Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


English: Gaul
Latin: Gallia
Galijus, Gallone, Gallya, Gaule, Gaulle, Gauloise, Gawl, Gawle

Gaul was a historical region in Western Europe during ancient and Roman times. It encompassed parts of modern-day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany.

During ancient times, before the Roman conquest, the area was inhabited by Celtic tribes and was known as Gaul. The Romans referred to the region as Gallia when they incorporated it into the Roman Empire. The term “Gaul” is commonly used in English to refer to this region in ancient times, especially when discussing historical events or the cultures of the Celtic tribes that lived there. Gallia is often used in Latin texts or discussions involving the Roman perspective on the region.

This region were inhabited by a number of Teutonic tribes in Arthur’s day.

According to Geoffrey, it was conquered in the fifth century by Maximus, and later by Arthur, who had to take it from the Roman leader Frollo. The Roman province stretched from what is now northern Italy to the southern part of the Netherlands.

The thirteenth-century Lancelot do Lac says that King Claudas, Lancelot’s enemy, transferred his allegiance from King Aramont of Brittany to an unnamed King of Gaul. In Malory, King Bors is given as King of Gaul, but this is unlikely since the region was so large, and it encompassed many other kingdoms, including his own brother’s. If Bors had truly been King of Gaul, his power would have surpassed Arthur’s, and other legends more reasonably make Bors’ kingdom GannesSir Accolon also came from this region. In most Arthurian legends, Gaul can be considered synonymous with France.

An unnamed King of Gaul appears in Meriadoc as an opponent of the Emperor of the Alemanni. As part of a peace treaty, he was betrothed to the Emperor’s daughter, but he rejected her when he found that King Meriadoc of Wales had already slept with her. After Meriadoc slew the Emperor, the King of Gaul awarded him numerous lands. In Meriadoc, the King of Gaul may refer to Clovis I, the King of the Franks, who won a battle against the Alemanni in 506 AD.

Gaul | 2nd century BC – 9th century AD

Pre-Roman Gaul | Before 2nd century BC
Gaul was originally inhabited by Celtic tribes, and the region was characterized by a patchwork of tribal territories. The Celts engaged in trade, had a sophisticated social structure, and were known for thier craftmanship.

Roman Conquest | 2nd – 1st centuries BC
In the second century BC, the Roman Republic began expanding into Gaul, initially focusing on the southern part, known as Transalpine Gaul. The Gallic Wars, 58-50 BC, saw Julius Caesar’s campaigns, leading to the conquest of Gaul. The decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC marked the subjugation of the region. Gaul was divided into several Roman provinces.

Roman Gaul | 1st century BC – 5th century AD
Gaul became a Roman province, and its integration into the Roman Empire brought about Romanization. Latin became the dominant language, and Roman institution were established. The Gallo-Roman culture emerged as a blend of Celtic and Roman influences. The region prospered economically, with the development of trade routes, towns and infrastructure.

End of Roman Rule and Frankish Invasions | 3rd – 5th centuries
In the third century AD, Gaul faced invasions by Germanic tribes and experienced economic and political instability as the Roman Empire struggled with internal conflicts. The Gallic Empire briefly seceded from the Roman Empire.

In the fourth and fifth centuries, Germanic tribes – particularly the Franks – settled in Gaul, forming a significant presence. The region saw increased Frankish influence and the establishment of various Frankisk kingdoms. In the fifth century AD, the Western Roman Empire faced pressure from various barbarian groups, leading to the sack of Rome in 410 AD by the Visigoths. The Roman authority in Gaul weakened, and local leaders gained more autonomy.

Merovingian and Carolingian Dynasties | 5th – 9th centuries
The Franks, under the Merovingian kingdom in the fifth to eighth centuries AD, established a dominant kingdom in Gaul, with their center of power in present-day France. The Frankish ruler, Clovis I, gained prominence, and his conversion to Chrisitianity in 496 played a crucial role in the Christianization of the region.

The Carolingian dynasty, which succeeded the Merovingian Dynasty, were led by Charlemagne. The Carolingian Empire included much of the former Roman Gaul. Charlemagne expanded its rule over much of Western Europe, including Gaul, and he became the first Holy Roman Emperor in 800 AD. Charlemagne’s reign led to a revival of learning and culture.

Feudal Fragmentation and Medieval France | 9th – 15th centuries
The Carolingian Empire fragmented into smaller territories, marking the beginning of feudalism. The Capetian Dynasty emerged in the tenth century, and by the twelfth century, the Kingdom of France began to consolidate and expand its territories.

Viking Raids | 9th – 10th centuries
In the ninth and tenth centuries, Viking raids and invasions from Scandinavia impacted Gaul and the Carolingian Empire, leading to insecurity and the decline of centralized authority.