Bellovesus was a Gaulish king. He lived around 600 BCE and is credited to have led the invasion of northern Italy by Gaulish tribes during the legendary reign of the 5th king of Rome, Tarquinius Priscus (from 616 BCE to 579 BCE). However, archeology dates Gaulish expansion into Italy (La Tène culture) to around 400 BCE.
The historical writer Livius remarks that he was the son of the sister of the king Ambicatus. His family belonged to the tribe of Bituriges, which were at this time the most powerful Gaulish tribe. In this time, the Gaulish people were suffering from overpopulation, so that it became necessary to open new settlement areas. Bellovesus and his brother Segovesus were entrusted with this task. While Segovesus was chosen by the gods — that is, by lot, got an indication to look in the Hercynian Forest for new areas to settle — Bellovesus was led to upper Italy.
Bellovesus allegedly led a group of six surplus tribes forward over the Alps: Bituriges, Arverni, Senones, Aedui, Ambarri, Carnutes, and Aulerci. The Alps represented an insurmountable hurdle for the course however first. Only after Bellovesus received support from the Greeks, who in the area of the Salyes had landed and established the port-city of Massilia (Marseille) in c. 600 BCE, did Bellovesus follow a divine sign and succeed in the crossing of the Alps through a pass in the area of Taurini. Having arrived in Italy, the Gauls defeated the Etruscans at the Ticino River and settled in an area which was later called Insubria. Here Bellovesus founded the city of Mediolanum, the modern Milan.
- Livius, ab urbe condita, 5,34.
- description of the people migration under Bellovesus. In: Miranda Green: The Celtic World.
- description of the people migration under Bellovesus. In: Henri Hubert: The Rise of the Celts.