Latin : _GALLIA_) was a region of
Western Europe during the
Iron Age that was inhabited by Celtic tribes, encompassing present day
Belgium , most of
Northern Italy ,
as well as the parts of the
Germany on the west bank
Rhine . It covered an area of 494,000 km2 (191,000 sq mi).
According to the testimony of
Julius Caesar ,
Gaul was divided into
Gallia Celtica , Belgica and
Gauls were bearers of the
La Tène culture
La Tène culture ,
which extended across all of Gaul, as well as east to
Raetia , Noricum
Pannonia and southwestern
Germania during the 5th to 1st centuries
BC. During the 2nd and 1st centuries BC,
Gaul fell under Roman rule:
Gallia Cisalpina was conquered in 203 BC and
Gallia Narbonensis in 123
Gaul was invaded after 120 BC by the
Cimbri and the
Teutons , who
were in turn defeated by the Romans by 103 BC.
Julius Caesar finally
subdued the remaining parts of
Gaul in his campaigns of 58 to 51 BC.
Roman control of
Gaul lasted for five centuries, until the last Roman
rump state , the Domain of Soissons , fell to the
Franks in AD 486.
While the Celtic
Gauls had lost their original identities and language
Late Antiquity , becoming amalgamated into a Gallo-Roman
culture , _Gallia_ remained the conventional name of the territory
Early Middle Ages , until it acquired a new identity as
the Capetian Kingdom of
France in the high medieval period. _Gallia_
remains a name of
France in modern Greek (Γαλλία) and modern
Latin (besides the alternatives _Francia_ and _Francogallia_).
* 1 Name
* 2 History
* 2.1 Pre-
* 2.2 Initial contact with Rome
* 2.3 Conquest by Rome
* 2.5 Frankish
* 3.1 Social structure, indigenous nation and clans
* 3.2 Religion
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Sources
* 7 External links
Further information: Names of the
Celts § Galli, Galatai
The Greek and
Latin names _
Galatia _ (first attested by Timaeus of
Tauromenion in the 4th century BC), and _Gallia_ are ultimately
derived from a Celtic ethnic term or clan _Gal(a)-to-_. The _Galli_
Gallia Celtica _ were reported to refer to themselves as _Celtae_
by Caesar. Hellenistic folk etymology connected the name of the
Galatians (Γαλάται, _Galátai_) to the supposedly "milk-white"
skin (γάλα, _gála_ "milk") of the Gauls. Modern researchers say
it is related to Welsh _gallu_, Cornish _galloes_, "capacity,
power", thus meaning "powerful people".
The English _Gaul_ is from French _Gaule_ and is unrelated to Latin
_Gallia_, despite superficial similarity. The name _Gaul_ is derived
Old Frankish _*Walholant_ (via a Latinized form _*Walula_)
literally "Land of the Foreigners/Romans", in which _*Walho-_ is
reflex of Proto-Germanic _*walhaz _, "foreigner, Romanized person", an
exonym applied by Germanic speakers to
Celts and Latin-speaking people
indiscriminately, making it cognate with the names
Wales and Wallachia
. The Germanic _w-_ is regularly rendered as _gu-_ / _g-_ in French
(cf. _guerre_ = _war_, _garder_ = _ward_), and the diphthong _au_ is
the regular outcome of _al_ before a following consonant (cf. _cheval_
~ _chevaux_). French _Gaule_ or _Gaulle_ cannot be derived from Latin
_Gallia_, since _g_ would become _j_ before _a_ (cf. _gamba_ >
_jambe_), and the diphthong _au_ would be unexplained; the regular
Latin _Gallia_ is _Jaille_ in French, which is found in
several western placenames, such as
La Jaille-Yvon and
Also unrelated in spite of superficial similarity is the name _Gael
_. The Irish word _gall_ did originally mean "a Gaul", i.e. an
inhabitant of Gaul, but its meaning was later widened to "foreigner",
to describe the Vikings , and later still the
Normans . The
dichotomic words _gael_ and _gall_ are sometimes used together for
contrast, for instance in the 12th-century book _Cogad Gáedel re
As adjectives, English has the two variants: _Gaulish_ and _Gallic_.
The two adjectives are used synonymously, as "pertaining to
the Gauls", although the Celtic language or languages spoken in Gaul
is predominantly known as Gaulish .
