Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in 50 BC ushered in 500 years of Roman rule in northern Europe. The Romans found a land which was still in the Iron Age, and remade it after their own image. Before the Roman occupation, the Gallic tribes lived in wattle and daub huts. Their priests conducted human sacrifices in forbidding groves, and their chieftains nailed the heads of butchered adversaries to their doorposts as trophies of victory. Yet, just half a century after the Roman conquest, the land was visibly different. The Gallic chieftains wore togas, learned Latin, took Roman names, and erected statues of the Roman gods and emperor. Cities blossomed, with theatres and forums, temples, baths and aqueducts. Roads were constructed across the countryside. Elegant villas with statues and mosaics displaced the wattle and daub. The Gauls learned to love the olive and the Italian arts of winemaking.
This book is a combination of travel and history. Each chapter describes a journey based on a particular theme through the lands that Caesar conquered in Gaul and Britain. The themes include the gruesome religious rituals of the Celts and druids; the Gallic resistance to Roman occupation; Rome’s creation of sophisticated cities throughout Gaul; the persecution and then rise of the Christians; and the barbarian attacks before the collapse of the Empire. Each journey unravels the history, impact and heritage of the 500-year rule of the Roman Empire relevant to the theme. It shows how the violence of Caesar’s conquests and the work of the Roman colonists who followed him gave birth to a deeper and long-lasting civilisation at the foundation of European life today.
Bijan Omrani is an historian and classicist specialising in the history of Afghanistan and Central Asia. He was educated at Wellington, and then read Classics and English at Lincoln College Oxford, where he contributed to the Spectator as an undergraduate.
He produced his first major publication, Afghanistan: A Companion and Guide, in collaboration with the seasoned Afghan traveller Matthew Leeming in 2005, and since then has edited and published numerous works, articles and book reviews on Afghan and Central Asian history. A special area of research has been the controversial area of the ...
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