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Statues of Lusitanian warriors in the National Archaeology Museum in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Lusitanians (or Latin: Lusitani) were an Indo-European people living in the west of the Iberian Peninsula prior the conquest by the Roman Republic and the subsequent incorporation of the territory into the Roman province of Lusitania.



Iberian Peninsula at about 200 BC [1].
Main language areas, peoples and tribes in Iberian Peninsula c. 300 BC., according to epigraphy and toponymy, based on the map by Luís Fraga.

Frontinus mentions Lusitanian leader Viriathus as the leader of the Celtiberians, in their war against the Romans.[1] The Greco-Roman historian Diodorus Siculus attributed them a name of another Celtic tribe: "Those who are called Lusitanians are the bravest of all Cimbri", often thought of as Germanic.[2] The Lusitanians were also called Belitanians, according to the diviner Artemidorus.[3][4]Strabo differentiated the Lusitanians from the Iberian tribes and called them Celts who had been known as Oestriminis in ancient times .[5][6][7]Pliny the Elder and Pomponius Mela distinguished the Lusitanians from neighboring Celtic groups like the Artabrians in their geographical writings.[8]

The original Roman province of Lusitania briefly included the territories of Asturia and Gallaecia, but these were soon ceded to the jurisdiction of the Provincia Tarraconensis in the north, while the south remained the Provincia Lusitania et Vettones. After this, Lusitania's northern border was along the Douro River, while its eastern border passed through Salmantica and Caesarobriga to the Anas (Guadiana) river.

Wars with Rome

Lusitanian mercenaries fought for Carthage between the years 218 and 201 BC, during the Second Punic War against Rome. Silius Italicus describes them as forming a combined contingent with the Gallaeci and being led both by a commander named Viriathus (not to be confused with the similarly named chieftain).[9] According to Livy, Lusitanian and Celtiberian cavalry performed raids in the north of Italy whenever the terrain was too rough for Hannibal's famed Numidian cavalry.[10]

Since 193 BC, the Lusitanians had been fighting the Romans alone in Hispania. In 150 BC, they were defeated by Praetor Servius Galba: springing a treacherous trap, he killed 9,000 Lusitanians and later sold 20,000 more as slaves in Gaul (modern France). This massacre would not be forgotten by Viriathus, who three years later (147 BC) would become the leader of the Lusitanians, and severely damaged the Roman rule in Lusitania and beyond. In 139 BC, Viriathus was betrayed and killed in his sleep by his companions (who had been sent as emissaries to the Romans), Audax, Ditalcus and Minurus, bribed by Marcus Popillius Laenas. However, when the three returned to receive their reward from the Romans, the Consul Servilius Caepio ordered their execution, declaring, "Rome does not pay traitors".


After the death of Viriatus, the Lusitanians kept fighting under the leadership of Tautalus, but gradually acquired Roman culture and language; the Lusitanian cities, in a manner similar to those of the rest of the Romanised Iberian peninsula, eventually gained the status of "Citizens of Rome".

The Portuguese language is a local evolution of the Roman language, Latin.


Categorising Lusitanian culture generally, including the language, is proving difficult and contentious. Some believe it was essentially a pre-Celtic Iberian culture with substantial Celtic influences, while others argue that it was an essentially Celtic culture with strong indigenous pre-Celtic influences.

Lusitanian lunula from Miranda do Corvo (Portugal)


The Lusitanians worshiped various gods in a very diverse polytheism, using animal sacrifice. They represented their gods and warriors in rudimentary sculpture. Endovelicus (considered a possible Basque loan god[11] by some, or according to scholars like José Leite de Vasconcelos the word Endovellicus was originally Celtic, Andevellicos, meaning very good), was the most important god: his cult eventually spread across the Iberian peninsula and beyond, to the rest of the Roman Empire and his cult was maintained until the fifth century; he was the god of public health and safety. The goddess Ataegina was especially popular in the south; as the goddess of rebirth (spring), fertility, nature, and cure, she was identified with Proserpina during the Roman era.

Lusitanian mythology was heavily influenced by or related to Celtic mythology.[12][13] Also well attested in inscriptions are the names Bandua (one of the variants of Borvo)[14] often with a second name linked to a locality such as Bandua Aetobrico, and Nabia, possibly a goddess of rivers and streams.[12]

According to Strabo the Lusitanians were given to offering sacrifices; they practiced divination on the sacrificial offering by inspecting its vitals and veins. They also sacrificed human victims, prisoners of war, by striking them under coarse blankets and observing which way they fell. They cut off the right hands of their captives, which they offered to the gods.[15]


Neolithic Europe. The speakers of Proto-Italic and Proto-Celtic later moved southwards.

