- Roman Gaul
:"For Gaul before the Roman conquest, see
Gaul."Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for 600 years. The Roman Empirebegan its takeover of what was Celtic Gaulin 121 BC, when it conquered and annexed the southern reaches of the area. Julius Caesarcompleted the task by defeating the Celtic tribes in the Gallic Warsof 58-51 BC and the romanisation was quick and large; Latinwas spoken by a majority of Gauls in the first century AD but with some remains of the Gallic language. Following the Romans defeat by the Frankish at the Battle of Soissons in AD 486, Gaul came under the rule of the Merovingians, the first kings of France.
Gallia Cisalpinaor "Gaul this side of the Alps", covered most of present-day northern Italy.
Gallia Narbonensis, formerly Gallia Transalpinaor "Gaul across the Alps" was originally conquered and annexed in 121 BC in an attempt to solidify communications between Rome and the Iberian peninsula. It comprised the present-day region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, most of Languedoc-Roussillon, and roughly the southeastern half of Rhône-Alpes.
Gallia Comataor "long haired Gaul". Comata encompassed the remainder of present-day France, Belgium, and westernmost Germany, which the Romans gained through the victory over the Celtsin the Gallic Wars. The Romans divided Gallia Comata into three provinces:
The Romans gave these divisions the term "pagi" (from which comes the French word "pays", "region"); these "pagi" were organized into "
civitates" (provinces). 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.
Language and culture
Gaulish languageand cultural identity would, in the five centuries between Caesar's conquest and the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, undergo a syncretism, and evolve into a hybrid Gallo-Roman culture. Current historical research believes that Roman Gaul was "Roman" only in certain (albeit major) social contexts (the importance of which hindered a better historical understanding of the permanence of many Celtic elements). The Roman influence was most apparent in the following areas:
*The Druidic religion which existed in the area was ordered suppressed by
Emperor Claudius I, and in later centuries Christianitywas introduced. The prohibition of Druids and the syncretic nature of the Roman religion led to disappearance of the Celtic religion (which remains to this day poorly understood: current knowledge of the Celtic religion is based on archeology and via literary sources from several isolated areas such as Irelandand Wales).
*The Romans easily imposed their administrative, economic, artistic (especially in terms of monumental art and architecture) and literary culture, all the more so given that there was little in the pre-existing Celtic culture to compete with these areas.
After the Roman conquest of Gaul (finished in 51 BC), "romanisation" of the Celtic upper classes proceeded more rapidly than the "romanisation" of the lower classes. These classes may have spoken a Latin language mixed with Gallic. The Gauls wore the roman tunic instead of local vestimentary inhabits. The roman-gauls generally lived in the vici, small villages built like in Italy or in villae, for the richest.
Surviving Celtic influences also infiltrated back into the Roman Imperial culture in the 3rd century. For example, the Gaulish tunic—which gave Emperor
Caracallahis surname—had not been replaced by Roman vestimentary fashion. Similarly, certain Gaulish artisan techniques, such as the barrel (more durable than the Roman amphora) and chain mailwere adopted by the Romans.
The Celtic heritage also continued in the spoken language (see
History of French). In the 5th century, a Gaulish spelling and pronunciation of Latin are apparent in several poets and transcribers of popular farces ["Histoire de France", ed. Les Belles lettres, Paris.] The last pockets of Gaulish speakers appear to have lingered until the 6th century.
Germanic placenames were first attested in limitrophe areas settled by Germanic colonisers (with Roman approval) from the 4th to 5th centuries as the
Frankssettled northern France and Belgium, the Alemanniin Alsaceand Switzerlandand the Burgundiansin Savoie.
After the fall of Rome
The Roman administration finally collapsed as remaining troops were withdrawn southeast to protect Italy. Between 455 and 475, the
Visigoths, the Burgundians, and the Franksassumed power in Gaul. Certain aspects of the ancient Celtic culture continued however after the fall of Roman administration.
Certain Gallo-Roman aristocratic families continued to exert power in episcopal cities (as the Mauronitus family in
Marseille, or the Bishop Gregory of Tours). The appearance of Germanic given and family names becomes noticeable in France from the middle of the 7th century on, most notably in powerful families, indicating thus that the center of gravity had definitely shifted.
The Gallo-Roman, or
Vulgar Latin, dialect of the late Roman period evolved into the dialects of the Oïl languagesand Old Frenchin the north, and Occitanin the south.
The words "gaul" and "gaulois" continued to be used, at least in writing, until the end of the
Merovingianperiod. Slowly, during the Carolingianperiod, the expression "Francie"' (first "Francia", then "Francia occidentalis") spread to describe the political reality of the Frankish kingdom ("regnum francorum").
References and Notes
*"Portions of this article are based on a translation of the article Gaule from the
French Wikipediaon February 2007."
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