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Map of the Gaullish tribes and regions of Gaul (58 BC)
Pictones coinage, 5th-1st century BCE.

The Pictones (or Pictavi) were a tribe inhabiting a region along the Bay of Biscay in what is now western France. Their region extended north past the Liger (Loire),[1] east to the region of the Turones (Touraine), and south to the border with the Lemovices (Limousin) and the Guirande River in the region of the Santones. Other tribes neighboring and among the Pictones were the Ambiliates, Agesinates, and the Agnutes. During the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), the Pictones were included in the larger province of Gallia Aquitania, along with most of western Gaul. They gave their name to the Roman appellation of Pictavis in Galia, as well as to the modern region of Poitou.


Prior to Roman rule

The Pictones inhabited the region during the first half of the first-century BC, before the Roman conquest. Their chief town Lemonum, the Celtic name of modern-day Poitiers (Poitou),[2] is located on the south bank of the Liger. Ptolemy mentions a second town, Ratiatum (modern Rezé).[3] Caesar depended on their shipbuilding skills for his fleet on the Loire.[4]

The political organization of the region was modeled on the royal Celtic system. Duratios was king of Pictones during the Roman conquest, but his power waned thanks to the poor skill of his generals. However, the Pictones frequently aided Julius Caesar in naval battles, particularly with the naval victor of Veneti on the Armorican peninsula.

During and after Roman rule

The Pictones had felt threatened by the migration of the Helvetians toward the territory of the Santones and supported the intervention of Caesar in 58 BC. Though fiercely independent, they collaborated with Caesar, who noted them as one of the more civilized tribes. Nevertheless, 8000 men were sent to aid Vercingetorix, the chieftain who led the Gaulish rebellion in 52 BC. This act divided the Pictones and the region was location of a later uprising, especially around Lemonum. This was later quelled by legate Gaius Caninius Rebilus and finally by Caesar himself.

The Pictones benefited from Roman peace, notably through many urban constructions such as aqueducts and temples. A thick wall built in the second century AD encircles the city of Lemonum and is one of the distinguishing architectural forms of Gaulish antiquity. However, the Pictones were not Romanized in depth. Lemonum quickly adopted Christianity in the first two centuries AD.

The region was known for its timber resources and occasionally traded with the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul. Additionally, the Pictones traded with the British Isles from the harbor of Ratiatum (Rezé), which served as an important port linking Gaul and Roman Britain.

See also


  1. ^ "that part of Aquitania farthest north along the river and the sea", according to Ptolemy, Geography ii.6 (LacusCurtius on-line translation).
  2. ^ The c, in Poictou and Poictevin, was often retained into early modern times.
  3. ^ Geography ii.6.
  4. ^ Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico iii.11.


  • Cancik, Hubert, and Schneider, Helmuth, ed (2003). "Aquitania". Brill's New Pauly Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. II. Leiden: Brill Academic Publisher. ISBN 90-04-12259-1. 
  • Caesar, G. Julius (1990), "Gallic War I", in Lewis, Naphtali; Reinhold, Meyer, Roman Civilization: The Republic and the Augustan Age, I (3rd ed.), New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 216–219, ISBN 0-231-07131-0 
  • Crook, J.A.; Lintott, A.; Rawson, E., eds. (1970), The Cambridge Ancient History Set (The Cambridge Ancient History), IX (2nd ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-85073-8 
  • Hornblower, Simon; Spawforth, Antony, eds. (2003), Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-198-66172-X 
  • Osgood, Josiah (April 2007). "Caesar in Gaul and Rome: War in Words". American Historical Review 112 (2): 559–560. doi:10.1086/ahr.112.2.559a. 


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