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A vergobret was a person in the society of Ancient Gaul who held the highest office in many Gallic cities, especially among the Aedui. Julius Caesar discusses the role of the vergobret several times in his Commentaries on the Gallic War, referring to the office with the terms princeps civitatis, principatus, and magistratus.
Elected every year under the aegis of the druids, the vergobret had the right of life and death, that of commanding the army in defensive action. He was however forbidden from leaving the borders of the territory of his people: "The laws of the Aedui forbid those who held the highest office from crossing the borders". He could not therefore command the army outside of the borders, which obligated the naming of a general and prevented the vergobret from seizing power beyond the terms of this magistrature.
One of the rare archaeological testaments of the vergobret comes from the 1978 excavations of Dr. Allain in the zone of the temples to Argentomagus (Saint-Marcel, Indre), where an olla of terra nigra, engraved after being fired, bears the inscription, "vercobretos readdas". Briefly mentioned in Gallia in 1980 (Gallia 38-2, p. 327), the inscription later led to a developed publication, including a photo and transcription, in the Revue Archéologique du Centre de la France (RACF). The vase can be seen in the museum of Argentomagus. The meaning of the inscription is along the lines of "the vergobret has sacrificed/consecrated/given" (cf. P-Y Lambert 2003 and X. Delamarre 2003).
For the Lemovices, two names are probable: Sedullos, killed at Alesia, was called dux et princeps lemovicum, "military and civil leader", which probably corresponds to the title of vergobret. Furthermore, an inscription in rock in the Galloroman city of Augustoritum has been found, which is a sign of a yet incomplete Romanization: it cites a certain "Postumus, vergobret, son of Dumnorix" (the latter having no relation to the Aedui of the same name).
Notes and references
- Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War, Book I, 16
- Julius Caesar, Commentaries on the Gallic War, Book VII, 33
- Christian Goudineau and Christian Peyre, Bibracte et les Éduens, À la découverte d'un peuple gaulois, éditions Errance, 1993
- Jean-Pierre Bost et Jean Perrier, "Un vergobret à Augustoritum/Limoges sous le Haut-Empire romain", Travaux d'Archéologie Limousine tome 10 (1990), p. 27–32.
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