The Boii were a Gallic (Gallic were a group of Celtic peoples of Continental Europe in the Iron Age) tribe of the later-half of the Iron Age, attested at various times in Pannonia (Hungary), Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), parts of Bavaria, in and around Bohemia, parts of Gallia Narbonensis and Poland. Besides, the archaeological data proves that in the 2nd century BCE, Celts extended from Bohemia via the Kłodzko Valley into Silesia, currently a part of Czechia and Poland.
History of Boii Tribe
The word ‘Boi’ comes from an Old Irish word bouios, which means a cattle owner.
According to the researchers, the Boii first reached northern Italy by crossing the Alps. While the other clans who had come to Italy with the Boi included the Cenomani and Lingones, it remains unclear where exactly the Central European origins of the Boii lay, if somewhere in Southern Germany, Gaul, or in Bohemia.
Polybius describes that the Celts were close friends of the Etruscan civilization and “cast covetous eyes on their beautiful country.”
Invading the Po Valley with a big army, they pushed out the Etruscans and happily resettled it, the Boii taking the rich right bank in the valley’s center. Strabo confirms that the Boii migrated from their lands across the Alps and were among the Celts’ largest tribes. The Boii held the old Etruscan settlement of Felsina, which they called Bononia (modern Bologna). Polybius explains the Celtic way of life in Cisalpine Gaul as follows:
“They lived in open villages, without any unnecessary furniture, for as they fed on meat and slept on beds of leaves and were exclusively occupied with agriculture and war, their lives were effortless, and they did not know whatever of any science or art. Their possessions consisted of gold and cattle because they could take the only things with them everywhere according to shift and circumstances where they chose. They treated comradeship as of the most significant importance, those being the most powerful and most feared who were thought to have the largest number of associated and attendants.”
The archaeological evidence from Bologna and its region contradict Polybius and Livy’s testimony on some points. They said that the Boii dismissed the Etruscans, and perhaps some were forced to leave. Instead, it shows that the Boii neither depopulated nor destroyed but moved in and became part of the intermarriage population. The cemeteries of the time in Bologna include La Tène weapons and other artifacts, as well as Etruscan items such as clean bronze mirrors.
War against Rome
In the second half of the 300BCE era, the Boii allied with the Etruscans and the other Cisalpine Gauls against Rome. They also fought beside Hannibal, killing the Great Roman general Lucius Postumius Albinus in 216 BCE, whose skull was later turned into a sacrificial bowl. A short time before, they had been subdued at the Battle of Telamon in 225 BCE and were again at Mutina in 193 BCE (modern Modena) and Placentia in 194 BCE (modern Piacenza). Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica ended the Roman conquest of the Boii in 191 BCE, celebrating its triumph. After their decline, according to Strabo, a large part of the Boii left Italy.
In the 102 BCE, the Boii living in an oppidum of Bratislava coined/minted Biatecs, remarkably high-quality coins with engravings (probably the names of dead kings) in Latin. This is the only recorded source provided by the Boii themselves.