Central Gaul at the Roman Conquest: Conceptions and misconceptions

Ian Ralston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several recent reconstructions of the social and economic development of non-Mediterranean Gaul after c. 200 BC have argued for the development of complex societies, characterized by the appearance of centralized political entities with urban – or at least urbanizing – communities. The emergence of such ‘Archaic States’ is often considered as having been restricted to a broad zone running eastward from the Atlantic façade through the northern Massif Central to the Swiss plateau. Five certain such states are usually claimed: Bituriges cubi, Aedui, Arverni, Sequani, Helvetii; and three probable: Pictones, Lemovices and Lingones. The constitutents of this zone were originally recognized by Dr Daphne Nash (1976; 1978a; 1978b; 1981), and her view has since been adopted in Britain by Champion and his collaborators (1984), Bintliff (1984) and, most recently, Cunliffe (1988: figure 38). Essential to the formulation of this hypothesis was a wide-ranging consideration of three domains of protohistoric evidence on Gaul: literary, most conspicuously Julius Caesar’s de Bello Gallico; numismatics; and the settlement record of the late La Tène and its more shadowy antecedents. Among more recent commentators, a primary interest in the ‘core–periphery’ relationship (Cunliffe 1988; Rowlands et al. 1987) which existed between the Mediterranean world and Central Gaul is manifest. In a minimal view, this interaction may be envisaged in terms of the consequences of long-distance trade and subsequent military conquest spurring socio-political change. The unspoken by-product of this perspective is that differential development within non-Mediterranean Gaul is simplistically presented in terms of distance-decay from the Mediterranean littoral, with little attention being paid to the effects of physiographic diversity across this landmass.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)786-794
Number of pages9
Issue number237
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1988


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