Armorica, the western arm of northern Gaul,
was the ancient domain of the Veneti. Although there were smaller
Celtic tribes also living in the area, the Veneti were the most
Several theories account for their origins, but
the best - and most practical - of these is that they were northern
Celts, otherwise known as Belgae. This population seemingly migrated
into the Low Countries and northern Gaul around the fourth and third
centuries BC from an unspecified location farther to the east.
The area had been mostly Celtic for over three
hundred years. It was as much an established part of Gaul as the
Romans were of Italy. During the second century BC, Gaul was
considered a centre of Celtic culture in Europe.
Conquest by Rome
At this time over sixty major tribes inhabited
this western section of Gaul (present day France). Rich accounts
of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars (circa 52 BC) and the Roman
conquest of Gaul are found in various writings, supplying a lively
picture of the Celtic warriors.
Wisely, the Roman conquerors and governors allowed
the Celts to blend their mythology with that of the Romans and, in
some instances, the Romans embraced some of the Celtic gods and
goddesses themselves, such as Epona, the goddess of mares.
By AD 400, the newly arriving Franks regarded
themselves as the natural heirs of the Romans in Gaul and they sought
to retain their hold on this, the richest part of Gaul. However,
during the middle years of the fifth century, at a time at which
former Saxon foederati were in revolt in Britain, a migration
of the island's upper classes secured Armorica for Britain's 'Second
Kingdom', as it was sometimes known.
The Franks had not yet had a chance to secure the
territory for themselves, and wouldn't have been powerful enough to
contemplate it until at least the start of the sixth century. Now
they had Romano-Britons there, and a fairly powerful bunch of them,
to say the least.
In time, this British settlement proved fully
capable of defending itself. By AD 450, most of the land north of
the Loire was under British control, submerging the older Gallic and
Belgic tribes. The Franks eventually created a border zone which
served to peg back the British advance, and the two sides achieved a
form of balance for a century or so.
The landscape of Armorica - extremely hilly inland with a
wonderful, long coastline - would have seemed very familiar to
the Britons who began to settle here from the late fourth
century onwards (Glomel in the modern Côtes-d'Armor département
is shown here)