An Outline of
French History - The Celts
[About 1000 BC - about 150 BC]
- Celtic Background
Herodotus, and other
Greek writers, used the word Keltoi in reference to the people who
dominated much of western and central Europe from the 2nd
to the 1st millennium BC.
These Keltoi give their language, customs, and religion to the
Paleolithic peoples of that area.
Keltoi ultimately became Celt, which was also spelled Kelt
[Latin Celta, plural Celtae]. To
the Romans, the Continental Celts were also known as Galli, or
the Celt tribes
from the British Isles and northern Spain to as far east as
Transylvania, the Black Sea coasts, and Galatia in Anatolia.
They were, in part, absorbed into the Roman Empire as Britons,
Gauls, Boii, Galatians, and Celtiberians.
Other references to the Celts within French-at-a-touch are:
The various Celtic
tribes lacked a well-defined central government.
They were primarily bound together by common speech, customs,
social levels of the tribe were threefold:
The highest was the king; the second, the druids, consisted of
the warrior aristocracy; and the third class, the egues, was made up
of the freemen farmers. The
druids, who were occupied with magico-religious duties, were the
priests. They were
recruited from families of the warrior class but ranked higher.
The family was patriarchal.
were Iron Age People
BC, archeological evidence indicates that the Celts were an Iron Age
people. Their use of
iron, together with their fierceness as warriors, gave them dominance
over the region. It
appears that many Celts became wealthy from controlling trade routes
along rivers such as the Danube, Rhine, Rhône and Seine.
By the 5th century BC the Celts had migrated into
Eastern Europe. During the 4th century BC,
they overran northern Italy, Macedonia, and Thessaly (Thessalia).
In 390, they sacked Rome.
In 279, they attacked Delphi, in Greece, and went as far as
Asia Minor, where they were known as Galatians.
of the Alpes, the Romans knew the Celtic territory as Cisalpine Gaul
[Gaul this side of the Alpes]. These
Cisalpine Celts remained a menace to Rome until they were defeated, at
Telamon, in 225.
Celtic land, to the north and to the west of the Alpes, was known as
Transalpine Gaul [Gaul across the Alpes].
Gaul included the lands from the Channel southeast to
the Western Alpes, south to the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees and east
from the Atlantic to the Rhine River.
What the Romans called Transalpine Gaul is now France and
Belgium, along with parts of Germany, The Netherlands, and
In the middle
of the 1st century,
Transalpine Gaul became a
distinct Roman territory as a result of the campaigns of Julius
Caesar. It disappeared
late in the 5th century AD.
The remnants of Celtic
languages, and tradition, are still found in
Brittany, Wales, the
Scottish Highlands, and Ireland.
Roman History Provence
Other references to Gaul in French-at-a-touch:
Celtic Tribes of Transalpine Gaul
The main Celtic tribes of Transalpine Gaul,
were known as the Aedui, the Allobroges, Senones and the Sequani:
Aedui was a tribe from central Gaul, the area now known as Burgundy.
Since 121 BC, the
Aedui had been under the protection of
Rome. In about 61 BC
the Aedui were defeated by the Sequani who appropriated their
revenues from the Saone River.
Caesar latter rescued them and made them his allies.
They were subsequently elevated to the status of an allied
state [civitas foederata] under Augustus.
In 48 AD, the Aedui became the first tribe of Gaul
Transalpine to send senators to Rome.
were a Celtic tribe living in the area between the Rhône and Isère
rivers and what is now the city of Geneva.
In 218 BC, Hannibal passed through their region.
They were conquered by the Romans in 121 BC and were
ultimately incorporated into Transalpine Gaul.
In 63 BC, the Roman statesman Catiline tried to involve them
in a plot against Marcus Cicero; instead, the Allobroges provided
Cicero with proof of the plot.
The French départements of Seine-et-Marne [region of
Loiret [region of
Yonne [region of
the area once inhabited by the Gallic Senones.
Between 53 and 51 BC, the Senones fought against Julius
Caesar. They were
beaten and were later included in Gallia Lugdunensis.
Their capital was the town known as Agendicum, which later
became Senonus. Its
modern name is Sens. It was probably the Cisalpine branch of this
tribe that led an army into Greece in 279 BC.
1st century BC the Sequani territory was located between the Saône, Rhône, and Rhine rivers.
