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Thread: The Belgae: Celticized Germans, or Germanicized Kelts?

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    The Belgae: Celticized Germans, or Germanicized Kelts?

    The Belgae
    I don't know if there is any consensus yet among Historians as to whether the Belgae where Celticized Germans, or Germanicized Kelts. They seem to have been both at the same time almost it seems. I have always found them interesting

    Belgae: the current view is that the Belgae were a cross between celtic and germanic tribes, tall with blond hair. Julius Caesar wrote that the Belgae differed from the Gauls and other tribes such as the Aquitani in language, customs and laws even though they lived in the northern part of what Caesar called Gaul. Caesar also states "the greater part of the Belgae were sprung, from the Germans". The Belgae fought the Romans in the Gallic Wars (58 BC-51 BC). One of the belgic tribes, the Aduatuci, was virtually wiped out. Also see J.A. MacCulloch's book, "The Religion of the Ancient Celts" (1st ed. 1911), who states that the Belgae were Germanic, based on the analysis of the skulls found in the Belgicae burials of Grenelle, Sclaigneaux and Borreby, France.

    Gallia Belgica, a part of ancient Roman Gaul, had many different tribes: Caleti, Velocasses, Morini, Atrebates, Menapi, Morini, Nervi, Bellovaci, Remi, Eburoni, Veromandui, Aduatuci, Condrusi, the Eburones, the Caeraesi, the Paemani. The Belgae were probably a federation of these various tribes, as Caesar discussed. [Note from Kevin: Hawkes 1968 Cunliffe 1988 and 1991 seem to think that the Belgae/Belgii were a celtic tribe from nothern Gaul who migrated to central southern England (Hampshire and West Sussex) between 100 and 80 B.C.]. The Belgae spoke another dialect of Celtic mixed with German. [Source: From: J. B. Greenough, Benjamin L. D'Ooge, M. Grant Daniell, Commentary on Caesar's Gallic War]. "The Belgae themselves believed that their ancestors had crossed the Rhine into Gaul from the east and this tradition may reflect a prehistoric migration, perhaps in the second century BCE." [Source: Ancestors: The Origins of the People and Countries of Europe by Martin Berg and Miles Litvinoff (Eurobook 1992)]

    The ancestors of the Belgae are unknown at this time, although the Belgae considered themselves descended from the Germani. [Source: The Prehistory of Germanic Europe by Herbert Schutz (1983), p. 338]. The Greek writer Strabo noted the resemblance between the Belgae and the Germani. The tribal names of some of the Belgae have continued in their regional centers; thus the Remi are remembered in Reims, the Suessiones in Soissons, the Belovaci in Beauvais, the Ambioni in Amiens, and so forth. [Source: The Prehistory of Germanic Europe by Herbert Schutz (1983), p. 338].

    "The Gallic Wars" by Julius Caesar: "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 our 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 Germans, 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 Germans 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." [Source: "The Gallic Wars" by Julius Caesar, Book 1, Chapter 1 ("De Bello Gallico). The Belgae are mentioned in Books I, II and VIII]

    The Belgae were a group of nations or tribes living in north-eastern Gaul, on the west bank of the Rhine, in the 1st century BC, and later also attested in Britain. Their name survives in modern Belgium.

    Julius Caesar in his De Bello Gallico divided the people of Gaul at the time of his conquests (58 - 51 BC) into three broad groups: the Aquitani, Galli (who in their own language were called Celtae) and Belgae, all of whom had their own customs and language. He noted that the Belgae, being furthest from the developed civilisation of Rome and closest to the Germans, were the bravest of the three.
    Origins of the Belgae

    Whether the Belgae were Celts or Germanic tribes occupied 19th century and early 20th century historians. Caesar claims that most of the Belgae were descended from tribes who had long ago crossed the Rhine from Germania. However most of the tribal and personal names recorded are identifiably Celtic. It seems likely that the Belgae had a mixture of Celtic and Germanic ancestry. Perhaps they were Germanic people ruled by a Celtic élite, or were a political alliance of Celtic and Germanic tribes, or, like the later Normans, were a formerly Germanic-speaking people who adopted the language of the lands they migrated to. In any case, the Romans were not precise in their ethnography of northern barbarians: by "German" Caesar may simply have meant "originating east of the Rhine", with no distinction of language intended.

