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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapPaemani (Belgae)

FeatureThe Paemani 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 Paemani were located on the west bank of the Rhine, amongst the tribes of the Belgae, in what is now northern France and the lowlands of Belgium. They were neighboured by the Germanic Batavi and Canninefates to the north, the Bructeri to the east, the Cugerni to the south, and the Menapii and Eburones to the west.

The Paemani also appear to have been called the Caemani, which is very suggestive of the switch from Q-Celtic to P-Celtic. This switch appears not to have been completed and universal in Gaul at the time of Caesar's conquest. Could they have been the Caemani in Germanic tongues, but under the influence of Celtic speakers this became altered to Paemani? The name breaks down into 'cae' plus 'man' plus the Latin suffix, '-i'. Actually determining the meaning of 'cae' is another matter. A best guess is that 'caen' was a form of the modern word 'keen' ('cene' in Anglo-Saxon), meaning keen (even back then), fierce, bold, brave, warlike, or powerful. Attaching 'caen' to 'man' gives 'caenman' and the 'nm' merges together, usually appearing as an 'm'. This tribe was the 'keen men', the 'fierce men', etc. Just to muddy the waters, Julius Caesar reports that the Paemani were commonly called by the name Germani (Germans), which means 'spear men'. Tacitus backs this up by claiming them as the original Germani after whom all other Germans had been named.

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 the Complete Works of Tacitus, Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, & Lisa Cerrato, from Roman Soldier versus Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD, Lindsay Powell, 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 Paemani 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 cross the Rhine from Germania and attack first the Belgic Menapii and then the Condrusi and Eburones.

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. The Paemani are not mentioned again, but the area they occupy is named the Civitas Tungrorum by the Romans. The tribe from which this name originates is the Tungri, whom Tacitus claims are original Germani who had later changed their name. This would make them relatives or a splinter of the Paemani. Perhaps the latter have been absorbed into the bigger Tungri tribe.

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