Their capital was at the town of Vesontio, which is now
known as Besançon, in the present-day departement of Doubs in
disputes with the Aedui caused them to ally themselves with the
German leader Ariovistus. He
defeated the Aedui and then occupied Sequanian territory in modern
Alsace. Later, in 58
BC, the Sequani and the Aedui formed an alliance with Julius
Caesar to drive out the Germans and the Sequani lands became part
of the Roman Empire.
Gaul [About 200 BC – 481 AD]
Predated Romans in Gaul
Greeks predated the Romans along the western Mediterranean coast.
In about 600 BC they established a colony, known as Massilia,
in the present-day departement of Bouches-du-Rhone.
This city is now known as
During the Punic wars, of the 2nd and 3rd
centuries BC, Massilia had sided with Rome.
Subsequently, the city of Massilia was annexed by Rome.
Around 125 BC, the Romans entered southern Transalpine Gaul for
the purpose of subduing the Celtic tribes along the Mediterranean
Romans Guarded Trade
Routes Between Rome and Spain [121 BC]
provence of Gallia Narbonensis, which roughly corresponded with
the French region of Provence-Alps-Côte
d'Azur, was set up to guard Rome's overland trade routes between
Rome and Spain.
Conquered Gaul [58-50 BC]
the end of the Gallic
Wars [58-50 BC], Julius Caesar had annexed all of
northern Transalpine Gaul [the Celts of central Europe were
being dominated by Germanic tribes].
He was aware of the inter fighting of the Celtic tribes in the
north. Under the pretext
of helping one tribe against another, he was able to sequentially
defeat all of these tribes. He
also fought Germanic tribes, between the
Voges Mountians and the
Rhine, securing this region as part of Transalpine Gaul.
In 52 BC, Caesar set up the Roman city of Lutetia on what is now the
Seine island of Cité. It was latter
44 BC, Julius Caesar died. By
the Roman emperor’s death, Rome had gained control over the whole
territory of Gaul, a region that stretched beyond the borders of
modern France. The Romans initially intended to extend the boundary of
Gaul beyond the Rhine and into Germanic territories.
But, in 9 AD, they ultimately limited themselves to defending
the border after suffering a defeat at the hands of the Germans.
Roman Gaul Art
Successors [14 - 481 AD]
the year 14 AD, Caesar’s successor, Augustus, had partitioned Gaul
into the two administrative provinces of Narbonensis and
Narbonensis, which was situated along the Mediterranean coast,
was referred to as ‘The Province’.
It roughly covered the area of today's Provence.
the north, Gallic Comata, was subsequently subdivided into the three
imperial provinces of Belgica, Lugdunensis and Aquitania. The name ‘Gallic Comata’, meaning ‘Long-Haired Gaul’,
was given as a disparagement of the northern Gauls’ craving for wine
and their barbaric ways.
Between 69 and 96 AD, Rome recognized that the Rhine River would
be at the limit of its expansion of north- eastern Gallia Comata.
As a consequence, It was decided that Rome would merely hold
the region between the middle Rhine and upper Danube.
This area, known as the Agri Decumates [Ten Cantons], covered
the region of the Black Forest. It was considered sufficient to secure communications between
the Roman garrisons that had been permanently established on both
rivers. The Ten Cantons
were attached to Germania Superior [Upper Germany].
north-eastern boundaries, established by the Romans, dichotomized the
inhabitants as to Germanic and Romance language speakers.
Roman rule solidified, the people of Narbonensis and western Gallia
Comata assimilated both the Roman language [Latin] and Roman
territory subjugated by Caesar adopted to the Roman methods of
agriculture and urbanization at a slower pace than was the case in the
south. In both regions,
the development of the urban areas followed the Roman model with
senate houses, temples and forums.
A large trade sprang up between the imperial provinces and Rome
During the second century AD, Christians arrived in Gaul.
the south, Rome quickly assimilated the now Romanized Celtic leaders
into Roman aristocracy.
By the 4th century AD, the Narbonensis city of
had long been an important meeting place for merchants, become the
seat of the prefecture of all Gaul.
At this same time,
Marseille become the main center of Greek
studies in the west.
concurrently, Germanic tribes were successful in their invasions of
Gaul. Their invasions
ultimately ended Rome's political domination of
a consequence of Rome’s all encompassing penetration of Gaul, modern
France eventually emerged as a Romance speaking country.
Its Roman heritage can also be found in its architecture.
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