History Files

European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapCondrusi (Belgae)

FeatureThe Condrusi were one of four tribes described by Julius Caesar as Germanic but with at least one leader who bore a Celtic name. These tribes were the Caerosi, Condrusi, Eburones, and Paemani. Another, similar tribe not mentioned by Caesar was the Segni. By the middle of the first century BC, the Condrusi were located in in modern central-eastern Belgium, amongst the tribes of the Belgae on the western side of the Rhine. They were neighboured to the north by the Atuatuci and Tungri, to the east by the Caerosi, to the south by the Treveri and Segni, and to the west by the Nervii.

The Condrusi tribal name was certainly Germanic, not Celtic. It can be broken down into two parts, with the suffix '-i' removed, 'cond' and 'rus'. The first part, 'cond', comes from the German root *koniz, meaning 'bold' or 'keen'. The second part is from *þrùstjanan (vb), meaning 'to thrust'. The tribe were the 'bold thrusters'. Ancient Germans did not use swords; swords were a Celtic tradition. Germans used spears. In fact the first element of 'german' is 'ger', meaning 'spear'.

The Condrusi and Eburones, and quite possibly the Caerosi too, were subjects of the more powerful Treveri. All three of them, along with the Paemani, were Belgic peoples who are sometimes thought by scholars to be Germanic, although much of the evidence seems to suggest that they were either Belgic Celts, or were ruled by a Belgic nobility. The idea of the Belgae being a mix of Germans and Celts to some extent is firmly stated as being reported to Julius Caesar by the locals. It is a model that could also provide the basis for the foundation of the English kingdom of Wessex in the sixth century. Local Belgae, who were perhaps already semi-German, fusing with German foederati in late Roman Britain and then with Saxons to form the population of the new kingdom.

(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 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 Link: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars.)

113 - 105 BC

A large-scale migration of Cimbri and Teutones passes through Central Europe, and along the way it picks up Celto-Germanic Helvetii peoples who at this time are located in central Germany (in territory that later becomes Franconia). Together this band enters southern Gaul and northern Italy, and comes up against the Roman republic.

As shocking as this invasion is to the Romans, according to the later writings of Julius Caesar, the 'Germani' tribes of the Caerosi, Condrusi, Eburones, and Paemani (and perhaps also the unmentioned Segni) have already settled in Gaul, along the eastern edges of Gaulish and Belgae territory around the modern Belgian and Dutch borders. This suggests that the Germanic tribes are already pushing outwards from their Northern European base around the Danish peninsula and the southern shores of the Baltic.

57 BC

The Belgae enter into a confederacy against the Romans in fear of Rome's eventual domination over them. They are also spurred on by Gauls who are unwilling to see Germanic tribes remaining on Gaulish territory and are unhappy about Roman troops wintering in Gaul. The Senones are asked by Julius Caesar to gain intelligence on the intentions of the Belgae, and they report that an army is being collected. Caesar marches ahead of expectations and the Remi, on the Belgic border, instantly surrender, although their brethren, the Suessiones remain enthusiastic about the venture. The Bellovaci are the most powerful among the Belgae, but the confederation also includes the Ambiani, Atrebates, Atuatuci, Caerosi, Caleti, Condrusi, Eburones, Menapii, Morini, Nervii, Paemani, Veliocasses, and Viromandui, along with some unnamed Germans on the western side of the Rhine.

Battle of the Axona
The Battle of the (River) Axona (the modern Aisne in north-eastern France) witnessed the beginning of the end of the Belgic confederation against Rome

The Condrusi role in the war is not mentioned, but Caesar either faces down the other Belgic tribes in battle (especially at the Axona) or accepts their surrender during the course of a single campaigning season. With this action, northern Gaul has been brought under Roman domination, while the victorious legions winter amongst the Andes, Carnutes, and Turones.

55 BC

As recorded by Julius Caesar in his work, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, the Germanic Tencteri and Usipetes tribes are driven out of their tribal lands in Germania by the militarily dominant Suevi. This probably places them on the middle Rhine. Throughout the winter they attempt to resettle, but fail to find any land. Their wanderings bring them to the mouth of the Rhine, in the territory of the Belgic Menapii, who are located on both sides of the river. The Germans attack them, forcing them to withdraw to the western side of the Rhine, where the Menapii are able to defend the river line for some time. They also attack the Condrusi and Eburones tribes. Feigning a withdrawal to lure out the Menapii, the Tencteri and Usipetes defeat them, capture their ships and occupy many of their villages for the winter.

Caesar, alarmed at this threat to the north of territory in Gaul that he has already conquered, takes a force into the region. After much diplomatic effort and some delays, he attacks the Germanic tribes and drives them back into Germania with heavy losses. Caesar crosses the Rhine to follow them and to show the Germans that Romans are not afraid to stage a counter-invasion. Several other tribes submit to Caesar, and after a show of force he returns to Gaul, to mount his first expedition to Britain.

52 BC

With the defeat of the pan-Gaulish revolt at Alesia, all of Gaul is brought under Roman domination, and the history of its population of Celts is tied to that of the empire.

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