The Gauls

Audio version of this page read by Caromâros Caitogabros, Ambactos of Galatîs Litauiâs

The Gauls were a people who are defined as such by both their Gaulish language (in the Celtic family of languages) and material culture. They were bearers of the LaTenê culture of the Iron Age in Western and Central Europe. Never a people with a singular leadership, they consisted of dozens of tribes. Though a Gaulish identity had begun to develop, due to a greater connection by trade and infrastructure, particularly with the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans, they were never fully unified.

Their lands spanned much of Western and Central Europe. From Northeastern Spain to Turkey, and from Southern Britain (though later), down to Northern Italy. Notably, what is now France, Southern and Western Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Independent from around the 5th Century BCE, until their defeat and conquest by the Romans in 52 BCE.

They had vast and various customs with complex practices and many Gods. They were very skilled in metalwork and crafts. Inventors of chainmail, barrels, and one of the few to use soap made from animal fats. They were known for sacking Rome around 390 BCE, which would not be done by anyone again for around 800 years. Fierce in battle, but also innovative and eager to learn from the world around them, developing philosophy and adapting technology from neighboring peoples.

With varying tribes came varying social structures. Often a king (Rix) was the executive, with elders who advised the king. The Aedui had a Vergobret (“v” as a “w” sound), who was elected and checked by elders. Sacral kingship was on the decline, and kings could not pass down power in the way Medieval kings were. Kings were chosen based on having a loyal following, and their powers were not absolute. Civic affairs could have been cared for by elders.

As to tribes, there was often a larger tribe with “satellite” tribes under their influence and who paid tribute to the larger one. Though (sadly) patriarchal in many ways, women had more rights than their Classical counterparts. The rulers also had to gain favor with the rules and hold large banquets and feasts to curry favor.

Then there are the Druids, the enigmatic class of experts in religion, philosophy, and sciences. They were exempt from military service and taxation. Often spoken of, but not always accurately. There were also Vates (“v” makes a “w”), who were seers, experts in divination, as well as in sacrifice. Bards were also an integral part of Gaulish society. They told tales, often in songs or poems, about Gods and the people. They were the keepers of mythology and folklore.

Most people, the common folk were farmers (Gauls were mostly agricultural peoples), traders, and crafters. Some people knew and did magic and other things like herbalists (they were known for this), and most other trades that one finds in Iron Age societies.

Gaulish Timeline

  • 600 BCE
    Phocaea founds the colony of Massilia.
  • 400 BCE – 300 BCE
    Founding of Lutetia.
  • 390 BCE
    Brennus of the Senones defeats the Romans at Allia, and subsequently sacks Rome.
  • 334 BCE
    Rome signs a peace treaty with the Senones tribe.
  • 284 BCE
    Gauls of the Insubres and Boii tribes defeat the Romans at Arretium.
  • 283 BCE
    Rome decisively defeats the Senones at Picenum.
  • 279 BCE
    Gauls attack the sanctuary of Delphi.
  • 222 BCE
    Rome conquers Cisalpine Gaul (modern-day Provence, France).
  • 121 BCE
    Gallia Narbonensis becomes a Roman province.
  • 58 BCE – 51 BCE
    Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul.
  • 58 BCE
    Caesar attacks the Helvetii while on migration and defeats them.
    Julius Caesar invades Gaul. Roman influence on the European tribes begins in earnest.
  • 57 BCE
    A Roman army under Caesar narrowly defeats an army of Nervii, Atrebates, and Viromandui.
  • 56 BCE
    The navies of Rome and the Veneti Gauls clash resulting in a Roman victory. This is the first recorded naval battle in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 54 BCE – 53 BCE
    Ambiorix of the Eburones tribe destroys around 9,000 Roman soldiers at Atuatuca.
  • 53 BCE
    Julius Caesar holds a council of Gallic tribes in Lutetia.
  • 52 BCE
    Julius Caesar is defeated at Gergovia by Vercingetorix.
    After becoming trapped and besieged at Alesia, Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar.
  • 51 BCE
    Caesar’s siege and capture of Uxellodunum end of the Gallic War.
  • 44 BCE
    The Allobroges unsuccessfully rise against Roman rule in southern Gaul.
  • 33 BCE
    The Belgic Morini and the Celts of Aquitania unsuccessfully rise against Roman rule.
  • 256 CE
    King Chrocus of the Alemanni invades Gaul and destroys the region.
  • 406 CE – c. 420 CE
    Vandals cross the Rhine and invade Gaul, migrate to Spain.
  • 406 CE
    Hun invasions force Vandals to cross the Rhine into Gaul.
    Vandals, Suevi, and Alans invade Gaul.
  • 451 CE
    Hun invasion of Gaul; Battle of the Cataluanian Plains (Battle of Chalons).
  • 486 CE
    Clovis of the Franks defeats the Romans in Gaul. Founding of the Frankish kingdom.
  • 2019 CE
    The Gaulish Polytheism website was created to unify all the different Gaulish Traditions in one place.