Further information: Prehistoric
La Tène culture
La Tène culture ,
Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul Map of
Roman Gaul (Droysens
Allgemeiner historischer Handatlas, 1886)
The early history of the
Gauls is predominantly a work in
archaeology—there being little written information (save perhaps
what can be gleaned from coins) concerning the peoples that inhabited
these regions—and the relationships between their material culture ,
genetic relationships (the study of which has been aided, in recent
years, through the field of archaeogenetics ) and linguistic divisions
Before the rapid spread of the
La Tène culture
La Tène culture in the 5th to 4th
centuries BC, the territory of eastern and southern
participated in the Late Bronze Age
Urnfield culture (c. 12th to 8th
centuries BC.) out of which the early iron-working Hallstatt culture
(7th to 6th centuries BC) would develop. By 500 BC, there is strong
Hallstatt influence throughout most of
France (except for the Alps and
the extreme north-west).
Out of this Hallstatt background, during the 7th and 6th century
presumably representing an early form of
Continental Celtic culture,
La Tène culture
La Tène culture arises, presumably under Mediterranean influence
from the Greek , Phoenician , and Etruscan civilizations , spread out
in a number of early centers along the
Seine , the Middle
Elbe . By the late 5th century BC, La Tène influence
spreads rapidly across the entire territory of Gaul. The La Tène
culture developed and flourished during the late
Iron Age (from 450 BC
to the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC) in
Austria , southwest
Hungary . Farther north extended the contemporary pre-Roman Iron Age
culture of northern
The major source of materials on the
Gaul was Poseidonios of
Apamea , whose writings were quoted by
Julius Caesar , the
Diodorus Siculus , and the Greek geographer
In the 4th and early 3rd century BC, Gallic clan confederations
expanded far beyond the territory of what would become Roman Gaul
(which defines usage of the term "Gaul" today), into Pannonia,
Illyria, northern Italy, Transylvania and even Asia Minor . By the 2nd
century BC, the Romans described
Gallia Transalpina as distinct from
Gallia Cisalpina . In his _
Gallic Wars _,
Julius Caesar distinguishes
among three ethnic groups in Gaul: the
Belgae in the north (roughly
Seine ), the Celtae in the center and in
Aquitani in the southwest, the southeast being already
colonized by the Romans. While some scholars believe the
of the Somme were a mixture of Celtic and Germanic elements, their
ethnic affiliations have not been definitively resolved. One of the
reasons is political interference upon the French historical
interpretation during the 19th century.
In addition to the Gauls, there were other peoples living in Gaul,
such as the
Greeks and Phoenicians who had established outposts such
as Massilia (present-day
Marseille ) along the Mediterranean coast.
Also, along the southeastern Mediterranean coast, the
merged with the
Celts to form a Celto-Ligurian culture.
INITIAL CONTACT WITH ROME
In the 2nd century BC, Mediterranean
Gaul had an extensive urban
fabric and was prosperous, while the best known cities in northern
Gaul include the Biturigian capital of
Bourges ), Cenabum
Chartres ) and the excavated site of Bibracte
Autun in Saône-et-Loire, along with a number of hillforts (or
oppida ) used in times of war. The prosperity of Mediterranean Gaul
encouraged Rome to respond to pleas for assistance from the
inhabitants of Massilia, who were under attack by a coalition of
Ligures and Gauls. The Romans intervened in
Gaul in 154 BC and again
in 125 BC. Whereas on the first occasion they came and went, on the
second they stayed. In 122 BC Domitius Ahenobarbus managed to defeat
Allobroges (who were allied to the
Salluvii ), while in the
ensuing year Quintus Fabius Maximus "destroyed" an army of the Averni
led by their king
Bituitus , who had come to the aid of the
Allobroges. Massilia was allowed to keep its lands, but Rome added to
its territories the lands of the conquered tribes. The direct result
of these conquests was that by now, Rome controlled an area extending
Pyrenees to the lower
Rhône river, and in the east up to the
Rhône Valley to
Lake Geneva . By 121 BC, they had conquered the
Mediterranean region called _Provincia_ (later named _Gallia
Narbonensis _). This conquest upset the ascendancy of the Gaulish
CONQUEST BY ROME
Gauls in Rome Main article:
The Roman proconsul and general
Julius Caesar pushed his army into
Gaul in 58 BC, on the pretext of assisting Rome's Gaullish allies
against the migrating Helvetii. With the help of various Gallic clans
(e.g. the Aedui) he managed to conquer nearly all of Gaul. While
militarily just as strong as the Romans, the internal division between
the Gallic tribes guaranteed an easy victory for Caesar, and
Vercingetorix 's attempt to unite the
Gauls against Roman invasion
came too late.
