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(gôl), Lat. Gallia, ancient designation for the land S and W of the Rhine, W of the Alps, and N of the Pyrenees. The name was extended by the Romans to include Italy from Lucca and Rimini northwards, excluding Liguria. This extension of the name is derived from its settlers of the 4th and 3d cent. B.C.—invading Celts, who were called Gauls by the Romans. Their cousins in Gaul proper (modern France) probably had been there since 600 B.C., for the Greeks of Massilia (Marseilles) knew them. The Gaul in Italy was called Cisalpine Gaul [Cisalpine, from Lat.,=on this side the Alps], as opposed to Transalpine Gaul; Cisalpine Gaul was divided into Cispadane Gaul [on this side the Po] and Transpadane Gaul.

Roman Rule

By 121 B.C., Rome had acquired S Transalpine Gaul, and by the time of Julius CaesarCaesar, Julius
(Caius Julius Caesar), 100? B.C.–44 B.C., Roman statesman and general. Rise to Power

Although he was born into the Julian gens, one of the oldest patrician families in Rome, Caesar was always a member of the democratic or popular party.
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 it had been pacified. It was usually called the Province (Provincia, hence modern Provence), and it included a strip 100 mi (160 km) wide along the sea from the E Pyrenees northeastward and up the Rhone valley nearly to Lyons. Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in the Gallic WarsGallic Wars
, campaigns in Gaul led by Julius Caesar in his two terms as proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul, Transalpine Gaul, and Illyricum (58 B.C.–51 B.C.). Caesar's first campaign was to prevent the Helvetii (who lived N of the Lake of Geneva) from crossing the Roman
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 (58 B.C.–51 B.C.). He is the best ancient source on Gaul, and he has immortalized its three ethnic divisions, Aquitania (S of the Garonne), Celtic Gaul (modern central France), and Belgica (very roughly Belgium). Aquitania was probably inhabited by the ancestors of the Basques, and the Belgae were probably Celts, like the rest of the Gauls.

On the basis of these distinctions, Augustus in 27 B.C. set up great administrative divisions: Narbonensis (the old Province), under the direct rule of the Roman senate; Aquitania, now extending from the Pyrenees to the Loire; Lugdunensis (Celtic Gaul), a central strip mainly between the Loire and the Seine; and Belgica, including most of the rest. The latter three provinces were administered from Lugdunum (now Lyons), capital of Lugdunensis. Upper and Lower Germany were taken from Gaul; these included the upper Rhine, Alsace, W Switzerland, the Franche-Comté, E Belgium, S Netherlands, and the Rhineland.

In Roman Gaul it often became customary to call the chief center of a tribe or the country around it by some form of the tribe's name. Many of these names survive today. The principal tribes of Gaul (with the modern survivals or locations) were: Abrincati (Avranches); Aedui; Allobroges; Ambiani (Amiens); Andecavi (Angers, Anjou); Atrebates (Arras); Baiocassi (Bayeux); Bellovaci (Beauvais); Bituriges (Bourges, Berry); Cadurci (Cahors, Quercy); Carnutes (Chartres); Catalauni (Châlons); Cenomani (Le Mans, Maine); Eburovici (Évreux); Helvetii; Lemovices (Limoges, Limousin); Lingones (Langres); Lexovii (Lisieux); Meldae (Meaux); Namnetes (Nantes); Nervii; Parisii (Paris); Petrocorii (Périgueux, Périgord); Pictones or Pictavi (Poitiers, Poitou); Redones (Rennes, Breton Roazon); Remi (Reims); Ruteni (Rodez); Santones (Saintes); Senones (Sens); Sequani, in the Franche-Comté; Silvanecti (Senlis); Suessiones (Soissons); Treveri (Trier, French Trèves); Tricassi (Troyes); Turones (Tours, Touraine); Veneti (Vannes, Breton Gwened).

Effects of Roman Rule

Although the Romans had won political control over Gaul, they never succeeded in imposing Roman culture throughout the land. Various provinces differed greatly in the degree to which they accepted Roman culture. The only serious attempt to rebel politically against Rome was the uprising of PostumusPostumus
(Marcus Cassianius Latinius Postumus) , d. 269?, Roman commander. Governor of Gaul under Gallienus, he revolted (257) and established an independent empire there.
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 (A.D. 257), but Gallo-Roman civilization was too strong to fall before anything but the Germans of the 5th and 6th cent.

