The Aequi were an ancient people of Italy, whose name occurs constantly in Livy's first decade as hostile to Rome in the first three centuries of the city's existence.

They occupied the upper reaches of the valleys of the Anio, Tolenus and Himella; the last two being mountain streams running northward to join the Nar. Their chief centre is said to have been taken by the Romans about 484 BC (Diodorus xi. 40) and again about ninety years later (id. xiv. 106), but they were not finally subdued till the end of the second Samnite war (Livy ix. 45, fx. i; Diod. xx. 101), when they seem to have received a limited form of franchise (Cic. Off. i. n, 35).

All we know of their subsequent political condition is that after the Social war the folk of Cliternia and Nersae appear united in a res publica Aequiculorum, which was a municipium of the ordinary type (C.I.L. ix. p. 388). The Latin colonies of Alba Fucens (304 BC) and Carsioli (298 BC) must have spread the use of Latin (or what passed as such) all over the district; through it lay the chief (and for some time the only) route (Via Valeria) to Luceria and the south.

Of the language spoken by the Aequi before the Roman conquest we have no record; but since the Marsi, who lived farther east, spoke in the 3rd century BC a dialect closely akin to Latin, and since the Hernici, their neighbours to the south-west, did the same, we have no ground for separating any of these tribes from the Latian group. If we could be certain of the origin of the q in their name and of the relation between its shorter and its longer form (note that the i in Aequiculus is long--Virgil, Aen. vii. 744--which seems to connect it with the locative of aequum "a plain," so that it would mean "dwellers in the plain"; but in the historical period they certainly lived mainly in the hills), we should know whether they were to be grouped with the q or the p dialects, that is to say, with Latin on the one hand, which preserved an original q, or with the dialect of Velitrae, commonly called Volscian (and, the Volsci were the constant allies of the Aequi), on the other hand, in which, as in the Iguvine and Samnite dialects, an original q is changed into p. There is no decisive evidence to show whether the q in Latin aequus represents an Indo-European q as in Latin quis, Umbro-Volsc. pis, or an Indo-European k + u as in equus, Umb ekvo-. The derivative adjective Aequicus might be taken to range them with the Volsci rather than the Sabini, but it is not clear that this adjective was ever used as a real ethnicon; the name of the tribe is always Aequi, or Aequicoli.

At the end of the Republican period the Aequi appear, under the name Aequiculi or Aequicoli, organized as a municipium, the territory of which seems to have comprised the upper part of the valley of the Salto, still known as Cicolano. It is probable, however, that they continued to live in their villages as before. Of these Nersae (mod. Nesc'e) was the most considerable. The polygonal terrace walls, which exist in considerable numbers in the district, are shortly described in Romische Mitteilungen (1903), 147 seq., but require further study.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.