Category Archives: Places of Interest

Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

After traveling with my wife and infant son to see family for Christmas, I got to thinking “What will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?”

Last week we shared Travel With Kids – Rome to showcase all that can be seen and experienced in the Eternal City while traveling with children. We thought that was a good idea and looked for more videos to share.

Today we present to you Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel With Kids – Venice

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

After traveling with my wife and infant son to see family for Christmas, I got to thinking “What will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?”

We’ve already shared Travel With Kids – Rome and Travel With Kids – Rome, Vatican City & the Amalfi Coast to showcase all that can be seen and experienced in the Eternal City (and Italy‘s coast) while traveling with children. We thought that was a good idea and looked for more videos to share.

Today we present to you Travel With Kids – Venice!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Travel Kids – Rome

Welcome to Rome Across Europe and to 2017!

During the course of this holiday season my wife & I have been traveling with our son for the first time. Granted he’s only a year old and we stayed within the United States, it was our first time on a plane as a family.

This got me thinking, what will traveling be like when our boy’s older? Where will we take him to make some wonderful memories?

How will traveling with a child (or children) be? The last time I traveled with children, I was one of the children.

So today, to start a new year, we present to you Travel With Kids -Rome!

If you enjoyed today’s adventure and want to see more like it, and maybe even about different locations, check out their site here.

We wish you a great 2017 filled with endless possibilities. Come back soon to see what we have in store for you.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

Kingdom of Soissons: A Rump State of Roman Gaul

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As of late we have been discovering Gallia (aka Roman Gaul). We’ve already explored most of the Provincia with articles like – Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe; Gallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman Gaul; Provincia Gallia Narbonensis: Our Province; Gallia Aquitania: Home of the Long-haired Gauls; Gallia Belgica: Conquered by Caesar and Founded by Augustus; and Gallia Lugdunensis: Roman Europe’s Major City West of Italia.

Now it’s time to dig a little deeper to uncover a hidden layer within the boundaries of Gallia. Since there’s no time like the present, let’s take a look at the Kingdom of Soissons!

Western and Eastern Roman Empires 476 AD. Kingdom of Syagrius (North-West) within the Western Roman Empire (blue).
Western and Eastern Roman Empires 476 AD. Kingdom of Syagrius (North-West) within the Western Roman Empire (blue).

The Kingdom of Soissons was a rump state of the Western Roman Empire in northern Gaul (present day France) for some 25 years during Late Antiquity. Soissons had formerly been the tribal capital of the Celtic tribe of the Suessiones.

Soissons commanded a broad swathe of territory across the full width of northern Gaul, even though the region became more and more isolated from Italia, with Frankish states to the north and east and the Visigothic Kingdom to the south.

The emergence of the Kingdom of Soissons began when Western Emperor Majorian (AD 457–461) appointed Aegidius as Magister Militum of the Roman Gaul. By the 5th Century AD, the Suessiones had become completely Romanized with Roman government in the area that was centered on Soissons (or Noviodunum as the Romans called it).

Majorian (Flavius Iulius Valerius Maiorianus Augustus)
Majorian (Flavius Iulius Valerius Maiorianus Augustus)

During the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Emperor Majorian proved to be a little too popular. Majorian constantly took the field in person and lead the failing Roman Army to victories over the Visigoths and Burgundians, which restored Hispania.

Following a revolt in AD 417, the Armoricans were also almost completely independent of Rome. However, Auxerre on the Yonne remained under Roman control along with the new capital of Roman Gaul at Arles.

The northern region also managed to retain a Roman government based at Soissons, although more and more often Rome was being forced to use barbarian Foederati to solve its problems rather than increasingly rare Roman troops.

Divisions of Gaul (481 AD)
Divisions of Gaul (481 AD)

The remaining Roman territory in northwest Gallia was connected with the Roman possessions in the Auvergne, Provence and Languedoc which connected these to Italia. During Majorian’s reign, that corridor was annexed by the Germanic tribes then occupying Gaul, effectively cutting off Aegidius and his citizens from the Empire.

Majorian and Aegidius had recovered the Roman position in most of Gaul, but it would not last. With the death of Majorian at the hands of Ricimer in AD 461, Aegidius’s power and the Roman position in the center and southern provinces deteriorated.

Aegidius was now intent on avenging Majorian’s death, but was prevented from marching on Rome when Ricimer hired the previously defeated Visigoths and Burgundians to serve as a blockade. Aegidius’ troops remained loyal to him, however, and Rome again lost its authority in Soissons, which remained governed by Aegidius.

Allied to Aegidius was Childeric I, king of the Salian Franks of Tournai, and helped him defeat the Visigoths at Orléans in 463. According to Gregory of Tours, Aegidius even ruled the Franks during Childeric’s banishment, but Childeric later returned from exile.

Aegidius died on the Loire in AD 464, and may have been murdered at the orders of one of Childeric’s enemies. Paulus of Angers, the Comes of Aegidius, was killed shortly afterwards on the same campaign.

This left Syagrius, Aegidius’s son, to succeed his rule. The former province of Gallia Aquitania was then annexed by the Visigoths and Burgundians in the years AD 462-477, leaving the remaining Roman Kingdom of Syagrius isolated.

Syagrius during battle
Syagrius during battle

At the same time, in the north of Gaul the Franks were increasing their influence. It is possible that the Groans of the Britons, referring to a Romano-British request for military assistance after the Roman departure from Britain, may have been addressed to Aegidius.

Odoacer
Odoacer

Syagrius governed using the title of Dux (a provincial military commander), but the neighboring Germanic tribes referred to him as Romanorum Rex (King of the Romans). In 476, under the rule of Syagrius, the Kingdom of Soissons failed to accept the new rule of Odoacer who had dethroned the dethroned the last Western Emperor earlier that year.

While both Syagrius and Odoacer sent messengers to the Eastern Roman Empire, the Eastern Emperor Zeno chose to offer legitimacy to Odoacer instead of Syagrius. The Kingdom of Soissons cut all ties with Italy and had no further recorded contact with the Eastern Roman Empire.

Even after 476, Syagrius continued to maintain that he was merely governing a Roman province. The Kingdom of Soissons was in fact an independent region.

Clovis statue at the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis.
Clovis statue at the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis.

Childeric died about 481, and his son Clovis I became the Frankish king. Clovis made continual war against Syagrius, and in the end took over all his territory.

In 486 Syagrius lost the Battle of Soissons to the Frankish king Clovis I and the domain was thereafter under the control of the Franks. Many historians consider this Clovis’ greatest victory.

Syagrius fled to the Visigothic king Alaric II, but the Franks threatened war if Syagrius was not surrendered to them. Syagrius was sent back to Clovis, who had him executed in 487.

Clovis I ruled the Franks until his death in 511. When he died, the Frankish realm was divided into 4 kingdoms, 1 for each of his sons.

Clotaire I received the area formerly ruled by Syagrius. Clotaire himself had been born in Soissons a decade after Syagrius’ death.

The Kingdom of Soissons (486 AD)
The Kingdom of Soissons (486 AD)

By skillful diplomacy, warmongering, and murder of his relatives, Clotaire became the king of all Gaul by 555. When Clotaire died in 561, the Frankish realm further was divided into 3 kingdoms, 1 for each son.

The western kingdom of Neustria continued to be governed from Soissons until all Franks were once more unified under the Neustrian king Clotaire II in 613. Except for the period of 639-673, when a division between Neustria and Austrasia occurred, the Franks remained unified until the Treaty of Verdun in 843.

The Kingdom of Soissons (or the Kingdom of Syagrius) was, in reality, neither ruled by a legitimate king, nor was it considered by its citizens as anything other than a separated province of the Western Roman Empire. However it was a prized piece of land that was coveted by many and which still has us engaged today.

We hope you enjoyed today’s discovery and look forward to having you back again in the new year. Have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bély, Lucien and Moyon, Angela. The History of France. Google Books. ISBN 978-2-87747-563-1.

Bussey, George Muir; Gaspey, Thomas; and Burette, Théodose. A History of France and of the French People. Google Books.

Frassetto, Michael. Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe. Google Books. ISBN 978-1-57607-263-9.

MacGeorge, Penny. Late Roman Warlords. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-925244-0.

