Gauls: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France and Belgium, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish.

Archaeologically, they were the bearers of the La Tène culture (5th to 1st centuries BC). In the 3rd century BC, the Gauls expanded towards the southeast in a series of invasions, including the Gallic Invasion of Greece, settling as far east as Anatolia, as the Galatians. They were conquered by Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars in the 50s BC, and during the Roman period became assimilated into a Gallo-Roman culture. During the crisis of the third century, there was briefly a breakaway Gallic Empire under Postumus, Marcus Aurelius Marius and Tetricus I. By the arrival of the Franks during the Migration Period (5th century), the Gaulish language had been replaced by Vulgar Latin.



Gold coins of the Santones Gauls, 5-1st century BC. Early Gaul coins were often inspired by Greek coinage.[1]
Bronze cuirass, weighing 2.9kg, Grenoble, end of 7th century - early 6th century BCE.

Gaulish culture developed out of the Celtic cultures over the first millennia BC. The Urnfield culture (c. 1300 BC – c. 750 BC) represents the Celts as a distinct cultural branch of the Indo-European-speaking people. The spread of iron working led to the Hallstatt culture in the 8th century BC; the Proto-Celtic may have been spoken around this time. The Hallstatt culture evolved into the La Tène culture in around the 5th century BC. The Greek, Phoenician, and Etruscan civilizations and colonies began to influence the Gauls especially in the Mediterranean area.

Brennus sacked Rome circa 390 BC

Gauls under Brennus sacked Rome circa 390 BC. In the Aegean world, a huge migration of Eastern Gauls appeared in Thrace, north of Greece, in 281 BC. Another Gaulish chieftain also named Brennus, at the head of a large army, was only turned back from desecrating the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece at the last minute — he was alarmed, it was said, by portents of thunder and lightning.[2] The Mediterranean Gauls were prosperous enough by the 2nd century that the powerful Greek colony of Massilia had to appeal to the Roman Republic for defense against them. The Northern Gauls remained primarily agricultural and had few large population centers beyond fortifications used in times of war.

The Romans intervened in southern Gaul in 125 BC, and conquered the area eventually known as Gallia Narbonensis by 121. In 58 BC Julius Caesar launched the Gallic Wars and conquered the whole of Gaul by 51. At this time Caesar noted that the Gauls were one of the three primary peoples in the area at the time, along with the Aquitanians and the Belgae. After the annexation of Gaul a mixed Gallo-Roman culture began to emerge.

Social structure

The Dying Gaul, an ancient Roman marble copy of a lost ancient Greek statue, thought to have been executed in bronze, commissioned some time between 230 BC – 220 BC by Attalus I of Pergamon to commemorate his victory over the Galatians

Gaulish society was dominated by the druid priestly class. The druids were not the only political force, however, and the early political system was complex, though ultimately fatal to the society as a whole. The fundamental unit of Gallic politics was the tribe, which itself consisted of one or more of what Caesar called "pagi". Each tribe had a council of elders, and initially a king. Later, the executive was an annually-elected magistrate. Among the Aedui tribe the executive held the title of "Vergobret", a position much like a king, but its powers were held in check by rules laid down by the council.

The tribal groups, or pagi as the Romans called them (singular: pagus; the French word pays, "region", comes from this term) were organised into larger super-tribal groups that 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.

Roman silver Denarius with the head of captive Gaul 48 BC, following the campaigns of Caesar.

Although the tribes were moderately stable political entities, Gaul as a whole tended to be politically divided, there being virtually no unity among the various tribes. 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 "wooded Gaul"). Caesar divided the people of Gaulia Comata into three broad groups: the Aquitani; Galli (who in their own language were called Celtae); and Belgae. In the modern sense, Gaulish tribes are defined linguistically, as speakers of dialects of the Gaulish language. While the Aquitani were probably Vascons, the Belgae would thus probably be counted among the Gaulish tribes, perhaps with Germanic elements.

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

All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the 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 Garonne River separates the Gauls from the Aquitani; the River Marne and the River Seine separate them from the Belgae. Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest, because they are furthest from the civilisation and refinement of (our) 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 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 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 Garonne River, the Atlantic Ocean, and the territories of the Belgae; it borders, too, on the side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, upon the River 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.


