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Caesar’s reforms and map of contemporary Europe

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Pont-du-Gard aqueduct
Pont-du-Gard aqueduct

Gaius Julius Caesar introduced many reforms, the effects of which are still felt today. Many people will think of the calendar at this point, but no less important was the decision to grant citizenship to the inhabitants of Pre-Alpine Gaul.

In the past, the citizens of the republic were only the inhabitants of Italy, which included Latium, or the vicinity of Rome, Etruria, Umbria and, over time, Campania and Apulia. Successive conquests and trade led to the Romanization of subsequently conquered nations. For example, the northern regions of today’s Italy, as well as France and Belgium, were collectively known as Gallia. From the earliest times, the lands before the Alps, i.e. the area from Milan to Venice, were called Pre-Alpine Gaul (Gallia Cisalpina), and the region of southern France was called Zaalpine Gaul (Gallia Transalpina).

The Romans had their influence on the region as early as the Second Punic War. Bonds tightened when, in 121 BCE. The lands west of the Alps became the Roman province known as Gallia Transalpina, or Provincia Nostra, from which the name Provence comes. Earlier, Consul Sextius Calvus destroyed the Gallic oppidum and in 123 BCE. at the local sources, he founded the city of Aquae Sextiae, or the present Aix-en-Provence. Proconsul Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus after victories over the Arverni and Allobrogs in 115 BCE he started building the road Via Domitia, which in 118 connected Italy with Spain.

At the end of the 2nd century BCE Gallia survived the invasion of the Germanic tribes, the Cimbrii and the Teutons. The Romans decided to face the problem. The beginnings were marked by defeats and a relentless streak of defeats in 107, 106, and 105 BCE. When, under Arausio, modern-day Orange, the Romans finally lost 80,000 soldiers, providence was made consul Gaius Marius. In fear of an approaching enemy, he was elected a consul for the second time, and without waiting the required 10 years between consulate consulates. In 102 BCE after the battle of Aquae Sextiae, during the fourth consulate, Marius celebrated his triumph over the Teutons.

Romanized Gauls did not forget a favor and sympathized with Caesar during the Gallic Wars. The people of Arelate (now Arles) were among his faithful allies, so that he established a colony for veterans there. In 27 BCE, when Octavian August settled in the area of ​​Nemausus veterans after the victorious Egyptian campaign, the site also gained colony status. Hence, on the coins from that period we can find the inscription COL NEM – Colonia Nemausus. Another position is that veterans who fought against Octavian may have been settled so far from Rome, that is on the Marcus Antony side. In any case, the image of a crocodile and a palm tree or a palm leaf commemorating the conquest of Egypt is still present in the coat of arms of Nîmes.

The city was already a strong center of the Transalpine Gaul and had a population of 60,000. In CE 4, Octavian Augustus erected a temple in honor of his grandchildren Lucius and Gaius Caesar. The temple is the only object of this type built during the Roman Empire, which has been preserved almost intact to our times. In the days of August, a gate was built on the road to Arelate, a defensive tower, now La Tour Magne, was built and the city was surrounded by walls. It was for the inhabitants of Nemausus that a huge aqueduct was built, which was to bring water from the mountains around Ucetii, and whose spectacular remains we admire today in Pont-du-Gard. It is believed that the amphitheatre was built around 70 CE, on the wave of bringing the same in the entire Empire, and is the seventh-largest in the world.

This region has been associated with the Frankish tribes since the fall of the Western Roman Empire and is part of France to this day.

When it comes to Gallia Cisalpina, in the times of Caesar and earlier, and additionally, the region from the Po north to the Alps, i.e. from Milan to Venice, was called Gallia Transpadana. For obvious reasons, this part was even more closely connected with the Republic, and trade routes to the north ran through it. Roman colonies were established there at the beginning of 1st BCE. In 89 BCE the region was granted limited Latin rights under the law of Lex Pompia de Transpadanis, and the colony in Comum was founded by Pompey Strabo, the father of the famous Gnaeus Pompey the Great.

Colosseum with soldiers

As late as 59 BCE, when Caesar was consul, the lex Vatinia law proposed by the tribune of Publius Vatinius created a Novum Comum colony for 5,000 soldiers to help the settlers fight hostile tribes. It was there that Legion X (Legio X Equestris), one of Caesar’s most loyal legions, was recruited. Caesar repaid the local residents by initially granting individual privileges. When he appointed one of his distinguished allies to grant him citizenship and the title of senator in 51 BCE, consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus showed how much he respected Caesar’s opinion. He struck one of the new senators with straps and threw him out of the Senate. He also proposed taking citizenship from other Comians. It should be mentioned here that a Roman citizen could not be touched by a whip. Marcellus’s actions were condemned by Cicero himself, considering it an act of lawlessness. In 49 BCE praetor Lucius Roscius Fabatus granted citizenship to the entire province on behalf of Caesar (Lex Roscia). Suffice it to say that it met with resistance from the Senate, and it benefited Gaul more than Caesar. Caesar, as is known, crossed the Rubicon, defeated Pompey the Great. The region south of the Alps has been linked to Italy ever since and belongs to Italy to this day.

Author: Izabela Henning (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Appian, The Civil Wars, II
  • Cicero, Letters to Atticus
  • Suetonius, Augustus

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