Domain of Soissons AD 461 – 486”. The History Files.

Gallia Lugdunensis: Roman Europe’s Major Capital West of Italia

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

If you are just joining us, we have been discovering Gallia (aka Roman Gaul) for a few weeks now. We’ve already explored most of the Provincia with articles like – Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern EuropeGallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman GaulProvincia Gallia Narbonensis: Our ProvinceGallia Aquitania: Home of the Long-haired Gauls; and Gallia Belgica: Conquered by Caesar and Founded by Augustus. and Gallia Lugdunensis: Roman Europe’s Major City West of Italia.

Now it’s time to uncover the last layer within the true Roman province that was once Gallia. Without further ado, today we take a look at Gallia Lugdunensis!

Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in orange)
Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in orange)

Part of the Celtic territory of Gaul formerly known as Gallia Celtica, Gallia Lugdunensis was a Province of the Roman Empire in what is now the modern country of France.

As part of Tres Galliae (Three Gauls) called the Gallia Comata, it extended from the capital of Lugdunum (Lyon) northwest to all the land between the Seine and the Loire Rivers to Brittany and the Atlantic Ocean. Gallia Lugdunensis included a Gallo-Roman town called Lutetia Parisiorum, known today as Paris.

In Pliny‘s time, the Segusiani had the title of Liberi (Free). Greco-Egyptian writer, geographer, mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, Claudius Ptolemy, incorrectly placed Lugdunum among the cities of the Aedui calling it Lugdunum Metropolis.

Commentarii de Bello Gallico

In his firsthand account of the Gallic WarsCommentarii de Bello Gallico, Julius Caesar describes his conquest of Gaul (58–50 BC). Caesar distinguished between Provincia Nostra in the south of Gaul, which already was a Roman Province in his time, and the 3 other parts of Gaul (the territories of the Aquitani, of the Belgae, and of the Galli also known as the Celtae).

The territory of the Galli extended from the rivers Seine and Marne in the north-east, which formed the boundary with Gallia Belgica, to the river Garonne in the south-west, which formed the border with Gallia Aquitania.

Augustus

Under Augustus, Gallia Lugdunensis was created by reducing in size the territory of the Galli. The portion between the river Loire and the Garonne was given to Gallia Aquitania, and central-eastern portions were given to the new province of Germania Superior.

The map shows the extent after these reductions. The date of the creation of Gallia Lugdunensis was either between 27 and 25 BC or between 16 and 13 BC, during Augustus’ visits to Gaul.

The area included most of the region that the Greeks, from their colonies on the Mediterranean coast, had called Celtica. As an Imperial Province, Gallia Lugdunensis was deemed important enough to be governed by an Imperial Legatus.

Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in dark red) amongst the Roman Empire.
Gallia Lugdunensis (shown in dark red) amongst the Roman Empire.

The area of Gallia Lugdunensis was too large and strong to lose its individuality. It was also too rural and too far from the Mediterranean to be Romanized as fully and quickly as neighboring Narbonensis.

Even the Celtic language lingered on in forest districts into the 4th Century AD. Said Celtic language even persisted in Brittany into modern times.

Town life, however, grew as was typical of Romanization. The villages of the tribes became practically, though not officially, municipalities, with many of these towns reached considerable size and contained magnificent public buildings.

Nummus of Diocletian

After Diocletian‘s Tetrarchy (AD 296), it was the major province of a diocese confusingly called Galliae (the Gaul provinces), to which further only the Helvetic, Belgian (both also Celtic) and German provinces belonged. With the dioceses of Viennensis (the southern provinces of Gaul), Britanniae (also Celtic) and Hispaniae (the whole Celt-Iberian peninsula) this formed the Praefectura Praetorio (Praetorian Prefecture) also called Galliae, subordinate to the Western Roman Emperor.

The province effectively ceased to exist in AD 486. This was when the Roman General Syagrius was defeated by the invading Franks.

Asterix and the banquet

The fictional unconquered village from the French comic book Asterix is located here. The comic focuses on Asterix and the Roman conquest of Gaul on the Armorican peninsula (modern Brittany).

Lugdunum was a Roman settlement at the junction of the Arar (Saône) and the Rhodanus (Rhône) for which Gallia Lugdunensis was named. It was in the territory of the Segusiani, who were the neighbors of the Aedui.

Aqueduct of the Gier providing water to Lugdunum.

Lugdunum was possibly Roman Europe’s major city west of Italy, and a major Imperial mint. Outside Lugdunum was the Condate Altar, where representatives of the Three Gauls met to celebrate the cult of Rome and Augustus.

In Strabo’s time Lugdunum was the most populous of the Gallic towns after Narbonne. It was a place of trade, and the Roman Governors had a mint there for coining gold and silver.

Its great commercial prosperity was due to its excellent position, and to the viae (ways) which the Romans constructed in several directions from Lugdunum as a center. The place was entitled Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum on some inscriptions, a name probably given to it in the time of the Emperor Claudius.

Pliny the Younger

In the time of Pliny the Younger there were booksellers at Lugdunum, and Pliny’s works might be got there. The city was destroyed by fire in Seneca‘s time.

Shortly thereafter it was restored through the liberality of the Emperor Nero, to whom the inhabitants of Lugdunum remained faithful when Galba revolted. Lugdunum was plundered and again burnt by the soldiers of Septimius Severus (AD 197), after the defeat of the usurper Clodius Albinus near the city.

It was an important position under the later Empire, but the name only occurs occasionally in the scanty historical notices of that time. When Julian was Governor of Gallia, Lugdunum was near being surprised by a body of Alemanni.

We hope you enjoyed our Gallia finale. We look forward to having you back again soon for our next adventure.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire.

Gaius Julius Caesar (Trans. S.A. Handford). The Conquest of Gaul. Penguin, 1982.

Rines, George Edwin, ed. “Cæsar’s Commentaries“. Encyclopedia Americana, 1920.

Wightman, Edith Mary. Gallia Belgica. University of California Press, 1985.

The Cambridge Ancient History, New Ed., Vol. 10. Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Lugdunensis”. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Lugdunensis”. Bible-History.com

Toledo, Spain: From Roman Toletum to Modern City

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Because of the extent of the Roman Empire there are lots of towns and cities across modern-day Europe. The foundations laid by Rome still echo greatly today, fortunately for all of us.

With so much history and architecture abound there is no doubt how many places or things have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. If you haven’t done so already, check out the sites that we’ve already covered here.

That being said, today we’re exploring a World Heritage Site we’ve done previously as we head on back to Hispania as we uncover Toledo!toledo-spain

Toledo is a city and municipality located in central Spain, it is the capital of the province of Toledo and the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage and historical co-existence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures (earning it the nickname the City of the Three Cultures).

An elderly Karl V (also known as Don Carlos I of Spain), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.
An elderly Karl V (also known as Don Carlos I of Spain), ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

Known as the Imperial City, Toledo was the main venue of the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Toledo has a history in the production of bladed weapons, which are now popular souvenirs of the city.

It was also the place of important historic events such as the Visigothic Councils of Toledo. The town was granted arms in the 16th Century, which by special royal privilege was based on the royal of arms of Spain.

Roman historian Livy made mention of then Toletum as urbs parva, sed loco munita (a small city, but fortified by location). Roman General Marcus Fulvius Nobilior fought a battle near the city in 193 BC against a confederation of Celtic tribes including the Vaccaei, Vettones, and Celtiberi, defeating them and capturing a king called Hilermus.

At that time, Toletum was a city of the Carpetani tribe, and part of the region of Carpetania. It was incorporated into the Roman Empire as a Civitas Stipendaria (a Tributary City of non-citizens).

Later Toletum achieved the full status of Municipium under Flavian. With this status, city officials, even of Carpetani origin, obtained Roman citizenship for public service, and the forms of Roman law and politics were increasingly adopted.

At approximately this time were constructed in ToletumRoman Circus, city walls, public baths, and a municipal water supply and storage system.

Circo Romano
Circo Romano

The Circus of Toletum was one of the largest in Hispania, at 1,388 feet long and 330 feet wide, with a track dimension of 1,339 feet long and 282 feet wide. Capable of holding up to 15,000 spectators, games were held in the Circus into the late 4th and early 5th Centuries AD.

