By 121 B.C., Rome had acquired S Transalpine Gaul, and by the time of Julius Caesar it had been pacified. It was usually called the Province ( Provincia, hence modern Provence), and it included a strip 100 mi (160 km) wide along the sea from the E Pyrenees northeastward and up the Rhone valley nearly to Lyons. Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in the Gallic Wars (58 B.C.–51 B.C.). He is the best ancient source on Gaul, and he has immortalized its three ethnic divisions, Aquitania (S of the Garonne), Celtic Gaul (modern central France), and Belgica (very roughly Belgium). Aquitania was probably inhabited by the ancestors of the Basques, and the Belgae were probably Celts, like the rest of the Gauls.
On the basis of these distinctions, Augustus in 27 B.C. set up great administrative divisions: Narbonensis (the old Province), under the direct rule of the Roman senate; Aquitania, now extending from the Pyrenees to the Loire; Lugdunensis (Celtic Gaul), a central strip mainly between the Loire and the Seine; and Belgica, including most of the rest. The latter three provinces were administered from Lugdunum (now Lyons), capital of Lugdunensis. Upper and Lower Germany were taken from Gaul; these included the upper Rhine, Alsace, W Switzerland, the Franche-Comté, E Belgium, S Netherlands, and the Rhineland.
In Roman Gaul it often became customary to call the chief center of a tribe or the country around it by some form of the tribe's name. Many of these names survive today. The principal tribes of Gaul (with the modern survivals or locations) were: Abrincati (Avranches); Aedui; Allobroges; Ambiani (Amiens); Andecavi (Angers, Anjou); Atrebates (Arras); Baiocassi (Bayeux); Bellovaci (Beauvais); Bituriges (Bourges, Berry); Cadurci (Cahors, Quercy); Carnutes (Chartres); Catalauni (Châlons); Cenomani (Le Mans, Maine); Eburovici (Évreux); Helvetii; Lemovices (Limoges, Limousin); Lingones (Langres); Lexovii (Lisieux); Meldae (Meaux); Namnetes (Nantes); Nervii; Parisii (Paris); Petrocorii (Périgueux, Périgord); Pictones or Pictavi (Poitiers, Poitou); Redones (Rennes, Breton Roazon ); Remi (Reims); Ruteni (Rodez); Santones (Saintes); Senones (Sens); Sequani, in the Franche-Comté; Silvanecti (Senlis); Suessiones (Soissons); Treveri (Trier, French Trèves ); Tricassi (Troyes); Turones (Tours, Touraine); Veneti (Vannes, Breton Gwened ).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.