History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapLingones (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 Lingones were located in north-eastern France, close to the headwaters of the River Marne. They were neighboured to the north by the Leuci, to the east (the border area between modern France, Germany and Switzerland) by the Raurici, to the south by the Sequani, to the south-west by the Aeduii, and to the west by the Mandubii.

The tribe's name is relatively simple to break down. Remove the usual plural suffixes in Celtic and Latin respectively, -on and -es, and that leaves 'ling' as the actual name. Since in proto-Celtic *liguru- means 'tongue' and in Latin 'lingua' means both language and tongue, or speech, then one may guess that the name is some dialect of Celtic which perhaps has been influenced by another speech due to a non-Celtic tribe being conquered, such as the Vindelici tribe of Ligurians perhaps. This also points to the Ligurians possibly having the same name in their pre-Indo-European speech. The name(s) would mean 'the speakers', perhaps in reference to orators or even druids (the Verbigeni were another tribe of 'speakers').

The Lingones capital was Andematunnum, which became the modern town of Langres under Roman control. It controlled the plain between the Moselle and the Saône, which itself fed into the Rhône. When Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was appointed governor of Gaul in 39/38 BC, he oversaw the building of a new road system that would further tie the region to Rome. The most important of these roads connected the Gallic capital of Lugdunum (Lyon) with Andematunnum where it divided, heading to the coast and to Durocortorum, capital of the Remi. The region was incorporated into the Roman territory of Germania Superior and probably produced food for the garrisons at Mogontiacum (modern Mainz). In fact, the location of the Lingones seems to have allowed them to escape direct incorporation into the empire. Pliny's Natural History contains a mention of them as foederati, in other words allies of Rome rather than subjects. Typically, though, this status wouldn't have lasted more than a generation or two.

The Lingones could also be found in northern Italy, on the Adriatic coast, after a sub-division of the tribe followed an established route across the Alps in the early fourth century BC. This migratory section settled near the estuary of the River Po in northern Italy, fairly close to the Tarvisii, but moved south of the Po after the sack of Rome in 390 BC. The area became known as the Ager Gallicus, and even after conquest by the Romans it retained something of a reputation as a frontier zone.

(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 The History of Rome, Volume 1, Titus Livius, translated by Rev Canon Roberts, and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and the Perseus Digital Library, and The Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed).)

c.600 BC

Bellovesus and his mass horde of people from the Bituriges, Insubres, and several other tribes, reaches the barrier of the Alps with an enormous force of horse and foot. This barrier is one that has apparently not previously been breached by Celts, and they make the crossing with some trepidation, heading through the passes of the Taurini and the valley of the Douro. Once across the mountain barrier, they defeat the Etruscans in battle not far from the Ticinus. Bellovesus and his mainly Insubres people settle around the Ticinus and build a settlement called Mediolanum (modern Milan).

Gauls on expedition
An idealised illustration of Gauls on an expedition, from A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume I by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

c.400 - 391 BC

Following the route set by Bellovesus and the Bituriges around 600 BC, other bodies of Celts have gradually invaded northern Italy, probably due to overpopulation in Gaul and the promise of fertile territory just waiting to be captured. The first of these is the Cenomani around 400 BC, under the leadership of Elitovius. They found settlements at Brixia (modern Brescia) and Verona (the latter perhaps being captured from the Euganei). The Libui follow next, along with the Saluvii, both of which settle near the ancient tribe of the Laevi. Then the Boii and Lingones cross the Pennine Alps and, as all the country between the Po and the Alps is occupied, they cross the Po on rafts and expel not only the Etruscans but the Umbri as well. However, they remain north of the Apennines. Then in 391 BC the Senones, the last to come, occupy the country from the River Utis (or Utens) to the Aesis (near Ancona, which marks the border between the Picentes and the Umbri in Italy). It is this last tribe which Livy states comes to the Etruscan city of Clevsin (Clusium to the Romans), and from there to Rome, although whether alone or with the help of the Cisalpine peoples is unclear.

218 - 217 BC

The Second Punic War starts at Saguntum (near modern Valencia) in Iberia. Using Gadir as a base, Hannibal Barca sets out to attack Rome, leading his Carthaginian armies over the Alps into Italy. He has to fight off resistance by Gaulish tribes such as the Allobroges along the way but is supported by other Gauls such as the Insubres, who rebel against their Roman occupiers. At first he wins great victories at Trasimeno and Cannae which all but destroys Roman military strength, but he is denied the reinforcements to pursue his victory by an opposing political faction back at home. As the tidal wave of invasion passes by and dies down, Roman domination of the northern Italian divisions of the Boii, Gaesatae, Insubres, Lingones, and Taurini is renewed.