Chariot races were held on special holidays and were also commissioned by private citizens to celebrate career achievements. This is quite an indication of an active city life and ongoing patronage by wealthy elites.

inscriptionA fragmentary stone inscription records Circus games paid for by a citizen of unknown name to celebrate his achieving the Sevirate, a kind of priesthood conferring high status. Archaeologists have also identified portions of a special seat of the sort used by the city elites to attend games, called a Sella Curulis.

During Roman times, Toledo was never a provincial capital nor a Conventus Iuridicus. It started to gain importance in Late Antiquity.

There are indications that large private houses (domus) within the city walls were enlarged, while several large vīllae were built north of the city through the 3rd and 4th Centuries.

A Church Council was held in Toledo in the year 400 to discuss the conflict with Priscillianism. Another Council of Toledo was held in AD 527.

The Visigothic king Theudis was in Toledo in AD 546, where he spread a law. This is strong though not certain evidence that Toledo was the chief residence for Theudis.

King Athanagild died in Toledo around AD 568. Although Theudis and Athanagild based themselves in Toledo, it was not yet the capital city of the Iberian Peninsula, as Theudis and Athanagild’s power was limited in extent.

This changed with Liuvigild (Leovigild), who brought the peninsula under his control. The Visigoths ruled from Toledo until the Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula in the early years of 8th Century (711–719).

Roman Baths underneath Toledo
Roman Baths underneath Toledo

Today the historic center is pierced of basements, passages, wells, baths and ancient water pipes that since Roman times have been used in the city.

Several Councils of Toledo were held in Toledo under the Visigoths. A synod of Arian bishops was held in 580 to discuss theological reconciliation with Nicene Christianity.

Liuvigild’s successor, Reccared, hosted the Third Council of Toledo, at which the Visigothic kings abandoned Arianism and reconciled with the existing Hispano-Roman Episcopate. A Synod held in AD 610 transferred the metropolitanate of the old province of Carthaginensis from Cartagena to Toledo.

At that time, Cartagena was ruled by the Byzantines, and this move ensured a closer relation between the Bishops of Spain and the Visigothic kings. King Sisebut forced Jews in the Visigothic kingdom to convert to Christianity.

Councils of Toledo
Councils of Toledo

This act was criticized and efforts were made to reverse it at the Fourth Council of Toledo in AD 633. The Fifth and Sixth Councils of Toledo placed church sanctions on anyone who would challenge the Visigothic kings.

The Seventh Council of Toledo instituted a requirement that all Bishops in the area of a royal city (aka Toledo) must reside for 1 month per year in Toledo. This was a stage in “the elevation of Toledo as the primatial see of the whole church of the Visgothic kingdom”.

In addition, the Seventh Council declared that any clergy fleeing the kingdom, assisting conspirators against the king, or aiding conspirators, would be excommunicated and no one should remove this sentence. The ban on lifting these sentences of excommunication was lifted at the Eighth Council of Toledo in AD 653, and, for the first time, decisions were signed by palace officials as well as Bishops.

The Eighth Council of Toledo took measures that enhanced Toledo’s significance as the center of royal power in the Iberian Peninsula, and declared that the election of a new king following the death of the old one should only take place in the royal city or wherever the old king died. The Ninth and Tenth Councils were held in rapid succession in AD 655 and 656.

The Election of Wamba as King, by Francisco de Paula Van Halen.
The Election of Wamba as King, by Francisco de Paula Van Halen.

When Reccesuinth died in 672 at his villa in Gerticos (Wamba), his successor Wamba was elected on the spot, then went to Toledo to be anointed king by the Bishop of Toledo, per Council procedure. Wamba carried out renovation works in Toledo in AD 674-675, marking these with inscriptions above the city gates that are no longer extant but were recorded in the 8th Century.

The Eleventh Council of Toledo was held in AD 675 under king Wamba. Wamba weakened the power of the Bishop of Toledo by creating a new bishopric outside Toledo at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.

This was one of the main churches of Toledo and was the church where Wamba was anointed king, and the church from which Visigothic kings departed for war after special ceremonies in which they were presented with a relic of the True Cross. By creating a new bishopric there, Wamba removed power over royal succession from the Bishop of Toledo and granted it to the new bishop.

The Twelfth Council of Toledo was held in 681 after Wamba’s removal from office. Convinced that he was dying, Wamba had accepted a state of penitence that made him ineligible to remain king.

Saint Julian of Toledo
Saint Julian of Toledo

The Twelfth Council, led by newly installed Bishop Julian confirmed the validity of Wamba’s removal from office and his succession by Ervig. The Twelfth Council eliminated the new bishopric that Wamba had created and returned the powers over succession to the Bishop of Toledo.

The ThirteenthFourteenth, and Fifteenth Councils of Toledo were held in 683, 684, and 688. The Thirteenth Council restored property and legal rights to those who had rebelled against King Wamba in 673.

In 687, Ervig took the penitent state before dying, and the kingship passed to Egica, who was anointed king in Toledo on November 24. In 688, the Fifteenth Council lifted the ban on taking property from the families of former kings, whereupon Egica was able to plunder Ervig’s family properties.

In the late 7th Century, Toledo became a main center of literacy and writing in the Iberian Peninsula. Toledo’s development as a center of learning was influenced by Isidore of Seville, an author and advocate of literacy who attended several church councils in Toledo.

The Royal Library of Toledo
The Royal Library of Toledo

King Chindasuinth had a royal library in Toledo, and at least one Count called Laurentius had a private library. Sometime before 651, Chindasuinth sent the Bishop of Zaragoza, Taio, to Rome to obtain books that were not available in Toledo.

Taio obtained, at least, parts of Pope Gregory‘s Moralia. The library also contained a copy of a Hexameron by Dracontius, which Chindasuinth liked so much that he commissioned Eugenius II to revise it by adding a new part dealing with the 7th day of creation.

Chindasuinth issued laws that were gathered together in a book called Liber Iudiciorum by his successor Reccesuinth in 654. This book was revised twice, widely copied, and was an important influence on medieval Spanish law.

Three Bishops of Toledo wrote works that were widely copied and disseminated in western Europe and parts of which survive to this day: Eugenius IIIldefonsus, and Julian. “In intellectual terms the leading Spanish churchmen of the seventh century had no equals before the appearance of Bede.”

Sketch of Old Toledo
Sketch of Old Toledo

In 693, the Sixteenth Council of Toledo condemned Sisebert, Julian’s successor as Bishop of Toledo, for having rebelled against King Egica in alliance with Liuvigoto, the widow of king Ervig. A rebel king called Suniefred seized power in Toledo briefly at about this time.

Whether or not Sisebert’s and Suniefred’s rebellions were the same or separate is unknown. Suniefred is known only from having minted coins in Toledo during what should have been Egica’s reign.

The Seventeenth Council of Toledo was held in 694. The Eighteenth Council of Toledo, the last one, took place shortly after Egica’s death around 702 or 703.

By the end of the seventh century the bishop of Toledo was the leader of the Spanish bishops, a situation unusual in Europe. The metropolitan Bishops of Toledo had achieved by the last quarter of the 7th Century an authority and a primacy that was unique in Western Europe, which not even the Pope could count on such support from neighboring metropolitans.

Toledo had been matched by no other city in western Europe outside Italy as the governmental and symbolic center of a powerful monarchy. Rising from relative obscurity, Toledo became the permanent governmental center of the Visigothic monarchy and a true capital, whose only equivalent in western Europe was Lombard Pavia.

The Arab general Muza ibn Nusayr whipping his deputy Tarik for disobeying his orders during the conquest of Andalucia and Extremadura.
The Arab general Muza ibn Nusayr whipping his deputy Tarik for disobeying his orders during the conquest of Andalucia and Extremadura.

When Wittiza died around 710, Ruderic became Visigothic king in Toledo, but the kingdom was split, as a rival king Achila ruled Tarraconensis and Narbonensis. Meanwhile, Arabic and Berber troops under Musa ibn Nusayr had conquered Tangiers and Ceuta between AD 705 and 710, and commenced raids into the Visigothic kingdom in 711.

