1902 Encyclopedia > Gaul


GAUL, the name given by the Romans to the country lying between the Rhine and the Pyrenees. When the Greeks first became acquainted with the south-west of Europe they applied to the whole of it, in a somewhat vague sense, the term Celtice (i) KeATi/07), calling its inhabitants Celts (KeATot). Later we find Galatia (TaAaTta) and Gallia (PdAA/a), with the corresponding Galati (TaXaroi) and Galli (PdAAot), used as nearly synonymous with the earlier name. The shorter of these two forms the Romans adopted ; and in the opening chapter of Caesar's well-known Commentaries, we have our first definite account of the limits of the country and its divisions, as then understood. According to this authority, Gaul was in his clay divided among three peoples, more or less distinct from one another, the Aquitani, the Gauls, who called themselves Celts, and the BelgEe. The first of these extended from the Pyrenees to the Garumna (Garonne) ; the second from that river to the Sequana (Seine) and its chief tributary the Matrona (Marne), reaching eastward presumably as far as the Bhenus (Bhine); and the third from this bounding line to the mouth of the last-named river, thus bordering on the Germans. By im-plication Caesar recognizes a fourth division, the Provincia, lying to the south in the basin of the Rhodanus (Rhone),, and stretching westwards as far as Tolosa (Toulouse) in the basin of the Garonne—a portion of Gaul that had been subdued and made a Roman province about fifty years before Caesar entered on his career of conquest there. By far the greater part of the country was a plain watered by numerous rivers, the chief of which have already been mentioned, with the exception of its great central stream, the Liger or Ligeris (Loire). Its principal mountain ranges were Cebenna or Gehenna (Cevennes) in the south, and Jura, with its continuation Vosegus or Vogesus (Vosges), in the east. The tribes inhabiting Gaul in Caesar's time, and belonging to one or other of the three races distinguished by him, were numerous. Prominent among them, and dwelling in the division occupied by the Celts, were the Helvetii, the Sequani, and the Aedui, in the basins of the Rhodanus and its tributary the Arar (Saone), who, he says, were reckoned the three most powerful nations in all Gaul; the Arverni in the mountains of Cebenna; the Senones and Carnutes in the basin of the Liger; the Veneti and other Armorican tribes between the mouths of the Liger and Sequana. The Nervii, Bellovaci, Suessiones, Bemi, Morini, Menapii, and Aduatici were Belgic tribes; the Tarbelli and others were Aquitani; while the Allobroges inhabited the north of the Provincia, having been conquered in 121 B.C.

The ethnological relations of Caesar's three great Gallic races have given rise to much discussion. Greek writers, who, in consequence of the planting of the colony of Massilia (Marseilles) on its southern coast at so early a period as 600 B.C., had gained some knowledge of Gaul before the Bomans, speak of its inhabitants as Ligurians;. and it is certain that a people of this name occupied at one time the coast-line of Europe from the western slopes of the maritime Alps to the Rhone. By many these Ligurians are regarded as having once spread them-selves over a much wider area, peopling extensive tracts of Europe as well as Northern Africa. Subsequently, another race, coming probably across the Pyrenees from Spain, subdued south-western Gaul and ruled as far north as the Garonne—the Basques of the two slopes of these mountains remaining to our own day their lineal represen-tatives. Later still, but at a date which history does not venture to fix, one of those great waves of population that are believed to have rolled in succession from east to west brought into northern and central Gaul, it may be at an interval of centuries, the two great branches of the Celtic race, the Gadhelic or Gaelic and the Cymric—the one re-presented in Britain by the Irish and Scottish Highlanders, the other by the Welsh. Beading Caesar's brief statements by the light thus afforded, ethnologists now generally hold that his Aquitani were Iberians, largely intermingled with intrusive Gauls ; that his Gauls belonged to the Gaelic division of the Celtic race, and his Belgae to the Cymric (both of them, however, being affected by the presence of races whose territory they had overrun, and the latter by the addition of a German element derived from their prox-imity to the Bhine); and that the natives of the Provincia were Ligurians, with so large an intermixture of Celts as to make the latter the dominant race. Neither the Greek colony of Massilia, nor those colonies sent out by it, can be supposed to have seriously affected the Gaulish nation from the point of view we are now discussing. It was in a different manner, as a civilizing agency, that they made their presence felt.

