The Gauls, also known as Gallic people or Celtae, were Celtic people who spoke the Continental Celtic language Gaulish, and lived in the Celtica region of Gaul. The whole Gaul region roughly corresponds to what is now Belgium, France, Switzerland, the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the Rhine, and the western parts of Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period.
Based in the Central European La Tène culture, the Gauls controlled trade routes along the river systems of the Rhône, Seine, Rhine, and Danube, from where they expanded into Northern Italy, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Anatolia. Gaulish culture developed out of the Celtic cultures over the first millennia BCE. The Urnfield culture (c. 1300 BCE – c. 750 BCE) represents the Celts as a distinct cultural branch of the Indo-Europeans. The spread of iron working led to the Hallstatt culture in the 8th century BCE; the Proto-Celtic may have been spoken around this time. The Hallstatt culture evolved into the La Tène culture in around the 5th century BCE.
Following the climate deterioration in the late Nordic Bronze Age, Celtic Gaul was invaded in the 5th century BCE by tribes later called Gauls originating in the Rhine valley. Gallic invaders settled the Po Valley in the 4th century BCE, defeated Roman forces in a battle under Brennus in 390 BCE and raided Italy as far as Sicily. The peak of Gaulish expansion was reached in the 3rd century BCE, in the wake of their eastward expansion in 281-279 BCE, in which the Gauls led by Cerethrius, Brennus and Bolgios invaded Thrace, Macedon and Illyria, sacked Delphi, and killed the Macedonian king Ptolemy Keraunos. The invading Gauls later settled as far a field as Anatolia, where they created widespread havoc until checked through the use of war elephants by the Seleucid king Antiochus I in 275 BC, after which they served as mercenaries across the whole Hellenistic Eastern Mediterranean, including Ptolemaic Egypt, where they under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC) attempted to seize control of the kingdom.
After more than a century of warfare, the Cisalpine Gauls were subdued by the Romans in the early 2nd century BC. The Transalpine Gauls continued to thrive for another century, and joined the Germanic Cimbri and Teutones in the Cimbrian War, where they defeated and killed a Roman consul at Burdigala in 107 BC, and later became prominent among the rebelling gladiators in the Third Servile War. The Gauls were finally conquered by Julius Caesar in the 50s BCE despite a formidable rebellion by the Arvernian chieftain Vercingetorix. During the Roman period the Gauls became assimilated into Gallo-Roman culture and by expanding Germanic tribes. During the crisis of the third century, there was briefly a breakaway Gallic Empire founded by the Batavian general Postumus. By the arrival of the Germanic Franks and Alamanni during the Migration Period (5th century), the Gaulish language had been Latinized.
The Gauls called themselves Celtae in their own language, meaning Celts. Galli was the Roman name given by Julius Caesar to the inhabitants of the Celtica region of Gaul in his narrative Commentaries on the Gallic War. Julius Caesar divided the population of Gaul into three main groups : Celtae, Belgae and Aquitani.
Gaulish culture developed out of the Celtic cultures over the first millennia BCE. The Urnfield culture (c. 1300 BCE – c. 750 BCE) 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 BCE; the Proto-Celtic (Liguro-Venetic) may have been spoken around this time. The Hallstatt culture evolved into the La Tène culture in around the 5th century BCE. The Greek and Etruscan civilizations and colonies began to influence the Gauls especially in the Mediterranean area.
Following the climate deterioration in the late Nordic Bronze Age, Celtic Gaul was invaded by tribes (named Kymris by some French historians) later called Gauls originating in the Germano-Celtic border - the Rhine and the Danube (Hercynian forest) - during the 6th or 5th century BCE. Gauls under Brennus invaded Rome circa 390 BCE.
Gallic wars 
Balkans wars 
In the Aegean world, an invasion of Eastern Gauls appeared in Thrace, north of Greece, in 281 BCE. The Gaulish chieftains Brennus and Acichorius, at the head of a large army, was according to Greek sources 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. However, according to the Roman legend of the cursed gold of Delphi, he did sack the city. One king Cerethrius invaded the Thracians, while another Gallic king Bolgios invaded Macedonia and Illyria where he killed the Macedonian king Ptolemy Keraunos.
Asia Minor wars 
In 278 BC, Gauls settlers in Balkans were invited by Nicomedes I of Bithynia to help him in a dynastic struggle against his brother. They numbered about 10,000 fighting men and about the same number of women and children, divided into three tribes, Trocmi, Tolistobogii and Tectosages. They were eventually defeated by the Seleucid king Antiochus I (275 BC), in a battle where the Seleucid war elephants shocked the Galatians. While the momentum of the invasion was broken, the Galatians were by no means exterminated and continued to demand tribute from the Hellenistic states of Anatolia to avoid war. 4,000 Galatians were hired as mercenaries by the Ptolemaic Egyptian king Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the 270 BCs. According to Pausanias, soon after arrival the Celts plotted “to seize Egypt,” and so Ptolemy marooned them on a deserted island in the Nile River.