Ruderic led an army to confront the raiders, but was defeated and killed in battle. Apparently this happened due to a betrayal by Visigothic nobles who wished to replace him as king, and who did not consider the Arabs and Berbers a serious threat.

The commander of the invading forces was Tariq bin Ziyad, a Luwata Berber freedman in the service of governor Musa. Tariq, seizing the opportunity presented by the death of Ruderic and the internal divisions of the Visigothic nobles, captured Toledo, in 711 or 712.

The city of Toledo as depicted in the Codex Vigilanus in 976.
The city of Toledo as depicted in the Codex Vigilanus in 976.

Governor Musa disembarked in Cádiz and proceeded to Toledo, where he executed numerous Visigothic nobles, thus destroying much of the Visigothic power structure. Since the king was chosen in or around Toledo, by nobles based in Toledo, and had to be anointed king by the Bishop of Toledo in a church in Toledo, when Tariq captured Toledo and executed the Visigothic nobles, having already killed the king, there was no opposition for Tariq to take over.

Alfonso VI in Seville's Plaza de España despicting the conquest of Toledo in 1085.
Alfonso VI in Seville’s Plaza de España despicting the conquest of Toledo in 1085.

On 25 May 1085, Alfonso VI of León and Castile took Toledo and established direct personal control over the Moorish city from which he had been exacting tribute, ending the medieval Taifa‘s Kingdom of Toledo. This was the first concrete step taken by the combined Kingdom of LeónCastile in the Reconquista by Christian forces.

After Castilian conquest, Toledo continued to be a major cultural center. Its Arab libraries were not pillaged, and a tag-team translation center was established in which books in Arabic or Hebrew would be translated into Castilian by Muslim and Jewish scholars, and from Castilian into Latin by Castilian scholars, thus letting long-lost knowledge spread through Christian Europe again.

Toledo served as the capital city of Castile intermittently, since Castile did not have a permanent capital, from 1085 and the city flourished. Charles I of Spain’s court was set in Toledo, serving as the imperial capital.

Portrait of King Philip II of Spain, in Gold-Embroidered Costume with Order of the Golden Fleece, about 1554 by Titian.
Portrait of King Philip II of Spain, in Gold-Embroidered Costume with Order of the Golden Fleece, about 1554 by Titian.

However, in 1561, in the first years of his son Philip II of Spain reign, the Spanish court was moved to Madrid, thus letting the city’s importance dwindle until the late 20th Century, when it became the capital of the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha.

Nevertheless, the economic decline of the city helped to preserve its cultural and architectural heritage. Today, because of this rich heritage, Toledo is one of Spain’s foremost cities, receiving thousands of visitors yearly.

During the persecution of the Jews in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, members of the Jewish community of Toledo produced texts on their long history in Toledo. It was at this time that Don Isaac Abrabanel, a prominent Jewish figure in Spain in the 15th Century and one of the king’s trusted courtiers who witnessed the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, wrote that Toledo was named Ṭulayṭulah by its first Jewish inhabitants.

The Jewish community in 1300.
The Jewish community in 1300.

Abrabanel stated Jews had settled in Toledo during the 5th Century BC, and may have been related to its Hebrew cognate of wandering, on account of their wandering from Jerusalem. Furthermore, Abrabanel said that the original name of the city was Pirisvalle, so-called by its early pagan inhabitants.

However, there is no archaeological or historical evidence for a Jewish presence in this region prior to the time of the Roman Empire. When the Romans originally wrote about Toledo it was a Celtic city, with no mentions of Jews.

Toledo has been a traditional sword-making, steel-working center since about 500 BC, and came to the attention of Rome when used by Hannibal in the Punic Wars. Soon, it became a standard source of weaponry for Roman Legions.

Toledo steel was famed for its very high quality alloy, whereas Damascene steel, a competitor from the Middle Ages on, was famed for a specific metal-working technique.

Swords and Armor in Toledo
Swords and Armor in Toledo

Today there is a significant trade, and many shops offer all kinds of swords to their customers, whether historical or modern films swords, as well as medieval armors and from other times, which are also exported to other countries.

The Puente de Alcántara is a Roman arch bridge in Toledo spanning the Tagus River. The word Alcántara comes from Arabic (al-qanţarah) meaning bridge.

Elevated view of the Puente Alcantara
Elevated view of the Puente Alcantara

Located at the feet of the Castillo de San Servando, it was built by the Romans after they founded the city. In the Middle Ages it was one of the few entrances for pilgrims into the city, and was declared a national cultural monument in 1921.

Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré.
Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré.

To mark the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the first part of Don Quixote, the Council of Communities of Castile–La Mancha designed a series of routes through the region crossing the various points cited in the novel. Known as the Route of Don Quixote, 2 of the pathways designated (sections 1 and 8) are based in Toledo.

Those linking the city with La Mancha Castile and Montes de Toledo exploit the natural route which passes through the Cigarrales and heads to Cobisa, Nambroca Burguillos of Toledo, where it takes the Camino Real from Sevilla to suddenly turn towards Mascaraque Almonacid de Toledo, deep into their surroundings, near Mora, in La Mancha.

Camino de Santiago
Camino de Santiago

This stretch, Mascaraque-Toledo, of the Route of Don Quixote has recently been included in an official way on the Camino de Santiago in Levantine branch with origins in Cartagena, Alicante and Valencia, as both routes are declared a European Cultural Route on this stretch.

toledoWe realize this was more of a historical journey than one exploring the present city of Toledo, but we hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. Be sure to stop by again for you never know what’s next to uncover.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Collins, Roger. Visigothic Spain. Blackwell, 2004.

Kulikowski, Michael. Late Roman Spain and Its Cities. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

LivyHistory of Rome.

Richardson, John S. The Romans in Spain. Blackwell, 1996.

Gallia Belgica: Conquered by Caesar and Founded by Augustus

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

As of late we have been discovering Gallia (aka Roman Gaul). We’ve already explored most of the Provincia with articles like – Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern EuropeGallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman GaulProvincia Gallia Narbonensis: Our Province; and Gallia Aquitania: Home of the Long-haired Gauls.

Today we continue the trek as we head into northern and eastern parts of Roman Gaul (modern Belgium) as we explore Gallia Belgica!

Map of Roman Gaul with Belgica in orange (Droysens Allgemeiner historischer Handatlas, 1886).
Map of Roman Gaul with Belgica in orange (Droysens Allgemeiner historischer Handatlas, 1886).

Gallia Belgica (Belgic Gaul) was a province of the Roman Empire beginning as 1 of the 3 main provinces of Gaul (known as the Tres Galliae the other 2 being Gallia Aquitania and Gallia Lugdunensis). The Roman province was named by its Roman conqueror Julius Caesar, and was later officially created by Emperor Augustus in 22 BC.

Named for the Belgae as the largest tribal confederation in the area, Gallia Belgica also included the territories of the Treveri, Leuci, MediomatriciSequaniHelvetii and others. The southern border of Belgica, formed by the Marne and Seine Rivers, was reported by Caesar as the original cultural boundary between the Belgae and the Gauls who he distinguished as Celts.

Antoninianus of Diocletian
Antoninianus of Diocletian

The province was subsequently re-organized several times, originally increased then later decreased in size. Diocletian, brought the northeastern Civitas Tungrorum into Germania Inferior, joining the Rhineland colonies.

The remaining part of Gallia Belgica was divided into Belgica Prima in the eastern area of the Treveri, Mediomatrici and Leuci, around Luxembourg and the Ardennes. Belgica Secunda between the English Channel and the upper River Meuse.

In 57 BC, Julius Caesar led the conquest of northern Gaul. Funny enough, Caesar had already specified that the part to the north of the Seine and Marne Rivers was inhabited by a people/alliance known as the Belgae.

The Victory of Julius Caesar over the Belgians (Louis van Engelen).
The Victory of Julius Caesar over the Belgians (Louis van Engelen).

His definition became the basis of the later Roman province of Belgica. Caesar said that the Belgae were separated from the Celtic Gauls to their south by lingua, institutis, legibus (language, custom and laws).

Unfortunately for us in the present, Caesar did not go into further detail. The only exception would be Caesar did mention that he learnt from his contacts that the Belgae had some ancestry from east of the Rhine, which he referred to as Germania.

