The Celtic Literature Collective

Strabo's Geography

Book IV

Chapter 2: Transalpine Gaul: Aquitania

1. Next, I must discuss the Aquitani, and the tribes which have been included within their boundaries,Link to the editor's note at the bottom of this page namely, the fourteen Galatic tribes which inhabit the country between the Garumna and the Liger, some of which reach even to the river-land of the Rhone and to the plains of Narbonitis. For, speaking in a general way, the Aquitani differ from the Galatic race in the build of their bodies as well as in their speech; that is, they are more like the Iberians. Their country is bounded by the Garumna River, since they live between this and the Pyrenees. There are more than twenty tribes of the Aquitani, but they are small and lacking in repute; the majority of the tribes live along the ocean, while the others reach up into the interior and to the summits of the Cemmenus Mountains, as far as the Tectosages. But since a country of this size was only a small division, they added to it the country which is between the Garumna and the Liger. These rivers are approximately parallel to the Pyrenees and form with the Pyrenees two parallelograms, since they are bounded on their other sides by the ocean and the Cemmenus Mountains. And the voyage on either of the rivers is, all told, two thousand stadia. The Garumna, after being increased by the waters of three rivers, discharges its waters into the region that is between those Bituriges that are surnamed "Vivisci" and the Santoni both of them Galatic tribes; for the tribe of these Bituriges is the only tribe of different race that is situated among the Aquitani; and it does than pay tribute to them, though it has an emporium, Burdigala, which is situated on a lagoon that is formed by the outlets of the river. The Liger, however, discharges its waters between the Pictones and the Namnitae. Formerly there was an emporium on this river, called Corbilo, with respect to which Polybius, calling to mind the fabulous stories of Pytheas, has said: "Although no one of all the Massiliotes who conversed with ScipioLink to the editor's note at the bottom of this page was able, when questioned by Scipio about Britain, to tell anything worth recording, nor yet any one of the people from Narbo or of those from Corbilo, though these were the best of all the cities in that country, still Pytheas had the hardihood to tell all those falsehoods about Britain." The city of the Santoni, however, is Mediolanium. Now the most of the ocean-coast of the Aquitani is sandy and thin-soiled, thus growing millet, but it is rather unproductive in respect of the other products. Here too is the gulf which, along with that Galatic Gulf which is within the coastline of Narbonitis, forms the isthmus (itself too, like the latter gulf, having the name "Galatic"). The gulf is held by the Tarbelli, in whose land the gold mines are most important of all; for in pits dug only to a slight depth they find slabs of gold as big as the hand can hold, which at times require but little refining; but the rest is gold dust and nuggets, the nuggets too requiring no great amount of working. The interior and mountainous country, however, has better soil: first, next to the Pyrenees, the country of the "Convenae" (that is, "assembled rabble"),Link to the editor's note at the bottom of this page in which are the city of Lugdunum and the hot springs of the Onesii most beautiful springs of most potable waters; and, secondly, the country of the Auscii also has good soil.

2. Those tribes between the Garumna and the Liger that belong to Aquitania are, first, the Elui, whose territory begins at the Rhodanus, and then, after them, the Vellavii, who were once included within the boundaries of the Arverni, though they are now ranked as autonomous; then the Arverni, the Lemovices, and the Petrocorii; and, next to these, the Nitiobriges, the Cadurci, and those Bituriges that are called "Cubi"; and, next to the ocean, both the Santoni and the Pictones, the former living along the Garumna, as I have said, the latter along the Liger; but the Ruteni and the Gabales closely approach Narbonitis. Now among the Petrocorii there are fine iron-works, and also among the Bituriges Cubi; among the Cadurci, linen factories; among the Ruteni, silver mines; and the Gabales, also, have silver mines. The Romans have given the "Latin right" to certain of the Aquitani just as they have done in the case of the Auscii and the Convenae.

3. The Arverni are situated on the Liger; their metropolis is Nemossus,Link to the editor's note at the bottom of this page a city situated on the Liger. This river, after flowing past Cenabum (the emporium of the Carnutes at about the middle of the voyage, an emporium that is jointly peopled), discharges its waters towards the ocean. As for their former power, the Arverni hold out as a great proof thereof the fact that they oftentimes warred against the Romans, at times with two hundred thousand men, and again, with double that number with double that number, for example, when they, with Vercingetorix, struggled to a finish against the Deified Caesar; and, before that, also, with two hundred thousand against Maximus Aemilianus, and also, in like manner, against Dometius Ahenobarbus. Now the struggles against Caesar took place near Gergovia (a city of the Arverni, situated on a high mountain), where Vercingetorix was born, and also near Alesia (a city of the Mandubii a tribe which has a common boundary with the Arverni and this city too is situated on a high hill, although it is surrounded by mountains and two rivers), in which not only the commander was captured but the war had its end. But the struggles against Maximus Aemilianus took place at the confluence of the Isar and the Rhodanus, where the Cemmenus Mountain approaches closely the Rhodanus; and against Dometius Ahenobarbus, at a place still lower down the Rhodanus, at the confluence of the Sulgas and the Rhodanus. Again, the Arverni not only had extended their empire as far as Narbo and the boundaries of Massiliotis, but they were also masters of the tribes as far as the Pyrenees, and as far as the ocean and the Rhenus. Luerius, the father of the Bituitus who warred against Maximus and Dometius, is said to have been so exceptionally rich and extravagant that once, when making a display of his opulence to his friends, he rode on a carriage through a plain, scattering gold and silver coins here and there, for his followers to pick up.

Chapter 3


Strabo. The Geography of Strabo English translation by Horace White. Vol. II. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. Loeb Classical Library.