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the Term "Celt"

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« on: February 18, 2007, 11:54:46 pm »

Social structure and tribes
 
The Druids were not the only political force in Gaul, however, and the early political system was complex, if ultimately fatal to the society as a whole. The fundamental unit of Gallic politics was the tribe, which itself consisted of one or more of what Caesar called "pagi." Each tribe had a council of elders, and initially a king. Later, the executive was an annually-elected magistrate. Among the Aedui, a tribe of Gaul, the executive held the title of "Vergobret," a position much like a king, but its powers were held in check by rules laid down by the council.

The tribal groups, or pagi as the Romans called them (singular: pagus; the French word pays, "region", comes from this term) were organized into larger super-tribal groups that the Romans called civitates. These administrative groupings would be taken over by the Romans in their system of local control, and these civitates would also be the basis of France's eventual division into ecclesiastical bishoprics and dioceses, which would remain in place with slight changes until the French revolution.

Although the tribes were moderately stable political entities, Gaul as a whole tended to be politically-divided, there being virtually no unity among the various tribes. Only during particularly trying times, such as the invasion of Caesar, could the Gauls unite under a single leader like Vercingetorix. Even then, however, the faction lines were clear.

The Romans divided Gaul broadly into Provincia (the conquered area around the Mediterranean), and the northern Gallia Comata ("free Gaul" or "long haired Gaul"). Caesar divided the people of Gaulia Comata into three broad groups: the Aquitani; Galli (who in their own language were called Celtae); and Belgae. In the modern sense, Gaulish tribes are defined linguistically, as speakers of dialects of the Gaulish language. While the Aquitani were probably Vascons, the Belgae would thus probably be counted among the Gaulish tribes, perhaps with Germanic elements.

Julius Caesar's comments on these people from his book, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, are worth quoting:

Quote
All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third.

All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws.

The river Garonne separates the Gauls from the Aquitani; the Marne and the Seine separate them from the Belgae.

Of all these, the Belgae are the bravest, because they are furthest from the civilization and refinement of [our] Province, and merchants least frequently resort to them, and import those things which tend to effeminate the mind; and they are the nearest to the Germanic people, who dwell beyond the Rhine, with whom they are continually waging war; for which reason the Helvetii also surpass the rest of the Gauls in valor, as they contend with the Germanic people in almost daily battles, when they either repel them from their own territories, or themselves wage war on their frontiers. One part of these, which it has been said that the Gauls occupy, takes its beginning at the river Rhone; it is bounded by the river Garonne, the ocean, and the territories of the Belgae; it borders, too, on the side of the Sequani and the Helvetii, upon the river Rhine, and stretches toward the north.

The Belgae rises from the extreme frontier of Gaul, extend to the lower part of the river Rhine; and look toward the north and the rising sun.

Aquitania extends from the river Garonne to the Pyrenaean mountains and to that part of the ocean which is near Spain: it looks between the setting of the sun, and the north star.




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