The History, 15.11

Ammian  translated by C. D. Yonge

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11In former times, when these provinces were little known, as being barbarous, they were considered to be divided into three races: namely, the Celtæ, the same who are also called Galli; the Aquitani, and the Belgæ: all differing from each other in language, manners, and laws.

2The Galli, who, as I have said, are the same as the Celtæ, are divided from the Aquitani by the river Garonne, which rises in the mountains of the Pyrenees; and after passing through many towns, loses itself in the ocean.

3On the other side they are separated from the Belgians by the Marne and the Seine, both rivers of considerable size, which flowing through the tribe of the Lugdunenses, after surrounding the stronghold of the Parisii named Lutetia, so as to make an island of it, proceed onwards together, and fall into the sea near the camp of Constantius.

4Of all these people the Belgians are said by ancient writers to be the most warlike, because, being more remote from civilization, and not having been rendered effeminate by foreign luxuries, they have been engaged in continual wars with the Germans on the other side of the Rhine.

5For the Aquitanians, to whose shores, as being nearest and also pacific, foreign merchandise is abundantly imported, were easily brought under the dominion of the Romans, because their character had become enervated.

6But from the time when the Gauls, after long and repeated wars, submitted to the dictator Julius, all their provinces were governed by Roman officers, the country being divided into four portions; one of which was the province of Narbonne; containing the districts of Vienne and Lyons: a second province comprehended all the tribes of the Aquitanians; upper and lower Germany formed a third jurisdiction, and the Belgians a fourth at that period.

7But now the whole extent of the country is portioned out into many provinces. The second (or lower) Germany is the first, if you begin on the western side, fortified by Cologne and Tongres, both cities of great wealth and importance.

8Next comes the first (or high) Germany, in which, besides other municipal towns, there is Mayence, and Worms, and Spiers, and Strasburg, a city celebrated for the defeats sustained by the barbarians in its neighbourhood.

9After these the first Belgic province stretches as far as Metz and Treves, which city is the splendid abode of the chief governor of the country.

10Next to that comes the second Belgic province, where we find Amiens, a city of conspicuous magnificence, and Châlons, and Rheims.

11In the province of the Sequani, the finest cities are Besançon and Basle. The first Lyonnese province contains Lyons, Châlons, Sens, Bourges, and Autun, the walls of which are very extensive and of great antiquity.

12In the second Lyonnese province are Tours, and Rouen, Evreux, and Troyes. The Grecian and Penine Alps have, besides other towns of less note, Avenche, a city which indeed is now deserted, but which was formerly one of no small importance, as even now is proved by its half-ruinous edifices. These are the most important provinces, and most splendid cities of the Galli.

13In Aquitania, which looks towards the Pyrenees, and that part of the ocean which belongs to the Spaniards, the first province is Aquitanica, very rich in large and populous cities; passing over others, I may mention as pre-eminent, Bordeaux, Clermont, Saintes, and Poictiers.

14The province called the Nine Nations is enriched by Ausch and Bazas. In the province of Narbonne, the cities of Narbonne, Euses, and Toulouse are the principal places of importance. The Viennese exults in the magnificence of many cities, the chief of which are Vienne itself, and Arles, and Valence; to which may be added Marseilles, by the alliance with and power of which we read that Rome itself was more than once supported in moments of danger.

15And near to these cities is also Aix, Nice, Antibes, and the islands of Hieres.

16And since we have come in the progress of our work to this district, it would be inconsistent and absurd to omit all mention of the Rhone, a river of the greatest celebrity. The Rhone rises in the Penine Alps, from sources of great abundance, and descending with headlong impetuosity into the more champaign districts, it often overruns its banks with its own waters, and then plunges into a lake called Lake Leman, and though it passes through it, yet it never mingles with any foreign waters, but, rushing over the top of those which flow with less rapidity, in its search for an exit, it forces its own way by the violence of its stream.

17And thus passing through that lake without any damage, it runs through Savoy and the district of Franche Comté; and, after a long course, it forms the boundary between the Viennese on its left, and the Lyonnese on its right. Then after many windings it receives the Saône, a river which rises in the first Germany, and this latter river here merges its name in the Rhone. At this point is the beginning of the Gauls. And from this spot the distances are measured not by miles but by leagues.

18From this point also, the Rhone, being now enriched by other rivers, becomes navigable for large vessels, which are often tossed about in it by gales of wind; and at last, having finished the course which nature has marked out for it, foaming on it joins the Gallic Sea in the wide gulf which they call the Gulf of Lyons, about eighteen miles from Arles. This is enough to say of the situation of the province; I will now proceed to describe the appearance and character of the inhabitants.

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