From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"The second half of the Fifth Century was come, the appalling period when unspeakable troubles afflicted the world. The Barbarians were ravaging Gaul; Rome, paralyzed, sacked by the Visigoths, felt her life frozen within her veins as she saw her outlying limbs, the East and the West, struggling in a sea of blood, growing more and more exhausted from day to day."--À rebours (1884) by Joris-Karl Huysmans
"“The Gauls,” says Strabo, following the philosopher Posidonius, are universally madly fond of war, hot in temper, and quick to fight; in all other respects simple, and void of malice."--History of France (1855) by Jules Michelet
Gaul (Latin: Gallia) was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the Rhine. According to the testimony of Julius Caesar, Gaul was divided into three parts, Gallia Celtica, Belgica and Aquitania.
Archaeologically, the Gauls were bearers of the La Tène culture, which extended across all of Gaul, as well as east to Rhaetia, Noricum, Pannonia and southwestern Germania during the 5th to 1st centuries BC. During the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, Gaul fell under Roman rule: Gallia Cisalpina was conquered in 203 BC and Gallia Narbonensis in 123 BC. Gaul was invaded by the Cimbri and the Teutons after 120 BC, who were in turn defeated by the Romans by 103 BC. Julius Caesar finally subdued the remaining parts of Gaul in his campaigns of 58 to 51 BC.
Roman control of Gaul lasted for five centuries, until the last Roman rump state, the Domain of Soissons, fell to the Franks in AD 486. While the Celtic Gauls had lost their tribal identities and language during Late Antiquity, becoming amalgamated into a Gallo-Roman culture, Gallia remained the conventional name of the territory throughout the Early Middle Ages, until it acquired a new identity as the Capetian Kingdom of France in the high medieval period. Gallia remains a name of France in modern Latin (besides the alternatives Francia and Francogallia).
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 is no record of a 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.
- Asterix—a French comic about Gaul and Rome set in 50 BC
- Bog body
- Braccae—trousers, typical Gallic dress
- Cisalpine Gaul
- Gallia Narbonensis
- Gallo-Roman culture
- Gaulish language
- Roman Republic
- Roman Gaul
- Roman Villas in Northwestern Gaul