The Belgian tribes were indeed the closest to the Rhine and Caesar distinguished them as the Germani Cisrhenani (Germans on this side of the Rhine). If nothing else the Romans were very logical about naming other people or lands based on either known geographic locations or proximity to Rome itself.

Strabo as depicted in a 16th Century engraving.
Strabo as depicted in a 16th Century engraving.

The Greek geographer, philospher and historian Strabo stated that the differences between the Celts and Belgae, in language, politics and way of life was minute. Modern historians interpret Caesar and the archaeological evidence as indicating that the core of the Belgian alliance was in the present-day northernmost corner of France.

The SuessionesViromandui and Ambiani were perhaps some of their neighbors as well who lived in the area Caesar identified as Belgica. These were the leaders of the initial military alliance Caesar confronted.

These groups were also more, per Caesar, economically advanced. In Caesar’s way of seeing things, this made them less “Germanic” than many of their more northerly allies such as the Nervii and Germani Cisrhenani.

Caesar's Legions in Gaul
Caesar’s Legions in Gaul

Angry at the Romans for their decision to garrison Legions in their territory during the winter, all the Belgic tribes allied against the Romans. The lone exception was the southern Remi who remained loyal to Rome.

At the beginning of the conflict, Caesar reported the allies’ combined strength at 288,000, led by the Suessione king Galba. Due to the Belgic coalition’s size and reputation for uncommon bravery, Caesar avoided meeting the combined forces of the tribes in battle.

Cavalry fighting in the forests
Cavalry fighting in the forests

Instead, Caesar used its Equites Romani to skirmish with smaller contingents of tribesmen. Only when Caesar managed to isolate one of the tribes did he risk conventional battle.

The tribes fell in a piecemeal fashion and Caesar claimed to offer lenient terms to the defeated, including Roman protection from the threat of surrounding tribes. Most tribes agreed to the conditions.

The Defeat of Vercingetorix
The Defeat of Vercingetorix

A series of uprisings followed the 57 BC conquest. The largest revolt was led by the Bellovaci in 52 BC, after the defeat of Vercingetorix.

During this rebellion, it was the Belgae who avoided direct conflict. They harassed the Roman Legions, led personally by Caesar, with cavalry detachments and archers.

The rebellion was put down after a Bellovaci ambush of the Romans failed. The revolting party was slaughtered.

Following a census of the region in 27 BC, Augustus ordered a restructuring of the provinces in Gaul. Therefore, in 22 BC, Marcus Agrippa split Gallia Comata into 3 regions (Gallia AquitaniaGallia Lugdunensis and Gallia Belgica).

Agrippa made the divisions on what he perceived to be distinctions in language, race, and community. Gallia Belgica was meant to be a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples.

The Porta Nigra of Trier, capital of Gallia Belgica, constructed between 186 and 200 AD.
The Porta Nigra of Trier, capital of Gallia Belgica, constructed between 186 and 200 AD.

The capital of this territory was Reims, according to Strabo, though later the capital moved to modern day Trier. The date of this move is uncertain.

Modern historians, however, view the term Gaul and its subdivisions as an invention of defective ethnography. The split of Gallia Comata into 3 provinces is viewed though as an attempt to construct a more efficient government, as opposed to a cultural division.

Successive Roman Emperors struck a balance between Romanizing the people of Gallia Belgica and allowing pre-existing culture to survive. The Romans allowed local governments to survive, typically in the form of Cantons, however their number in Gallia Belgica was limited.

Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum
Colonia Copia Claudia Augusta Lugdunum

Roman government was run by appointed officials in either Reims or Trier. Additionally, local notables from Gallia Belgica were required to participate in a festival in Lugdunum (modern Lyon) which typically celebrated or worshiped the Emperor’s genius.

The gradual adoption of Romanized names by local elites and the Romanization of laws under local authority demonstrate the effectiveness of this Concilium Galliarum. With that said, the concept and community of Gallia Belgica did not predate the Roman Province, but developed from it.

Bust of Domitian, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Bust of Domitian, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

During the 1st Century AD (roughly 90 AD), the Provinces of Gaul were restructured. Emperor Domitian reorganized the provinces to separate the militarized zones of the Rhine from the civilian populations of the region.

The northeastern part of Gallia Belgica was split off and renamed Germania Inferior, later to be reorganized and renamed as Germania Secunda. This included the eastern part of modern Belgium, the southernmost part of the modern Netherlands, and a part of modern Germany.

The eastern part was split off to become Germania Superior (parts of western Germany and eastern France) and the southern border of Gallia Belgica was extended to the south. The newer Gallia Belgica included the cities of Camaracum (Cambrai), Nemetacum (Arras),(Cambrai), Nemetacum (Arras), Samarobriva (Amiens), Durocortorum (Reims), Dividorum (Metz) and Augusta Treverorum (Trier).

Bust of Didius Julianus
Bust of Didius Julianus

In AD 173 then Governor of Gallia Belgica, Didius Julianus (who would go on to be Emperor for 9 weeks during the year 193), had to repel a serious invasion of the Chauci. This Germanic tribe lived along the shores of the Wadden Sea at the respective northern and northwestern coast of present-day Germany and the Netherlands, in the drainage basin of the River Scheldt.

Archaeologists have found evidence that large farms near Tournai and the village Velzeke (near Ghent) had to be abandoned. Further the capitals in the areas of the former tribes of the AtrebatesMorini and the Nervians were either burnt down (Nemetacum) or had to be rebuilt in the last quarter of the 2nd Century (Colonia Morinorum [Thérouanne] and Bagacum Nerviorum [Bavay]).

Roman control over Gaul began deteriorating in the 3rd Century. Roman control was impacted by the Crisis of the Third Century and along with unrest in Gaul.

Coin featuring Postumus Antoninianus
Coin featuring Postumus Antoninianus

In AD 260, Postumus became emperor of a breakaway Gallic empire. He proved able to stop the incursions from the Franks.

Only in 274 was Roman control restored by the new Emperor Aurelian in the Battle of Châlons. The cost of this defeat proved very high eventually.

With the Gallic army defeated and not returning to the Rhine border, the Franks overran the neighboring province of Germania Inferior. The Rhineland (to the Ripuarian Franks) and the area between the Rhine and the main road between Boulogne and Cologne were de facto lost forever for the Roman Empire.

Emperor Diocletian restructured the provinces around AD 300, and split Belgica into 2 provinces, Belgica Prima and Belgica Secunda. Belgica Prima had Treveri as its main city, and consisted of the eastern part. The border between Belgica Prima and Belgica Secunda was approximately along the River Meuse.

Typical landscape of Moselle vineyards near Schweich.
Typical landscape of Moselle vineyards near Schweich.

The eastern part of Gallia Belgica, especially the valley of the Moselle became very prosperous in the 4th Century AD, particularly in the decades that Augusta Treverorum was the capital of the Western Roman Empire. The Roman poet Ausonius wrote a famous poem over the Mosella.

The Franks had held actual control over the major part of Germania Inferior since AD 275. Around 350 this was partly formalized when the Romans gave official control over Toxandria to the Salian Franks.

Eventually, in AD 406, a large alliance among them Vandals, Alans and Suebi, under great pressure from the Huns, successfully crossed the Rhine in the neighborhood of present-day Koblenz and entered Gallia Belgica by way of the Moselle valley. The alliance subsequently destroyed large parts of Gallia Belgica, before eventually moving on to Hispania.

Invasion of the Franks
Invasion of the Franks

This invasion and the accompanying widespread destruction broke the backbone of Roman power in at least the northern part of Gallia Belgica. After this invasion the Franks were able to conquer valuable agricultural land south of the Via Belgica, the very important main road between Cologne and Boulogne, that had been the backbone of Roman defense strategy between AD 260 and 406.

The Salic Franks gained a base in the Rhineland from which they could expand some 130 years later, beginning after the disastrous Rhine crossing in 406. By conquering the whole area of the former province of Gallia Belgica and start the Merovingian kingdom, the first immediate forerunner state of Western civilization.

