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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.


Vestini, an ancient Sabine tribe which occupied the eastern and northern bank of the Aternus in central Italy,​a entered into the Roman alliance, retaining its own independence, in 304 B.C., and issuing coins of its own in the following century. A northerly section round Amiternum near the passes into Sabine country probably received the Caerite franchise​b soon after. In spite of this, and of the influence of Hadria, a Latin colony founded about 290 B.C. (Livy, Epit. XI), the local dialect, which belongs to the north Oscan group, survived certainly to the middle of the 2nd century B.C. (see the inscriptions cited below) and probably until the Social War. The oldest Latin inscriptions of the district are CIL IX.3521, from Furfo with Sullan alphabet, and 3574, "litteris antiquissimis," but with couraverunt, a form which, as intermediate between coir- or coer- and cur-, cannot be earlier than 100 B.C. (see Latin language). The latter inscription contains also the forms magist[r]es (nom. pl.) and ueci (gen. sing.), which show that the Latin first spoken by the Vestini was not that of Rome, but that of their neighbours the Marsi and Aequi (qq.v.). The inscription of Scoppito shows that at the time at which it was written the upper Aternus valley must be counted Vestine, not Sabine, in point of dialect.

See further Paeligni and Sabini, and for the inscriptions and further details, R. S. Conway, The Italic Dialects, pp258 ff., on which this article is based.

[R. S. C.]

Thayer's Notes:

a The Vestini are placed here by Ptolemy (Geography, III.1) and Strabo (V.4.2 passim and V.2.1). Pinna is spoken of as their large town, and the capital of a sub-tribe for sure, and maybe of the entire tribe (Rhet. ad Herennium, II.28[45], Vitr. de Arch. VIII.3.5, Ptolemy l.c.), and it is undoubtedly today's Penne, in Pescara province in the Abruzzo, near the Adriatic coast. The tribe mainly comes to the notice of the historian in accounts of the Social War of the early 1c B.C., during which it fought against the Romans — a participation curiously unmentioned in the article — being enumerated by Livy, Polybius, and others, without much detail, in the same breath as the Paeligni and the Marrucini, neighboring tribes.

It should be noted that the places where the Vestine inscriptions mentioned in this article were found are both S of the Aterno River, and thus, strictly speaking, outside the area claimed here for the tribe: the ancient town of Furfo is usually placed in the modern comune of Barigliano, about 15 km SE of L'Aquila; and Scoppito, which will be mentioned a little further on, is a few kilometers W of L'Aquila and the river. Furthermore, in V.3.6 (233E) Strabo also places the Vestini along the middle course of the Liris River, now the Liri and Garigliano, considerably farther south and west (although he might just have been mistaken, since the passage contradicts what he says elsewhere, as we saw).

It does seem clear though — to me, at least — that we should be a bit vaguer about exactly where the Vestini lived; and that their territory probably extended a good deal closer to Rome than this article would have it: its famous cheese for example is thus, as hinted by Pliny (H. N. XI.241), almost an item of local supply for people living in the capital.

b In its original honorable meaning (see G. Dennis, The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria, p25, and the article Hospitium in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities), not in its later degraded sense (for which see Dennis's note 25).

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Page updated: 26 Oct 18