The VOLCAE (Latin pronunciation: ) were a tribal confederation
constituted before the raid of combined
Gauls that invaded Macedonia
c. 270 BC and fought the assembled Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae
in 279 BC . Tribes known by the name
Volcae were found simultaneously
in southern Gaul,
Moravia , the
Ebro valley of the
Iberian Peninsula ,
Anatolia . The
Volcae appear to have been part of the
late La Tène material culture , and a Celtic identity has been
attributed to the Volcae, based on mentions in Greek and Latin sources
as well as onomastic evidence.
Driven by highly mobile groups operating outside the tribal system
and comprising diverse elements, the
Volcae were one of the new ethnic
entities formed during the Celtic military expansion at the beginning
of the 3rd century BC. Collecting in the famous excursion into the
Balkans , ostensibly, from the Hellene point of view, to raid
a branch of the
Volcae split from the main group on the way into the
Balkans and joined two other tribes, the
Tolistobogii and the Trocmi,
to settle in central
Anatolia and establish a new identity as the
The Tectosagii were a sept of the
Volcae who moved through Macedonia
Anatolia c. 277 BC.
Strabo says the Tectosagii came originally
from the region near modern
Toulouse , in France.
Volcae of the Danube
* 3 Etymology
* 4 Continuation of the name
* 5 Notes
* 6 References
VOLCAE OF THE DANUBE
Caesar's ethnogenesis and migrations of the Volcae.
Julius Caesar was convinced that the
Volcae had originally been
settled east of the
Rhine , for he mentioned the
a Gaulish tribe which still remained in western Germany in his day
Gallic Wars 6.24):
And there was formerly a time when the
Gauls excelled the Germans in
prowess, and waged war on them offensively, and, on account of the
great number of their people and the insufficiency of their land, sent
colonies over the Rhine.
Volcae Tectosages, seized on those parts of Germany
which are the most fruitful around the Hercynian forest , (which, I
perceive, was known by report to
Eratosthenes and some other Greeks,
and which they call Orcynia), and settled there. Which nation to this
time retains its position in those settlements, and has a very high
character for justice and military merit; now also they continue in
the same scarcity, indigence, hardihood, as the Germans, and use the
same food and dress; but their proximity to the Province and knowledge
of commodities from countries beyond the sea supplies to the Gauls
many things tending to luxury as well as civilization. Accustomed by
degrees to be overmatched and worsted in many engagements, they do not
now even compare themselves to the Germans in prowess.
Caesar related a tradition associating the Celtic tribe of the Volcae
to the vast Hercynian Forest, though they were more probably to be
located in the eastern range of the
České Středohoří ; yet,
Volcae of his time were settled in
Moravia , east of the
Boii . Their
apparent movement may indicate that the
Volcae were newcomers to the
region. Caesar's remark about the wealth of this region may have
referred not only to agriculture but also to the mineral deposits
there, while the renown attributed to the
Volcae "in peace and in war"
resulted from their metallurgical skills and the quality of their
weapons, both attracting the attention of their northern neighbors.
Together with the
Boii in the upper basin of the
Elbe river to the
west and the
Slovakia to the east, this area of Celtic
settlement in oppida led to the exploitation of natural resources on a
grand scale and the concentration of skilled craftsmen under the
patronage of strong and wealthy chieftains. This culture flourished
from the mid second to the mid-1st century BCE, until it buckled under
the combined pressure of the
Germanic peoples from the North and the
Dacians from the East.
Allowance must be made for Julius Caesar's usual equation of
primitive poverty with admirable hardihood and military prowess and
his connection of luxurious imports and the proximity of
"civilization", meaning his own, with softness and decadence. In fact,
long-established trading connections furnished Gaulish elites with
Baltic amber and Greek and Etruscan wares.
Caesar took it as a given that the
Celts in the
Hercynian Forest were
emigrant settlers from
Gaul who had "seized" the land, but modern
archeology identifies the region as part of the La Tène homeland. As
Henry Howarth noted a century ago, "The
Tectosages reported by Caesar
as still being around the Hercynian forest were in fact living in the
old homes of their race, whence a portion of them set out on their
great expedition against Greece, and eventually settled in
in Asia Minor, where one of the tribes was called Tectosages."