Such, it would appear, was Gaul ethnologically when made a part of the Roman empire by Julius Caesar shortly before the commencement of the Christian era; and, as has often been remarked, such in the main it is still. Some recent scientific inquirers find grounds, however, for concluding that the opinion, so prevalent not only in England but in France itself, that the physical and mental character-istics of the modern Frenchman are chiefly derived from the ancient Gauls, is only in part well founded. The Gauls, they say, like the Romans after them, were strong enough to impose their language on a race or races they had sub-jugated ; but in the attempt to absorb them they themselves have suffered and continue to suffer so much that the day may yet come when the older race will all but regain its superiority. Slowly but surely, according to the researches of M. Roget, Baron de Belloguet, the blue-eyed, fair-haired, long-headed Celt has for many generations been giving place throughout France, in a direction proceeding from south to north, to a more ancient, dark-eyed, black-haired, round-headed man—a similar phenomenon being also noticeable among the Germans.

Northern Italy, in consequence of an intrusion of Gauls at some early date, received from the Bomans the name of Gallia Cisalpina or Citerior, to distinguish it from Gaul proper, called also Gallia Transalpina or Ulterior. After-wards when the Roman element gained the upper hand, Togata was sometimes substituted for Cisalpina ; while in contradistinction, Gallia Braccata was applied to the Pro-vincia from the braccce or trousers worn by the natives, and Gallia Comata to the rest of the country, from the inhabi-tants wearing their hair long. The Gaulish emigrations into Spain on the one hand, and into Britain on the other, scarcely come under the present article; still less can we refer here to the inroads of that restless race into various parts of eastern Europe and western Asia. But it may he remarked in passing that so extensive were the con-quests of the Gauls that, in the beginning of the third -century before our era, their empire, if much less com-pact, was scarcely less extensive than that of Rome in her palmiest days.

For some time after the death of Caesar little attention «ould be paid to Gaul by the ruling powers at Rome; but in 27 B.C. Augustus, now master of the Roman world, took measures to Romanize it thoroughly. The old division into four provinces was retained, and made subservient to ad-ministrative purposes, The Provincia, however, received the name of Gallia Narbonnensis, from the Roman town of Narbo (Narbonne); the boundaries of Aquitania were extended to the Liger; what remained of Caesar's Gauls were constituted the province of Gallia Lugdunensis, so named from its capital, the new settlement of Lugdunum (Lyons); and the northern division was called Gallia Belgica. This arrangement remained nearly unchanged till the 4th century, when the four provinces were broken up into seventeen, each with a capital and a number of other towns of more or less importance, the names of which may be found in the larger geographical and historical works that treat of the period. While an integral part of the Roman empire Gaul often played no mean part in the con-tests that took place for the imperial purple; and it was during one of these that Claudius Civilis, a Romanized Gaul, made' a gallant attempt to achieve the independence of his country. His efforts, however, were not supported by the mass of the people, and the movement was crushed by Vespasian. Perhaps the most noteworthy event of those centuries was the insurrection of the Bagaudae or peasant banditti, in the reign of Diocletian. Burned and driven to despair by the exactions of the imperial treasury, men scoured the country in marauding bands, plundering whole sale. Though the revolt was suppressed, the lesson it ought to have taught Rome was unheeded, and thus the seeds of future troubles remained in the soil. In the declining days of the empire Gaul became a prey to the Visigoths in the south, the Burgundians in the east, and the Franks in the north-east. When order had arisen out of the confusion that ensued, the country was found to have taken under a new name a still more conspicuous place in the political system of Europe.
What is known of the ancient religion of the Gauls will be found under DRUIDISM (vol. vii. p. 477), and brief notices of their institutions and customs, as well as some particulars regarding the introduction of Christianity among them, are given in the article FRANCE (vol. ix. p. 527).

See Dom Martin, La Religion des Gaulois, Paris, 1727, 2 vols. 4to ; Pelloutier, Hist, des Celtes, Paris, 1771, 2 vols. 4to ; D. Schœpflinus, Vindicice Céltica:, Strasburg, 1754, 4to ; Amédée Thierry, Hist, des Gaulois, Paris, 1828, 3 vols. 8vo ; Henri Martin, Hist, de France, vol. i., Paris, 8vo ; Walckenaer, Géographie Ancienne historique et comparée des Gaules Cisalpine et Transalpine, Paris, 1839, 3 vols. 8vo ; Ukert, Géographie der Griechen und Romer, vol. ii., pt. ii., Weimar, 1832 ; Holtzman, Kelten und Germanen, Heidelberg, 1855, 8vo; Article "Gallia" (by G. Long), in Dr W. Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, vol. i., London, 1869, 8vo ; Roget, Baron de Belloguet, Ethnogénie Gauloise, Paris, 1868-1875, 4 vols. 8vo ; E. Desjardins, Géographie historique et administrative de la Gaule Romaine, Paris, 1877, 4 vols. 8vo. (J. M'D.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries