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Helene A. Guerber

Conquests of the Gauls

WHILE many of the Gallic tribes settled down, as we have seen, occupying themselves with tilling and trading, others delighted in nothing but war. About 550 b.c. some of them passed over the Alps to conquer northern Italy. There they founded Milan, which became the principal city of Cisalpine Gaul ("Gaul this side of the Alps"), as the Romans called it, to distinguish it from the other, older Gaul, which was known as Transalpine Gaul ("Gaul on the other side of the Alps").

Not content with conquering northern Italy, some of the Gauls later on tried to extend their conquests farther tot he south. As you have doubtless read in your Roman history, a great army from Cisalpine Gaul once marched against Rome, defeated the Roman army, murdered the old senators sitting in their chairs in the Forum, and laid siege to the Capitol (390 b.c. ); but a Roman general finally defeated them, so that they went back home.

Meantime, other tribes of Gauls had settled in the Danube valley, where one day some of them met Alexander the Great (356-323 b.c. ). He admired these bold warriors, and asked what they most feared. It is said that one chief answered proudly, "The Gauls fear nothing, save the falling of the skies!" and that another added, "And if the skies fall, we will hold them up with our lances."

Descendants of these bold Gauls invaded Greece about forty years after Alexander's death, to rob the temple of Del'phi of its treasures. A Greek writer, however, says that as the Gauls approached Delphi a sudden thunderstorm and earthquake filled their hearts with superstitious terror, so that, brave as they were, they turned and fled! The Greeks believed that their god Pan had frightened the barbarians away from the temple, and ever since then, people seized by a sudden terror are said to be "panicstricken".

Some of these Gauls wandered restlessly on to Asia, where they settled in a country known as Galatia, which became a Roman province about two hundred years later. In the New Testament you will find an epistle addressed to these Galatians, or eastern Gauls.

There were Gauls from the Danube in the army which Pyrrhus led against Rome. Indeed, many Gauls were so anxious to fight that they offered their services to any nation making war. This gave rise to the Roman saying, "No army without the Gauls" The Cisalpine Gauls were conquered by the Romans about 220 b.c. ; but many of them helped Hannibal attack Rome, and had to be conquered a second time.

The Romans were just thinking that it might be wise to seize also the southern part of Transalpine Gaul, and they were trying to find a good excuse to begin war, when the people of Marseilles asked for Roman aid against some of their Gallic neighbors. The Romans gladly sent an army, which soon found itself face to face with a much larger army of Gauls. The Gallic chief scornfully remarked that there were not enough Romans to furnish his dogs with a square meal! But when the battle began, he found that they were no mean foes, for with their better weapons and their better training, they utterly defeated the fierce Gauls. The Gauls said, however, that they were beaten because their hearts were filled with terror by the great size and loud trumpeting of some war elephants in the Roman ranks.

By this and other victories the Romans conquered the southeastern part of Gaul, fromt eh Alps to the Pyrenees (125-120 b.c. ). This territory was long known as the Province, and the name Provence (pro-vän ss') is still retained by a small part of it. The city of Narbonne (nar-bōn') was founded as the capitol, other Roman towns soon arose there, and civilization made rapid progress.