Gallia (in English Gaul) is the Latin name for the
region of Western Europe occupied by present-day France, Belgium, western
Switzerland and the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the
Rhine river (Gallia is also the Modern Greek name of France.)
In English the word Gaul commonly refers to a Celtic inhabitant of that region in ancient times, but the Gauls were widespread in Europe by Roman times, speaking Celtic languages that had diverged into two groups. Besides the Gauls of modern-day France, Gauls had settled in the plains of northern Italy, in the province Romans knew as Gallia Cisalpina (Gaul this side of the Alps), and had even reached as far as Anatolia (modern day Turkey), where they gave their name to the area known as Galatia. Other Gauls had migrated across the Pyrenees into Hispania, where they mixed with the indigenous Iberians as Galloiberians (also known as Celtiberians).
Gauls under Brennus sacked Rome circa 390 BC. In the Aegean world, a huge migration of Eastern Gauls appeared in Thrace, north of Greece, in 281 BC. Another Gaulish chieftain named Brennus, at the head of a large army, was only turned back from desecrating the Temple of Apollo at Delphi at the last minute, alarmed, it was said, by portents of thunder and lightning. At the same time a migrating band of Celts, some 10,000 fighting men, with their women and children and slaves, were moving through Thrace. Three tribes of Gauls crossed over from Thrace to Asia Minor at express invitation of Nicomedes I of Bithynia, who required help in a dynastic struggle against his brother. Eventually they settled down in eastern Phrygia and Cappadocia in central Anatolia, in a region henceforth known as Galatia.
Roman rule in Gaul was established by Julius Caesar, who defeated the Celtic
tribes in Gaul 58-51 BC and described his experiences in De Bello Gallico, which
means About the Gallic War. The war cost the lives of more than a million Gauls,
and a million further were enslaved. The area conquered by Caesar was Gallia
Comata: literally, "long-haired Gaul."
The area was subsequently governed as a number of provinces, the principal ones being Gallia Narbonensis, Gallia Lugdunensis, Gallia Aquitania and Gallia Belgica. The capital of the Gauls was Lyon (Lugdunum). On December 31, 406 the Vandals, Alans and Suebians crossed the Rhine, beginning an invasion of Gallia. After coming under increasing pressure from the tribes of Germany from the middle of the 3rd century AD, Roman rule in Gaul ended with the defeat of the Roman governor Syagrius by the Franks in AD 486.
Refusing to acknowledge Roman rule, the Celts were formidable fighters under any
circumstances. Exceedingly good at hit-and-run warfare, they were adept at
scattering to isolated areas in small groups - taking their Gods with
them. Ireland (never conquered by the Romans) became another stronghold, and so
did the bits of Britain nobody else much wanted. Wales, for example. They also
infiltrated the Orkneys, Baleiric Islands, bits of Scandinavia and the
Caucasus. The Celts were doing alright until Christianity came along. The Church nicked
some of their Gods for promotional sainthood purposes and thus began the
conversion process. Only by building churches on already sacred sites could
Celts be converted.
Some Gaulish Gods;
Abnoba - Goddess of the hunt (similar to the Roman Diana)
Ancamna - A Goddess known from inscriptions in the Moselle valley, near Trier. Apparently recognized as a Consort to a divinity identified by the Romans as Mars.
Andarta - An obscure continental Goddess known from inscriptions in Berne and in the south of France. Apparently a Patroness of the Vocontii tribe, and perhaps a counterpart or Aspect of Artio. She may also have a connection with Andrasta (see immediately below).
Arduinna - An Artemis/Diana-like figure, the tutelary Goddess of the Ardennes Forest region. She seems to be a particular protectress of wild boars, and is imaged as riding upon one at least once. Often conflated with the Roman Diana.
Artio - A Goddess of Bears, a protector and nurturer of ursine virtues. Closely associated with the Helvetican city of Berne. See also, Andarta.
Belenus (Bel or Belenos) - God of light, and referred to as "The Shining One". He is in charge of the welfare of sheep and cattle. His wife is the goddess Belisama. They can be compared with Apollo and Minerva.
Borvo - God of healing.
Cernunnos (horned one) - The horned God associated with the Wild Hunt. A lord of the natural world, of animal and vegetive strength. Also the god of the underworld and of animals.
Damona - Goddess of fertility and healing; her name means "divine cow".
Epona - Female associated with sovereignty and rulership. Aspect is as a horse, which are sacred to her.
Esus - A divinity revered before and during the Roman occupation of Gaul, most of our information about him comes from the Roman author Lucan, who speaks of dark and savage human sacrifices to this woodland God. Although a number of altars and memorial stones of Esus survive, his attributes have become mysterious and his story has more-or-less vanished. He is often portrayed in the act of cutting willow branches, and his images often connect him with waterbirds, particularly storks or cranes.
Nantosuelta - Goddess of nature; the wife of Sucellus.
Nehalennia - Primarily associated with protection of travelers over the sea. Her known temple locations are always on the coast, and surviving inscriptions often praise her for successfully completed voyages, or implore her for similar journeys to come. She is invariably associated with a large dog as a companion. She has occasionally been conflated with the Roman Goddess Fortuna. Note also the Anglo-Saxon Elen.
Nemetona - (she of the sacred grove). A Continental Deity revered during Roman times; her name may be cognate with the Irish Valkyrie Nemain, and in fact the Romans seem to have regarded her as having some connection with Mars.
Noudens - A derivation from Nuada, and as such revered during Roman times.This name has the somewhat unenviable distinction of being borrowed by H. P. Lovecraft to play a bit part in his famous Cthulhu Cycle.
Ogmios - The continental equivalent of Oghma, portrayed as a bald old man leading a contented group of followers by chains attached to their ears.
Rosmerta. Gaulish/Continental. A Celtic Goddess whose name has not survived, except for Her Latin nomen, which means "Good Provider". She is essentially a Goddess of success and prosperity, and her chief attribute is an inexhaustable Purse of Plenty. She is almost invariably associated with "Mercury", which see just above.
Sequanna - Patron Goddess of the River Seine.
Silvanus - A woodland spirit associated with parks, villas, and fields, and at an earlier date associated with the forest beyond the settlements, the wildwood. He is a Roman Deity, but so closely did He resonate with Celtic notions that He is often combined with other Celtic Deities of similar attributes. But note well one difference: to the Roman, the Forest was a place of fear, a nightmare land of chaos, and thus Silvanus had for them a shadowy or darker side; to the Celt, however, the Forest was Home, and as such held no mystery or fear.
Sirona - A Continental divinity of healing and fertility.
Sucellus - God of agriculture and forests and a hammer god. His consort is Nantosvelta.
Taranis - God whose name means "thunderer". Taranis is the god of the wheel, associated with forces of change.
Teutates, Toutatis - Another pre-Roman Gaulish deity commented on by the Roman author Lucan, Teutates seems to have been a war god, but is also connected in obscure ways with Cauldrons. Lucan claims that human sacrifices were due to the God, in this instance by drowning. The name is meaningless, it simply means "Tribe" or "Nation" (cf. Irish Tuatha).