A History of France by William S Davis

By William S Davis

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The settlement became rooted, prospered, and defied its foes, although it was the most distant of all the Greek colonies. " Hitherto it had been merely the home of savage tribes. Now it becomes linked to civilization. " They had probably been in the region a considerable time, having ousted some older and still more primitive folk. These Gauls were mainly Celts, members of a great race that was spreading over most of western Europe save only southern and central Italy. Their kinsfolk were penetrating into Spain and Britain, and even to-day there are many pure-blooded Celts in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

All their free inhabitants had become Roman citizens – legally the equals of the original ruling race. As the Empire declined, thanks to gross mismanagement by the Cæsars, the degeneracy of the army and the fundamental defects of the ancient social system which rested in slavery, the Gauls of course had their share of the world's sorrow. D. and for the next forty-odd years this part of the Empire was exposed to devastating raids by the Germanic tribes from across the Rhine, raids which the now demoralized legionaries failed to repel.

Contact with the Greeks, however, taught them much. They improved their weapons, learned to live more or less in towns, and consolidated their petty clans into greater tribes under kings or an oligarchy of chieftains. They also developed a peculiar type of worship. We know very little about the precise religious beliefs taught by the famous "Druids," for they served their uncouth gods with strictly mysterious rites when they met under their "sacred oaks," probably to offer human sacrifices; but we do know that they constituted an arrogant priestly caste something like the Hindoo Brahmins and the Egyptian priesthoods, and that they exercised a formidable political power over their awestricken laity.

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