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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapAndes / Andecavi (Gauls)

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 Andes were located along the north bank of the Liger (the modern Loire), around the confluence of the Mayenne tributary. They were neighboured to the north-west by the Namniti, to the north and north-east by the Diablintes and Cenomani, to the east by the Turones, and to the south by the Ambiliati and the large domains of the Pictones.

Although the tribe's name can also be rendered as Andegavi or Andicavi, the core element is the same. It uses the word 'anda' or 'ande', which seems to mean a location or place. An educated guess is that they were 'the [people of the] place'. The word shows up in combinations such as 'ande-sed', meaning 'dwelling place'. Note that 'sed' is cognate with the Anglo-Saxon 'set', used in group names such as the Magonset or Pecset and others. Its use in Belgic tribes may be possible, but Celtic tribes located in the heartland of Gaul are much less likely to exhibit German influences.

The tribe occupied territory in Anjou, in the modern Maine-et-Loire département. The Romans termed their territory Andegavia, the land of the Andecavi, and the name survives today as Anjou. They had a capital at Angers which was Latinised as Juliomagus Andecavorum, and their name survived in the medieval 'angevin', which formed the basis of the Anglo-Norman Angevin empire, and in modern Anjou.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin, from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, and from External Link: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars.)

57 BC

The Belgae enter into a confederacy against the Romans in fear of Rome's eventual domination over them. Caesar marches on them and, rather than face such a large force with a reputation for uncommon bravery, Caesar elects to isolate them in groups using his cavalry, and manages to defeat or accept surrender from all of them in a single campaigning season. According to him, the Aulerci, Cariosvelites, Osismii, Redones, Sesuvii, Venelli, and Veneti, all of whom are located along the Atlantic coast, are subdued by the legion of Publius Licinius Crassus. With this action, northern Gaul has been brought under Roman domination. The victorious legions winter amongst the Andes, Carnutes, and Turones.

56 BC

With Gaul now apparently at peace, Caesar sets out for Illyricum. Once he has left, war flares up again, triggered by Publius Licinius Crassus and the Seventh Legion in the territory of the Andes. With supplies of corn running low, he sends scavenging parties into the territories of the Cariosvelites, Esubii, and the highly influential Veneti. The latter revolt against this infringement of their lands and possessions, and the neighbouring tribes rapidly follow their lead. The Veneti and their allies fortify their towns, planning to fight the Romans using their powerful navy in the shallows of the Loire.

Romans attack a Veneti vessel
Roman auxiliaries in the form of the Aeduii attack a Veneti vessel in Morbihan Bay on the French Atlantic coast during the campaign of 56 BC

The campaign by Caesar against the Veneti is protracted and takes place both on land and sea. Veneti strongholds, when threatened, are evacuated by sea and the Romans have to begin again. Eventually the Veneti fleet is cornered and defeated in Quiberon Bay by Legate Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus. The Veneti strongholds are stormed and much of the Veneti population is either captured and enslaved or butchered. The confederation is destroyed and Roman rule is firmly stamped upon the region.

? - 52 BC


Led the siege of Lemonum of the Pictones. Exiled.

53 BC

On 13 February 53 BC the disaffected Carnutes massacre every Roman merchant who is present in the town of Cenabum, as well as killing one of Caesar's commissariat officers. This is the spark that ignites a massed Gaulish rebellion. While Julius Caesar is occupied in the lands of the Belgae, Vercingetorix has renewed the Arverni subjugation of the Aeduii. He has also restored the reputation of Arverni greatness by leading the revolt that is building against Rome.

Despite his former allegiance to Julius Caesar, in the winter of 53-52 BC Commius of the Atrebates uses his contacts with the Bellovaci to convince them to contribute 2,000 men to an army. This army will join other Gauls to form a massive relief force at Alesia in the last stage of the revolt (this being a major fort that belongs to the Mandubii). The Lemovices are also amongst the first tribes to commit to joining Vercingetorix, contributing 10,000 men. The Mediomatrici send 5,000 men, and the Andes, Ruteni, and Turones are also amongst the first to commit.

The warriors of the Pictones decide to supply 8,000 warriors, but their chief, Duratios, stands firm in his desire to maintain his alliance with Rome, and this difference of opinion causes a split in the tribe. The warriors join the chief of the Andes who heads for Lemonum to besiege Duratios. The king sends a messenger to the Roman legate, Caius Caninius, who comes to his aid from the territory of the Ruteni. This small force is soon backed up by a more effective unit under Caius Fabius and a Pictonii civil war is averted.

52 BC

Despite having suffered heavy casualties at Roman hands following their withdrawal from Lemonum, the Andes tribe is one of the first to join the revolt led by Vercingetorix of the Arverni.

The site of Alesia
The site of Alesia, a major fort belonging to the Mandubii tribe of Celts, was the scene of the final desperate stand-off between Rome and the Gauls in 52 BC

With the collapse of the revolt, the Andes are quickly overrun by Roman forces. Part of their territory is apparently granted to the Pictones by Rome, in reward for the latter's largely loyal behaviour during the revolt. Dumnacus goes into voluntary exile.

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

AD 21

The later writings of Tacitus, in his Annals, describe how many Gaulish tribes are heavily in debt, thanks to a Roman economic system they they have struggled to come to terms with. Now many of the tribes rise up in revolt, with the Andes and Turones at the forefront of events. A mixed force from the XX Valeria Victrix and the XXI Rapax, under the command of an officer from the Legion I Germannica, is dispatched to suppress the rebellion, which it does in short order.

Following this the Andes remain model Romans. Their territory emerges in the medieval period as the diocese of Angers in Anjou, both names being direct descendants of the tribe's own name.

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