Arrival of Celts

History of France between 700 BC - 59 BC

The Celts were people in Iron Age and Medieval Europe who spoke Celtic languages and had cultural similarities, although the relationship between ethnic, linguistic and cultural factors in the Celtic world remains uncertain and controversial. The history of pre-Celtic Europe remains very uncertain. According to one theory, the common root of the Celtic languages, the Proto-Celtic language, arose in the Late Bronze Age Urnfield culture of Central Europe, which flourished from around 1200 BC. According to another theory, the first people to adopt cultural characteristics regarded as Celtic were the people of the Iron Age Hallstatt culture in central Europe (c. 800–450 BC), named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria. By or during the later La Tène period (c. 450 BC up to the Roman conquest), this Celtic culture was supposed to have expanded by trans-cultural diffusion or migration to the British Isles, France and the Low Countries (Gauls) and much of Central Europe.

The Romans knew the Celts then living in what became present-day France as Gauls. The territory of these peoples probably included the Low Countries, the Alps and present-day northern Italy. Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars described the 1st-century BC descendants of those Gauls. Eastern Gaul became the centre of the western La Tène culture. In later Iron Age Gaul, the social organisation resembled that of the Romans, with large towns. From the 3rd century BC the Gauls adopted coinage. Texts with Greek characters from southern Gaul have survived from the 2nd century BC.

Greek traders founded Massalia about 600 BC, with some objects (mostly drinking ceramics) being traded up the Rhone valley. But trade became disrupted soon after 500 BC and re-oriented over the Alps to the Po valley in the Italian peninsula.

The Roman conquest

The Romans arrived in the Rhone valley in the 2nd century BC and encountered a mostly Celtic-speaking Gaul. Rome wanted land communications with its Iberian provinces and fought a major battle with the Saluvii at Entremont in 124–123 BC. Gradually Roman control extended, and the Roman Province of Gallia Transalpina developed along the Mediterranean coast.

Following the Gallic Wars of 58–51 BC, Caesar's Celtica formed the main part of Roman Gaul, becoming the province of Gallia Lugdunensis. This territory of the Celtic tribes was bounded on the south by the Garonne and on the north by the Seine and the Marne. The Romans attached large swathes of this region to neighboring provinces Belgica and Aquitania, particularly under Augustus.

Popular sites founded between 700 BC and 59 BC in France

Glanum

Glanum was an oppidum, or fortified town in present day Provence, founded by a Celto-Ligurian people called the Salyes in the 6th century BCE. It became officially a Roman city in 27 BCE and was abandoned in 260 AD. It is particularly known for two well-preserved Roman monuments of the 1st century BC, known as les Antiques, a mausoleum and a triumphal arch (the oldest in France). Celtic Age Between the 4t ...
Founded: 600-500 BCE | Location: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France

Historic Site of Lyons

The Historic Site of Lyons was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The long history of Lyons, which was founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. as the capital of the Three Gauls and has continued to play a major role in Europe"s political, cultural and economic development ever since, is vividly illustrated by its urban fabric and the many fine historic buildings from all periods. The specific reg ...
Founded: 0-100 BC | Location: Lyon, France

Ambrussum

Ambrussum is a Roman archaeological site in Villetelle. Ambrussum is notable for its museum, staging post on the Via Domitia, bridge Pont Ambroix over the Vidourle and the oppidum (fortified village). Its history of settlement spanned 400 years. The whole site is still being excavated. A lower settlement prone to flooding was a staging post for travellers on the Via Domitia and provided stabling and accommodation and the ...
Founded: 300 BC | Location: Villetelle, France

Puymin

The Roman ruins of Vaison-la-Romaine are among some of the most important in France. Easily accessible, the two main sites that are open to the public - Puymin and La Villasse - can be found in the town centre, on each side of the tourist office. At the Puymin site, you stroll through the heart of a magnificent quarter of the ancient town. There you can see the vestiges of beautiful patrician homes: the 2000 m² House of ...
Founded: 0-100 BC | Location: Vaison-la-Romaine, France

Dolmen des petits Fradets

The dolmen was erected around 300 BC.
Founded: 300 BC | Location: Île d'Yeu, France

