6

How much, if anything, do we know about how the Gauls camped and marched when facing Caesar?

Did they have tents, mules, wagons, camp followers?

Can we infer anything about their rate of march? Was it faster or slower than the legions?

3
  • 1
    Is there any particular campaign/region that you are interested in? Caesar vs the Gauls is extremely broad. Perhaps a more particular query would have a much better chance of giving a specific and accurate answer.
    – user17382
    Sep 20, 2016 at 1:27
  • @Thomo Let me phrase it slightly differently. Apart from Caesar's book on the Gallic wars (which doesn't say much about these particular things), what other evidence is there that can tell us about the Gauls in the period 58-50BC
    – Ravi
    Sep 27, 2016 at 14:49
  • Please move the comment into the question, and revise the title to ask a question
    – MCW
    May 15 at 14:26

3 Answers 3

4

It would be a mistake to characterize the Gauls (as Roman writing often does of any foreigners) as primitive. They were an exemplar of the La Tene material culture, to which Rome owes much of its infantry kit including the gladius, shield, and pilum.

However, what the Gauls were not was a centralized society. Among other things, this led to their military system remaining fairly static over time:

In so far as we can tell, a fighting system emerged around one-handed thrusting spears and large, center-grip shields focused on shock engagements in the fifth century at the latest and was still mostly structured like that in the first century.

This is consistent not with the "screaming berserker with a battle axe" stereotype but with every other society in the Mediterranean. Caesar's description of the Gaul army as a most dense battleline (confertissima acies) that made a phalanx (phalange facta). The Gauls even had a significant cavalry arm that outmatched the Roman equivalent.

So when we talk about Gallic logistics, we can safely assume that they had very similar constraints to just about every other pre-modern army. There are a few things that we know about Gauls that would affect their logistics:

  • Gauls didn't have a centralized military kit; every warrior outfitted themselves as well as they could afford

  • The majority of Gauls were armored in little more than cloth or leather, even though their aristocrats were decked out in heavy gear

Armor could range from 18lbs for a chainmail shirt, to 25lbs for a breastplate. A warrior at the time would have carried 55lbs of gear total; with their load lightened by a lack of armor (although a cloth or leather armor could also be quite heavy at 6-10lbs), they could instead bring an additional load of rations or move light (burning fewer calories). Either approach would extend an army's marching range.

However, it would not make it walk faster - because of the camp followers. We know Gauls must've had them, because everyone had them; in armies of antiquity, sutlers and the "camp community" served the logistics function that a decentralized government could not. These people - a combination of spouses, servants, grooms for the animals, etc - would still be loaded down with exactly the same amount of junk.

But the ability to carry more food (instead of the armor) meant that the army had to spend less time foraging or preparing food, so their overall land speed would be faster. Indeed, we hear from Livy of the Gallic descent on Rome in 390 BC:

At the sound of their tumult as they swept by, the affrighted cities flew to arms and the country folk took to flight. Horses and men, spread far and wide, covered an immense tract of country; wherever they went they made it understood by loud shouts that they were going to Rome. But though they were preceded by rumours and by messages from Clusium, and then from one town after another, it was the swiftness of their approach that created most alarm in Rome.

This unexpected speed could also have been due to the fact that this army was hastily organized & intended for a short campaign (in response to a Roman diplomatic insult) and may not have had time to amass the camp followers.

As mentioned, the Gallic system didn't evolve much between 390 and Julius Caesar's campaigns. But the Roman one did - in addition to improving their infantry kit, the Romans built roads and innovated in logistics and operations - so while the Gauls moved as quickly or quicker than Romans in the 4th century BC, Caesar's legions are likely to have been substantially more agile on the march.

0

This question is fairly generic and broad as logistics of a people or entity are researchable easily through any public domain or internet search. Look up any history of the Gauls or a European history textbook and you will find details on this.

I don't have my sources handy but from what I can recollect from my knowledge of the Republic..

As far as we can tell from historical record, while the Gauls did not have the benefit of the structure and organization of the Post Marian legions or even the Republic forces, they were considerably more powerful in direct comparison. Caesar's strength in the routing go to the fact that the roman system of resting troops outlasted the short-burst, panic intent rage attacks of the Gaulish skirmishers.

One of the things that we can infer is that they were more mobile than the Romans. The Romans had extensive armor and heavy equipment that while superior to the Gaulish arms made marches long and tedious which is why the legionnaires required such extensive training.

We can infer from the recovered armor and style of weaponry we have from the Gauls that they were skirmish warriors- meant to attack in a short wave of fury and rout the enemy using surprise and the terrain to their advantage. Example of this( albeit not the Gauls but their similar barbaric cousins, the Germanic peoples) is the Battle of Teutoberg Forest.

You should look into the information we have on Celtic Warriors for the supplies brought during war and also look into the revolt led by Boudicca. These all give a good idea of the war tactics and the style of camp used by the Celts and Gauls.

0

I would suppose the Gauls vs Ceasar did not generally move armies very quickly.

§ 8.14. […] the Gauls are always attended by a vast multitude of wagons, even when they have very light baggage […][1]

Wagons are more constrained in their movement than men on foot or cavalry. Roman legionnaires, known as "mules of Marius" each carried his own kit and, according with Ceasar's comparison, must generally have had far fewer wagons than the Gauls which would give them more flexibility over routes of march.

[1] Caesar’s Gallic War

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.