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Gaul

This article is about the region. For the people who lived
there, see Gauls. For other uses, see Gaul (disambiguation).
Gallia redirects here. For other uses, see Gallia (disambiguation).
Gaul (Latin: Gallia) was a region of Western Eu-

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 during Late Antiquity, becoming amalgamated into a Gallo-Roman culture,
Gallia remained the conventional name of the territory
throughout the 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 () and modern Latin (besides the
alternatives Francia and Francogallia).

1 Name
Further information: Names of the Celts
The Greek and Latin names Galatia (rst 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-.[2] The Galli of Gallia Celtica were reported to refer to themselves as Celtae by Caesar. Hellenistic folk etymology connected the name of the Galatians (, Galtai) to the supposedly milk-white
skin (, gla milk) of the Gauls.[3]
The English Gaul is from French Gaule and is unrelated to
Latin Gallia, despite supercial similarity. As adjectives,
English has the two variants Gaulish and Gallic. The two
adjectives are used synonymously, as pertaining to Gaul
or the Gauls, although the Celtic language or languages
spoken in Gaul is predominantly known as Gaulish.

Gaul on the eve of the Gallic Wars. Roman ethnography divides Gaul into ve parts: Gallia Belgica, Gallia Celtica (largely
corresponding to the later province Gallia Lugdunensis), Gallia
Cisalpina, Gallia Narbonensis and Gallia Aquitania.

rope during the Iron Age that was inhabited by Celtic


tribes, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg,
Belgium, most of Switzerland, parts of Northern Italy, as
well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the
west bank of the Rhine. It covered an area of 190,800 mi
or 494,169 km.[1] According to the testimony of Julius
Caesar, Gaul was divided into three parts: Gallia Celtica,
Belgica and Aquitania. Archaeologically, the Gauls were
bearers of the La Tne culture, which extended across all
of Gaul, as well as east to Rhaetia, 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 BC. Gaul was
invaded by the Cimbri and the Teutons after 120 BC, who
were in turn defeated by the Romans by 103 BC. Julius
Caesar nally subdued the remaining parts of Gaul in his
campaigns of 58 to 51 BC.

The name Gaul is derived from the Old Frankish reex 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.[4] 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). 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 outcome of Latin Gallia is Jaille in French, which is found in several western
placenames.[5][6]

Also unrelated in spite of supercial similarity is the


name Gael.[7] The Irish word gall did originally mean a
Gaul, i.e. an inhabitant of Gaul, but its meaning was
Roman control of Gaul lasted for ve centuries, until the later widened to foreigner, to describe the Vikings, and
1

HISTORY

later still the Normans.[8] The dichotomic words gael and Italy, Austria, southwest Germany, Bohemia, Moravia,
gall are sometimes used together for contrast, for instance Slovakia and Hungary. Farther north extended the conin the 12th-century book Cogad Gedel re Gallaib.
temporary pre-Roman Iron Age culture of northern Germany and Scandinavia.

2
2.1

History
Pre-Roman Gaul

The major source of materials on the Celts of Gaul was


Poseidonios of Apamea, whose writings were quoted by
Timagenes, Julius Caesar, the Sicilian Greek Diodorus
Siculus, and the Greek geographer Strabo.[9]

In the 4th and early 3rd century BC, Gallic clan conFurther information: Prehistoric France, Celts, La Tne federations expanded far beyond the territory of what
would become Roman Gaul (which denes usage of the
culture and Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul
The early history of the Gauls is predominantly a work in 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 between Rhine and Seine),
the Celtae in the center and in Armorica, and the Aquitani
in the southwest, the southeast being already colonized
by the Romans. While some scholars believe the Belgae
south of the Somme were a mixture of Celtic and Germanic elements, their ethnic aliations have not been
denitively resolved. One of the reasons is political interference upon the French historical interpretation during
the 19th century.

Map of Roman Gaul (Droysens Allgemeiner historischer Handatlas, 1886)

archaeologythere being little written information (save


perhaps what can be gleaned from coins) concerning the
peoples that inhabited these regionsand the relationships between their material culture, genetic relationships (the study of which has been aided, in recent years,
through the eld of archaeogenetics), and linguistic divisions rarely coincide.
Before the rapid spread of the La Tne culture in the 5th
to 4th centuries BC, the territory of eastern and southern France already participated in the Late Bronze Age
Urneld 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 inuence 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, the La Tne culture arises,
presumably under Mediterranean inuence from the
Greek, Phoenician, and Etruscan civilizations, spread out
in a number of early centers along the Seine, the Middle
Rhine and the upper Elbe. By the late 5th century BC, La
Tne inuence spreads rapidly across the entire territory
of Gaul. The La Tne culture developed and ourished
during the late Iron Age (from 450 BC to the Roman
conquest in the 1st century BC) in France, Switzerland,

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.[10] Also, along
the southeastern Mediterranean coast, the Ligures had
merged with the Celts to form a Celto-Ligurian culture.
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 Avaricum (Bourges), Cenabum (Orlans),
Autricum (Chartres) and the excavated site of Bibracte
near Autun in Sane-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 125 BC, and by 121
BC they had conquered the Mediterranean region called
Provincia (later named Gallia Narbonensis). This conquest upset the ascendancy of the Gaulish Arverni peoples.