VOLCAE OF GAUL
Map showing the relative position of the
Volcae and Tectosages.
The VOLCAE ARECOMICI (Οὐόλκαι Ἀρικόμιοι of
Ptolemy's Geography ii), according to Strabo, dwelt on the western
side of the lower
Rhône , with their metropolis at Narbo (Narbonne
): "Narbo is spoken of as the naval-station of these people alone,
though it would be fairer to add 'and of the rest of Celtica', so
greatly has it surpassed the others in the number of people who use it
as a trade-centre." They were not alone in occupying their territory,
with its capital at
Volcae Arecomici of their own accord surrendered to the Roman
Republic in 121 BC. They occupied the district between the Garonne
Cévennes (Cebenna mons), and the Rhône,
corresponding roughly to the Roman province of
Gallia Narbonensis .
They held their assemblies in the sacred wood of
Nemausus , the site
Gaul they were divided into two tribes in widely separated
regions, the Arecomici on the east, living among the
Ligures , and the
Tectosages (whose territory included that of the Tolosates) on the
west, living among the
Aquitani ; the territories were separated by
the Hérault (Arauris) or a line between the Hérault and the Orb
Tectosages coins, Southern France, 5th-1st century BC.
Coin of the
Volcae Tectosages, silver 3.58g.
Monnaie de Paris
Monnaie de Paris .
West of the Arecomici the VOLCAE TECTOSAGES (whose territory included
that of the Tolosates) lived among the Aquitani; the territories were
separated by the Hérault (Arauris) or a line between the Hérault
River and the Orb (Orbis).
Strabo says the
originally from the region near modern
Toulouse and were a sept or
clan of the Volcae.
The territory of the
Τεκτόσαγες of Ptolemy's Geography ii) in
Gaul lay outside
the Roman Republic, to the southwest of the
Volcae Arecomici. From the
3rd century BC, the capital city of the
Tectosages was Tolosa
(Toulouse). When the
Teutones invaded Gaul, the Tectosages
allied themselves with them, and their town Tolosa was sacked in
Quintus Servilius Caepio in 106 BC. Tolosa was
incorporated into the
Roman Republic as part of the province of Gallia
Aquitania with the conquest of
Julius Caesar in 52 BC. The
Roman conquest of Tolosa ended the cultural identity of the Volcae
According to Ptolemy's Geography, their inland towns were Illiberis ,
Ruscino , Tolosa colonia , Cessero , Carcaso , Baetirae , and Narbo
Tectosages were among the successful raiders of the Delphi
expedition and were said to have transported their booty to Tolosa. A
significant part of these raiders however did not return and crossed
Bosporus instead. As a result,
Tectosages was also the name of one
of the three great communities of
Gauls who invaded and settled in
Anatolia in the country called after them "
Venceslas Kruta suggests that their movement into this region was
probably motivated by a Carthaginian recruiting post situated close
by, a main attraction of the region for Celtic mercenaries eager for
more campaigning. Indeed, after crossing the Pyrenees in 218 BC,
Hannibal in travelling through southern
Gaul was greeted by warlike
tribes: the Volcae, the
Arverni , the
Allobroges , and the
Rhône Valley, who rose to prominence around the middle of the 3rd
century BC. From around that time, this part of
Gaul underwent a
process of stabilization buttressed by the formation of new and
powerful tribal confederations as well as the development of new-style
settlements resembling the urban centers of the Mediterranean world,
of which Tolosa and
Nemausus (Nîmes) were no exception.
In 107, the Volcae, allies of the
Tigurini , a branch of the Helvetii
who belonged to a coalition that formed around the
Cimbri and the
Teutons, defeated a Roman army at Tolosa. In 106-5, Q. Servilius
Caepio was sent with an army to put down the revolt, and as a result,
Tolosa was sacked, and thereafter the town and its territory were
absorbed into Gallia Narbonensis, thereby establishing firm control
over the western Gallic trade corridor along the
Carcassonne Gap and
Most modern Celticists regard the tribal name Uolcae as being related
to Welsh gwalch 'hawk', perhaps related (at the Proto-Indo-European
level ) to Latin falco 'hawk' (compare the Gaulish personal name
Catuuolcus to Welsh cadwalch 'hero', literally 'battle-hawk'), though
some prefer to translate Gaulish *uolco- as 'wolf' and, by semantic
extension, 'errant warrior'. There seems to be indication that their
name is related to their breed of war greyhounds since before the 600
BC when the
Celts sacked Delphi. Survivors
left accounts of the fierce
Celts and the huge dogs who fought with
them and at their side. They were described by
Julius Caesar in his
war reports, The
Gallic Wars .
