Gallo-Roman culture

Gallo-Roman culture

:"This article covers the culture of Romanized areas of Gaul. For the political history of the brief "Gallic Empire" of the 3rd century, see Gallic Empire."

The term Gallo-Roman describes the Romanized culture of Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire. This was characterized by the Gaulish adoption or adaptation of Roman mores and way of life in a uniquely Gaulish context. [A recent survey is G. Woolf, "Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilization in Gaul" (Cambridge University Press) 1998.] The well-studied meld of cultures [Modern interpretations are revising the earlier dichotomy of "Romanization" and "resistance", especially as viewed, under the increased influence of archaeology, through the material remains of patterns of everyday consumption, as in Woolf 1998:169-205, who emphasised the finds at Vesontio/Besançon.] in Gaul give historians a model against which to compare and contast parallel developments in other, less-studied Roman provinces.

After the barbarian invasions of the early fifth century, Gallo-Roman culture would persist particularly in the areas of Gallia Narbonensis that developed into Occitania, Gallia Cisalpina and to a lesser degree, Aquitania. The formerly Romanized north of Gaul, once it had been occupied by the Franks, would develop into Merovingian culture instead. Roman life, centered on the public events and cultural responsibilities of urban life in the "res publica" and the sometimes luxurious life of the self-sufficient rural villa system, took longer to collapse in the Gallo-Roman regions, where the Visigoths largely inherited the status quo in the early fifth century. Gallo-Roman language persisted in the northeast into the Silva Carbonaria that formed an effective cultural barrier with the Franks to the north and east, and in the northwest to the lower valley of the Loire, where Gallo-Roman culture interfaced with Frankish culture in a city like Tours and in the person of that Gallo-Roman bishop confronted with Merovingian royals, Gregory of Tours.


Gaul was divided by Roman administration into three provinces, which were sub-divided in the later third century reorganization under Diocletian, and divided between two dioceses, Galliae and Viennensis, under the Praetorian prefecture of Galliae. [See Roman provinces.] On the local level, it was composed of "civitates" which preserved, broadly speaking, the boundaries of the formerly independent Gaulish tribes, which had been organised in large part on village structures that retained some features in the Roman civic formulas that overlay them.

Over the course of the Roman period, an ever-increasing proportion of Gauls gained Roman citizenship. In 212 the Constitutio Antoniniana extended citizenship to all free-born men in the Roman Empire.

Gallic Empire

During the Crisis of the Third Century, from 259 to 274, an independent Gallo-Roman realm, termed the "Gallic Empire" by modern historians, was temporarily established. It was formed of the break-away provinces of Gaul, Britannia, and Hispania. The Gallic emperor Postumus set up the Empire's capital in Trier, in what is now the Rhineland-Palatinate of Germany.


The pre-Christian religious practices of Roman Gaul were characterized by syncretism of Graeco-Roman deities with their native Celtic, Basque or Germanic counterparts, many of which were of strictly local cult. Assimilation was eased by interpreting indigenous gods in Roman terms, such as with Lenus Mars or Apollo Grannus. Otherwise, a Roman god might be paired with a native goddess, as with Mercury and Rosmerta. In at least one case – that of the equine goddess Epona – a native Gallic goddess was also adopted by Rome.

Eastern mystery religions penetrated Gaul early on. These included the cults of Orpheus, Mithras, Cybele, and Isis.

The imperial cult, centred primarily on the "numen" of Augustus, came to play a prominent role in public religion in Gaul, most dramatically at the pan-Gaulish ceremony venerating Rome and Augustus at the Condate Altar near Lugdunum annually on 1 August.


Gregory of Tours recorded the tradition that after the persecution under the co-emperors Decius and Gratus (250-51 CE), Pope Felix sent seven missionaries to re-establish the broken and scattered Christian communities, Gatien to Tours, Trophimus to Arles, Paul to Narbonne, Saturninus to Toulouse, Denis to Paris, Martial to Limoges, and Austromoine to Clermont. [ [ "Historia Francorum", i.30] . Later local traditions inserted locally venerated bishops into this group, to establish parity with the seven churches of Gaul.]

In the fifth and sixth centuries, Gallo-Roman Christian communities still consisted of independent churches in urban sites, each governed by a bishop; Christians experienced loyalties divided between the bishop and the civil prefect, who operated largely in harmony within the late-imperial administration. Some of the communities had origins that predated the third century persecutions. The personal charisma of the bishop set the tone, as fifth-century allegiances, for pagans as well as Christians, switched from institutions to individuals: most Gallo-Roman bishops were drawn from the highest levels of society as appropriate non-military civil roads to advancement dwindled, and they represented themselves as bulwarks of high literary standards and Roman traditions against the Vandal and Gothic interlopers; other bishops drew the faithful to radical asceticism. Miracles attributed to both kinds of bishops, as well as holy men and women, attracted cult veneration, sometimes very soon after their death; a great number of locally-venerated Gallo-Roman and Merovingian saints arose in the transitional centuries 400 – 750. The identification of the diocesan administration with the secular community, which took place during the fifth century in Italy, can best be traced in the Gallo-Roman culture of Gaul in the career of Caesarius, bishop and Metropolitan of Arles from 503 to 543. (Wallace-Hadrill).

