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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapNitiobroges (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 Nitiobroges were located along the northern bank of the Garunna (the modern Garonne) in southern-central Gaul. They were neighboured to the north by the Petrocorii, to the north-east and south by the Cadurci, to the east by the Gabali, and across the Garunna by the Vasates and Sotiates.

The Nitiobroges tribal name (which sometimes is shown as Nitiobriges) is relatively easy to understand. Removing the only plural suffix, '-es', leaves 'nitiobrog', with *nitjo meaning 'own' and *brig meaning 'mountain'. This leaves a literal translation of '[our] own mountain', but may have been something along the lines of 'the owners of the mountain'. An alternative is *brīgā, which delivers *brīgo-, which itself means 'power', providing '[our] own power', or more colloquially, 'the power owners'. Either way, it's a name of strength.

The tribe's territory lay in the modern region of Agenais, with an oppidum at Aginnum (modern Agen). In common with other Celts in the south-west of France, the Nitiobroges seem to have arrived relatively late, perhaps around the start of the third century BC. They edged out the native Aquitani in part, helping to set up a confused patchwork of tribal territories. Their position on the Garonne made them an important part of Caesar's conquest of Gaul and Aquitania, providing a bridgehead across the river to face the first of the tribes in Aquitania. This cooperation with Rome seems to have been the start of a long and happy friendship which helped the tribe to prosper.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information 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.)

fl 56 - 52 BC

Ollovico / Ollovicon

Leader at the time of Crassus' invasion of Aquitania.

56 BC

When war flares up again in Gaul, triggered by Publius Licinius Crassus and the Seventh Legion in the territory of the Andes, Caesar has to turn back from his journey to Illyrium to handle the problem. Crassus is sent to Aquitania to subdue the tribes there and prevent an all-out war against stretched Roman troops. The Cantabri send assistance to the Aquitani.

River Garonne in France
The Garonne in south-western France provided a defining line between the lands of the Gauls to the north and those of the Aquitani to the south, although by the first century BC this definition had blurred somewhat

Subduing the Petrocorii along the way, he recruits auxiliaries from the Gaulish regions of Tolosa, Carcaso, and Narbo (which includes the tribes of the Bebryces, Sordones, and Volcae) before entering the territory of the Sotiates, using the lands of the Nitiobroges as a bridgehead by agreement with the tribe. That tribe has gathered together a large force which attacks the Romans in a drawn-out and vigorously-contested engagement. Crassus then marches into the territories of the Vocates and Tarusates, and when news of their defeat spreads, the majority of the tribes of Aquitania surrender to Crassus, including the Ausci, Bigerriones, Cocosates, Elusates, Garites, Garumni, Preciani, Suburates, Tarbelli, Tarusates, and 'Vocasates' (and presumably the unmentioned Oscidates).

56 - 52 BC

As a result of the tribe's help during the invasion of Aquitania, the Roman senate grants the Nitiobroges the title of 'friend'. The length of Ollovico's rule is unknown, but the tribe remains on friendly terms with Rome until Vercingetorix's rebellion of 52 BC. The Nitiobroges send troops to aid him under the command of Teutomatos, son of Ollovico.

fl 52 BC


Son, and commander of the forces sent to aid Vercingetorix.

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. He sends Lucterius of the Cadurci into the territory of the Ruteni to gain their support, and marches in person to the Bituriges. The latter, under the protection of the Aeduii, send to them for help to resist the Arverni but are forced to join the revolt. 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.

The two sides gravitate towards an eventual confrontation at Gergovia, a town of the recently resettled Boii. Now the chief of the generally pro-Roman Aeduii, Convictolitavis, is free to end his equivocation and leads a force not in support of Caesar at Gergovia but against him. Teutomatos of the Nitiobroges also makes his way to Gergovia. Once there he makes camp, perhaps choosing his pitch with too little care. He is surprised in his tent by Roman soldiers and barely makes his escape, leaping semi-naked onto his horse. Ultimately, though, Caesar loses the siege after having to split his forces to face the unexpected external threat, a rare defeat for him in Gaul.

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, his cavalry routed in that battle, withdraws in good order to Alesia, a major fort belonging to the Mandubii. Caesar begins a siege, 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 five thousand men each from the Ambiani, Mediomatrici, Morini, Nervii, Nitiobroges, Petrocorii, and Suessiones.

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.

This episode aside, the Nitiobroges retain warm relations with Rome, and their oppidum develops into a flourishing town, complete with expensive and sizeable buildings which have been uncovered by archaeologists.

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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