. 97) the evidence of tradition (especially Aristotle, Pol. 4 [7] 10) showing that the customs of the Bruttii had a certain affinity with those of the pre-Hellenic inhabitants of Greece, and it has been argued (Ridgeway apud Conway, Ital. Dialects, p. 16) that a tradition (preserved in Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. Χῖοι) made it probable that they were called Πέλασγοι. This evidence points to the conjecture that they were part of what is now generally called the Mediterranean race (see, e.g. G. Sergi, The Mediterranean Race, Eng. trans., 1901; W.Z. Ripley, Races of Europe, p. 128). Many Indo-European elements appear in their place-names (e.g. Sila=Latin silva, Greek ὕλη; Temesa, cf. Gr. τέμενος or Sanskrit tamas, darkness, shadow), and none that suggest a non-Indo-European origin. A priori considerations suggest that they may have been akin to the Siceli, but of this at present no positive evidence can be given.

As we have seen, the Bruttii were at the height of their power during the 3rd century B.C. Their chief towns were Consentia (Cosenza), Petelia (near Strongoli), and Clampetia (Amantea). To this period (about the time of the Roman War against Pyrrhus) is to be assigned the series of their coins, and they appear to have retained the right of coinage even after their final subjugation by the Romans (see B.V. Head, Historia Numorum, p. 77). The influence of Hellenism over them is shown by finds in the tombs and the fact that they spoke the Greek language as well as their own (bilingues in Ennius). The mountainous country, ill-suited for agricultural purposes, was well adapted for these hardy warriors, whose training was Spartan in its simplicity and severity.

The Bruttii first came into collision with the Romans during the war with Pyrrhus, to whom they sent auxiliaries; after his defeat, they submitted, and were deprived of half their territory in the Sila forest, which was declared state property. In the war with Hannibal, they were among the first to declare in his favour after the battle of Cannae, and it was in their country that Hannibal held his ground during the last stage of the war (at Castrum Hannibalis on the gulf of Scylacium).

(R. S. C.)

The Bruttii entirely lost their freedom at the end of the Hannibalic war; in 194 colonies of Roman citizens were founded at Tempsa and Croton, and a colony with Latin rights at Hipponium called henceforward Vibo Valentia. In 132 the consul P. Popillius built the great inland road from Capua through Vibo and Consentia to Rhegium, while the date of the construction of the east and west coast roads is uncertain. Neither in the Social War, nor in the rising of Spartacus, who held out a long time in the Sila (71 B.C.), do the Bruttii play a part as a people. Vibo was the naval base of Octavian in the conflict with Sextus Pompeius (42-36 B.C.).

The most important product of the district was the wood from the forests of the Sila, and the pitch produced from it. The Sila also contained minerals, which were worked out in very early times. The coast plains were in parts very fertile, especially the (now malarious) lower valley of the Crathis. Under the empire, however, the whole district remained backward and was remarkable for the absence of important towns, as the scarcity of ancient inscriptions, both Greek and Latin, shows: the Sila was state domain, and most of the rest in the hands of large proprietors. Augustus joined it with Lucania (from which it was divided by the rivers Laus and Crathis) to form the third region of Italy. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, for administrative and juridical purposes, it was sometimes (with Lucania) joined to Apulia and Calabria. Diocletian placed Lucania and Brittii (as the name was then spelt) under a corrector, whose residence was at Rhegium. The boundaries of the original third Augustan region had by that time become somewhat altered, Metapontum belonging to Calabria, and Salernum and the territory of the Picentini to the third region instead of the first (Campania). From the 6th century, after the fall of the Ostrogothic power, and the establishment of that of Byzantium in its place in south Italy, the name Calabria was applied to the whole of the south Italian possessions of the Eastern empire, and the name of the Brittii entirely disappeared; and after the eastern peninsula (the ancient Calabria) had been taken by the Lombards about A.D. 668, the western retained the name, and has kept it till the present day.

(T. As.)

See[edit]

  • Strabo vi. p. 253-265.
  • Dion. Halic. xx. I, 4, 15.
  • Pliny, Nat. Hist. iii. 71-74.
  • Justin xii. 2, xxiii. 1.
  • F. Lenormant, La Grande-Grèce, i. (1881-1884).
  • H. Nissen, Italische Landeskunde (1883-1902).
  • C. Hulsen in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopädie, iii. pt. i. (1897).
  • E.H. Bunbury in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.
  • R.S. Conway, The Italic Dialects (1897), for Bruttian inscriptions and local and personal names.
  • P. Orsi in Atti del congresso storico (Rome, 1904), v. 193 seq.
  • M. Schipa, La Migrazione del nome Calabria (1895), whose conclusions are summarized in J.B. Bury's edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall, v. p. 24, note.
  • other authorities in J. Jung, "Geographie von Italien" (1897) in I. Müller's Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, iii. Abteilung 3.