Department of Classics and Archaeology

Ethnicity beyond the Rubicon

The Cenomani in Cisalpine Gaul

Dr Fabio Saccoccio is a post-doctoral researcher and the investigator of a new exciting Leverhulme-funded project exploring Gallic invasions in northern Italy during the 1st millennium BC. His research has the potential to revolutionise our understanding of pre-Roman northern Italy as it focuses on a particular Gallic tribe, the Cenomani, mentioned in the classical sources but archaeologically still poorly understood. 

The Cenomani project will challenge the reliance on ancient written accounts in the study of ancient peoples, especially those interacting with Rome. Using a multi-disciplinary approach it aims to change our understanding of ancient history, and enhance our understanding of pressing contemporary issues such as migrations, colonisation, cultural integration, self-definition, warfare, citizenship and landscape formation.

Cartoon drawing of an ancient Cenomanic warrior with long orange hair and moustache, holding a spear in one hand and supporting a shield with the other.

Project background

According to the literature, the birth of Gaulish archaeology in Italy can be pinpointed to the year 1871 as a result of the 5th International Conference of Prehistoric Anthropology and Archaeology held at Bologna. This seminal conference gave European scholars the opportunity to familiarise themselves with northern Italy material culture and suggest the presence of Gaulish grave goods in 1st millennium BC northern Italy. 

From the beginning of the discipline, ancient written sources played a huge role in the reconstruction of pre-Roman and Roman history. To some extent, they still do. According to Livy (5.34-35), northern Italy was affected by Gallic invasions from the 6th century BC, but other ancient writers push this date down to the 4th century BC. Livy mentions that the Cenomani were amongst the oldest Gaulish people to reach the Po Plain, second only to the Insubres who founded the town of Mediolanum (present-day Milan).

The Cenomani seem to have settled between eastern Lombardy and the western Veneto regions, between Brixia (present-day Brescia) and Verona, and are mostly recalled by the classical sources as faithful allies of Rome. Together with the Veneti (the Iron Age inhabitants of the Veneto region), the Cenomani sided with Rome against the other Gallic groups settled in northern Italy (also called Cisalpine Gaul) allowing Rome to accomplish a crucial victory at Talamone, in Tuscany, in 225 BC. The Cenomani decided to side with Rome even when Hannibal crossed the Alps in 218 BC. Eventually, they became Roman citizens in 49 BC and, in 42 BC, Cisalpine Gaul was formally annexed to Roman Italy. 

This project will look at ancient written sources, material culture, linguistics, law, landscape and isotopic studies in order to define the Cenomanic Gauls through the way they decided to distinguish themselves from their neighbours, the way they lived in and exploited the landscape, spoke and interacted with Rome. This project aims to show how a multi-disciplinary approach has the potential to dramatically change our understanding of ancient history, in this particular case focusing on migrations, colonisation, cultural integration, self-definition, warfare, citizenship and landscape formation which still are pressing contemporary issues.


Project team

Fabio Saccoccio


Funded by

Leverhulme Trust


Publications and outputs

The project outcome will be a monograph which will be submitted to a high-impact, internationally recognised, peer-review based publisher.



Department of Classics and Archaeology

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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