History Files


European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes




MapGarites (Gauls)

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FeatureIn 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. By the middle of the first century BC, the Garites were a minor tribe that was located amongst the tribes of the Aquitani, on the northern side of the Pyrenees. They were neighboured by a swathe of Aquitani to the west, and by the Celtic Volcae to the east, and the Cadurci, Garumni, and Ruteni to the north.

A meaning for the tribe's name cannot be found in the proto-Celtic dictionary, which is unusual for a tribe with a supposedly Gallic name. Neither is there anything constructive in the roots of German, or even in Basque, which might be expected if they were in fact a tribe of Aquitani rather than Gauls. Even the alternative spellings of Gates and Gabites produce no result. For now they must remain a mystery.

The Garites occupied and gave their name to the region of modern Gariès, a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department of the Midi-Pyrénées. Essentially, they participated only briefly in Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, and apparently did not revolt or provide any unrest against Roman rule afterwards. There is the suggestion, however, that the tribes of the Aquitani were not properly conquered until 28 BC, a process that must have involved some fighting, of which the Garites may have been part.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information from the Encyclopaedia of European Peoples, Carl Waldman & Catherine Mason, from Geography, Ptolemy, from Roman History, Cassius Dio, from Research into the Physical History of Mankind, James Cowles Pritchard, from Geography, Strabo, translated by H C Hamilton Esq & W Falconer, M A, Ed (George Bell & Sons, London, 1903), and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and The Geography of Roman Gaul.)

56 BC

When war flares up again in Gaul, triggered by Publius Licinius Crassus and the Seventh Legion in the territory of the Andes, Caesar has to turn back from his journey to Illyrium to handle the problem. Crassus is sent to Aquitania to subdue the tribes there and prevent an all-out war against stretched Roman troops. Subduing the Petrocorii along the way, he recruits auxiliaries from the Gaulish regions of Tolosa, Carcaso, and Narbo (which includes the tribes of the Bebryces, Sordones, and Volcae) before entering the territory of the Sotiates.

That tribe has gathered together a large force which attacks the Romans in a drawn-out and vigorously-contested engagement. The Romans are only just victorious, having outlasted their hot-headed Celtic opponents in terms of stamina. The tribe's oppidum is besieged and they eventually surrender, despite an attempt by Adcantuannus to lead his personal retinue into a death or glory attack and other Celts undermining the siege towers (thanks to the presence of copper in the region these Celts and their Aquitani neighbours are expert miners).

Midi du Bigorre in the French region of Aquitania
The territory into which the Garites had settled was typical of the Aquitani region, which was made up mostly of rugged foothills of the kind that border peoples normally use to survive invasions by later arrivals - the Welsh and early Scots held onto similar territory in Britain to enable them to survive the Anglo-Saxon invasion

Crassus marches into the territories of the Vocates and Tarusates. They prove to be a rather more difficult opponent. The campaign against the Sotiates has given them time to raise troops from northern Iberia, many of which had fought with Quintus Sertorius, a rebellious governor of Spain who defied Rome for a decade, and they have learnt a great deal from that experience.

They outnumber Crassus perhaps by ten-to-one and hold a very strong position which prevents him from gathering supplies for his men. The only option (aside from an unthinkable retreat) is to engage them in battle, despite the odds. Pinning them down at the front, he sends cavalry around to their rear to scout out any weakness. Their entirely unguarded rear is attacked and, with Romans pressing from two sides, the Aquitani are forced to surrender with heavy casualties. When news of this defeat spreads, the majority of the tribes of Aquitania surrender to Crassus, including the Ausci, Bigerriones, Cocosates, Elusates, Garites, Garumni, Preciani, Suburates, Tarbelli, Tarusates, and Vocasates (and presumably the unmentioned Oscidates).

With this action, Aquitania has been brought under Roman domination, and the history of its population of Celts and Aquitani is tied to that of the empire.

28 BC

Despite submitting fully in 56 BC, it seems that the conquest of the Aquitani and the neighbouring Celtic tribes is effected only now, by Proconsul Marcus Valerius Messalla. The proconsul is awarded a triumph for his success, suggesting that some fighting had been involved. That further suggests that the submission of 56 BC had gained the tribes some sort of allied status, but that they had essentially been autonomous until now.

Triumph of Titus and Vespasian
The triumph of Marcus Valerius Messalla would have been similar to the one shown in Triumph of Titus and Vespasian, an Italian oil by Giulio Pippi (Romano) - very much a form of street party with a 'royal' procession, and usually held to celebrate a military victory

27 BC - AD 14

During the period of office of Augustus in Rome, the Aquitani tribes are incorporated into the newly-formed province of Aquitania. The province extends from the Liger (the modern Loire) to the Pyrenees, and is bound on the northern side by Mons Cevennus. This is one of the three divisions of the Gauls, the others being Gallia Lugdunensis and Belgica.

AD 555

Medieval Aquitaine is first confirmed as a possession of the Franks, after a long struggle to wrest it from the hands of the Visigoths. A Merovingian duke by the name of Chramn is appointed to govern Aquitaine.