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Map of Gaul and its tribes before the complete conquest by Gaius Julius Caesar in 58 BC Chr.

As Gaul ( Latin Gallia ) the Romans referred to the area that was predominantly populated by that part of the Celtic ethnic groups that the Romans called Gauls (Galli) . Caesar also mentions Belgian and Aquitanians ( Belgae and Aquitani ) as residents of the area.

The chemical element gallium , discovered in 1875, was named after Gaul as the assumed ancestor of France.

Geographical location

Remnants from Roman Gaul in Arles
Gaul at the time of Caesar (58 BC) divided into Belgica , Celtica , Aquitania , Gallia Narbonensis and Gallia cisalpina

It is commonly assumed that the idea of ​​only designating the area between the Pyrenees and the Rhine as Gaul, although Celts also settled to the right of the Rhine and south of the Pyrenees , goes back to Caesar. In modern geographical terms, this Gaul corresponds essentially to today's France , Belgium , parts of western Germany ( Trier was in Gaul) and a north-western third of Switzerland and northern Italy, i.e. the area between the Rhine in the east, the Alps and the Mediterranean in the south , the Pyrenees and the Atlantic in the west and the English Channel and the North Sea in the north. The Po Valley belonged to around 200 BC. BC not to the Roman Empire , but to Gaul. Around the year 200 BC The Romans conquered this Celtic area and named it Gallia cisalpina , Gaul on this side of the Alps, at the latest from the Sulla times . Caesar gave its inhabitants Roman citizenship; the Gallia cisalpina lost its Celtic character and became part of Italy. To distinguish it, the area beyond the Alps was called Gallia transalpina , later Gallia Narbonensis .



Several cultures have been archaeologically documented before the Celtic settlement. Since around 700 BC BC to 600 BC BC Gaul was settled by Celtic ethnic groups who introduced Gaul , a Celtic language , to the area. The non-Celtic tribes of the Iberians north of the Pyrenees and the Ligurians on the Mediterranean initially remained independent.

Around 600 BC Ionic Greeks founded the city of Massilia (now Marseille ) at the mouth of the Rhone . Massilia developed into a defining city in the region.

The area in the Po Valley , which was settled by the Celtic tribes of the Cenomans , Insubrians and Boier , came in 203 BC. Under Roman rule. The area became the Roman province of Gallia cisalpina .

Roman conquest

From 125 BC BC Rome began with the conquest of the Mediterranean coast and the Rhône valley. 122 BC The Romans founded the city of Aquae Sextiae (today's Aix-en-Provence ). 121 BC The Romans established the province of Gallia Narbonensis (about today's Provence and today's Languedoc ) with the administrative center of Narbo, which was founded a little later (118 BC) .

113 BC The Germanic Cimbri and Teutons began to invade what is now southern France and northern Italy. In 105 BC These tribes were able to defeat two Roman armies on the Rhône near Arausio , which led to panic in Rome. It was not until 102 BC. BC the Roman general Gaius Marius defeated the Teutons at Aquae Sextiae. 101 BC BC Marius won in Northern Italy near the place Vercellae ( Vercelli ) then also over the Cimbri.

In the years 58–51 BC Chr. Gaul to the Rhine by the Roman general Julius Caesar in a row sometimes very bloody guided expeditions conquered. The last great Gallic uprising under Vercingetorix in 52 BC. BC was finally put down in the battle for Alesia . Caesar reports on this conflict, which was a war of aggression waged for domestic political reasons, in his work De bello gallico - The Gallic War . At its end, according to modern estimates (W. Will), many millions of Gauls had died.

The conquered area was extended to the east to the natural border of the Rhine and thus also included the settlement area of ​​some Germanic tribes. The Drusus campaigns (12 to 9 BC) temporarily (up to immensum bellum 1 to 5 AD and clades Variana , the Varus defeat in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD) created an apron control on the right bank of the Rhine to secure Gaul against Germanic ones Ideas.

Imperial Era and Romanization

The Gallic provinces of Narbonensis , Aquitania , Lugdunensis and Belgica at the time of Emperor Trajan (117 AD)

In the course of the subsequent pacification of the bled area, a Roman civil administration was set up. Latin was used as the official language . This later developed, parallel to the other non-Italian provinces under the influence of the native language (here Gaulish ) into Vulgar Latin , which forms the main linguistic basis of the later French . A Gallo-Roman culture emerged . In Nîmes and Arles in particular, important Roman buildings of the period can still be found today.

The Celtic tribes living north of the Po in Italy were under Caesar from 49 BC. Roman citizenship granted; the former province of Gallia Cisalpina was then from 41 BC. A permanent part of the Roman Empire. In transalpine Gaul - the "real" Gaul - on the other hand, citizenship was granted to the local elite in order to serve as an incentive for cooperation with Rome. As a result, the area appears to have recovered rapidly economically.

