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The Fanes' saga - The events underlying the legend

Origins and social structure of the Fanes' society


1 – A : The origins

Moltina’s legend, once cleared from its several spurious elements, outlines a rather precise and realistic picture of the Fanes tribe’s origins.

We are being told, thence, the story of a small, matriarchally-ordered tribe that in the second half of the second millennium B.C. lives hunting and gathering in the caves of the Sennes and Fosses plateaus. The climate of that period is warm enough to allow them wintering at high altitudes.
As soon as the first waves of invaders arrive, entering the Dolomites through the S.Candido saddle and destroying everything on their path, often to proceed further West towards the Adige valley and beyond, the Fanes react by hiding themselves in the mountain crevices.
The destruction of the valley-bottom hamlets causes the few survivors to flee away, so that for the next several centuries no stable lowland settlements remain. A few Landrines take shelter at the Fanes and bring them a significant contribution both in blood and in culture.
This way, the Fanes society becomes a matrilinear hereditary monarchy, that derives its sacrality from the symbolic alliance with marmots, animals that share with the Fanes their purely passive defensive behaviour, that in the circumstances results quite effective anyway.

1 – B : The evolution of the society and the crisis of matriarchate

When we pass from Moltina’s story to the principal body of the legend, we can realize that, over time, the Fanes’ society has changed substantially.

As a matter of fact, the Fanes have gradually spread out to occupy the whole of the highland that will be named after them and have built a robust stronghold on the Cunturines. In the meanwhile, from mere hunters-gatherers they have evolved to a mixed society of shepherds and hunters; this change has determined a significant demographic growth and an increase of the available pro-capita resources; but now they must also be able to defend their pastures and their flocks, because they can’t any longer hide them in caves when foes are approaching.
So, the Fanes have developped a relevant military capability, that has found its mystic patronage in the cult of the vulture: this animal, in the past connected with funeral rites only, has become a martial symbol that gradually has assumed even greater importance and sacrality than the cult of the marmot itself. On the other hand, the Fanes had no other way to procure metallic objects, specially weapons, than stealing them from their neigbours. So, they have also discovered robbing and raiding as an easy, exciting and rewarding lifestyle.

A potential social conflict has therefore gradually developped, between the supporters of a non-aggressive policy (the “marmots”), who plausibly were mostly composed by women and elderly people and had their main reference in the queen, and the partisans of raiding (the “vultures”), usually to be identified with the younger males, whose political leader must have been represented by the king.
Chances are that the above mentioned social instability, after having remained latent or close to eruption for several generations, suddenly bursted out into an open conflict when this was triggered by an external event. At this point, however, the conflict broke out so violent as to challenge the same matriarchal form of the monarchy.
This circumstance occurred about the end of the IXth century B.C. Invasions from north-east had slowed down, and the first farmers of a new people, the Rhaetians, had cautiously begun settling again in the valley-bottoms. From the south, on the contrary, a new stock of invaders was spreading up the tributary valleys of the Piave river: the Palaeo-Venetics. Their expansion was essentially peaceful: the ancient tribes were being attracted one after another into their sphere of cultural, economical and political influence, and entered a sort of loose, benevolent confederation of peoples.
When the Fanes started addressing their raids against tribes that were covered by the Palaeo-Venetics shield, the clash became unavoidable.

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