Battle of the Catalaunian Plains
Battle of the Catalaunian Plains

In 452 a major battle was fought at the Catalaunian fields with coalition of Romans, Visigoths and Franks against an army led by the legendary Hunnic leader Atilla. The outcome of this battle itself was inconclusive, but because of this battle the Huns and their allies left the area of Gallia Belgica where they had plundered nearly all major cities, except Lutetia Parisiorum (Paris).

The capital of Belgica Prima, Trier, became an important capital in the late Western Roman Empire. After the Western Roman Empire had already collapsed, for some time the Gallo-Roman “Kingdom of Soissons” (457-486) managed to maintain control over the area around Soissons.

Clovis I leading the Franks to victory in the Battle of Tolbiac (by Ary Scheffer).
Clovis I leading the Franks to victory in the Battle of Tolbiac (by Ary Scheffer).

The Franks however emerged victorious and Belgica Secunda in the 5th Century becoming the center of Clovis‘ Merovingian kingdom. During the 8th Century in the Carolingian Empire the former area of Gallia Belgica was split into Neustria and Austrasia.

After the death of Charlemagne‘s son, Louis the Pious, the Carolingian Empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The 3 sons of Louis the Pious divided his territories into 3 kingdoms: East Francia (the forerunner of modern Germany), West Francia (west of the Scheldt River), and Middle Francia which was succeeded by Lotharingia.

Though often presented as the dissolution of the Kingdom of the Franks, it was in fact the continued adherence to Salic patrimony. Lotharingia was divided in 870 by the Treaty of Meerssen under West and East Francia.

Belgica Foederata the Latin name the Dutch Republic.
Belgica Foederata the Latin name the Dutch Republic.

The name of Belgica continued to refer to the entire Low Countries until the modern period. The Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries were then divided into the independent Belgica Foederata (the federal Dutch Republic) and the Belgica Regia (the royal Southern Netherlands under the Habsburgian crown).

Belgica Foederata continued to be used as the Latin name of the Dutch Republic after its secession of Belgica Regia in 1581. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands after 1815 was still known as Royaume des Belgiques, and it was only with the independence of modern Belgium and the modern Netherlands in the 1830s that the name became reserved for Belgium to the exclusion of the Netherlands.

We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you return soon. If you ever need a place to go that merges the past and present, look no further than the former Gallia Belgica.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Boatwright, Mary T.; Gargola, Daniel J. and Talbert, Richard J. A. A Brief History of the Romans. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire.

Gaius Julius Caesar (Trans. S.A. Handford). The Conquest of Gaul. Penguin, 1982.

Wightman, Edith Mary. Gallia Belgica. University of California Press, 1985.

The Cambridge Ancient History, New Ed., Vol. 10. Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Jona Lendering on www.livius.org

Gallia Aquitania: Home of the Long-haired Gauls

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Having already taken a look at Roman Gaul as a whole, we’ve explored Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern EuropeGallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman Gaul, and Provincia Gallia Narbonensis: Our Province. Now it’s time to cross the Alps and venture into the heart of the Imperium Rōmānum and what would become mainland Europe.

Today we head into what is now Languedoc and Provence, in present-day southwest France, as we explore Gallia Aquitania!

Location of Gallia Aquitania
Location of Gallia Aquitania

Also known as Aquitaine (literally meaning Long-haired Gaul) or Aquitaine Gaul, was a Provincia of the Roman Empire. It was bordered by the provinces of Gallia LugdunensisGallia Narbonensis, and Hispania Tarraconensis.

Fourteen Celtic tribes and 20 Aquitanian tribes occupied the northern parts of the Pyrenees to the country bounded by the rivers Garumna (Garonne) and the Liger (Loire). The majority of the tribes lived along the ocean, while the others reached up into the interior and to the summits of the Cemmenus Mountains, as far as the Volcae Tectosages.

Provinciae of Gallia (AD 13)
Provinciae of Gallia (AD 13)

The name Gallia Comata was often used to designate the 3 provinces of Farther Gaul (Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Belgica, and Aquitania). The was opposed to the area the Romans called Gallia Bracata (Trousered Gaul), a term derived from bracae (‘breeches’, the native costume of the northern ‘barbarians’) for Gallia Narbonensis.

Most of the Atlantic coast of the Aquitani was sandy and thin-soiled. It grew millet, but was unproductive with respect to other products.

Along this coast was also the gulf held by the Tarbelli. In their land, gold mines were abundant and large quantities of gold could be mined with a minimum of refinement.

The interior and mountainous country in this region had better soil. The Petrocorii and the Bituriges Cubi had fine ironworks, the Ruteni and the Gabales had silver mines, while the Cadurci had linen factories.

Roman coin showing Gallic King Bituitus charging the Romans in a chariot.
Roman coin showing Gallic King Bituitus charging the Romans in a chariot.

According to Greek philosopher and historian Strabo, the Aquitani were a wealthy people. Luerius, the King of the Arverni and the father of Bituitus who warred against Fabius Maximus, is said to have been so exceptionally rich and extravagant that he once rode on a carriage through a plain, scattering gold and silver coins here and there.

The Romans called the tribal groups Pagi, which were organized into larger super-tribal groups called Civitates. These administrative groupings were later taken over by the Romans in their system of local control.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar

Gaul as a nation was not a natural unit. Caesar differentiated between proper Gauls (Celtae), Belgae and Aquitani.

In order to protect the route to Hispania, Rome helped Massalia (Marseille) against bordering tribes. Following this intervention, the Romans conquered what they called Provincia in 121 BC.

Provincia extended from the Mediterranean to Lake Geneva. Later it was known as Narbonensis with its capital at Narbo, and some of the region falls into modern Provence, still recalling the Roman name.

Battle of Gregovia
Battle of Gregovia

The main struggle against the Romans came from 58–50 BC. This was when Julius Caesar command Rome’s Legions against Vercingetorix at the Battle of Gergovia and at the Battle of Alesia.

Battle of Alesia
Battle of Alesia

The Gaulish commander was captured at the Siege of Alesia and the war ended. Caesar seized the remainder of Gaul, justifying his conquest by playing on Roman memories of savage attacks over the Alps by Celts and Germans.

Italia was now to be defended from the Rhenus (Rhine).

Caesar named Aquitania the triangle shaped territory between the Atlantic, the Pyrenees and the Garumna river. He fought and almost completely subdued them in 56 BC after Publius Crassus‘s military exploits were assisted by Celtic allies.

Bust of Agrippa, Pushkin Museum
Bust of Agrippa, Pushkin Museum

New rebellions ensued anyway up to 27-28 BC, with Agrippa gaining a great victory over the Gauls of Aquitania in 38 BC. It was the smallest region of all 3 previously mentioned, following that a land extension stretching to the Loire River was added by Augustus, with the council of the Gaulish aristocracy.

This reorganization took place after the Census conducted in 27 BC, based on Agrippa’s observations of language, race and community according to some sources. At this point, Aquitania along with Narbonensis, Lugdunensis and Belgica now made up Gallia and became an Imperial Province under the command of a former Praetor, and hosted no Legions.

VETUS PICTAVIS (Commune of Naintre - Vienne, France)
VETUS PICTAVIS (Commune of Naintre – Vienne, France)

More so than Caesar, Strabo insists that the primitive Aquitani differ from the other Gauls not just in language, institutions and laws (lingua institutis legibusque discrepantes) but in body make-up too, deeming them more close to the Iberians. The administrative boundaries set up by Augustus comprising both proper Celtic tribes and primeval Aquitani remained unaltered until Diocletian‘s new administrative reorganization.

The Arverni often warred against the Romans with as many as 200,000 to 400,000 men. Two hundred thousand fought against Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus and against Domitius Ahenobarbus.

Gallo-Roman Theater of Lillebonne
Gallo-Roman Theater of Lillebonne

The Arverni had extended their realm as far as Narbo and the boundaries of Massiliotis. However, they were also masters of the tribes as far as the Pyrenees, and as far as the ocean and the Rhine.

Early Roman Gaul came to an end late in the 3rd Century AD. External pressures exacerbated internal weaknesses, and neglect of the Rhine frontier resulted in barbarian invasions and civil war.

For a while Gallia, Hispania, Germania, and Britannia, was governed by a separate line of Emperors beginning with Postumus. However, there had still been no move to gain independence.

