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European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapTricasses (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 Tricasses were a minor tribe that was located immediately south of the Belgic-Gaulish border, on the right bank of the Sequana (the modern River Seine). They were neighboured to the north-west by the Senones, to the north by the Catalauni, to the east by the Leuci, to the south by the Lingones and Mandubii, and to the west by the Carnutes.

The tribe's name is an easy one to break down, containing as it does some old favourites when it comes to Celts naming their groups. With the plural suffix removed from the name, the first part, 'tri-', means 'three' just as it does today. The second part is 'cass', which appears to be another form of 'cat-', meaning 'battle'. Similar forms of this have cropped up many times, notably in tribes such as the Insular Catuvellauni and the Continental Boiocasses and Veliocasses. The tribe were 'the three battles', a reference to an important event in their personal history no doubt.

The tribe occupied territory that roughly matches the modern region of the Aube. Not much is known about them, although they were probably loyal to Rome, as were the nearby Remi after their quick capitulation in 57 BC. Julius Caesar fails to note them at all, although both Pliny in Natural History and Ptolemy in Geography name them, suggesting the possibility that they were subordinate to one of the bigger tribes and perhaps only a late division of them. They probably had their oppidum at Tricasses (modern Troyes), but in the first century AD this was Romanised as Augustobona and became a transport hub that was connected to the Via Agrippa.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information 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 Natural History, Pliny the Elder (John Bostock, Ed).)

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 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 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.

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