Under Emperor Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), Gaul was administratively incorporated into the Roman Empire . Due to its location and history, the newly created province of Narbonensis already had close ties to the Roman motherland. From the Gallia comata three provinces emerged, Gallia Aquitania , Gallia Lugdunensis and Gallia Belgica , which were often referred to as the Tres Galliae . Lugdunum ( Lyon ) became the site of a central imperial cult temple for the three Gaulish provinces (excluding the Belgica ). In southern Gaul in particular, Romanization had already reached a level under Emperor Claudius that made it possible to admit Roman Gauls into the Senate. Under Domitian , the two provinces Germania superior and Germania inferior emerged from the two military districts on the Rhine around 85 AD . In the 2nd century the Gallic provinces seem to have experienced the first climax of their economic and cultural development. In 212, Emperor Caracalla finally granted all free residents of the empire - including the Gauls - Roman citizenship ( Constitutio Antoniniana ).

The first bloom of Roman Gaul ended during the imperial crisis of the 3rd century , when the area was plagued by plundering external enemies and internal unrest ( Bagauden ) and was practically independent from Rome for a few years from 260 before Emperor Aurelian regained this imperium Galliarum subjugated.

Late antiquity

Historical map of Gaul under Roman rule from Droysen's Historical Handbook, 1886

In late antiquity , the situation stabilized again after Diocletian : around 300, numerous fortifications were modernized; Roman emperors temporarily resided in Lutetia ( Paris ), Augusta Treverorum (Trier) and Vienne . Since the imperial reform under Diocletian , the Roman Empire was divided into four prefectures ( Gallia , Illyricum , Italia et Africa , Oriens ) and 15 dioceses. The prefecture of Gallia consisted of the dioceses Hispaniae (XV), Septem Provinciarum (formerly Viennensis ) (XIV), Galliae (XIII) and Britanniae (XII), the latter being evacuated by the Romans around 400. Christianity had already gained a foothold in southern Gaul in the 2nd century - in 177 there was severe persecution in Lyon - and experienced rapid spread after 312, although the old cults (with a decreasing number of followers) mainly in the countryside persisted well into the 5th century. Especially in the 4th century, when several emperors stayed in Gaul for a long time - for example Julian was able to secure the Rhine border again against looters around 357 - ancient culture flourished in the region, as illustrated by the work of Ausonius . The administrative and urban structure of Gaul around 400 is given in the Notitia Galliarum , a list of the provinces and cities there.

The so-called Great Migration , which began towards the end of the 4th century , ended a long period of renewed prosperity and relative peace for Gaul as part of the Roman Empire around 400. With the crossing of the Rhine in 406 , large groups of Germanic warriors ( Vandals , Alamanni , Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks) invaded Gaul. In the 5th century , the Franks , Burgundians and Visigoths established their rule in Gaul, for a long time as federates in the service of the Romans, and after the collapse of imperial rule then as de facto sovereign empires. The last emperor who was able to enforce his claims in Gaul for a short time was Anthemius around 470 . Even before the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476, Roman rule in Gaul broke up. The Roman commander Paulus , who fell under Adovacrius in the battle against Saxon looters, was operating in northern Gaul around 470 . Until 486/87 Syagrius , the son of the army master ( magister militum ) Aegidius , who had established an independent domain here after his falling out with the Western Roman government , remained in northern Gaul . According to Gregory of Tours , Syagrius was referred to as the "King of the Romans" ( rex Romanorum ); it is unclear whether this is the case. 486/87 its territory was of Clovis I violently into the Frankish Empire incorporated. Clovis also defeated the Visigoths in 507, making all of Gaul, except for the Mediterranean coast, Frankish. Clovis's sons and grandchildren were able to conquer these areas by 540.

During a longer transition period, however, the ancient Roman culture was still cultivated by the Gallo-Roman aristocracy (see also Gallo-Roman senate nobility ) and passed on in particular by the Roman Catholic Church. The reference to the Imperium Romanum remained one of several ways to legitimize its social rank throughout the sixth century. Well-known personalities of this transformation epoch were among others Sidonius Apollinaris , Avitus von Vienne , Venantius Fortunatus and Gregor von Tours . The Visigothic and Frankish kingship also followed the late antique tradition after the fall of West Rome . However, the Gallo-Roman culture lost much of its ancient character as a result of the upheaval, and the early Middle Ages began in the region in the late 6th century at the latest .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Gaul  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

supporting documents

  1. See Ian N. Wood : The Merovingian Kingdoms , Harlow 1994, pp. 5-32.

Coordinates: 47 °  N , 3 °  E