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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapRemi (Belgae)

FeatureIn general terms, the Romans coined the name 'Gaul' to describe the Celtic tribes of what is now central, northern, and eastern France. To the north of these were the tribes of the Belgae, divided from the Gauls by the rivers Marne and the Seine. By the middle of the first century BC, the Remi were located in northern Gaul in the area of Reims (their capital), between modern Champagne and the Ardennes. They were neighboured to the north by the Viromandui, to the north-east by the Segni, to the east by the Mediomatrici, to the south by the Leuci, to the south-west by the Catalauni, and to the west by the Suessiones.

The Belgae would seem to be an eastern branch of Celts who migrated to the Atlantic coast some time after their Gaulish cousins had already established themselves to the south. Their dialect probably used a 'b' or a 'v' sound where their western cousins in Gaul used a 'w' sound, opening up different interpretations for their names. The Remi tribal name is perhaps based on a proto-Celtic root, 'ramo' or 'remo', meaning an oar. Perhaps they were 'the oarsmen', or 'the rowers'. This provides more incidental support for the idea that the Belgae arrived by water.

The Remi were the most prominent tribe of the Belgae by the first century BC. They dominated the once-powerful Carnutes tribe and the minor Catalauni, too. Also one of the largest of the Belgic tribes, the Remi occupied territory between the Mosa (the modern Meuse) and Matrona (the modern Marne), which roughly corresponds to the modern Champagne plain bordering the southern fringes of the Ardennes. They had an oppidum at Durocortum (modern Reims) which was apparently the second-largest of its kind in the Belgic or Gaulish territories, and were famed for their cavalry and horsemanship. In alliance with some of the Germanic tribes along the Rhine border, the Remi appear to have repeatedly engaged in warfare against their western neighbours, the Parisii and Senones. Once they were themselves dominated by Rome, their capital at Durocortum became the capital of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica.

(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.)

1st century BC

By the beginning of the first century BC, and perhaps for an indeterminate period before it, the Aeduii are at the head of a tribal confederation that also includes the Ambarri, Aulerci, Bellovaci, Bituriges Cubi, Brannovices, Mandubii, Parisii, Segusiavi, and Senones. Against this confederation in the contest for supremacy in Gaul are the Arverni, to its immediate south, and the Sequani to its east. The Parisii and Senones also face regular warfare waged against them by the aggressive Remi to their east, who are in alliance with some of the Germanic tribes situated along the Rhine.

Map of Gaul 100 BC
The Aeduii confederation is shown here, around 100 BC, with borders approximate and fairly conjectural, based on the locations of the tribes half a century later - it can be seen that the Aulerci at least migrate farther north-west during that time, although the remainder largely stay put (click or tap on map to view full sized)

57 BC

Iccius is a noble of the Remi mentioned during the campaign of Julius Caesar in the lands of the Belgae. He leads the deputation of his people to Caesar and then leads the defence of Bibrax when the other Belgae turn on the tribe for surrendering. The name Iccius sounds similar to the one used as the base for the Iceni tribal name: Icius (proper name) plus '-en' or '-on' (group plural) plus '-i' (the Latin plural).

fl 57 BC


Headed the Remi deputation to Caesar.

fl 57 BC



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 (probably along with the Catalauni and the Tricasses). 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

Caesar encourages his ally, Diviciacus of the Aeduii, to attack the Bellovaci and divert part of the Belgic forces. The remaining Belgae march against the Romans en masse, attacking the Remi town of Bibrax along the way. Rather than face such a large force with a reputation for uncommon bravery, Caesar elects to isolate them in groups using his cavalry, and following the Battle of the Axona the tribes are largely picked off or 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.

56 BC

Following his successful campaign against the Belgae in the previous year, Caesar sets out for Illyricum. Once he has left, war flares up again, triggered by Publius Licinius Crassus and the Seventh Legion in the territory of the Andes. The Veneti revolt against the Roman infringement of their lands and possessions, and the neighbouring tribes rapidly follow their lead, including the Ambiliati, Diablintes, Lexovii, Menapii, Morini, Namniti, Nannetes, and Osismii. The Veneti also send for auxiliaries from their cousins in Britain. Julius Caesar rushes back to northern Gaul, to a fleet that is being prepared for him by the (Roman-led) Pictones and Santones on the River Loire.

Before engaging the Veneti, Caesar sends troops to the Remi, Treveri, and other Belgae to encourage them to keep to their allegiance with Rome and to hold the Rhine against possible incursions by Germans who may be planning to join the Veneti. This works, with even the previously militant Bellovaci remaining subdued during this revolt.

Romans attack a Veneti vessel
Roman auxiliaries in the form of the Aeduii attack a Veneti vessel in Morbihan Bay on the French Atlantic coast during the campaign of 56 BC

The campaign by Caesar against the Veneti is protracted and takes place both on land and sea. Veneti strongholds, when threatened, are evacuated by sea and the Romans have to begin again. Eventually the Veneti fleet is cornered and defeated in Quiberon Bay by Legate Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus. The Veneti strongholds are stormed and much of the Veneti population is either captured and enslaved or butchered. The confederation is destroyed and Roman rule is firmly stamped upon the region.

53 BC

The expedition to Britain by Julius Caesar goes ahead, following which he is forced to winter his troops in different quarters in Gaul owing to the poor harvests of that year. One legion is given to Caius Fabius to be quartered in the territories of the Morini, while Quintus Cicero takes another to the Nervii, Lucius Roscius takes one to the lands of the Essui, and Titus Labienus goes to the Remi 'in the confines of the Treveri'. Three more legions are stationed amongst the Belgae and one with the Eburones who are commanded by Ambiorix and Cativolcus. The Remi appear to play no part in the subsequent rebellion by the Eburones and Treveri.

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

27 BC - AD 14

Following conquest, the Remi capital at Durocortum (modern Reims) becomes the capital of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica.

AD 69 - 70

Gaius Julius Civilis leads a Batavian insurrection against a Rome which is distracted by the events of the Year of the Four Emperors. Supported by the Bructeri, Canninefates, and Chauci, who send reinforcements, he is initially successful. Castra Vetera is captured and two Roman legions are lost, while two others fall into the hands of the rebels. In AD 70 the Chatti, Mattiaci, and Usipetes join in, besieging the legionary fortress at Mogontiacum (modern Mainz).

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'

A conference of the Gauls in the land of the Remi results in Rome receiving support from various Gaulish tribes. This includes the Mediomatrici, Sequani, and Tungri, with the Sequani having already been attacked by self-proclaimed emperor, the Lingones noble, Julius Sabinus. Rome now forces Civilis to retreat to the Batavian island where he agrees peace terms with General Quintus Petilius Cerialis. His subsequent fate is unknown, but the Batavi are treated with great consideration by Emperor Vespasian. During the revolt, the Roman fortress ceases to be used (for obvious reasons) and the Oppidum Batavorum is razed. Quintus Petilius Cerialis soon gains the post of Governor of Britain in reward for his triumph while the Sequani, for driving back the rebel forces are afforded a triumphal arch at Vesontio.

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