    Tribes who belonged to the Belgae included the Remi, Bellovaci, Suessiones, Nervii, Atrebates, Ambiani, Morini, Menapii, Caleti, Veliocasses and Viromandui. Caesar says one tribe, the Atuatuci, were descended from the Germanic Cimbri and Teutones, and describes four others, the Condrusi, Eburones, Caerosi and Paemani, as German tribes (although Ambiorix, a later leader of the Eburones, has a Celtic name). Other tribes that may have been included among the Belgae were the Leuci, Treveri, Tungri and Mediomatrici. Posidonius includes the Armoricani in Brittany as well.
    Conquest of the Belgae

    Caesar conquered the Belgae, beginning in 57 BC. He writes that the Belgae were conspiring and arming themselves in response to his earlier conquests, and in response to this threat he raised two new legions and ordered his Gallic allies the Aedui to invade the territory of the Bellovaci. Wary of the numbers and bravery of the Belgae, he initially avoided a pitched battle, resorting mainly to cavalry skirmishes to probe their strengths and weaknesses. Once he was satisfied his troops were a match for them, he made camp on a low hill protected by a marsh at the front and the river Aisne behind, near Bibrax (between modern Laon and Reims) in the territory of the Remi.

    The Belgae attacked over the river, but were repulsed after a fierce battle. Realising they could not dislodge the Romans and aware of the approach of the Aedui to the lands of the Bellovaci, the Belgae decided to disband their combined force and return to their own lands. Whichever tribe Caesar attacked first, the others would come to its defence. They broke camp shortly before midnight. At daybreak, satisfied the retreat was not a trap, Caesar sent cavalry to harass the rearguard, followed by three legions, and many of the Belgae were killed.

    Caesar next marched into the territory of the Suessiones and besieged the town of Noviodunum (Soissons). Seeing the Romans' siege engines, the Suessiones surrendered, and Caesar turned his attention to the Bellovaci, who had retreated into the fortress of Bratuspantium (between modern Amiens and Beauvais). They quickly surrendered, as did the Ambiani.

    The Nervii, along with the Atrebates and Viromandui, decided to fight (the Atuatuci had also agreed to join them but had not yet arrived). They concealed themselves in the forests and attacked the approaching Roman column at the river Sambre. Their attack was so quick and unexpected that some of the Romans didn't have time to take the covers off their shields or even put on their helmets. The element of surprise briefly left the Romans exposed. However Caesar grabbed a shield, made his way to the front line, and quickly organised his forces. The two legions who had been guarding the baggage train at the rear arrived and helped to turn the tide of the battle. Caesar says the Nervii were almost anihilated in the battle, and is is effusive in his tribute to their bravery, calling them "heroes".

    The Atuatuci, who were marching to their aid, turned back on hearing of the defeat and retreated to one stronghold, were put under siege, and soon surrendered and handed over their arms. However the surrender was a ploy, and the Atuatuci, armed with weapons they had hidden, tried to break out during the night. The Romans had the advantage of position and killed four thousand. The rest, about fifty-three thousand, were sold into slavery.

    In 53 BC the Eburones, led by Ambiorix, along with the Nervii, Menapii and Morinii, revolted again and wiped out 15 cohorts, only to be put down by Caesar. The Belgae fought in the uprising of Vercingetorix in 52 BC.

    After their final subjugation, Caesar combined the three parts of Gaul, the territory of the Belgae, Celtae and Aquitani, into a single unwieldy province (Gallia Comata, "long-haired Gaul") that was reorganized by Augustus Caesar into its traditional cultural divisions. The province of Gallia Belgica was bounded on its east by the Rhine and extended all the way from the North Sea to Lake Constance (Lacus Brigantinus), including parts of what is now western Switzerland, with its capital at the city of the Remi (Reims). Under Diocletian, Belgica Prima (capital, Augusta Trevirorum, Trier) and Belgica Secunda (capital Reims) formed part of the diocese of Gaul.
    The Belgae outside Gaul

    The Belgae had made their way across the English Channel into southern England in Caesar's time (Bello Gallica ii:4 and v:12), and settled in some of the southern counties where among their towns were Magnus Portus (Portsmouth) and Venta Belgarum (Winchester). Commius of the Atrebates, Caesar's former ally, fled to Britain after participating in Vercingetorix's rebellion and either joined or established a British branch of his tribe.

    It is possible that a branch of the Belgae also settled in Ireland, represented by the historical Builg and the mythological Fir Bolg.

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    The Belgae may have belonged to a separate branch of IE

    Located along the northwest shore fro Frisia to N. France. Also on the opposite side of the Northsea in SE Britain. These people being racially and linguistically similar to Western Celts and Germanics, would have easily accepted or been accepted by both. This would explain many og the Ingvaeonic features in English, Frisia and even Dutch and Flemish.

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