Military issue coin of Diocletian
Military issue coin of Diocletian

In an attempt to save the Imperium Rōmānum, Diocletian reorganized the provinces in AD 293. The former Gallia Aquitania and Gallia Narbonensis had now become the Diocesis Viennensis in the south of Gaul.

At the same time, Aquitania was divided into Aquitania Prima (Primary Aquitaine), Aquitania Secunda (Secondary Aquitaine) and Aquitania Tertia (Tertiary Aquitaine) or Novempopulania (Land of the Nine Peoples). The latter traced back to the boundaries set up by Caesar for the original Aquitania, who had kept some kind of separate sense of identity.

After this restructuring, Gaul enjoyed stability and enhanced prestige. The division was respected in the Early Middle Ages by the Visigoth newcomers, with a direct follow-up in the Duchy of Vasconia, eventually turned into Gascony.

Honorius on the consular diptych of Anicius Petronius Probus (406).
Honorius on the consular diptych of Anicius Petronius Probus (406).

From AD 395, the division of the Empire between East and West again caused the neglect of the Rhine frontier, reflected in the transfer of the Gallic prefect to Arelate (Arles). In AD 418, Emperor Flavius Honorius rewarded his Visigothic federates by giving them land in Aquitania on which to settle following the Germanic invasion and civil war.

This was done probably under hospitalitas (state of being a guest or foreigner), the rules for billeting soldiers. These were kept in check, until the death of Aëtius and the growing debility of the Western Empire created a power-vacuum.

The 460s and 470s saw Visigothic encroachment on Roman territory to the east, and in AD 476, the last imperial possessions in the south were ceded to the Visigoths. The settlement hence formed the nucleus of the future Visigothic Kingdom that would eventually expand across the Pyrenees and onto the Iberian Peninsula.

We hope you enjoyed today’s travels and look forward to having you back again soon. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for special additions.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Appian of Alexandria. The Civil Wars.

Bunson, Matthew. Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire. Facts on File, 1994.

Caro Baroja, Julio. Los vascones y sus vecinos. Editorial Txertoa, 1985. ISBN 84-7148-136-7.

Caesar, Julius. Commentarii de Bello Gallico.

Drinkwater, John Frederick. “Gaul (Transalpine)”. The Oxford Companion to Classical CivilizationOxford Reference Online, 1998.

Heather, P. The Goths. Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

Lewis, Charlton T. and Short, Charles. “Aquitania”. A Latin DictionaryPerseus Digital Library, Tufts University, 1879.

Pliny the Elder. The Fourth Book of the History of Nature.

Sivan, H. “On Foederati, Hospitalitas, and the Settlement of the Goths in AD 418”. American Journal of Philology 108 (4), 1987.

Strabo. The Geography (The Aquitani).

Provinces (Roman). Livius.org

Provincia Gallia Narbonensis: Our Province

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

Having already taken a look at Roman Gaul as a whole, we’ve explored Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe and Gallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman Gaul. Now it’s time to cross the Alps and venture into the heart of the Imperium Rōmānum and what would become mainland Europe.

Today we head into what is now Languedoc and Provence, in southern France, as we explore Gallia Narbonensis!

Roman Province of Gallia Narbonensis (20 BC)
Roman Province of Gallia Narbonensis (20 BC)

Latin for Gaul of Narbonne, after its newly established capital of Colonia Narbo Martius (Narbonne), Gallia Narbonensis was a Roman Colonia founded on the coast in 118 BC. The Provincia was originally called Gallia Transalpina (Transalpine Gaul) to distinguish it from Cisalpine Gaul in northern Italy.

In the late 2nd Century BC, the name was changed to Gallia Narbonensis and it became a Roman Province. Its boundaries were roughly defined by the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Cévennes and Alps to the north and west. The western region of Gallia Narbonensis was known as Septimania.

Remains of Roman buildings in French village of Les Baux de Provence, South France
Remains of Roman buildings in French village of Les Baux de Provence, South France.

The Romans had called it Provincia Nostra (Our Province) from its having been the paramount Roman Province north of the Alps, or simply Provincia (The Province). The term has survived in the modern French and Occitan names of the eastern part of the area (French Provence, Occitan Provença), now a région of France.

By the mid-2nd Century BC, Rome was trading heavily with the Greek colony of Massalia (modern Marseille) on the southern coast of Gaul. Massalia, founded by colonists from Phocaea, was by this point centuries old and quite prosperous.

Roman Road, Barcena de pie de Concha Cantabria, in Hispania.
Roman Road, Barcena de pie de Concha Cantabria, in Hispania.

Rome entered into an alliance with Massalia, by which it agreed to protect the town from local Gauls, nearby  Aquitani, sea-borne Carthaginians and other rivals, in exchange for a small strip of land that it wanted in order to build a road to Hispania, to assist in troop transport. The Massalians, for their part, cared more for their economic prosperity than they did for territorial integrity.

In this strip of land, the Romans founded the town of Narbonne, which turned out to be a major trading competitor with Massalia. It was from this that the province of Transalpine Gaul was founded.

Quintus Fabius Maximus before the Senate of Carthage.
Quintus Fabius Maximus before the Senate of Carthage.

During this period, the Mediterranean settlements on the coast were threatened by the powerful Gallic tribes to the north, especially the tribes known as the Arverni and the Allobroges. In 123 BC, the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus (later additionally named Allobrogicus) campaigned in the area and defeated the Allobroges and the Arverni under king Bituitus.

Control of the province, which bordered directly on Italia, gave the Roman state several advantages. By possessing Gallia Narbonensis Rome controlled the land route between Italy and the Iberian peninsula, had a territorial buffer against Gallic attacks on Italy, and controlled the lucrative trade routes of the Rhône valley between Gaul and the markets of Massalia.

Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars
Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars

It was from the capital of Narbonne that Julius Caesar began his Gallic Wars. In 40 BC, during the Second Triumvirate, Lepidus was given responsibility for Gallia Narbonensis (along with Hispania and Africa), while Mark Antony was given the balance of Gaul.

Emperor Diocletian‘s administrative reorganization of the Empire, around AD 314, merged the provinces Gallia Narbonensis and Gallia Aquitania into a new administrative unit called Dioecesis Viennensis (Diocese of Vienne) with the capital more to the north in Vienne. The new diocese’s name was later changed to Dioecesis Septem Provinciarum (Diocese of the Seven Provinces), indicating that Diocletian had demoted the word “province” to mean a smaller subdivision than in traditional usage.

Old Town Narbonne, France
Old Town Narbonne, France

Gallia Narbonensis and surrounding areas were incorporated into the Visigothic Kingdom between AD 462 and 477, permanently ending Roman political control. After the Gothic takeover, the Visigothic dominions were to be generally known as Septimania, while to the east of the lower Rhone the term Provence came into use.

We hope you enjoyed today’s travels and look forward to having you back again soon. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for special additions.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Boatwright et al. The Romans, From Village to EmpireISBN 978-0-19-511876-6.

Maddison, Angus. Contours of the World Economy 1–2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Gallia Cisalpina: A Different Side of Roman Gaul

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

We all know the vastness of what was the Roman Empire. It was so vast that the Empire held large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Africa and Asia.

Having already taken a look at Roman Gaul last week, we explored Roman Gaul: Paving the Way for Modern Europe. We thought it was time to take a closer look at this expansive mainland region and see just how Rome managed.

Please join us today as we explore Gallia Cisalpina!

Map of Cisalpine Gaul (1608)
Map of Cisalpine Gaul (1608)

Gallia Cisalpina literally means “Gaul hither side of the Alps” (from the perspective of the Romans). This was opposed to Transalpine Gaul (Gaul on the far side of the Alps).

Cisalpine Gaul (Gallia Cisalpina), also called Gallia Citerior or Gallia Togata, was the part of Italy inhabited by Celts (Gauls) during the 4th and 3rd Centuries BC. Conquered by the Roman Republic in the 220s BC, it was a Roman Provincia from c. 81 BC until 42 BC, when it was merged into Roman Italy.

