The most important event for the identity of Gaul during our period, and for subsequent European history, was the Gallic wars, the eight successive campaigns against Gaul and Britain lead by Julius Caesar between 58 and 50 bce. His Commentaries on the Gallic wars opens by noting that Gaul is divided into three parts: that inhabited by the Belgae, north and west of the Marne and Seine rivers; that of the Aquitani, dwelling between the Garonne river and the Pyrenees; and the largest area, the remaining part, in which the Gauls lived. It is in the aftermath of these wars that the cities that will principally concern us, Vienne (Vienna) and Lyons (Lugdunum), were established as colonies for the veterans of the Gallic wars.2 During the Gallic wars, Vienne, the former capital of the Allobroges tribe, was established as a colony, serving as a supply depot and a camp for hostages. After Caesar's assassination (44 bce), the Allobroges, who had remained loyal to the Romans during Vercingetorix' assault on the town in 52 bce, drove the Roman veterans out of Vienne. These soldiers, in turn, were the original settlers of the nearby town of Lyons, beginning the long-standing rivalry between the two cities. In the following year, 43 bce, Mark Antony was sent to install another colony of veterans in Vienne, and Lucius Munatius Plancus, a general of the wars, was sent to be the governer of Lyons, establishing it as a proper colony. Despite the relative age of Vienne, Lyons unquestionably became the more important of the two cities. It is situated on the hill of Fourviere (the forum vetus, or 'old forum'), at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers, and lay at the intersection of major trade roads. It soon became the capital of the Three Gauls, while the third division of Gaul was in turn named Lugdunensis, and an annual festival of the Three Gauls was instituted there.3 The town was the birthplace of the future emperors Claudius (10 BCE-54 ce) and Caracalla (188-217 ce), and is mentioned by a number of Roman writers, from Livy (59 BCE-17 ce) to Ammianus Marcellinus (330-400 ce). There is a good deal of archeological evidence from Lyons indicating the assimilation of Gallic and Roman religion, such as an altar base with reliefs of the Mother Goddess, Mercury, Sucellus and Fortuna. There is also evidence for the worship of deities from the east, such as the altar, dating to 160 ce, from the shrine of Cybele, the Great Mother of the Phrygian gods. Remains of the two Roman theatres of Lyons can still be seen today on the Fourviere, the larger of which (built around 17-15 bce) could seat 10,000 spectators, and to the north, across the Saone, lay the amphitheatre and circus, built at the beginning of the first century ce.
2 For descriptions and images of these cities and their archaeological remains, see Quentin, 'Sites and museums in Roman Gaul 1'.
3 For this festival, see Fishwick, 'Federal cult of the Three Gauls'.
Was this article helpful?