At the dawn of history in Europe, the Celts in present-day France were known as Gauls. Their descendants were described by Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars. There was also an early Celtic presence in northern Italy. Other Celtic tribes invaded Italy, establishing there a city they called Mediolanum (modern Milan) and sacking Rome itself in 390 BC following the Battle of the Allia. A century later the defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War sounded the end of the Celtic domination in Europe, but it was not until 192 BC that the Roman armies conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdoms in Italy.
Under Caesar the Romans conquered Celtic Gaul, and from Claudius onward the Roman empire absorbed parts of the Celtic British Isles. Roman local government of these regions closely mirrored pre-Roman ‘tribal’ boundaries, and archaeological finds suggest native involvement in local government. Latin was the official language of these regions after the conquests.The native peoples under Roman rule became Romanized and keen to adopt Roman ways. Celtic art had already incorporated classical influences, and surviving Gallo-Roman pieces interpret classical subjects or keep faith with old traditions despite a Roman overlay.
Roman influence lead directly to the decline of the druidic priests. Prior to Roman conquests, the druids exercised enormous spiritual and political power among the celtic peoples. The druidic religion was seen as a major impediment to the “Romanization” of the newly conquered celts. Thus began a deliberate policy on the part of the Roman conquerors to replace the old celtic political structure with Roman institutions. The elimination of the druidic class was instrumental to cementing Roman authority.
This led the birth of many Romano-celtic deities, as old celtic gods took on new latin names and aspects of Roman divinities, and began to be worshipped alongside the more traditional Jovian pantheon.
Gallo-Roman Culture describes the Romanized culture of Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire. This was characterized by the Gaulish adoption or adaptation of Roman mores and way of life in a uniquely Gaulish context. The well-studied meld of cultures in Gaul give historians a model against which to compare and contrast parallel developments of Romanization in other, less-studied Roman provinces.Share on Facebook