Gallo-Roman art

Roman culture introduced a new phase of anthropomorphized sculpture to the Gaulish community, [A. N. Newell, "Gallo-Roman Religious Sculpture" "Greece & Rome" 3.8 (February 1934:74-84) noted the esthetic mediocrity of early Gallo-Roman sculpture in representations of Gaulish deities.] synthesized with Celtic traditions of refined metalworking, a rich body of urbane Gallo-Roman silver developed, which the upheavals of the second and fifth centuries motivated hiding away in hoards, which have protected some pieces of Gallo-Roman silver, from villas and temple sites, from the universal destruction of precious metalwork in circulation. The exhibition of Gallo-Roman silver highlighted specifically Gallo-Roman silver from the treasures found at Chaourse (Mâcon), Graincourt-lès-Havrincourt (Pas de Calais),Notre-Dame d'Allençon (Maine-et-Loire), and Rethel (Ardennes, found in 1980). [Exhibition "Trésors d'orfevrerie Gallo-Romaine", Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine, Lyons, reviewed by Catherine Johns in "The Burlington Magazine" 131 (June 1989:443-445).]

Gallo-Roman sites

The two more Romanised of the three Gauls were bound together in a network of Roman roads that linked cities. Via Domitia (laid out in 118 BCE), reached from Nimes to the Pyrenees, where it joined the Via Augusta at the Col de Panissars. Via Aquitania reached from Narbonne, where it connected to the Via Domitia, to the Atlantic Ocean through Toulouse to Bordeaux.

ites, restorations, museums

At Périgueux, France, a luxurious Roman villa called the "Domus of Vesunna," built round a garden courtyard surrounded by a colonnaded peristyle enriched with bold tectonic frescoing, has been handsomely protected in a modern glass-and-steel structure that is a fine example of archaeological museum-making (see external link).

Lyon, the capital of Roman Gaul, is now the site of a Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization (rue Céberg), associated with the remains of the theater and odeon of Roman Lugdunum. Visitors are offered a clear picture of the daily life, economic conditions, institutions, beliefs, monuments and artistic achievements of the first four centuries of the Christian era. The "Claudius Tablet" in the Museum transcribes a speech given before the Senate by the Emperor Claudius in 48, in which he requests the right for the heads of the Gallic nations to participate in Roman magistracy. The request having been accepted, the Gauls decided to engrave the imperial speech on bronze.

In Martigny, Valais, Switzerland, at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda, a modern museum of art and sculpture shares space with Gallo-Roman Museum centered on the foundations of a Celtic temple.

Other sites include:


* Arles - remains include the Alyscamps, a large Roman necropolis
* Autun
* Glanum, near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
* Narbonne
* Nîmes - remains include the Maison Carrée
* Orange
* Vaison-la-Romaine
* several Roman amphitheatres are still visible in France. (see List of Roman amphitheatres for a list)


* Arelate (modern Arles)
* Grand
* Lugdunum (modern Lyon)
* Nemausus (modern Nîmes)
* Lutetia (modern Paris): "Arènes de Lutèce"
* Mediolanum Santonum (modern Saintes)


* Pont du Gard
* Barbegal aqueduct

ee also

* Culture of Ancient Rome
* Sidonius Apollinaris
* Syagrius
* Via Domitia, the first Roman road built in Gaul
* Pillar of the Boatmen
* Thraco-Roman
* Loupian Roman villa
* Gallo-Romance languages
* Gallo language
* Ausonius



*Wallace-Hadrill, J.M. 1983. "The Frankish Church" (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-826906-4, 1983

External links

* [ Gallo-Roman Museum, Lyon]
* [ Vesunna Gallo-Roman Museum by Jean Nouvel]
* [ Gallo-Roman Museum Tongeren - Belgium]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gallo-Roman — /ˌgæloʊ ˈroʊmən/ (say .galoh rohmuhn) adjective 1. of or relating to the culture of Roman Gaul. 2. of or relating to the dialect of Latin spoken in Roman Gaul. –noun 3. a Gaul of Roman culture. 4. the dialect of Latin spoken in Roman Gaul …   Australian English dictionary

  • Gallo-Roman — 1. noun A Romanized Gaul, i.e. a Gaulish person that had adopted or adapted the culture, language etc. of the Roman Empire following the establishment of Roman rule in the region of Gaul. 2. adjective a) Pertaining to period of Roman rule in …   Wiktionary

  • Gallo — can refer to: *E J Gallo Winery, founded in 1933 **Ernest Gallo, co founder **Julio Gallo, co founder **Joseph Edward Gallo, brother of Ernest and Julio Gallo *Gallo language, a regional language of France *related to Gaul, as in Gallo Roman… …   Wikipedia

  • Roman Gaul — For Gaul before the Roman conquest, see Gaul. Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for 600 years. The Roman Empire …   Wikipedia

  • Culture of ancient Rome — Julius Caesar, from the bust in the British Museum, in Cassell s History of England (1902). Ancient Roman culture existed throughout the almost 1200 year history of the …   Wikipedia

  • ROMAN — QUAND un genre littéraire, depuis plus de deux mille ans, produit par milliers des œuvres de qualité, et ce dans la plupart des grandes littératures – c’est le cas de ce qu’on appelle aujourd’hui en français le roman – qui, sans ridicule,… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Gallo-italique de Sicile — Parlée en  Italie Région  Sicile Nombre de locute …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gallo-italique de Basilicate — Parlée en  Italie Région Basilicate …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Roman glass — objects have been recovered across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used primarily for the production of vessels, although mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. Roman glass production developed …   Wikipedia

  • Roman commun — Langues romanes Pour les articles homonymes, voir Roman. On nomme langue romane[1] toute langue issue essentiellement du latin vulgaire (au sens étymologique de « populaire »), c est à dire la forme de latin vernaculaire utilisée pour… …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.