The Lusitanian language was a Paleohispanic language that clearly belongs to the Indo-European family. The precise affiliation of the Lusitanian language inside the Indo-European family is still in debate: there are those who endorse that it is a para-Celtic language with an obvious 'celticity'[16] to most of the lexicon, over many anthroponyms and toponyms.[17] A second theory relates Lusitanian with the Italic languages [18]; based on a relation of the names of Lusitanian deities with other grammatical elements of the area.[19] The Lusitanian language in fact may have been Proto-Celto-Italic, predating the Italic or Celtic languages and originated earlier from either Proto-Celtic or Proto-Italic populations who spread from Central Europe into western Europe after new Yamnaya migrations into the Danube Valley.[20].[21][22][23][24][25][26] Alternatively, a European branch of Indo-European dialects, termed "North-west Indo-European" and associated with the Beaker culture, may have been ancestral to not only Celtic and Italic, but also to Germanic and Balto-Slavic.[27]


Map showing the main pre-Roman tribes in Portugal and their main migrations: Turduli movement in red, Celtici in brown, and Lusitanian in blue; most tribes neighbouring the Lusitanians were dependent on them. Names are in Latin.

The Lusitanians were a people formed by several tribes that lived between the rivers Douro and Tagus, in most of today's Beira and Estremadura regions of central Portugal, and some areas of the Extremadura region (Spain). They were a tribal confederation, not a single political entity; each tribe had its own territory and was independent, and was formed by smaller clans. However, they had a cultural sense of unity and a common name for the tribes. Each tribe was ruled by its own tribal aristocracy and chief. Many members of the Lusitanian tribal aristocracy were warriors as happened in many other pre-Roman peoples of the Iron Age. Only when an external threat occurred did the different tribes politically unite, as happened at the time of the Roman conquest of their territory when Viriathus became the single leader of the Lusitanian tribes. Punicus was another important Lusitanian chief before the Roman conquest. He ruled the Lusitanians (before Viriathus) for some time, leading the tribes in the resistance against Roman attempts of conquest, and was successful.

The known Lusitanian tribes were:

It remains to be known if the Turduli Veteres, Turduli Oppidani, Turduli Bardili, and Turduli were Lusitanian tribes (coastal tribes), were related Celtic peoples, or were instead related to the Turdetani (Celtic, pre-Celtic Indo-European, or Iberians) and came from the south. The name Turduli Veteres (older or ancient Turduli), a tribe that dwelt in today's Aveiro District, seems to indicate they came from the north and not from the south (contrary to what is assumed on the map). Several Turduli peoples or tribes were possibly originally not Lusitanians, but instead were Callaeci tribes that came from the north towards the south along the coast and then migrated inland along the Tagus and the Anas (Guadiana River) valleys.

More Lusitanian tribes are likely, but their names are unknown.


Statue of Viriatus, the Lusitanian leader during the Lusitanian War (155 to 139 BCE).

The Lusitanians were considered by historians to be particularly adept at guerrilla warfare. The strongest amongst them were selected to defend the populace in mountainous sites.[29] They used hooked javelins or saunions made of iron, and wielded swords and helmets like those of the Celtiberians. They threw their darts from some distance, yet often hit their marks and wounded their targets deeply. Being active and nimble warriors, they would pursue their enemies and decapitate them. In times of peace, they had a particular style of dancing, which required great agility and nimbleness of the legs and thighs. In times of war, they marched in time, until they were ready to charge the enemy.[30]

Appian claims that when Praetor Brutus sacked Lusitania after Viriathus's death, the women fought valiantly next to their men as women warriors.[3]

Gladius hispaniensis, a sword of Celtiberian origin used by Lusitanians.

Contemporary meaning

Lusitanians are often used by Portuguese writers as a metaphor for the Portuguese people, and similarly, Lusophone is used to refer to a Portuguese speaker.

Lusophone is at present a term used to categorize persons who share the linguistic and cultural traditions of the Portuguese-speaking nations and territories of Portugal, Brazil, Macau, Timor-Leste, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea Bissau and others.