The villa system spread (see feudalismfeudalism
, form of political and social organization typical of Western Europe from the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire to the rise of the absolute monarchies. The term feudalism is derived from the Latin feodum,
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). A landed aristocracy grew up, employing the laborers, who made up the principal part of the population. The influence of Christianity and the ravages of Germanic invaders forwarded the local organization around the cities. The greatest testimony to the stability and thoroughness of the culture of Roman Gaul is the survival of the Latin language as French. However, an indication of regionalism is that Provençal, also a Romance language, survived in S France for centuries. For history see FranceFrance
, officially French Republic, republic (2015 est. pop. 64,457,000), 211,207 sq mi (547,026 sq km), W Europe. France is bordered by the English Channel (N), the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay (W), Spain and Andorra (SW), the Mediterranean Sea (S; the location of the
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See S. Dill, Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age (1966); R. Latouche, Caesar to Charlemagne (tr. 1968); H. Pirenne, Mohammed and Charlemagne (tr. 1968); J. J. Hatt, Celts and Gallo-Romans (tr. 1970); E. James, Origins of France: From Clovis to the Canetians, A.D. 500–1000 (1982); P. Geary, Before France and Germany (1988).



(Latin, Gallia), a historical region of Europe, including the territory between the Po River and the Alps (Cisalpine Gaul or Gallia Cisalpina) and the area between the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, and the Atlantic Ocean (Transalpine Gaul or Gallia Transalpina)—the territory of present-day northern Italy, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, a portion of the Netherlands, and part of Switzerland.

From the sixth century B.C. the territory of Gaul was inhabited by Celts, whom the Romans called Gauls (hence the name Gaul). Around 220 B.C. the territory between the Po River and the Alps was conquered by the Romans. It became the province of Cisalpine Gaul, with its capital at Mediolanum (Milan), and it was divided into Cispadane Gaul and Transpadane Gaul. Under Caesar in the mid-first century B.C. the people of Cisalpine Gaul received the rights of Roman citizenship. The province became a part of Italy, although it maintained its previous name. In the second decade of the second century B.C. the Romans started a war against the tribes in southern Gaul. Around 120 B.C. the war ended with the formation on the territory of present-day Provence of a Roman province with its center at Narbo Martius (Narbonne). During 58-51 B.C. under Julius Caesar the remainder of Gaul was conquered. In 16 B.C. under Augustus Transalpine Gaul was divided into four provinces: Gallia Narbonensis, Gallia Lugdunensis, Aquitania, and Belgica.

The burden of Roman taxes and the cruelty of the usurers repeatedly caused revolts by the indigenous tribes. (Revolts occurred in 52-51 B.C., 12 B.C., and 21 A.D. The most important revolt was led by Civilis in 69-70 A.D.) The spread of Roman forms of economy strengthened the economy of Gaul. At the end of the first and second centuries there was an increase in the number of slaveholding villas, and the large towns such as Narbo Martius (Narbonne), Lugdunum (Lyon), Nemausus (Nîmes), Arelate (Aries), and Burdigala (Bordeaux) developed. Agriculture, metallurgy, and ceramic and textile production as well as domestic and foreign trade reached a high level. However, the economic upsurge based on the exploitation of the slaves and coloni was short-lived. By the beginning of the third century trade and commerce began to decline, and the cities became impoverished. This was accompanied by the growth of large landowning and the enslavement of those peasants who had been turned into coloni. By the mid-third century the crisis was exacerbated by the increasing pressure of the German tribes on Gaul. In 258, when the Roman Empire was in a difficult domestic and foreign position, Gaul as well as Britain and Spain seceded from Rome. They created their own empire headed by Postumus, who ruled from 258 to 268. The Gallic Empire lasted for 15 years. Its last ruler, Tetricus (270-73), who was unable to cope with the soldier mutinies and the incipient revolt of the Bagaudae, surrendered to Emperor Aurelius, and Gaul was again annexed by the Roman Empire. In the fourth century Gaul was divided into 17 provinces, which made up the Gallic and Viennese dioceses. As a result of the invasions of the territory of Gaul by barbarians, the so-called barbarian Burgundian state was founded in 406 on the Rhine. As allies, the Visigoths obtained a portion of Aquitania from Rome in 418. Subsequently, the Germans seized one portion of Gaul after another. The conquest of Gaul was completed by the Frankish king Clovis, who annexed the territory north of the Loire River in 486.


Shtaerman, E. M. “Drevniaia Galliia.” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1951, no. 1.
Gullian, C. Histoire de la Gaule, vols. 1-8. Paris, 1907-26.
Chilver, G. E. F. Cisalpine Gaul: Social and Economic History From 49 B.C. to the Death of Trajan. Oxford, 1941.
Grenier, A. “La Gaule Romaine.” In An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, vol. 3. Baltimore, 1957. Pages 381-644.
Breuer, I. La Belgique Romaine. Brussels [1946].
Staehelin, F. Die Schweiz in römischer Zeitl, 3rd ed. Basel, 1948.



A hollow spot or area in a coat of plaster, mortar, or the like.


an ancient region of W Europe corresponding to N Italy, France, Belgium, part of Germany, and the S Netherlands: divided into Cisalpine Gaul, which became a Roman province before 100 bc, and Transalpine Gaul, which was conquered by Julius Caesar (58--51 bc)
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Germans and Huns alike then moved en masse westward and into Gaul, a further immigration that again diluted the empire's rule.