Antico popolo celtico stanziato nell'odierna Boemia: un ramo, nel sec. VI aC, trasmigrò in Gallia presso Bordeaux; altri rami, sempre nel sec. VI, scesero in Italia venendo a conflitto con i Romani che li annientarono nel sec. III. Altri gruppi di Boi nel sec. I aC si affiancarono agli Edui in Gallia. Quelli rimasti in Boemia furono sopraffatti dai Marcomanni nel sec. I dC.
I Boi erano una popolazione celtica originaria dell'antica Gallia dove erano stanziati fin dal VI secolo aC. Un suo ramo forse dall'Aquitania migrò agli inizi del V secolo aC in Italia nella Valle Padana attraverso il passo del Gran San Bernardo, e sostituendosi agli Etruschi della città di Velzna (nome latinizzato in Felsina), l'odierna Bologna, che da quel momento si chiamò Bononia.
La storia riportata da Polibio narra che i Boi arrivarono a Felsina chiamati da Ateste, ricco commerciante felsineo che voleva vendicarsi dei suoi concittadini che non gli avevano riconosciuto dei diritti sul patrimonio del giovane Lucumone, di cui era tutore. Sempre la leggenda narra che nemmeno i Boi diedero ragione ad Ateste, ma che i doni da lui portati ai Celti li conquistarono a tal punto che questi decisero di trasferirsi dove i doni erano prodotti. Si trattava di vino, salami, frutta e altre leccornie emiliane.
popolazioni illiriche e celtiche della Pannonia
prima della conquista romana nel I secolo aC
Dagli scavi e dagli studi archeologici si può desumere che un certo tempo Felsina era circondata da villaggi abitati da Celti e che gli Etruschi avevano organizzato nell'Etruria padana una confederazione di città, simile a quella esistente nell' Etruria storica. Di questa confederazione avrebbero fatto parte anche le antiche città di Spina e Marzabotto, ma probabilmente in seguito alle tensioni con i Celti, con i Romani e con i Campani dell'Etruria campana a sud, gli Etruschi si ritirarono nell'Etruria storica, lasciando volontariamente Felsina ai Celti Boi. Questo dato potrebbe essere confermato dal cambio di denominazione toponimica, fatto assai raro e che si verifica solo in caso di sostituzione di popolo o conquista totale e mai in caso di fusioni fra popolazioni.
I Boi furono sconfitti nel 225 aC dall'esercito romano, guidato dal console Emilio Papo, nella località di Campo Regio presso il promontorio di Talamone.
Il ramo orientale dei Celti Boi
Il ramo più orientale Celti Boi lo troviamo in Pannonia, nella regione del lago Balaton, nel I secolo aC. Trovarono rifugio in Boemia in seguito alla guerra condotta contro di loro dal re dei Daci Burebista attorno al 50 aC. In seguito furono in parte annientati e in parte assimilati dai Marcomanni di Maroboduo, questi ultimi migrati dalle terre del fiume Meno dopo il 9 aC.
Boii (Latin plural, singular Boius; Greek Boîoi) is the Roman name of an ancient Celtic tribe, attested at various times in Transalpine Gaul (modern France) and Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy), as well as in Pannonia (today Western Hungary), Bohemia, Moravia and western Slovakia.
Etymology and name
There is no commonly accepted etymology for the name Boii. It might be explained as a Celtic term for either "warriors" (from Indo-European *bhoi-) or "cattle owners" (from Indo-European *gowjehs). Contemporary derived words include Boiorix (king of the Boii, one of the chieftains of the Cimbri) and Boiodurum (gate/fort of the Boii, modern Passau) in Germany.
Their memory also survives in the modern regional names of Bohemia (Germanic form found in a Roman source Boio-haemum = home of the Boii), and 'Bayern', Bavaria, which is derived from the Germanic Baioarii tribe (Germ. *baio-warioz: the first component is most plausibly explained as a Germanic version of Boii; the second part is a common formational morpheme of Germanic tribal names, meaning 'dwellers', as in Anglo-Saxon -ware); this combination "Boii-dwellers" may have meant "those who dwell where the Boii formerly dwelt".