Galatians also participated at the victorious in 217 BC Battle of Raphia under Ptolemy IV Philopator, and continued to serve as mercenaries for the Ptolemaic Dynasty until it's demise in 30 BC. They sided with the renegade Seleucid prince Antiochus Hierax, who reigned in Asia Minor. Hierax tried to defeat king Attalus I of Pergamum (241–197 BC), but instead, the Hellenized cities united under Attalus's banner, and his armies inflicted a severe defeat upon the Galatians at the Battle of the Caecus River in 241 BC. After the defeat, the Galatians continued to be a serious threat to the states of Asia Minor. In fact, they continued to be a threat even after their defeat by Gnaeus Manlius Vulso in the Galatian War (189 BC). Galatia declined and fell at times under Pontic ascendancy. They were finally freed by the Mithridatic Wars, during which they supported Rome. In the settlement of 64 BC, Galatia became a client-state of the Roman empire, the old constitution disappeared, and three chiefs (wrongly styled "tetrarchs") were appointed, one for each tribe. But this arrangement soon gave way before the ambition of one of these tetrarchs, Deiotarus, the contemporary of Cicero and Julius Caesar, who made himself master of the other two tetrarchies and was finally recognized by the Romans as 'king' of Galatia. The Galatian language continued to be spoken in central Anatolia until the 6th century.
Romans wars 
During the Second Punic War the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca utilized Gallic mercenaries in his famous invasion of Italy. They played a part in some of his most spectacular victories including the battle of Cannae. The 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 Romans intervened in southern Gaul in 125 BCE, and conquered the area eventually known as Gallia Narbonensis by 121.
In 58 BCE Julius Caesar launched the Gallic Wars and conquered the whole of Gaul by 51 B.C. At this time Caesar noted that the Gauls (Celtae) were one of the three primary peoples in the area at the time, along with the Aquitanians and the Belgae. Caesar's motivation for the invasion seems to have been his need for gold to pay off his debts and a successful military expedition to boost his political career. The people of Gaul could provide him with both. So much gold was looted from Gaul that after the war the price of gold fell by as much as 20%. After the annexation of Gaul a mixed Gallo-Roman culture began to emerge.
Gallic Empire 
Physical appearance 
The fourth century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that the Gauls were tall and light-blue eyed:
Nearly all the Gauls are of a lofty stature, fair and ruddy complexion: terrible from the sternness of their eyes, very quarrelsome, and of great pride and insolence. A whole troup of foreigners would not be able to withstand a single Gaul if he called his wife to his assistance who is usually very strong and with blue eyes...
All over Gaul archeology has uncovered numerous pre-roman gold mines (at least 200 in the Pyrenees) suggesting that they were very rich also evidenced by large finds of gold coins and artefacts. Also there existed highly developed population centers called oppida by Caesar such as Bibracte, Gergovia, Avaricum, Alesia, Bibrax, Manching and others. Modern archeology strongly suggests that the countries of Gaul were quite civilized and very wealthy. Most had contact with Roman merchants and some, particularly those that were governed by Republics such as the Aedui, Helvetii and others had enjoyed stable political alliances with Rome. They imported Mediterranean wine on an industrial scale evidenced by large finds of wine vessels in digs all over Gaul the largest and most famous of such vessels being the one discovered in Vix Grave which stands 1.63 m (5'4") in height.
Social structure 
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. 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.
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.
Gaulish or Gallic is the name given to the Celtic language that was spoken in Gaul before the 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 Belgic. In Gallia Transalpina, a Roman province by the time of Caesar, Latin was the language spoken since at least the previous century. Gaulish is paraphyletically grouped with Celtiberian, Lepontic, and Galatian as Continental Celtic. The Lepontic language and the Galatian language are sometimes considered to be dialects of Gaulish. Gaulish is a P-Celtic language and (like Lepontic in Cisalpine Gaul) was already spoken in Gaul long before the arrival of the Gallic tribes in the 6th century BCE.
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.
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". 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 
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.
In popular culture 
- Asterix is a popular series of French comic books, following the exploits of a village of indomitable Gauls.
- Eluveitie is a Swiss folk metal band singing mainly in the Gaulish language. "Eluveitie" means "I am Helvete" in Gaulish.
See also 
- "Celtae" or "Celts" is the name used by Gallic people in their own language. "Galli" or "Gauls" was the Roman name given by Julius Caesar to the inhabitants of the Celtica region of Gaul in his narrative "Commentaries on the Gallic War".
- Caesar, Julius. "Commentarii de bello Gallico". "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur."
- "Gaul (ancient region, Europe)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. [[Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.]] Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- Hinds, Kathryn (2009). Ancient Celts. Marshall Cavendish. p. 38. ISBN 1-4165-3205-6.
- Strauss, Barry (2009). The Spartacus War. Simon and Schuster. p. 21-22. ISBN 1-4165-3205-6.
- Koch, John T. (2006). "Galatian language". In John T. Koch. Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia. Volume III: G—L. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 788. ISBN 1-85109-440-7. "Late classical sources—if they are to be trusted—suggest that it survived at least into the 6th century AD."
- Mariboe, Knud (1994). "Gauls". Encyclopedia of Celts. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- "Gallic Wars" I.1.
- Boardman, John The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, Princeton 1993 ISBN 0-691-03680-2
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