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Bibracte, a city of the Gauls (7)

Religion, the Gallic War

(1)  - General information
(2)   - The walls and buildings
(3)   - The metals (findings)
(4)   - The metals (techniques)
(5)   - Strange trees
(6)   - Writing
(8)   - Other findings
(9)   - Coins

"The nation of the Gauls is, as a whole, very religious."
"They really believe that one can buy off the life of one person by the life of another person, and by doing so, satisfying their immortal gods."
 (J. Caesar)

Archaeologic evidence confirmes his statement that health and luck probably could be "buyed off":

  1. Ex-voto were made which acted as representations (in wood or bronze) of sick body parts. The Gauls threw the ex-voto in water, especially in the Seine, but also in Bibracte sources.

  2. Many sacrificed items contained inscriptions that ended with words like "...dedicated to the gods, as promised and therefore fulfilling my promise". A few examples are even known from far north of Bibracte, as far as the Netherlands, so this believe was certainly wide-spread.

  3. Placing a home-sacrifice under a threshold or under another part of a house  was also wide-spread.

  4. Not only the Gauls believed in this "buying off"; the Romans had their own horrifying example. When the Gauls marched to Rome and threatened to sack them, around 390 B.C.E., the Romans sacrificed a Gaulish male and a Gaulish female by burying them alive under the market place. It didn't help the Romans...

The druids were a very hierarchic category in the Gaulish society. They had one chief and gathered once each year in the center of Gaul, in the area of the Carnutes. They were not only the religious leaders; they also posessed all the knowledge on all terrains, which provided them with lots of power. 
They teached the aristrocrat children, and some of them then started the 20 years of oral study of the Druid knowledge.
They believed there were many gods, that lived in the sources, the rivers, the sun, the soil... They probably also believed that the soul of an enemy could be captured by beheading. See the coin below. "Dubnoreix" has here a head in his left hand.

Two-headed god, limestone, 5th century B.C.E.
Roquepertuse / Velaux

Bronze mask, representing a celtic goddess. 17,2 cm. 3rd-2nd century B.C.E.

Temple to Janus, Autun

The Gauls were very supersticious, if we may say that today.
One of the customs was a combination of medical and religious needs; to throw images of sick body parts in a well, maybe to hope that the gods (like the goddess Sequana) would try to cure the body part.

Another custom was to promise a sacrifice upon safe return. This appears to be more logical. This way one didn't have to offer anything if things were going wrong...
Bronze ear, 4,5 cm.

One of the few druid representations. Note the torc and the lyre.
The druid Diviciacus travelled to Rome to ask the Romans for their protection against the Teutons in 61 B.C.E. 
He did the same during the war against the Helvetii, maybe giving Caesar an excuse to plan his Gallic Wars a few years later.

Gallic War: The Romans (led by Caesar) help the Gauls in Bibracte (on Mont Beuvray) against a largely superior force of the Helvetii, 58 B.C.E. 

Outcome: Roman victory.

Overview: Caesar defeated the Helvetii. The battle was a momentous one, for a defeat to Caesar meant destruction. He therefore sent away all his officers' horses, giving them to understand that they had to stand their ground to the last. In the end, the Helvetii were totally routed, and compelled to submit to the domination of Rome.

Caesar - Gallic War - Book I, 23 - Bibracte
On the morrow, as no more than two days remained before it was proper to issue the corn ration to the troops, and as he was no more than eighteen miles from Bibracte, by far the largest and the best-provided of the Aeduan towns, he considered that he must attend to the corn supply. He therefore turned his line of march away from the Helvetii, and made with all speed for Bibracte. The change was reported to the enemy by some deserters from Lucius Aemilius, a troop leader of the Gallic horse. Now the Helvetii may have supposed that the Romans were moving away from them because of sheer panic, the more so because the day before they had not joined battle after seizing the higher ground; or they may have believed that the Romans could be cut off from their corn supply. Whichever the reason, they changed their plan, altered their route, and began to pursue and to annoy the Roman rearguard.

More about this battle

More about the Gallic Wars

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