Julius Caesar was checked by
Vercingetorix at a siege
of Gergovia, a fortified town in the center of Gaul. Caesar's
alliances with many Gallic clans broke. Even the Aedui, their most
faithful supporters, threw in their lot with the Arverni, but the
ever-loyal Remi (best known for its cavalry) and Lingones sent troops
to support Caesar. The Germani of the Ubii also sent cavalry, which
Caesar equipped with Remi horses. Caesar captured
Vercingetorix in the
Battle of Alesia , which ended the majority of Gallic resistance to
As many as a million people (probably 1 in 5 of the Gauls) died,
another million were enslaved , 300 clans were subjugated and 800
cities were destroyed during the
Gallic Wars . The entire population
of the city of
Avaricum (Bourges) (40,000 in all) were slaughtered.
Before Julius Caesar's campaign against the
Switzerland ), the Helvetians had numbered 263,000, but afterwards
only 100,000 remained, most of whom Caesar took as slaves .
Soldiers of Gaul, as imagined by a late 19th-century illustrator
for the Larousse dictionary , 1898 Main articles:
Roman Gaul ,
Gallo-Roman culture , and
History of France
The Gaulish culture then was massively submerged by Roman culture,
Latin was adopted by the Gauls; Gaul, or Gallia, was absorbed into the
Roman Empire , all the administration changed, and
became Roman citizens. From the third to 5th centuries,
exposed to raids by the
Franks . The
Gallic Empire , consisting of the
Gaul , Britannia , and
Hispania , including the peaceful
Baetica in the south, broke away from Rome from 260 to 273.
Frankish Aquitaine ,
Frankish Burgundy ,
Frankish Gascony Further information:
Visigothic Kingdom ,
Christianity in Gaul , and
List of Frankish synods
Following the Frankish victory at the Battle of Soissons in 486 AD,
Gaul (except for
Septimania ) came under the rule of the Merovingians
, the first kings of
Gallo-Roman culture , the Romanized
Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire, persisted
particularly in the areas of
Gallia Narbonensis that developed into
Gallia Cisalpina and to a lesser degree,
Aquitania . The
formerly Romanized north of Gaul, once it had been occupied by the
Franks , would develop into Merovingian culture instead. Roman life,
centered on the public events and cultural responsibilities of urban
life in the _res publica _ and the sometimes luxurious life of the
self-sufficient rural villa system, took longer to collapse in the
Gallo-Roman regions, where the
Visigoths largely inherited the status
quo in the early 5th century. Gallo-Roman language persisted in the
northeast into the
Silva Carbonaria that formed an effective cultural
barrier, with the
Franks to the north and east, and in the northwest
to the lower valley of the
Loire , where Gallo-Roman culture
interfaced with Frankish culture in a city like
Tours and in the
person of that Gallo-Roman bishop confronted with Merovingian royals,
Marseille ) silver coin with Greek legend, 5th–1st
Gold coins of the
Gaul Parisii , 1st century BC, (Cabinet des
Médailles , Paris).
Denarius with the head of captive
Gaul 48 BC, following
the campaigns of
Julius Caesar .
A map of
Gaul in the 1st century BCE, showing the relative
positions of the Celtic ethnicites: CELTAE, BELGAE and AQUITANI.
Expansion of the Celtic culture in the 3rd century BC. Main
SOCIAL STRUCTURE, INDIGENOUS NATION AND CLANS
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Druids were not the only political force in Gaul, however, and
the early political system was complex, if ultimately fatal to the
society as a whole. The fundamental unit of Gallic politics was the
clan, which itself consisted of one or more of what Caesar called
_pagi_. Each clan had a council of elders, and initially a king.
Later, the executive was an annually-elected magistrate. Among the
Aedui, a clan of Gaul, the executive held the title of _Vergobret_, a
position much like a king, but his powers were held in check by rules
laid down by the council.
The regional ethnic groups, or _pagi_ as the Romans called them
(singular: _pagus_; the French word _pays_, "region" , comes from this
term), were organized into larger multi-clan groups the Romans called
_civitates _. These administrative groupings would be taken over by
the Romans in their system of local control, and these _civitates_
would also be the basis of France's eventual division into
ecclesiastical bishoprics and dioceses , which would remain in
place—with slight changes—until the
French Revolution .
