Gauls and Romans
‘Gaul as a whole’, wrote Julius Caesar in the opening paragraph of his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, ‘consists of three parts: one is inhabited by the Belgae, another by the Aquitani and the third by the people we call Gauls though in their own language they are called Celts. In language, customs and laws these three peoples are quite distinct.’ Here, then, is what appears to be a useful generalizing statement about the ethnic structure of Gaul in the middle of the first century BC. Caesar goes on to give some geographical precision to the zones. The territory of the Celtic tribes is bounded on the south by the Garonne and on the north by the Seine and the Marne. To the west the Atlantic is the limit while to the north-east the Celts extend to the Rhine: further south the Rhône is the boundary.
Compared to the distribution of the La Tène culture of the third and second centuries, Caesar's Celts occupy a far more restricted territory, but this can, to some extent, be explained by the political and ethnic changes that had begun in the last decades of the second century.
In the south it was the Romans themselves who brought about the change. For the armies, and indeed the traders, who were active in the Iberian peninsula in the second century BC, the route leading from Italy along the north coast of the Mediterranean provided a