Home | Flight | Transfer | Train Pass | Hotel | All Cruises | EN-FR Words | River Cruise | Med Cruise | Paris Inclusive | Group | TourPackage | Travel Books | Travel Needs
An Outline of French History - The Celts
  • 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 Gauls. 

      Eventually, the Celt tribes
      ranged 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:
    • Celtic Organization
      The various Celtic tribes lacked a well-defined central government.  They were primarily bound together by common speech, customs, and religion.  The 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.  

    • The Celts were Iron Age People
      By 700 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.  

    • The Romans Knew Two Gauls

      • Cisalpine Gaul
        South 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. 

      • Transalpine Gaul
        The Celtic land, to the north and to the west of the Alpes, was known as Transalpine Gaul [Gaul across the Alpes]. 
        Transalpine 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 Switzerland.  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

      • Roman History Provence Area 

      • Other references to Gaul in French-at-a-touch:

    • The Four Celtic Tribes of Transalpine Gaul
      The main Celtic tribes of Transalpine Gaul, were known as the Aedui, the Allobroges, Senones and the Sequani: 

      • The Aedui
        The 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.  

      • The Allobroges
        The Allobroges 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 Senones
        The French départements of Seine-et-Marne [region of Ile-de-France], Loiret [region of Centre], and Yonne [region of Burgundy] include 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.  

      • The Sequani
        In the 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 Franche-Comte.  Their 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.

  • Roman Gaul [About 200 BC – 481 AD]
    • The Greeks Predated Romans in Gaul
      The 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 Marseille.  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 coast.  
    • Romans Guarded Trade Routes Between Rome and Spain [121 BC]
      The 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.
    • Caesar Conquered Gaul [58-50 BC] 
      By 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 called Paris.

      In 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
    • Caesar's Successors [14 - 481 AD]
      By the year 14 AD, Caesar’s successor, Augustus, had partitioned Gaul into the two administrative provinces of Narbonensis and Gallia Comata.  Narbonensis, which was situated along the Mediterranean coast, was referred to as ‘The Province’.  It roughly covered the area of today's Provence.

      To 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].

      The north-eastern boundaries, established by the Romans, dichotomized the inhabitants as to Germanic and Romance language speakers. 

      As Roman rule solidified, the people of Narbonensis and western Gallia Comata assimilated both the Roman language [Latin] and Roman civilization.  The 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 itself.

      During the second century AD, Christians arrived in Gaul.

      In the south, Rome quickly assimilated the now Romanized Celtic leaders into Roman aristocracy.  By the 4th century AD, the Narbonensis city of Arles, which 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.

      Almost concurrently, Germanic tribes were successful in their invasions of Gaul.  Their invasions ultimately ended Rome's political domination of Gaul. 

      As 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.

      The Merovingiens [481-751] >>>



   Roman Empire
   New/Old Provinces
   Charlemagne's Empire
   France 1032
   France 1789
   French Empire
   Outline of Fr. History
    1000 BC - 150 BC
    200 BC - 481 AD
   1st - 5th REPUBLIC
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Hundred Years' War
Edict of Nantes
Joan of Arc

 Words & Phrases
     Categories at Left
 CALL 1-888-666-7279



                                                                                          © Copyright 1999 - 2016 by Sharon Atchley.  All rights reserved.  Updated:  05/17/2016