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Who are the Piedmontese? (Part I)

What are the origins of the indigenous inhabitants of the Piedmontese lands, and above all, from which ancient peoples do they descend? Anyone who has been interested in local identity and culture will undoubtedly have encountered this question and also several attempts to an answer, more or less based on reliable sources and data. The question is not foreign even to the Traditionalist Pagan, who, wanting to follow the path to the Gods of his ancestors, first of all needs to know his own ancestry.
The questions of one's ancestry is useful when coupled with the awareness of the ancient cultures to which his ancestors belonged, in the most precise way possible. In fact, although contemporary peoples and nations in the form that we know them were formed during the Middle Ages (as self-conscious and denominational entities)1, they derive from a combination of specific ancient populations, who through ethno-linguistic identities have transmitted approaches to the sacred. Furthermore in Italy, the genetic composition is almost the same of the pre-Roman one, with few local Early Medieval changes and internal movements. It is certainly worth noting that cultural identity does not always exactly coincide with ethnic and religious identity; however, especially in the ancient world, adherence to a religiosity was specifically identified with a people to which one belonged (for instance the way of the Greeks, the way of the Romans, the way of the Celts, etc.).
Therefore, knowledge of this belonging can shed light, at least in part, to the paths followed by the ancestors and helps align ourselves accordingly. In this sense, we want to start a series of articles that will try to answer this question, that is, who were our ancient Piedmontese people. We will start here with a terminological examination, then we will analyse the archaeological and historical data, and move on to the phenotypic-impressionistic depictions. Finally, we will compare data of ancient and modern DNA. In other words, the purpose of these articles will be to define in the most all-encompassing way the anthropic population and the cultural relations that led to the ethnogenesis of the Piedmontese. For non-Piedmontese and non-Cisalpine readers, this exposition can be illustrative and function as a methodological example to adopt in order to investigate the ethnogenesis of their own peoples and ancestors.
Piedmontese and Piedmont
The Piedmonteses are the native population of the lands of Western Cisalpine2, which since the beginning of the 11th century has been identified as Piedmont. These lands, those of geographical Piedmont, were initially called in this way because of their orographic position, that is, being the lands directly under or at the foot of the Western alpine mountains.
In a highly hypothetical way it can be assumed that the Latin name Pedemontium, compound of pede and monte, 'at the foot of the mountains' is the translation of a name of Celtic substratum with the same meaning. This would be inferred from the comparison with toponyms of the same meaning found in France such as French Brizay < Gallic Briotreide. In the Vienna Glossary from the 8th century, brio is translated as 'mons' and treide as 'pede', connecting Briotreide to Proto-Celtic < *Brĭgŏtrĕgĕt-ĕ(m) < *Brĭgŏtrĕgĕs < *Brĭgŏ-trĕgĕs. Similarly, the word brich 'hill, mountain' (Proto-Celtic < *Brĭg-ŏ) is used in the Piedmontese language.
One of the first mentions of Piedmont from 1075 among the donations of Countess Adelaide of Susa, wife of Count Otto of Savoy, is the indication of a land 'Repellum appellatum, quod ad pedem montium in alto firmatur in monte Brac nominate', present-day Revello in southern Piedmont. In 1248, however, Emperor Frederick II stated that he was 'in partibus pedemontis' or in the territory of Vercelli, currently central-eastern Piedmont. Subsequently, from the end of the 13th century but above all from the 16th century, the term Piedmont began to identify the domains of the noble house of Savoy, which from the homonymous transalpine County of Savoy had also moved to conquer and unify these particular cisalpine lands. Since then we can speak of a 'political Piedmont' with more precise boundaries than the generic geographical one.

Gallia Cisalpina, Cellarius 1721.

