History of Gallia Comata

The Gauls began as tribes of Bronze-Age peoples in the southern forests of what is now Germany. They did not just appear out of thin air, but the first archaeological evidence we have of the Gauls shows their culture emerged in that area around 1200 BCE. From there they began slowly expanding in all directions, and more rapidly once they mastered working iron in 800 BCE. Then there was little holding them back from spreading far and wide- except for seas to the west and far south, the proto-Germani to the north, and the civilized city-states of the southeast.

Though Gallic culture spread far, and influenced almost every culture they came into contact with, this discourse will be limited to those Gauls who dwelled in Gallia Comata and Gallia Cisalpine- modern Nothern Italy and France. Those who went on to Britannia as the Pretanni, and those who merged with the local Iberians in Spain, and those who settled in the lands of the Thracians until driven out in a season of fire and blood, and those went on to Anatolia to found the Kingdom of Galatia shall have their tales told elsewhere.

The Gauls were never a united people. Verily, like most other peoples of the western world at the time, they were broken into tribes sharing similar language and customs. The tribes of the Mediterranean evolved into city-states and developed farming and writing, while those of the Gauls- locked into mountains or forests fighting for survival, bred warriors and developed metals. Like the Greeks and Italians, they fought amongst themselves for supremacy, but unlike those peoples, no Gallic tribe rose to ascendancy as did the Romans, the Athenians, and the Spartans. There were over thirty Gallic tribes in Gallia Comata that we know of, and probably dozens more who faded away before the arrival of the literate Romans to record their names for us. The Nervii, the Eburones, the Senones, the Aquitani, the Treveri, the Helvetii, and the Aedui are arguably the most famous, while the Remi, the Sequani, the Arvernii, and the Veneti are also known. Some tribal names, like the Boii, are found in several tribes.

The Gauls are acknowledged as metal-workers and craftsmen par excellence. Some of the artifacts recovered from digs in Gallic areas reveal a clever people, and one which not only adorned normal, daily items with artwork, but one which actively sought new and better ways to make items. A bridle bit was once recovered that had a clever joint in the middle, allowing the bit to be used on horse heads of various sizes while making it more comfortable for the horse itself. Chainmail, which used from the time of Camillus to the end of the Middle Ages, was developed by the Gauls as early as 350 BCE.

They never quite got the hang of stone houses, then again, most of their lands were covered in forest. Wood was the natural substance to work with- it was plentiful, easy to shape and plane, and solid enough to handle some abuse. There is evidence that the Gauls did fortify certain settlements with stone-and-log walls faced with stone and sod, but for the most part the Gauls lived liked other barbarian peoples in houses of wood.

Outside their homes were fields. As most of Gaul was covered in forest, these meadows produced very little except grass and wheat. Thus most Gallic foodstuffs at the time were milk and meat. Caesar, in his commentaries, wrote that the Germans, like the Gauls, grew large and muscular on the diet of meat and milk. This was a protein-rich diet that did indeed lend itself to strong bodies, something which would indeed stand the warrior Gauls in good stead.

The Gauls had no written language that we have uncovered, but that is not to say they were too stupid to do so. Rather than keeping records stored on stone or papyrus as other nations were doing, the Gauls had their Druids which kept the laws, and histories in their heads- learned by rote. These Druids were more than simple priests or historians. They also served as judges, advisors, teachers, and other functions. No Gallic tribe was complete without a druid or two in their midst. When needed, the Druid could also fight, but he was less likely to be used as fodder than someone less valuable. In short, the Druids became the center of the Gallic culture and Keepers of the same.

Above all else, the Gauls were warriors. They fought almost constantly- among themselves, against invaders, and when population pressure forced the acquisition of more land, against others. Their infantry was rather lazy- no self-respecting warrior worthy of the title would ever lift a shovel- but fought with zeal. They had no fear of Death due to religious influences, and wore no armor in order to show their magnificent physiques to intinidate their foes. Their hair was often combed into spikes and coated with lime as a styling gel, creating a horrid and scary apparition for his foe to encounter.

While their infantry was generally regarded as second-rate by civilized nations, their cavalry was superb. These men were usually armored, and for each cavalryman there were two stand-bys. Should the warrior fall, a stand-by would join the fray as his replacement. Should the horse be killed, the stand-by would rush forward and give his own mount to the warrior. In this manner, the Gauls maintained their strength in the battle while that of their foes diminished. The cavalry itself was top-notch and fought with the same abandon as the infantry- though with much better results and earned a clearly better reputation. Hannibal, when he crossed their lands and invaded Italy during the Second Punic War, would employ Gauls and Celts as mercenaries in his army. He noted their lust for battle and savagery in combat, though they invariably took far more losses than any other contingent in the Carthaginian warhost.

They raided Greece, conquered Thrace, expanded into Spain, and pushed into Italia. Then the Gauls encountered Rome while besieging the neighboring city of Clusium. This led to the first battle between Rome and the Gauls at Allia, where the Romans were crushed and the Gauls occupied Rome itself for seven months. Never again would the Gauls achieve such a victory over Rome- they would win several engagements near their end, but never again with the same weight or consequences. The story of Gallic battles against Rome would be one of an initial high point, a long downhill slide, a bump or two at the end, then oblivion.

After serving Rome's foes as mercenaries and being pushed out of Italia into what is now France, there was a time of peace between the Gauls and Rome. Rome still meddled among the Gauls, acquiring allies here and there, but all of this changed with the arrival of Caesar.

Caesar sounded the death-knell over the independent Gauls. His arrival signalled the End Game of the Gauls, which concluded in a final and decisive Game Over for them at Alesia. He claims in his Commentaries that he fought his battles in defense of Friends and Allies, but some historians doubt that and point to his victories and sieges far away from where the Allies lived as proof. Regardless, Caesar conquered the Gauls tribe by tribe, annihilating some (like the Eburones) or reducing others to a bare skeleton of what they once were (like the Helvetii and the Nervii). The Gauls, who so often fought amongst themselves, could not unite to face this Roman conquest until it was too late. Only then did several tribes band together and choose a leader to be king of the Gauls. This was Vercingetorix, who did achieve some successes against Caesar before being circumvallated and besieged in what he thought the impregnable fortress at Alesia. He eventually surrendered, and performed as Gallic King one last time in Caesar's triumph six years later.

With Vercingetorix died the dream of an independent Gaul. There would be revolts and rebellions occasionally, but these would be led by Romanized Gauls or Romans stationed in Gaul. Caesar did more than conquer them- he brought with him Romanization, a long and arduous process that eventually settled the warriors into farmers and men with Roman ways. They still produced fine cavalry, but these would now serve as Roman Cavalry. They still produced warriors, but these would be auxilia, and later, legionaries. It was indeed Game Over for the Gauls that had once trashed a Roman army at the Allia some 350 years earlier.

Gaul was gone. In its place was an extension of Rome. Rome had finally erased the stain of Allia, and spread her ways among a former foe.