History Files

European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapCadurci (Gauls)
Incorporating the Eleuteti

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 Cadurci were located along the north bank of the Duranius (the modern River Dordogne), and around the basin of the Oltis (Lot), a branch of the Garonne in southern-central Gaul. They were neighboured to the north by the Lemovices, to the north-east by the Arverni, to the east by the Vellavi, to the south-east by the Gabali, to the south by the Nitiobroges, and to the west by the Petrocorii.

The Cadurci (or Carduci) were 'the angry [people]'. The core of the name stems from the proto-Celtic: *kādo(s)-, meaning 'anger'. There are a number of words in modern Welsh that mean anger, namely (noun) 'codded', and (verb) 'coddi'. So 'cadu(s)' had a suffix added on, probably to convert the verb into a noun. 'The Angry' they may have been, but what caused their anger or how they vented it has been lost to prehistory. That suffix, however, is a puzzling one. It could be a contraction of '-or' (a masculine 'doing'  word) plus '-ic' to make an adjective from it, plus the Latin '-i'. That seems a little odd, somehow.

Alternatively, it could be a combination of the name 'Cadu', meaning 'angry', plus 'ric' ('king', a variation of 'rix') plus the Latin '-i' suffix - the 'angry kings'. Xavier Delmarre on L'Arbre Celtique has a different take on the origin of 'cadu'. He claims that it derives from two Gaulish words: 'catu', meaning 'battle, fight', and 'torcus', meaning 'boar', with them becoming 'catu-turci' and the 'battle boars'.

There was also a smaller group of Cadurci to the south of the Nitiobroges, along the northern banks of the Garonne. Both groups may still have been in touch despite the presence of the Nitiobroges. A sub-group of the southern branch which lived along the River Aveyron in Aquitania was called the Eleuteti, or Eleutheri. Quite often they are labelled the Eleutheri Cadurci by scholars, although incorrectly since Eleutheri is a Greek word that can hardly be used for a Gallic tribe like the Eleuteti who, instead of being free (from the Greek word 'eleutheroi') seem to have been clients of the Arverni. Their only claim to fame is supplying troops for the relief of Alesia in 52 BC.

The tribe's oppidum was Divona, which was renamed by the Romans to Civitas Cadurcorum (modern Cahors). Uxellodunum, which was besieged and taken by Caesar, also belonged to the tribe. The territory of the Cadurci became Cadurcinumn to Latin writers of the middle ages. This was corrupted into Cahorsin or Caorsin, and then Querci (modern Quercy). The tribe's territorial boundaries are supposed to have survived in the bishopric of Cahors.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information by Trish Wilson, from The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, 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.)

7th-6th cent BC

The Cadurci are thought to migrate across the Rhine, leaving the Celtic heartland in southern Germany to enter the land that becomes known as Gaul. Other Celtic groups are also settling in the British Isles and Ireland around this time. Whether the Cadurci tribe itself exists at this stage is entirely unknown. More probably, the migrants are one or more larger tribes that later divide and settle Gaul. It could take a further two or three centuries for the Cadurci to find a permanent home near the Garonne and evolve the identity that is later recorded by Caesar.

? - 51 BC


Leader during the revolt. Captured by Rome.

53 - 52 BC

While Caesar is tied down in Rome, the Gauls begin their revolt, resolving to die in freedom rather than be suppressed by the invaders. The Carnutes take the lead under Cotuatus and Conetodunus when they kill the Roman traders who have settled in Genabum. News of the event reaches the Arverni that morning, and Vercingetorix summons his people to arms. Despite being expelled from the town of Gergovia by his uncle, Gobanitio, and the rest of the nobles in their fear of such a risky enterprise, he gathers together an army. The Aulerci, Cadurci, Lemovices, Parisii, Pictones, Senones, and Turones all join him, as do all of the tribes that border the ocean. The Treveri support the revolt but are pinned down by German tribes.

He sends Lucterius of the Cadurci into the territory of the Ruteni to gain their support, and marches in person to the Bituriges. Lucterius continues to the Gabali and Nitiobroges and wins their support, collecting together a large force ahead of an advance into the province of Narbonensis. Caesar gets there first and rallies the garrisons among the Ruteni and Volcae Arecomisci, and Lucterius is forced to retreat. From there Caesar circles through the territory of the generally pro-Roman Helvii (who provide auxiliaries) to reach that of the Arverni, despite deep winter snows in the mountains.

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

Vercingetorix, after sustaining a series of losses at Vellaunodunum, Genabum, and Noviodunum, summons his men to a council in which it is decided that the Romans should be prevented from being able to gather supplies. A scorched earth policy is adopted, and more than twenty towns of the Bituriges are burned in one day, although their oppidum at Avaricum is spared. The Gabali and the easternmost Arverni cantons are sent to fight the Helvii, and the Cadurci and Ruteni are told to lay waste the territories of the Volcae Arecomisci. The Helvii are defeated and their leaders slain, including Caius Valerius Donotaurus, the son of Caburus. The Allobroges manage to defend their frontiers successfully, but Caesar finds that he is hard-pressed to counter Vercingetorix's superiority in cavalry. He calls for cavalry and light infantry from the loyal German tribes (which undoubtedly includes the Ubii), and this helps him greatly in the battle which follows.

Vercingetorix, his cavalry routed in that battle, withdraws in good order to Alesia, a major fort belonging to the Mandubii. The remaining cavalry are dispatched back to their tribes to bring reinforcements. Caesar begins a siege of Alesia, aiming on starving out the inhabitants. Four relief forces amounting to a considerable number of men and horses are assembled in the territory of the Aeduii by the council of the Gaulish nobility. Among those demanded from the tribes of Gaul are thirty-five thousand men from the Arverni in conjunction with the Cadurci, Eleuteti, Gabali, and Vellavi, who are accustomed to following Arverni commands. Together they attempt to relieve Vercingetorix at the siege of Alesia, but the combined relief force is soundly repulsed by Julius Caesar's remarkable strategy of simultaneously conducting the siege of Alesia on one front whilst being besieged on the other. Seeing that all is lost, Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar. The garrison is taken prisoner, as are the survivors from the relief army. They are either sold into slavery or given as booty to Caesar's legionaries, apart from the Aeduii and Arverni warriors who are released and pardoned in order to secure the allegiance of these important and powerful tribes.

Romans versus Gauls
Organising the various tribes of Gaul into a unified resistance took some doing, but Vercingetorix of the Arverni appears to have held a level of authority which made him a leader not to be refused, and thousands of warriors flocked to join him

51 BC

Under the leadership of Drappes, the Senones team up with Lucterius of the Cadurci to invade the Roman provincia. Pursued by Roman forces, the Gauls entrench themselves at Uxellodunum, the oppidum of the Cadurci. In an attempt to re-supply the city, Drappes is cut off and captured by Gaius Caninius Rebilus. He commits suicide by starving himself to death. Lucterius flees to the Arverni, where he is betrayed and handed over to the Romans.

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

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