2.2 Conquest by Rome


Main article: Gallic Wars
The Roman proconsul and general Julius Caesar pushed
his army into Gaul in 58 BCE, on the pretext of assisting Romes Gaullish allies against the migrating Helvetii.
With the help of various Gallic clans (e.g. the Aedui)

2.4

Frankish Gaul

Soldiers of Gaul, as imagined by a late 19th-century illustrator


for the Larousse dictionary, 1898

Gauls in Rome

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.[11][12] Julius Caesar was checked by Vercingetorix at a siege of Gergovia,
a fortied town in the center of Gaul. Caesars 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
Rome.
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.[13] During
Julius Caesars campaign against the Helvetii (present-day
Switzerland) approximately 60% of that nation was destroyed, and another 20% was taken into slavery.

2.3

Roman Gaul

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 Gauls eventually became Roman citizens.[14] From the third to 5th centuries, Gaul was
exposed to raids by the Franks. The Gallic Empire, consisting of the provinces of Gaul, Britannia, and Hispania,
including the peaceful Baetica in the south, broke away
from Rome from 260 to 273.

2.4 Frankish Gaul


Main articles: Neustria, Frankish Aquitaine, Frankish
Burgundy and 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 rst kings of France.
Gallo-Roman culture, the Romanized culture of Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire, persisted particularly in the areas of Gallia Narbonensis that developed
into Occitania, 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-sucient 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. GalloRoman language persisted in the northeast into the Silva
Carbonaria that formed an eective 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, Gregory of Tours.

3 THE GAULS
Massalia (modern Marseille) silver coin with Greek unit of Gallic politics was the clan, which itself consisted
legend, 5th1st century BC.
of one or more of what Caesar called pagi. Each clan had
a council of elders, and initially a king. Later, the ex Gold coins of the Gaul Parisii, 1st century BC,
ecutive was an annually-elected magistrate. Among the
(Cabinet des Mdailles, Paris).
Aedui, a clan of Gaul, the executive held the title of Ver Roman silver Denarius with the head of captive Gaul gobret, a position much like a king, but his powers were
held in check by rules laid down by the council.
48 BC, following the campaigns of Julius Caesar.

The Gauls

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 multiclan 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 Frances eventual division
into ecclesiastical bishoprics and dioceses, which would
remain in placewith slight changesuntil the French
Revolution.
Although the individual clans were moderately stable political entities, 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.

A map of Gaul in the 1st century BCE, showing the relative positions of the Celtic ethnicites: Celtae, Belgae and Aquitani.

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 dened 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 elements.
Julius Caesar, in his book, Commentarii de Bello Gallico,
comments:

Expansion of the Celtic culture in the 3rd century BC.

Main article: Gauls

3.1

Social structure, indigenous nation


and clans

The 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

All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of


which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another,
and those who in their own language are called
Celts, in ours Gauls, the third.
All these dier from each other in language, customs and laws.
The River Garonne separates the Gauls
from the Aquitani; the rivers Marne and the
Seine separate them from the Belgae.
Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest,
because they are furthest from the civilisation
and renement of (our) Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import those things which tend to eeminate the
mind; and they are the nearest to the Germani,
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
valour, as they contend with the Germani in almost daily battles, when they either repel them

5
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 Rhne; it is bounded by
the Garonne, the Atlantic Ocean, and the territories of the Belgae; it borders, too, on the
side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, upon the
Rhine, and stretches toward the north.
The Belgae rises from the extreme frontier
of Gaul, extend to the lower part of the River
Rhine; and look toward the north and the rising
sun.
Aquitania extends from the Garonne to the
Pyrenees and to that part of the Atlantic (Bay
of Biscay) which is near Spain: it looks between the setting of the sun, and the north star.

3.2

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.[15]
The Celts practiced headhunting as the head was believed
to house a persons 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.[16]

Religion

Main article: Celtic polytheism


The 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 of the Gauls was identied 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 of the Druids. The druids presided over human
or animal sacrices 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
sanctuary in 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

4 See also
Ambiorix
Asterixa French comic about Gaul and Rome set
in 50 BC
Bog body
Braccaetrousers, typical Gallic dress
Cisalpine Gaul
Galatia
Lugdunum
Roman Republic
Roman Villas in Northwestern Gaul

5 Notes
[1] Arrowsmith, Aaron. A Grammar of Ancient Geography,: Compiled for the Use of Kings College School. 3
April 2006 (Hansard London 1832, p50). Retrieved 21
September 2014.
[2] Birkhan 1997:48
[3] The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville p.198 Cambridge
University Press 2006 Stephen A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J.
A. Beach and Oliver Berghof
[4] Sjgren, Albert, Le nom de Gaule, in Studia Neophilologica, Vol. 11 (1938/39) pp. 210-214.
[5] Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (OUP 1966), p.
391.
[6] Nouveau dictionnaire tymologique et historique (Larousse
1990), p. 336.