See also


  1. ^*.html%7CSextus Julius Frontinus. Stratagems: Book II. V. On Ambushes
  2. ^ Siculus. Bibliotheka Historia: The Historical Library. Book V: Britain, Gaul, and Iberia.
  3. ^ a b Luciano Pérez Vilatela. Lusitania: historia y etnología, p. 14, at Google Books (in Spanish). [S.l.]: Real Academia de la Historia, 2000. 33 p. vol. 6 of Bibliotheca archaeologica hispana, v. 6 of Publicaciones del Gabinete de Antigüedades.
  4. ^ André de Resende. As Antiguidades da Lusitânia, p. 94, at Google Books (in Portuguese). [S.l.]: Imprensa da Univ. de Coimbra. 94 p.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ José María Gómez Fraile (1999). ""Los coceptos de "Iberia" e "ibero" en Estrabon" (PDF)". SPAL: Revista de Prehistoria y Arqueología de la Universidad de Sevilla (in Spanish). 8: 159-188.
  8. ^ Among them the Praestamarci, Supertamarci, Nerii, Artabri, and in general all people living by the seashore except for the Grovi of southern Galicia and northern Portugal: 'Totam Celtici colunt, sed a Durio ad flexum Grovi, fluuntque per eos Avo, Celadus, Nebis, Minius et cui oblivionis cognomen est Limia. Flexus ipse Lambriacam urbem amplexus recipit fluvios Laeron et Ullam. Partem quae prominet Praesamarchi habitant, perque eos Tamaris et Sars flumina non longe orta decurrunt, Tamaris secundum Ebora portum, Sars iuxta turrem Augusti titulo memorabilem. Cetera super Tamarici Nerique incolunt in eo tractu ultimi. Hactenus enim ad occidentem versa litora pertinent. Deinde ad septentriones toto latere terra convertitur a Celtico promunturio ad Pyrenaeum usque. Perpetua eius ora, nisi ubi modici recessus ac parva promunturia sunt, ad Cantabros paene recta est. In ea primum Artabri sunt etiamnum Celticae gentis, deinde Astyres.', Pomponius Mela, Chorographia, III.7-9.
  9. ^ Silius Italicus, Punica, 3
  10. ^ Gregory Daly (August 2005). Cannae: The Experience of Battle in the Second Punic War. Routledge. ISBN 978-11-345071-2-2.
  11. ^ Encarnação, José d'. 2015. Divindades indígenas sob o domínio romano em Portugal. Second edition. Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra.
  12. ^ a b Pedreño, Juan Carlos Olivares (2005). "Celtic Gods of the Iberian Peninsula". Retrieved 2010.
  13. ^ Quintela, Marco V. García (2005). "Celtic Elements in Northwestern Spain in Pre-Roman times". Center for Celtic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Retrieved 2010.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Thayer, Roman E. "Book III, Chapter 3". Strabo Geography. University of Chicago. Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Wodtko, Dagmar S (2010). Celtic from the West Chapter 11: The Problem of Lusitanian. Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK. pp. 335-367. ISBN 978-1-84217-410-4.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Blanca María Prósper (2003). "The inscription of Cabeço das Fráguas revisited. Lusitanian and Alteuropäisch populations in the West of the Iberian Peninsula". Transactions of the Philological Society. 97 (2): 151-184. doi:10.1111/1467-968X.00047.
  20. ^ Mallory 1999, pp. 108 f..
  21. ^ Mallory 1999, pp. 108, 244-250.
  22. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 360.
  23. ^ Cite error: The named reference Baldia06 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  24. ^ Haak 2015.
  25. ^ Cite error: The named reference MPG_mass_migration was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  26. ^ Cite error: The named reference Nature_EC was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  27. ^ James P. Mallory (2013). "The Indo-Europeanization of Atlantic Europe". In J. T. Koch and B. Cunliffe (eds.). Celtic From the West 2: Rethinking the Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe. Oxford: Oxbow Books. pp. 17-40.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  28. ^ Alarcão, Jorge de (2001). "Novas perspectivas sobre os Lusitanos (e outros mundos)" (PDF). Revista Portuguesa de Arqueologia. 4 (2): 293-349 [p. 312 e segs]. ISSN 0874-2782. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-11-26.
  29. ^
  30. ^ Hispaniae: Spain and the Development of Roman Imperialism, 218-82 BC, p. 100, at Google Books


  • Ángel Montenegro et alii, Historia de España 2 - colonizaciones y formación de los pueblos prerromanos (1200-218 a.C), Editorial Gredos, Madrid (1989) ISBN 84-249-1386-8
  • Alarcão, Jorge de, O Domínio Romano em Portugal, Publicações Europa-América, Lisboa (1988) ISBN 972-1-02627-1
  • Alarcão, Jorge de et alii, De Ulisses a Viriato - O primeiro milénio a.C., Museu Nacional de Arqueologia, Instituto Português de Museus, Lisboa (1996) ISBN 972-8137-39-7
  • Amaral, João Ferreira do & Amaral, Augusto Ferreira do, Povos Antigos em Portugal - paleontologia do território hoje Português, Quetzal Editores, Lisboa (1997) ISBN 972-564-224-4

Further reading

  • Alvarado, Alberto Lorrio J., Los Celtíberos, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Murcia (1997) ISBN 84-7908-335-2
  • Berrocal-Rangel, Luis, Los pueblos célticos del soroeste de la Península Ibérica, Editorial Complutense, Madrid (1992) ISBN 84-7491-447-7
  • Burillo Mozota, Francisco, Los Celtíberos, etnias y estados, Crítica, Barcelona (1998, revised edition 2007) ISBN 84-7423-891-9

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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