The name Tectosages, literally 'possession-seekers', meant
'claim-stakers', perhaps closer in sense to 'claim-jumper' or 'land
grabber', and a direct cognate is found in Old Irish techtaigidir
'he/she seeks to (re)establish a land claim'.
CONTINUATION OF THE NAME
Volcae were highly influential in Moravia, and together with the
Boii and the
Cotini and other Danubian tribes, they controlled a
highly active network of trade routes connected to the Mediterranean
and the German lands. The prowess of these tribes and their proximity
led to their name being borrowed into Germanic as *
Walhaz , a generic
term for "Celt" and eventually "Roman" as the two cultures merged in
time. This word has been applied widely to any former Roman
provincials, including the Welsh ,
Italians , and French . Compare:
English Welsh, Flemish Dutch waalsch "Walloons", German welsch
"French", Switzerland German Churwelsch "Churer Romance" (an old name
for Romansh , which used to be spoken in
Chur ), Old Norse Valir
"Roman; French". The word was also borrowed by the Slavs, who used it
to refer to the
Vlachs . Polish applied it not only to Vlachs
(Wołosi) but also
Italians (Włosi); the same pair of ethnonyms also
exist in Czech : Valaši (=
Vlachs or Wallachians) France".
* ^ Kruta, Venceslas. Celts: History and Civilization. London:
Hachette Illustrated, 2004: 204.
* ^ Green, D. H. Language and History in the Early Germanic World.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998: 163.
* ^ Howorth 1908:431.
* ^ Strabo, IV.1.12
* ^ "Capital" applied to Gallic tribes offers misleading
* ^ "Situated alongside the Arecomici as far as the Pyrenees, are
other tribes, which are without repute and small" (Strabo, IV.1.12).
* ^ The
Cévennes "formed a natural boundary between the Volcae
Arecomici and the
Ruteni " to the east (Smith 1854).
* ^ "At the time of
Hannibal 's invasion of Italy , the
also possessions east of the Rhône" (Smith 1854); see
Livy xxi. 26
* ^ "that people of the
Volcae who are called Tectosages" (Strabo,
IV.1.12 (on-line text).
* ^ Howorth 1908:432.
* ^ In Roman times Illiberis— in Basque, "iri-berri" or
"ili-berri", still signifies "new town"— signified more than one
place: see Illiberis .
* ^ Kruta, Venceslas. Celts: History and Civilization. (London:
Hachette Illustrated), 2004: 82-3.
* ^ Kruta 2004:99.
* ^ Kruta 2004:108.
* ^ Cunliffe, Barry. The Ancient Celts. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1997: 236
* ^ See John Koch, 'The Celtic Lands', in Medieval Arthurian
Literature: A Guide to Recent Research, edited by Norris J Lacy,
(Taylor & Francis) 1996:267. For a full discussion of the etymology of
Gaulish *uolco-, see Xavier Delamarre, Dictionnaire de la langue
gauloise (Editions Errance), 2001:274-6, and for examples of Gaulish
*uolco- in various ancient personal Celtic names see Xavier Delamarre
Noms des personnes celtiques (Editions Errance) 2007, p. 237.
* ^ from Sims-Williams, Patrick. Ancient Celtic Place-Names in
Europe and Asia Minor. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006: 298 quoting Joseph,
Lionel S. 'The Origin of the Celtic Denominatives in *-sag-'. Studies
in Memory of Warren Cowgill. Berlin: 1987: 156-8
* John King, Celt Kingdoms
* This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Volcae". Encyclopædia
Britannica . 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 178.
* Ptolemy, Geography at Lacus Curtius site
* William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854)
Iron Age tribes in