Friday, 3 April 2009


Repartition of Gaul ca. 54 BC

At the dawn of history in Europe, the Celts then living in what is now France were known as Gauls to the Romans. The territory of these peoples probably included the low countries, the Alps and what is now northern Italy. Their descendants were described by Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars. Eastern Gaul was the centre of the western La Tene culture. In later Iron Age Gaul, the social organization was similar to that of the Romans, with large towns. From the third century BC the Gauls adopted coinage, and texts with Greek characters are known in southern Gaul from the second century.
Greek traders founded Massalia in about 600 BC, with exchange up the Rhone valley, but trade was disrupted soon after 500 BC and re-oriented over the Alps to the Po valley in Italy. The Romans arrived in the Rhone valley in the second century BC and encountered a Gaul that was mostly Celtic-speaking. Rome needed land communications with its Iberian provinces and fought a major battle with the Saluvii at Entremont in 124-123 BC. Gradually Roman control extended, and the Roman Province of Gallia Transalpina was formed along the Mediterranean coast. The remainder was known as Gallia Comata - "Hairy Gaul".
In 58 BC, the Helvetii planned to migrate westward but were forced back by Julius Caesar. He then became involved in fighting the various tribes in Gaul, and by 55 BC, most of Gaul had been overrun. In 52 BC, Vercingetorix led a revolt against the Roman occupation but was defeated at the siege of Alesia and surrendered.
Following the Gallic Wars of 58-51 BC, Celticia formed the main part of Roman Gaul. Place name analysis shows that Celtic was used east of the Garonne river and south of the Seine and Marne.

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