Although the individual clans were moderately stable political
Gaul as a whole tended to be politically divided, there
being virtually no unity among the various clans. Only during
particularly trying times, such as the invasion of Caesar, could the
Gauls unite under a single leader like
Vercingetorix . Even then,
however, the faction lines were clear.
The Romans divided
Gaul broadly into _Provincia_ (the conquered area
around the Mediterranean), and the northern GALLIA COMATA ("free Gaul"
or "long haired Gaul"). Caesar divided the people of Gallia Comata
into three broad groups: the _Aquitani_; _Galli_ (who in their own
language were called _Celtae_); and _Belgae_. In the modern sense,
Gaulish peoples are defined linguistically, as speakers of dialects of
the Gaulish language. While the
Aquitani were probably
Vascons , the
Belgae would thus probably be a mixture of Celtic and Germanic
Julius Caesar , in his book, _The
Gallic Wars _, comments:
Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae
Aquitani another, those who in their own language are
called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third. All these differ from each
other in language, customs and laws. The river are the bravest,
because they are furthest from the civilization and refinement of
Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import
those things which tend to effeminate the mind; and they are the
nearest to the Germans, who dwell beyond the Rhine, with whom they are
continually waging war; for which reason the
Helvetii also surpass the
rest of the
Gauls in valor, as they contend with the Germans in almost
daily battles, when they either repel them from their own territories,
or themselves wage war on their frontiers. One part of these, which it
has been said that the
Gauls occupy, takes its beginning at the river
Rhone; it is bounded by the river Garonne, the ocean, and the
territories of the Belgae; it borders, Garonne separates the Gauls
from the Aquitani; the Marne and the
Seine separate them from the
Belgae. Of all these, the
Belgae too, on the side of the Sequani and
the Helvetii, upon the river Rhine, and stretches toward the north.
Belgae rises from the extreme frontier of Gaul, extend to the
lower part of the river Rhine; and look toward the north and the
Aquitania extends from the river Garonne to the Pyrenaean
mountains and to that part of the ocean which is near Spain: it looks
between the setting of the sun, and the north star.
Gauls practiced a form of animism , ascribing human
characteristics to lakes, streams, mountains, and other natural
features and granting them a quasi-divine status. Also, worship of
animals was not uncommon; the animal most sacred to the
Gauls was the
boar which can be found on many Gallic military standards, much like
the Roman eagle.
Their system of gods and goddesses was loose, there being certain
deities which virtually every Gallic person worshipped, as well as
clan and household gods. Many of the major gods were related to Greek
gods; the primary god worshipped at the time of the arrival of Caesar
was Teutates , the Gallic equivalent of Mercury . The "ancestor god"
Gauls was identified by
Julius Caesar in his _Commentarii de
Bello Gallico _ with the Roman god
Dis Pater .
Perhaps the most intriguing facet of Gallic religion is the practice
Druids . The druids presided over human or animal sacrifices
that were made in wooded groves or crude temples. They also appear to
have held the responsibility for preserving the annual agricultural
calendar and instigating seasonal festivals which corresponded to key
points of the lunar-solar calendar. The religious practices of druids
were syncretic and borrowed from earlier pagan traditions, with
probably indo-European roots.
Julius Caesar mentions in his Gallic
Wars that those
Celts who wanted to make a close study of druidism
went to Britain to do so. In a little over a century later, Gnaeus
Julius Agricola mentions Roman armies attacking a large druid
Anglesey in Wales. There is no certainty concerning the
origin of the druids, but it is clear that they vehemently guarded the
secrets of their order and held sway over the people of Gaul. Indeed,
they claimed the right to determine questions of war and peace, and
thereby held an "international" status. In addition, the Druids
monitored the religion of ordinary
Gauls and were in charge of
educating the aristocracy. They also practiced a form of
excommunication from the assembly of worshippers, which in ancient
Gaul meant a separation from secular society as well. Thus the Druids
were an important part of Gallic society. The nearly complete and
mysterious disappearance of the Celtic language from most of the
territorial lands of ancient Gaul, with the exception of Brittany
France, can be attributed to the fact that Celtic druids refused to
allow the Celtic oral literature or traditional wisdom to be committed
to the written letter.