Lugdunum Convenarum

In 72 BCE the Roman General Pompey, while on the way back to Rome after a military campaign in Spain, founded a Roman colony in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. The goal was to defend the passage to the Aran Valley and the Iberian peninsula. The colony was named Lugdunum Convenarum and had reached around 30,000 people at its highest point. It belonged to the Roman province of Novempopulana and had a growing Christi ...
Founded: 72 BCE | Location: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Royal Palace of Aranjuez

Palacio Real de Aranjuez is a former Spanish royal residence. It was established around the time Philip II of Spain moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid. Aranjuez became one of four seasonal seats of government, occupied during the springtime (from about holy week). Thereafter, the court moved successively to Rascafría, El Escorial and wintered in Madrid. Aranjuez Cultural Landscape is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After the Christian conquest, Aranjuez was owned by the Order of Santiago and a palace was built for its Grand Masters where the Royal Palace stands today. When the Catholic Monarchs assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order of Santiago, Aranjuez became part of the Royal estate. This fertile land, located between the Tajo and Jarama Rivers, was converted into the Spanish monarchy's most lavish country retreat: during Spain's Golden Age, Aranjuez became a symbol for the perfection of nature by mortal hands, as El Escorial was for art.

Such excellence was based on strong Renaissance foundations, as Charles V envisaged this inherited estate as a large Italian-inspired villa, a desire continued by Philip II who appointed Juan Bautista de Toledo to design leafy avenues that ran through the gardens and farming land. A series of dams was constructed in the 16th century to control the course of the Tajo River and create a network of irrigation canals.

The splendour of the estate was only enhanced by the Bourbon monarchs, who would spend the whole spring, from Easter to July, at the Palace. Phillip V added new gardens and Ferdinand VI designed a new system of tree-lined streets and created a small village within the estate, which was further developed by Charles III and Charles IV. As Ferdinand VII and Isabella II continued to visit Aranjuez during the spring, the splendour of this site was maintained until 1870.

The Royal Palace, built by Phillip II on the site of the old palace of the Grand Masters of Santiago, was designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo –under whom construction began in 1564– and later Juan Herrera, who only managed to finish half the project. Although glimpses of the original layout still remain, the building itself is more characteristic of the classicism favoured by the Hapsburg monarchs, with alternating white stone and brick. The original design was continued by Phillip V in 1715 but not finished until 1752 under Ferdinand VI. The rectangular layout that Juan Bautista de Toledo had planned, and that took two centuries to complete, was only maintained for 20 years, since in 1775 Charles III added two wings onto the Palace.

Real Casa del Labrador

As the Prince of Asturias, Charles IV was a frequent visitor to the pier pavilions built by Ferdinand VI and grew up playing in the Prince’s Garden. When he became King, he decided to build a new country house at the far end of these gardens, known as the Casa del Labrador (the labourer's house) due to its modest exterior that was designed to heavily contrast the magnificent internal decor. It was built by chief architect Juan de Villanueva and his pupil Isidro González Velázquez, who designed some of the interior spaces. These rooms, developed in various stages until 1808, are the greatest example of the lavish interior decor favoured by this monarch in his palaces and country retreats. Highlights at this Site include the combination of different types of art and the luxurious textiles, in particular the silks from Lyon, as well as wealth of original works on the main floor, where Ferdinand VII added various paintings and landscapes by Brambilla.

King's Garden, the Island Garden, Parterre Garden and the Prince's Garden

Phillip II, a great lover of gardens, paid special attention to this feature of the Aranjuez Palace: during his reign, he maintained both the Island Garden, designed by the architect Juan Bautista de Toledo, and the King's Garden, immediately adjacent to the Palace and whose current layout was designed by Philip IV. The majority of the fountains on this island were commissioned by Phillip IV, while the Bourbons added other features such as the Charles III benches.

Phillip V made two French-style additions to the existing gardens: the Parterre Garden in front of the palace and the extension at the far end of the Island Garden, known as the Little Island, where he installed the Tritons Fountain that was later moved to the Campo del Moro park by Isabella II.

The Prince's Garden owes its name and creation to the son and heir of Charles III who, in the 1770s, began to use Ferdinand VI's old pier for his own enjoyment. He also created a landscaped garden in the Anglo-French style that was in fashion at the time and which was directly influenced by Marie Antoinette's gardens at the Petit Trianon. Both Juan de Villanueva and Pablo Boutelou collaborated in the design of this garden.