/ Centrones (Gauls)
general terms, the Romans
coined the name 'Gaul' to describe the
Celtic tribes of what is
now central, northern and eastern
France. The Gauls
were divided from the
Belgae to the
north by the Marne and the Seine, and from the Aquitani to the south by
the River Garonne, and they also extended into
Italy, and along the Danube.
By the middle of the first century BC, there was a cluster of smaller
tribes in the Alpine region of western Switzerland and the
French/Italian border. This included the Ceutrones, who were located
in the Alps, on the very eastern edge of the later Gallia Narbonensis
province. They were neighboured to the north by the
Medulli, to the south
by the Segusini, and
to the west by the
The tribe's name is not necessarily too obvious in its meaning. Removing the
suffixes leaves 'kentr-' (singular, 'centros'), which is a thorn or a
cockerel's spur. This could be a metaphor for the points of the warriors'
spears. The '-on' and '-es' are the usual Celtic and Latin suffixes. Did the
tribe fight in a spear phalanx, a tactic perhaps picked up from Celtic
contact with the Greeks? The Forum Claudii Ceutronum is even now
still called Centrum, and shows the tribe's actual name rather than the
flippant Roman mispronunciation. So Centrones is most likely the correct
The tribe should not be confused with the Centrones of Belgae, who were a
constituent of the Nervii.
The Alpine Centrones lived in the Vallée de la Tarentaise, in what is now
the Savoy region of eastern France. The valley is home to the River Isère in
the French Alps, having gained its name from the tribe's chief settlement at
Darantasia. In winter it is effectively blocked at the upper end by snowfall.
Although the settlement's name survived in use for the valley, it did not
survive for the town itself. It seems that in later Roman times it was still
known as Darantasia (as shown on the Tabula Peutingeriana map which is thought
to be fifth century), but perhaps also as Tarentaise, a simple modification
of the Celtic name. This fell out of use, with the town apparently being so
much dominated by ecclesiastical matters that by 996 it was called Monasterium,
indicating the presence of a monastery. This became Moustiers and is now
Moûtiers. Ptolemy places the tribe in the Graian Alps, west of the Aosta
Valley and also west of the
Salassi. Roughly speaking, this does not necessarily alter their
position in the Tarentaise Valley. There is also a village called Centron in
Montgirod, Savoy, which preserves the tribe's name.
(Information co-authored by Edward Dawson, and additional information from
Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars.)
Despite the death of Orgetorix, the
Helvetii decide to go ahead
with their planned exodus. Julius Caesar cannot put up with the idea of having
such a dangerous force of
Celts occupying the more peaceful plains of Gaul, so
he force-marches two new legions from
to face the threat, although the Ceutrones,
and Caturiges attempt to
block his passage through the Alps.
The Roman troops of Julius Caesar prepare to face the Helvetii
and their allies at the Battle of Bibracte in 58 BC, outside
the oppidum of the Aeduii tribe
As he passes through the territory of the
enter that of the
Allobroges and then the
groups from several local tribes are joining the Helvetii, including the
making them one of the largest and most powerful forces in all of Gaul.
Unfortunately, the Battle of Bibracte between Celts and
is a total victory for the latter. The Helvetii are mercilessly crushed and
are forced back to their homeland. This act sets in motion a train of events
that results in the eventual annexation of all of Gaul into the Roman state.
25 - 15 BC
Augustus determines that the Alpine tribes need to be pacified in order to
end their warlike behaviour, alternately attacking or extracting money from
who pass through the region, even when they have armies in tow. He wages a
steady, determined campaign against them, and in a period of ten years he
'pacifies the Alps all the way from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian seas'
(written by Augustus himself).
Emperor Augustus creates the province of Alpes Maritimae (the maritime, or
seaward, Alps). It has its capital at Cemenelum (modern Nice, although this
is switched in 297 to Civitas Ebrodunensium, modern Embrun). The
history of the Alpine region's population of
is now tied to that of the empire.