Celts practiced headhunting as the head was believed to house a
person's soul. Ancient Romans and
Greeks recorded the Celts' habits of
nailing heads of personal enemies to walls or dangling them from the
necks of horses.
Asterix —a French comic about
Gaul and Rome, mainly set in 50 BC
Braccae —trousers, typical Gallic dress
Roman Villas in Northwestern Gaul
* ^ Arrowsmith, Aaron (3 April 2006). A Grammar of Ancient
Geography_,: Compiled for the Use of King\'s College School_. Hansard
London 1832. p. 50. Retrieved 21 September 2014.
* ^ Birkhan 1997:48
* ^ "The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville" p. 198 Cambridge
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* ^ "Gerlyver Sempel". _howlsedhes.co.uk_. Retrieved 31 December
Pierre-Yves Lambert , _La langue gauloise_, éditions Errance,
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* ^ Ekblom, R., "Die Herkunft des Namens La Gaule" in: Studia
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* ^ Sjögren, Albert, Le nom de "Gaule", in _Studia
Neophilologica_, Vol. 11 (1938/39) pp. 210–214.
* ^ _
Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology _ (OUP 1966), p. 391.
* ^ _Nouveau dictionnaire étymologique et historique_ (Larousse
1990), p. 336.
* ^ _Gael_ is derived from
Old Irish _Goidel_ (borrowed, in turn,
in the 7th century AD from Primitive Welsh _Guoidel_—spelled
Middle Welsh and Modern Welsh —likely derived from a
Brittonic root _*Wēdelos_ meaning literally "forest person, wild
man"): John Koch, "Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia",
ABC-CLIO, 2006, pp. 775–76
* ^ Linehan, Peter; Janet L. Nelson (2003). _The Medieval World_.
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* ^ Berresford Ellis, Peter (1998). The Celts: A History. Caroll &
Graf. pp. 49–50. ISBN 0-7867-1211-2 .
* ^ _Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and
Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France_ by Michael Dietler, 2010,
University of California Press, books.google.com
* ^ _A_ _B_ Drinkwater 2014 , p. 5.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Drinkwater 2014 , p. 6.
* ^ "France: The Roman conquest". _Encyclopædia Britannica Online
_. Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved April 6, 2015. Because of
chronic internal rivalries, Gallic resistance was easily broken,
though Vercingetorix’s Great Rebellion of 52 bc had notable
* ^ "Julius Caesar: The first triumvirate and the conquest of
Encyclopædia Britannica Online _. Encyclopædia Britannica .
Retrieved February 15, 2015. Indeed, the Gallic cavalry was probably
superior to the Roman, horseman for horseman. Rome’s military
superiority lay in its mastery of strategy, tactics, discipline, and
military engineering. In Gaul, Rome also had the advantage of being
able to deal separately with dozens of relatively small, independent,
and uncooperative states. Caesar conquered these piecemeal, and the
concerted attempt made by a number of them in 52 BC to shake off the
Roman yoke came too late.
* ^ Plutarch, Caesar 22
* ^ "Julius Caesar, Romans (Photo Archive)". _seindal.dk_.
Retrieved 31 December 2016.
* ^ Serghidou, Anastasia (2007). _Fear of slaves, fear of
enslavement in the ancient Mediterranean_. Besançon: Presses Univ.
Franche-Comté. p. 50. ISBN 978-2848671697 . Retrieved 8 January 2017.
* ^ Helvetti
* ^ Caesar, Julius; McDevitte, W. A.; Bohn, W. S., trans (1869).
_The Gallic Wars_. New York: Harper. p. 9. ISBN 978-1604597622 .
Retrieved 8 January 2017.
* ^ MacCulloch, John Arnott (1911). _The Religion of the Ancient
Celts_. Edinburgh: Clark. p. 22. ISBN 978-1508518518 . Retrieved 8
* ^ Warner, Marina; Burn, Lucilla (2003). _World of Myths, Vol. 1_.
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* ^ Kendrick, Thomas D. (1966). _The Druids: A study in Keltic
prehistory_ (1966 ed.). New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc. p. 78.
* ^ see e.g.
Diodorus Siculus , 5.2
* Birkhan, H. (1997). _Die Kelten_. Vienna.
* Drinkwater, John (2014). _
Roman Gaul (Routledge Revivals): The
Three Provinces, 58 BC-AD 260_. Routledge. ISBN 978-1317750741 .
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