Gaulish or Gallic is the name given to the Celtic language that was spoken in Gaul before the Vulgar Latin of the late Roman Empire became dominant in Roman Gaul. According to Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars it was one of three languages in Gaul, the others being Aquitanian and Germanic. Gaulish is paraphyletically grouped with Celtiberian, Lepontic, and Galatian as Continental Celtic. The Lepontic language is sometimes considered to be a dialect of Gaulish. Gaulish is a P-Celtic language.


Taranis (with Celtic wheel and thunderbolt), Le Chatelet, Gourzon, Haute-Marne, France.

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.

Depiction of Cernunnos from the Pilier des Nautes, Paris, France.

Their system of gods and goddesses was loose, there being certain deities which virtually every Gallic person worshiped, as well as tribal and household gods. Many of the major gods were related to Greek gods; the primary god worshiped at the time of the arrival of Caesar was Teutates, the Gallic equivalent of Mercury. The "father god" in Gallic worship was "Dis Pater," who could be assigned the Roman name "Jupiter." However there was no real theology, just a set of related and evolving traditions of worship.

Perhaps the most intriguing facet of Gallic religion is the practice of the Druids. There is no certainty concerning their origin, 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.

List of Gaulish tribes

A map of Gaul in the 1st century BCE, showing the relative positions of the Celtic tribes.
Sculpture of an armoured torc-wearing Gaul warrior, Vachères, France.
Averni coin depicting warrior, 5th-1st century BCE.
Namnetes coin depicting warrior, 5th-1st century BCE.
Celtic sword and scabbard circa 60 BCE.

After completing the conquest of Gaul, Rome converted most of these tribes into civitates, making for the administrative map of the Roman provinces of Gaul. This was then perpetuated by the early church, whose geographical subdivisions were based on those of late Roman Gaul, and lasted into the areas of French dioceses prior to the French Revolution.

Tribe Capital
Aedui Bibracte
Allobroges Vienne
Ambarri near junction of Rhône & Saône rivers
Ambiani Amiens
Andecavi Angers
Aquitani Bordeaux
Atrebates Arras
Arverni Gergovia (La Roche-Blanche)
Baiocasses Bayeux
Belgae Gallia Belgica
Boii Boii (Boui near Entrain)
Boii Boates Boates (La Tête de Buch)
Boii Bologna
Bellovaci Beauvais
Bituriges Bourges
Brannovices near Mâcon?
Cadurci Issoudun (Uxellodunum)
Carnutes Chartres
Catalauni Châlons-en-Champagne
Caturiges Chorges
Cenomani Brescia
Cenomani Le Mans
Ceutrones Moûtiers
Curiosolitae Corseul
Diablintes Jublains
Eburones Tongeren
Eburovices Évreux
Helvetii La Tène
Insubres Milan
Lemovices Limoges
Lexovii Lisieux
Mediomatrici Metz
Medulli Médoc
Medulli Vienne
Menapii Cassel
Morini Boulogne-sur-Mer
Namnetes Nantes
Nervii Bavay
Orobii Bergamo
Osismii Vorgium
Parisii Paris
Petrocorii Périgueux
Pictones Poitiers
Raurici Kaiseraugst (Augusta Raurica)
Redones Rennes
Remi Reims
Ruteni Rodez
Salassi Aosta
Santones Saintes
Senones Sens
Sequani Besançon
Suessiones Soissons
Tigurini Yverdon
Tolosates Toulouse
Treveri Trier
Tungri Tongeren
Turones Tours
Unelli Coutances
Vangiones Worms
Veliocasses Rouen
Vellavi Ruessium
Veneti Vannes
Viducasses Vieux
Vindelici Augusta Vindelicorum
Vocontii Vaison-la-Romaine
Volcae Arecomici Languedoc

See also



  • Boardman, John The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, Princeton 1993 ISBN 0691036802


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

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  1. Plural form of Gaul.



  • Anagrams of aglsu
  • gusla


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