[7] Gael is derived from Old Irish Goidel (borrowed, in turn,


in the 7th century AD from Primitive Welsh Guoidel
spelled Gwyddel in Middle Welsh and Modern Welsh
likely derived from a Brittonic root *Wdelos meaning literally forest person, wild man): John Koch, Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2006, pp.
775-6
[8] Linehan, Peter; Janet L. Nelson (2003). The Medieval
World 10. Routledge. p. 393. ISBN 978-0-415-30234-0.
[9] Berresford Ellis, Peter (1998). The Celts: A History. Caroll & Graf. pp. 4950. ISBN 0-7867-1211-2.
[10] Archaeologies of Colonialism: Consumption, Entanglement, and Violence in Ancient Mediterranean France by
Michael Dietler, 2010, University of California Press,
books.google.com
[11] France: The Roman conquest. Encyclopdia Britannica Online. Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved April
6, 2015. Because of chronic internal rivalries, Gallic resistance was easily broken, though Vercingetorixs Great
Rebellion of 52 bce had notable successes.
[12] Julius Caesar: The rst triumvirate and the conquest of
Gaul. Encyclopdia Britannica Online. Encyclopdia
Britannica. Retrieved February 15, 2015. Indeed, the
Gallic cavalry was probably superior to the Roman, horseman for horseman. Romes 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 BCE to shake o the Roman yoke
came too late.
[13] Julius Caesar The Conquest of Gaul
[14] Helvetti
[15] Kendrick, Thomas D. (1966). The Druids: A study in
Keltic prehistory (1966 ed.). New York: Barnes & Noble,
Inc. p. 78.
[16] see e.g. Diodorus Siculus, 5.2

References
Birkhan, H. (1997). Die Kelten. Vienna.

External links
The Gallic Wars

EXTERNAL LINKS

Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

8.1

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8.2

Images

File:Armoiries_rpublique_franaise.svg Source:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b7/Armoiries_r%C3%
A9publique_fran%C3%A7aise.svg License: CC BY-SA 2.0 fr Contributors: Jrme BLUM (original png seems to have been taken from
here) Original artist: Dessin par Jrme BLUM le 5 septembre 2007. Ksztette: Jrme BLUM 2007.
File:Arms_of_the_Kings_of_France_(France_Moderne).svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/Arms_
of_the_Kings_of_France_%28France_Moderne%29.svg License: CC BY-SA 4.0 Contributors: Own work Original artist: Sodacan
File:Celtic_round_dogs.svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/Celtic_round_dogs.svg License: Public domain Contributors: Own work Original artist: Ch1902
File:Celts_in_III_century_BC.jpg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/Celts_in_III_century_BC.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: Own elaboration from Image:Europe satellite orthographic.jpg Original artist: User:Castagna
File:Commons-logo.svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4a/Commons-logo.svg License: CC-BY-SA-3.0 Contributors: ? Original artist: ?
File:Droysens_Hist_Handatlas_S16_Gallien.jpg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/41/Droysens_Hist_
Handatlas_S16_Gallien.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: Gustav Droysens Allgemeiner historischer Handatlas in 96 Karten mit
erluterndem Text Bielefeld [u.a.]: Velhagen & Klasing 1886, S. 16 Original artist: Gustav Droysen
File:Flag_of_France.svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c3/Flag_of_France.svg License: PD Contributors: ? Original artist: ?
File:Gaul,_1st_century_BC.gif Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/Gaul%2C_1st_century_BC.gif License:
Public domain Contributors: ? Original artist: ?
File:Gaul_Soldiers.JPG Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9f/Gaul_Soldiers.JPG License: Public domain
Contributors: ? Original artist: ?
File:GaulsinRome.jpg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/GaulsinRome.jpg License: Public domain Contributors: Franois Guizot (1787-1874), The History of France from the Earliest Times to the Year 1789, London : S. Low, Marston, Searle
& Rivington, 1883, p. 27 Original artist: Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville

8 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

File:Map_Gallia_Tribes_Towns.png Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Map_Gallia_Tribes_Towns.png


License: CC-BY-SA-3.0 Contributors: Own work Original artist: Feitscherg
File:Napoleonic_Eagle.svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Napoleonic_Eagle.svg License: CC BY-SA
3.0 Contributors:
Emblem_of_Napoleon_Bonaparte.svg Original artist: Emblem_of_Napoleon_Bonaparte.svg: Sodacan
File:Question_book-new.svg Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/99/Question_book-new.svg License: Cc-by-sa-3.0
Contributors:
Created from scratch in Adobe Illustrator. Based on Image:Question book.png created by User:Equazcion Original artist:
Tkgd2007

8.3

Content license

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