/ Garocelli (Gauls)
general terms, the Romans
coined the name 'Gaul' to describe the
Celtic tribes of what is
now central, northern and eastern
The Gauls were divided from the
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 Graioceli, who were located
in the upper valley of the Maurienne (in modern France) and close to
Alpis Graia (the modern Little St Bernard Pass). They were neighboured
to the north by the
Salassi, to the
east by the Insubres, to
the south by the Medulli,
and to the west by the
Also called the Garocelli by Caesar, the tribe's name is a tough one to
break down. Remove the Latin '-i' suffix and the second part of the core
name, 'cel', may be *kel(j)o- (?), meaning 'death'. The first part of the
name, 'graio' is the main problem with a meaning that has to be approximated.
If it is assumed that the 'i' is a softened 'g', then perhaps *-grago- means
'neck'. The tribe may have been 'the neck (throat) killers'. In its English
idiom this would be the 'throat cutters'.
As well as occupying Maurienne and Alpis Graia, the tribe could also be
found in parts of north-western Piedmont, on the Italian side of the Alps.
They commanded an important pass through the mountains, and they made the
Romans very aware of the fact by giving them a hard time as they passed
through. Apart from that mention by Julius Caesar, however, they do not
feature in history again.
(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, Graioceli, 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
Vocontii to enter that of
the Allobroges and then
the Segusiavi, 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.