Gallia Cisalpina was further subdivided into Gallia Cispandana and Gallia Transpadana (portions south and north of the Po River, respectively). The Roman province of the 1st Century BC was bounded on the north and west by the Alps, in the south as far as Placentia by the River Po, and then by the Apennines and the Rubicon, and in the east by the Adriatic Sea.

Roman Italia (in green) as organized by Augustus
Roman Italia (in green) as organized by Augustus

In 49 BC all inhabitants of Cisalpine Gaul received Roman citizenship. Eventually the Provincia was divided among 4 of the 11 Regions of ItalyRegio VIII Gallia CispadanaRegio IX LiguriaRegio X Venetia et Histria and Regio XI Gallia Transpadana.

The Canegrate culture (13th Century BC) may represent the principal migratory wave of the proto-Celtic population from the northwest part of the Alps that, through the Alpine passes, penetrated and settled in the western Po Valley between Lake Maggiore and Lake Como (Scamozzina culture). They brought a new funerary practice, cremation, which supplanted inhumation.

Tumulus Culture
Tumulus Culture

It has also been proposed that a more ancient proto-Celtic presence can be traced back to the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age (XVI-XV Century BC), when North Western Italy appears closely linked regarding the production of bronze artifacts, including ornaments, to the western groups of the Tumulus culture. The bearers of the Canegrate culture maintained its homogeneity for only a century, after which it melded with the Ligurian aboriginal populations and with this union gave rise to a new phase called the Golasecca culture, which is nowadays identified with the Celtic Lepontii.

Livy has the Insubres, led by Bellovesus, arrive in northern Italy during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus (7th – 6th Century BC), occupying the area between Milan (Mediolanum) and Cremona (Cenomani). Polybius in the 2nd Century BC wrote about co-existence of the Celts in northern Italy with Etruscan nations in the period before the Sack of Rome in 390 BC.

Ligures
Ligures

The Ligures of the Northern Mediterranean Coast straddling South-east French and North-west Italian coasts, including parts of TuscanyElba Island and Corsica, were tribes also present in Latium and in Samnium. According to Plutarch they called themselves Ambrones, which could indicate a relationship with the Ambrones of northern Europe.

The Veneti were an Indo-European people who inhabited north-eastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of the Veneto. By the 4th Century BC the Veneti had been so Celticized that Polybius wrote that the Veneti of the 2nd Century BC were now identical to the Gauls, except for language.

Battle of the Allia
Battle of the Allia

In 391 BC, Celts “who had their homes beyond the Alps, streamed through the passes in great strength and seized the territory that lay between the Apennine Mountains and the Alps” according to Diodorus Siculus. The Roman Army was routed in the Battle of Allia, and Rome was sacked in 390 BC by the Senones.

The defeat of the combined Samnite, Celtic and Etruscan alliance by the Romans in the Third Samnite War ending in 290 BC sounded the beginning of the end of the Celtic domination in mainland Europe. At the Battle of Telamon in 225 BC, a large Celtic army was trapped, and summarily crushed, between 2 Roman forces.

In the Second Punic War, the Boii and Insubres allied themselves with the Carthaginians, laying siege to Mutina (Modena). In response, Rome sent an expedition led by L. Manlius Vulso with the Senate ordered Scipio with an additional force to provide support.

Battle of Ticinus
Battle of Ticinus

These were the Roman forces encountered by Hannibal after his crossing of the Alps. The Romans were defeated in the Battle of the Ticinus, leading to all the Gauls except for the Cenomani to join the insurgency.

Rome then sent the soldiers of Tiberius Sempronius Longus who engaged Hannibal in the Battle of the Trebia. This also resulted in a Roman defeat, forcing Rome to temporarily abandon Gallia Cisalpina altogether.

Battle of Zama by Cornelis Cort (1567)
Battle of Zama by Cornelis Cort (1567)

The Romans returned only after the defeat of Carthage in 202 BC. Rome conquered the last remaining independent Celtic kingdom in Italy in 192 BC.

Sometimes referred to as Gallia Citerior (Hither Gaul), Provincia Ariminum, or Gallia Togata (Toga-wearing Gaul, indicating the region’s early Romanization). Gallia Transpadana denoted that part of Cisalpine Gaul between the Padus (now the Po River) and the Alps, while Gallia Cispadana was the part to the south of the river.

Probably officially established around 81 BC, the province was governed from Mutina. Here, in 73 BC, forces under Spartacus defeated the Legio of Provincial Governor Gaius Cassius Longinus.

The Rubicon River marked its southern boundary with Italia proper. In 49 BC, with the Lex RosciaJulius Caesar granted to the populations of the province the full Roman citizenship.

Caesar Crossing the Rubicon
Caesar Crossing the Rubicon

By crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC with his battle-hardened legions, returning from the conquest of Gaul, Julius Caesar precipitated the civil war within the Roman Republic which led, eventually, to the establishment of the Roman Empire. To this day the term “crossing the Rubicon” means, figuratively, “reaching the point of no return”.

The province was merged into Italia about 42 BC, as part of Octavian’s “Italicization” program during the Second Triumvirate. The dissolution of the provincial required a new governing law (lex) although its contemporary title is unknown.

The parts of it inscribed on a bronze tablet preserved in the museum at Parma are entirely concerned with arranging the judiciary. The law appoints 2 viri (men) and 4 viri juri dicundo (awarding of contracts), and also mentions a Prefect of Mutina.

VirgilCatullus and Livy, 3 famous sons of the province, were born in Gallia Cisalpina.

The Canegrate culture reflects a late Bronze Age to early Iron Age culture in the Pianura Padana. These areas are now known as western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont and Canton Ticino.

Gallic Phalerae (a type of military decoration) found in Lombardy
Gallic Phalerae (a type of military decoration) found in Lombardy

The population of Canegrate maintained its own homogeneity for a limited period of time, approximately a century, after which they blended with the Ligurian aboriginal populations to create a new culture called the Golasecca culture.

The Culture of Golasecca (9th to 4th Centuries BC) spread between the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age in the areas of northwestern Lombardy and Piedmont, and the Canton Ticino. At the end of the prehistoric period, this was an area where travelers frequently stopped and had contact with the Hallstatt culture to the west, the Urnfield culture to the north and with the Villanova culture to the south.

The Golasecca culture was initially concentrated in the foothills area south of the Alps. It later spread throughout the lakes area and established many settlements representing this original culture, of which the oldest remains found thus far can be dated from the 9th Century BC.

There is some debate whether the Lepontic language should be considered as a Gaulish dialect or an independent branch within Continental Celtic. Apart from Lepontic, the “Cisalpine Gaulish language” proper would be the Gaulish language as spoken by the Gauls invading northern Italy in the 4th Century BC. This is a dialect of the larger Gaulish language, with some known phonetic features distinguishing it from Transalpine dialects, such as -nn- replacing -nd- and s(s) replacing -χs-.

Oldest known Lepontic inscription (from Castelletto sopra Ticino), dated ca. 575 BC
Oldest known Lepontic inscription (from Castelletto sopra Ticino), dated ca. 575 BC

We hope you enjoyed today’s travels and look forward to having you back again soon. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for special additions.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

 

References:

Baldi, Philip. The Foundations of Latin. Walter de Gruyter, 2002.

Boardman, John. The Cambridge ancient history: Persia, Greece and the Western Mediterranean c. 525-479 BC. Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Bossi, Luigi. Della istoria d’Italia antica e moderna. Milano, 1819.

Brouwer, Hendrik H. J. Hiera Kala: Images of animal sacrifice in archaic and classical Greece. Utrecht, 1989.

Dio, Cassius. XLI, 36.

Keppie, LawrenceThe Making of the Roman Army, From Republic to Empire. University of Oklahoma, 1998.

Kruta, Venceslas. The Celts. Thames and Hudson, 1991.

Livy (ed. John Yardley). The Dawn of the Roman Empire. Waldemar Heckel.

Long, George. Decline of the Roman republic: Volume 2. London, 1866.

Micali, Giuseppe. L’Italia avanti il dominio dei Romani. Genova, 1830.

Schmitz, Leonhard. A manual of ancient geography. Philadelphia, 1857.

Snith, William George. Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography: Vol.1. Boston, 1854.

von Hefner, Joseph. Geographie des Transalpinischen Galliens. Munich, 1837.