This 'political Piedmont' expanded at the expense of the territories which throughout the Middle Ages were generally called Lombardy. This term, in fact, overlapped with the term Cisalpine in indicating the lands north of the Italian Peninsula, and is connected with the Germanic Lombard population (also spelt Longobard) in a similar way to how the Germanic Frankish population gave its name to present-day France (meaning 'land of the Franks') that was previously called Transalpine Gaul. It is also true that many lands with their respective languages ​​and populations still considered themselves Lombard until the 16th century, territories that today we fully recognize as Piedmontese. Therefore, to avoid terminological ambiguities, we believe it is more functional to use the term Cisalpine on a general geographical level to indicate the lands in the north of the Italian peninsula including the Po River basin, while on an ethno-linguistic level Cisalpine can be divided in various ways following the major centers of koineisation and linguistic innovation, namely, Turin for Piedmontese, Milan for Lombard and Venice for Venetic3.
In this way, beginning with the remains of the Lombard Kingdom, but above all from the 15th -16th century, we can talk about Western Cisalpine (Piedmontese) people, Central or Cisalpine (Lombard) people, and Eastern Cisalpine (Venetic) people. This is because the more the state entities of the County of Savoy and the Republic of Venice with their respective languages ​​and peculiar cultures strengthened, the more a common Lombard denomination gradually lost strength in the entire Cisalpine region. Thus, the feeling of a local Piedmontese and Venetic identity were born.
After the 17th century, the Savoy dominion in its maximum extension also included territories not ethnically contiguous with Western Cisalpine such as Sardinia, but the ethnic nucleus was consolidated in what we can call 'Piedmont proper' centered around the capital Turin and indicating the Piedmontese-speaking area, or if one prefers, the area from which some linguistic innovations of the common language of the Po River valley spread in conjunction with the political borders and the prestige of the Savoy state. This 'Piedmont proper' runs more or less indicatively from the County of Savoy to the Sesia River (a tributary to the Po River). Linguistically it fades to the southeast towards Liguria and the 'Trans-Po' area of Pavia, and to the southwest and west towards the Occitan valleys. Other transitional areas between 'Piedmont proper' and 'political Piedmont' are those that are historiographically called Savoy Lombardy, i.e., the eastern province of Novara, and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola.
After 1861 with the unification of Italy, political Piedmont ceased to exist as an independent entity, and only some provinces remained in its territories for statistical purposes, such as the provinces of Turin and Novara. In 1970, the Italian Republic reorganised the regions to create in the modern sense an official Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, etc., but no pan-Cisalpine administrative entity. In any case, the historical legacy of Piedmont as a land and people remains and it has originated, as we will see, at least starting from the first or second millennium before the Common Era.

Contemporary region of Piedmont, with historical territories marked in different colors.

Having made this premise, that is, identified the borders of Piedmont, we will now proceed retrospectively to observe which proto-populations, archaeological cultures and peoples inhabited Piedmont first, and how they influenced the origins of the native Piedmontese. In any case, it should be considered that the Piedmontese people must not be considered totally exclusive as the Cisalpine and circum-Alpine ethnic continuum does not represent clear breaks but a gradual change, with some local peculiarities.

1: With all the exceptions of the case to be evaluated individually.
2: We use the term Cisalpine as an adjective substantiated by Cisalpine Gaul 'Gaul on this side of the Alps', the name with which the Romans called the lands between the Apennines and the Alps. The substantivisation allows the inclusion of the populations of Ligurian, Rhaetian, and Venetian origins and their descendants, therefore, not focusing so much on Gaul as on Cisalpine, the land on this side of the Alps. The term Cisalpine Italy, although used by us in other places, can be confusing here as there is no other 'Italy' beyond the Alps today. Therefore, Cisalpine remains the oldest name to identify these lands (at least since the 2nd century BCE). The term Padanian is used as an adjective to indicate purely the flat lowlands of Cisalpine in contrast to the mountainous and hilly highlands.
3: In this series, we will not go into detail regarding Liguria, Emilia and Romagna, nor Friuli and Trentino. Similarly, we will exclude from this study the Aosta Valley and Savoy because, although they were part of political Piedmont from the dawn of the 11th century and ethnically similar since the Iron Age, they were affected by a partially or completely different linguistic development during the Middle Ages and a genetic isolation which does not make the situation exemplary in comparison with the remaining Piedmontese lands.
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