When Julius Caesar conquered Gaul between 58 BC and 50 BC, he expected that the Gallic tribes would not give him an easy fight and would for sure defend their homelands at all costs. What he did not expect to see was Gallic women in the army’s wagon trains, fiercely shouting and screaming at the top of their lungs, but not to the Romans but at the Gallic men. Were they rooting for the wrong team?

Gallic War

Caesar’s Gallic war.

The Gallic Wars were an essential part of history, as far as the Romans were concerned. It helped Julius Caesar rise to power, and it also expanded the territories of the Roman Republic into northern and western Europe. His successes in the war also made him incredibly wealthy, which provided him with a legendary reputation. He soon declared himself as a dictator of the Roman Republic, which later became the Roman Empire. The war began with a conflict over the migration of the Helvetian tribe in into Italy in 58 BC. It wasn’t long however until the Helvetia were making war on Gallic tribes that were allied with Rome, drawing the Germanic Suebi into the conflict. Soon Caesar found himself embroiled in inter-tribal warfare with various Gallic tribes shrewdly picking to ally with certain tribes in the fight against others, in each fight he was able to expand the territory of Rome. In 57 BC, Julius Caesar decided he would have to conquer all of Gaul as the remaining tribes threw everything they had behind the leadership of Vercingetorix of the Averni. In a massive campaign involving hundreds of thousands of Gauls and only about 40,000 Legionnaires, Caesar was victorious.

Gallic Women Forced Into The War

The women of the Teutons defend the wagon fort (and commit suicide).

As Julius Caesar waged war with the Gallic Tribes, the Gallic men would combat the Roman soldiers as the women defended their wagon trains after battle after battle. They do this so the women will not be left behind whenever the tribe is caught up in a fight while migrating. The Gallic women, with bare breasts, would yell at their fighting men, sometimes while carrying their children to witness the battles. They would scream and remind them that they had to win in combat; otherwise, their families would be captured, enslaved, or maybe killed. They would encourage the men to fight harder. Women in their tribe were given the highest regards and considered holy, so letting them fall into the hands of the enemies was a total failure. A friendly reminder on why you should win the combat wouldn’t hurt, would it?

In fact, The Roman Senator and historian Tacitus wrote in his work, Germania:

“A specially powerful incitement to valor is that the squadrons and divisions are not made up at random by the mustering of chance-comers but are each composed of men of one family or clan. Close by them, too, are their nearest and dearest so that they can hear the shrieks of their women-folk and the wailing of their children. These are the witnesses whom each man reverences most highly, whose praise he most desires. It is to their mothers and wives that they go to have their wounds treated, and the women are not afraid to count and compare the gashes. They also carry supplies of food to the combatants and encourage them.

It stands on record that armies already wavering and on the point of collapse have been rallied by the women, pleading heroically with their men, thrusting forward their bared bosoms, and making them realize the imminent prospect of enslavement — a fate which the Germans fear more desperately for their women than for themselves. Indeed, you can secure a surer hold on these nations if you compel them to include among a consignment of hostages some girls of noble families. More than this, they believe that there resides in women an element of holiness and a gift of prophecy; and so they do not scorn to ask their advice or lightly disregard their replies. The women were more than just morale builders, though. They provided aid and comfort to their men after the battle was over, of course. And they would bring supplies and food to their male warriors in the middle of the fight.”

Julius Caesar’s Success

However, if the Gallic warriors failed to defend the tribe, the women would choose to kill their children and commit suicide rather than be enslaved. In the Battle of Vosges, the Romans successfully drove the tribe back across the Rhine. As mentioned earlier, Julius Caesar succeeded in conquering the German people. By the time he came back from his conquest of Gaul, he had brought untold numbers of slaves who failed to commit suicide before they were caught.

Later in the Empire, the Gauls were eligible for citizenship if they swore loyalty to Rome, and entire legions were raised using Gallic troops who were prized for their physical stature.  Trained in the Roman way of war, they were some of the best troops in the Roman armies.  Rome was careful however to never station the Gallic legions in their home territories and stationed them far from home, and their women and children were not allowed to follow the army.