According to the classical authors, the Boii crossed Poeninus mons (the Great St Bernard Pass – Livy V,35 Poenino deinde Boii Lingonesque transgressi) and settled in the Po plain, where they subjugated the local Etruscans. Other Celtic tribes, among them the Insubres, Cenomani, Lingones and Senones had also settled in Northern Italy, some of them, such as the Lepontii, since pre-historic times. The Boii occupied the old Etruscan settlement of Felsina and renamed it Bononia (Bologna). Archaeological remains of their culture have been found at various sites, among others at Felsina, but also at Monte Bibele. Settlement forms as well as grave goods indicate a peaceful coexistence and probably intermarriage of Celtic and Etruscan populations.
In the second half of the 3rd century BC, the Boii allied with the other Cisalpine Gauls and the Etruscans against Rome. They also fought alongside Hannibal, killing the Roman general L. Postumius Albinus, whose skull was then turned into a sacrificial bowl (Liv. XXIII, 24). A short time thereafter, they were defeated at Telamon in 224 BC and eventually in 193 BC near Mutina (modern Modena). After the loss of their capital, a large portion of the Boii left Italy. Contrary to the interpretation of the classical writers, the Pannonian Boii attested in later sources are not simply the remnants of those who had fled from Italy, but rather another division of the tribe, which had settled there much earlier. The burial rites of the Italian Boii show many similarities with contemporary Bohemia, such as inhumation, which was uncommon with the other Cisalpine Gauls, or the absence of the typically western Celtic torcs. This makes it much more likely that the Cisalpine Boii had actually originated from Bohemia rather than the other way round. Having migrated to Italy from north of the Alps, some of the defeated Celts simply moved back to their kinsfolk.
The Pannonian Boii are mentioned again in the late 2nd century BC when they repelled the Cimbri and Teutones (Strabo VII, 2, 2). Later on, they attacked the city of Noreia (in modern Austria) shortly before a group of Boii (32,000 according to Julius Caesar - the number is probably an exaggeration) joined the Helvetii in their attempt to settle in western Gaul. After the Helvetian defeat at Bibracte, the influential Aedui tribe allowed the Boii survivors to settle on their territory, where they occupied the oppidum of Gorgobina. Although attacked by Vercingetorix during one phase of the war, they supported him with two thousand troops at the battle of Alesia (Caes. Bell. Gall., VII, 75).
Again, other parts of the Boii had remained closer to their traditional home, and settled in the Hungarian lowlands by the Danube and the Mur, with a centre at Bratislava. Around 40 BC they clashed with the rising power of the Dacians under their king Burebista and were defeated. When the Romans finally conquered Pannonia in 8 AD, the Boii seem not to have opposed them. Their former territory was now called deserta Boiorum (deserta meaning 'empty or sparsely populated lands'). However, the Boii had not been exterminated: There was a civitas Boiorum et Azaliorum (the Azalii being a neighbouring tribe) which was under the jurisdiction of a prefect of the Danube shore (praefectus ripae Danuvii). This civitas, a common Roman administrative term designating both a city and the tribal district around it, was later adjoined to the city of Carnuntum.
References in ancient written sources
Sometime between 205 BC and 184 BC, T. Maccius Plautus refers to the Boii in his work, Captivi:
At nunc Siculus non est, Boius est, Boiam terit
But now he is not a Sicilian — he is a Boian, he has got a Boian woman.
(There is a play on words: Boia means "woman of the Boii", also "convicted criminal's restraint collar".)
In volume 21 of his work Ab Urbe Condita,
Livy (59 BC - 17 AD) claims that it was a Boian man that offered to show
Hannibal the way across the Alps.
When, after the action had thus occurred, his own men returned to each general, Scipio could adopt no fixed plan of proceeding, except that he should form his measures from the plans and undertakings of the enemy: and Hannibal, uncertain whether he should pursue the march he had commenced into Italy, or fight with the Roman army which had first presented itself, the arrival of ambassadors from the Boii, and of a petty prince called Magalus, diverted from an immediate engagement; who, declaring that they would be the guides of his journey and the companions of his dangers, gave it as their opinion, that Italy ought to be attacked with the entire force of the war, his strength having been nowhere previously impaired.
In the 1st century BC, the Boii living in an oppidum of Bratislava (Slovakia) minted Biatecs, high-quality coins with inscriptions (probably the names of kings) in Latin letters. This is the only "written source" provided by the Boii themselves.