58 BC

The Aeduii appeal to Rome for relief from Ariovistus' alleged cruelty towards them. Having just defeated the Helvetii and created problems for himself with the possibility of Germanic incursions into Gaul, Julius Caesar, in his role first as consul and then as governor of Gaul (from 58 BC), appears to pursue a diplomatic course that will deliberately end in warfare. Caesar is also informed that a further hundred units of Suevi are about to cross the Rhine.

The showdown happens at the Battle of Vosges following an unsuccessful face-to-face parley between the two leaders. The Sequani, Leuci and Lingones have supplied his troops with corn as promised, so now he is ready to face the Germans. The Suevi host lines up in units of tribal groups, but superior Roman tactics breaks the line and the Suevi host makes a run for the Rhine. Ariovistus makes it across, but many of his allies now turn on him and the core Suebi. The defeated Suevi now avoid the Rhine for generations, concentrating on building a fresh confederation in central Germania.

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. His cavalry subsequently routed in battle, he 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.

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

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 ten thousand men each from the Bellovaci, Helvetii, Lemovices and Lingones. Together they attempt to relieve Vercingetorix at the siege of Alesia, but the combined relief force is soundly repulsed by Julius Caesar. 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.

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.

AD 21

The somewhat divided Aeduii appear to have been neglected by Rome. The dissatisfaction of the tribe's people results in a revolt by them and the Treveri under the leadership of Julius Sacroviros of the Aeduii and Julius Florus of the Treveri. The revolt is quickly put down by Gaius Silius. The nearby Lingones, however, appear to remain loyal to Rome, perhaps relishing their allied status and autonomy.

68 - 69

With Nero's Rome slipping into chaos, Caius Julius Vindex, a governor in Gaul, launches a revolt with support from Servius Sulpicius Galba. Vindex soon finds that his levies are no match for legions sent from Germania Superior (IIII Macedonica, XXI Rapax, and XXII Primigenia), under the command of Lucius Verginius Rufus and supported by ever-reliable Gallic communities such as the Lingones. Nero loses control in Rome and commits suicide, ending the Julio-Claudian dynasty of emperors. The scene is set for the 'Year of Four Emperors'.

The Senate votes Galba into office as emperor at the same time as they declare Nero a public enemy. Suddenly the legions and Gaulish tribes who had supported the former regime by suppressing Vindex's revolt find themselves under suspicion. Supported by the Helvetii, Galba replaces their commander with Marcus Hordeonius Flaccus, which is interpreted as a sign of distrust. The legions in Gaul revolt, accepting as their emperor Aulus Vitellius, governor of Germania Inferior. When this news reaches Rome, Galba panics and announces the appointment of a successor. The result is that imperial guard assassinates Galba and replaces him with Marcus Salvius Otho.


Among the first measures to be enacted by Otho is to award Roman citizenship to all Lingones, hoping that they will abandon their alliance with Vitellius. Unfortunately, eight Batavian auxiliary units meet up with the legions of Vitellius in the country of the Lingones. On 16 April AD 69, the Vitellians defeat Otho's army near Cremona. Otho commits suicide and the Senate hastily sends its congratulations to Vitellius. The Helvetii are also crushed by the forces of Vitellius.

The Gaulish and Germanic Batavian revolt of AD 69-70 was a major contributor to the instability experienced in the Roman empire during the 'Year of Four Emperors'

At this point, with the supporters of Vitellius openly battling those of Vespasian in the streets of Rome, a Lingonian named Julius Sabinus proclaims himself emperor. This appears to be the first instance of a western emperor standing in opposition to Rome and using Gaul as his power base. Sabinus becomes the figurehead of the Batavian rebellion, although it is Gaius Julius Civilis who commands the Batavi forces on the ground. He is supported by the Bructeri, Canninefates, Chauci, Cugerni, and Tencteri, while the Sinuci are also mentioned as a people who live in the region (although their involvement in the revolt is uncertain). The tribes send reinforcements and Civilis is initially successful, with two Roman legions being lost, while two others fall into the hands of the rebels.

69 - 70

Julius Sabinus

Declared himself emperor of Rome in AD 69. Executed.

69 - 70

With the defeat of Vitellius in Rome, his former supporters join Sabinus in opposing Rome. Sabinus makes a major mistake, however, when he attacks the Sequani who have remained loyal to Vespasian. They repulse his attack and a conference of the Gauls in the land of the Remi leads to a decision to support Rome against the Batavi. The Lingones and Treveri are invited to lay down their weapons, which many apparently fail to do. Quintus Petillius Cerialis is sent against them with three legions and they are quickly suppressed. The Lingones surrender the remaining rebels to him. Vespasian orders the execution of Julius Sabinus but the Lingones go unpunished, although their auxiliary units are posted to Britain (at least four units of 500 men). Quintus Petilius Cerialis soon gains the post of Governor of Britain in reward for his triumph.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.